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William Munnings Arnold and Stradbroke

William Munnings Arnold

William Munnings Arnold.

mention of Stradbroke

An early mention of Stradbroke, Maitland Mercury 26 January 1850 p3.

William Munnings Arnold was born in 1819 in Suffolk, England. In 1839, at the age of 20, he arrived in Sydney as a passenger on the ship Mary with capital of £1,200 to invest in land and livestock. He came to the Paterson River district, settling initially at Ravenscroft on the Allyn River near Eccleston.[1]

He had arrived in New South Wales at the start of an economic depression, and in 1842 William Munnings Arnold was declared insolvent. From 1841 he was living at Carlton Cottage on the site of today's Tressingfield which is in the Woodville district just downstream on the Paterson River from where he would establish Stradbroke a few years later.

In 1844 William Munnings Arnold married Ellen Augusta Smith. It is interesting that both the bride and groom had a Church of England clergyman as a father. Ellen was the daughter of the Rev. John Jennings Smith who built St Paul's in Paterson, and this is of course where they were married. Over the next 20 or so years they had nine children, the last of whom died in 1946.

It seems they continued to live at Carlton Cottage up to 1854. In 1848 Arnold purchased a 60 acre block of land from William Montagu Manning. This land was first settled by Anthony Dwyer in 1815 and Dwyer named the block 'Macquarie Farm'. By January 1850 Munnings Arnold was calling the place 'Stradbroke', apparently after the Earl of Stradbroke who was a great friend of his father.

There is some uncertainty as to when Arnold began to build Stradbroke. According to the NSW Heritage Database the first section, in brick and stone, was built in 1840. Cecily Mitchell also says 'originally built in 1840 in three sections, the first portion, called the old house, consisted of a living room, kitchen, verandah and larder on the ground floor, and one large room and one small room upstairs'.[2] There are three possibilities - either 1840 is incorrect, or the old house was built under William Montagu Manning's ownership, or Munnings Arnold owned the land prior to 1848. Further research is needed to resolve this.

Stradbroke in 2015

Above: Stradbroke in 2015 (photo: Brian Walsh).

Reports of court cases involving Arnold and various brickmakers and bricklayers suggest building started, or perhaps resumed, about 1848. In May 1848 two brickmakers named Patrick Gleeson and William Cotter absconded from Arnold's employment, which was a criminal offence under the Masters and Servants Act. In May 1849 a brickmaker and a bricklayer named James Giles and John Shaw absconded from Arnold's service. In June 1849 William Munnings Arnold advertsed for brickmakers to make one hundred thousand bricks, and for a competent carpenter joiner to complete the inside work of a house.[3]

In April 1850 Arnold was himself charged under the Masters and Servants Act by brickmaker James Shaw for refusing to pay for bricks made. The case was dismissed and the following month Arnold charged James Shaw and Joseph Hughes with failing to complete their contract to make 100,000 bricks. The two were imprisoned for 14 days as a result. They then returned to work, only to abscond a month or so later. Hughes was caught and jailed for one month for leaving his employment.[4]

the Stradbroke land

Stradbroke. The area highlighted is the original 60 acres fronting Paterson River. The larger block outlined is an additional 782 acres purchased by Arnold. The house is indicated by the arrow and located at GPS 32° 38.292'S 151° 36.363'E. Paterson Road is shown in Orange, and Butterwick Road can be seen at the far right.

In 1856, when Legislative Assembly nominations were called for the County of Durham, William Munnings Arnold stood for election and thus began his long career in NSW Government. Harry Boyle provides a summary as follows:

His policies were radical: manhood suffrage, vote by ballot and electoral districts based on population. They were later incorporated in the Electoral Law Amendment Act of 1858. In the first election under this Act in 1859, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as Member for Paterson, representing this district until his death. In 1860 he joined the Robertson Ministry as Secretary for Public Works and was instrumental in the introduction of the Land Acts of 1861. After Robertson resigned in 1861, Arnold continued in office in the third Cowper Ministry until 1863. In 1865, he was Secretary of Public Works and Secretary for Lands in the fourth Cowper Ministry. In November he became speaker and conducted affairs with such unfailing impartiality that he was never opposed and held the position until his death.

In 1875 William Munnings Arnold was tragically drowned in the floodwaters of the Paterson River while trying to save boatloads of pumpkins from the flood. The 1875 flood was the greatest in living memory up to that time. He is buried in the church yard of St Paul's at Paterson.

See also

Australian Dictionary of Biography - William Munnings Arnold.


1. The source of information for this web page is Harry Boyle's book (see 'references' below) unless otherwise indicated.

2. NSW Heritage Database - entry for Stradbroke. Also: Cecily Mitchell, Hunter's River, 1984 p171.

3. Maitland Mercury 27 May 1848, 12 May 1849, 9 June 1849.

4. Maitland Mercury 10 April, 22 May, 29 May and 28 August 1850.


Boyle, Harry. William Munnings Arnold 1819-1875. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1993.

Old Parish maps, NSW for Butterwick Parish.