Thurgood, James (1841-1923)

James Thurgood was a builder and property developer, responsible for constructing a number of notable churches, presbyteries, masonic halls and houses in Hotham (now North Melbourne) and inner Melbourne from the 1860s through to the 1880s. He also constructed the sheds A -E of Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market in 1877-78.

James was the son of William Thurgood, a carpenter, and his wife, Ann Tolworthy, both natives of Islington in Middlesex, England (now part of Greater London). He was born in 1841 in Islington and was the fifth of the couple’s seven children.

James’ older sister, Eleanor, had emigrated from England to Melbourne in 1859 as an assisted passenger[1]. In all likelihood she had written letters home about the opportunities for work to be found in the rapidly growing township. Possibly inspired by such correspondence, James and his older brother, John Joseph decided to emigrate and left England in late 1864. They arrived at the Port of Melbourne on the ship, Norfolk, on 8 February, 1865. James was aged 23 years and gave no occupation on the passenger list; his brother, aged 25 years gave his occupation as a mariner. The following year, their younger brother, Alfred also arrived in Melbourne and another younger sister, Jemima also emigrated a decade later.

Melbourne was undergoing an economic and population boom at this time, as wealth from the goldfields flowed into the urban centre. Melbourne was flooded with immigrants arriving from Europe, Asia and North America and accommodation was in very short supply. Demand for new buildings was high, and skilled workers had no difficulty finding gainful employment throughout the 1860s.

The brothers quickly seized the opportunity to use skills they had no doubt inherited from their father, and began working in the building industry. James set himself up as a building contractor, putting in tenders for local building contracts while John worked as a carpenter. It appears that the brothers formed a partnership and worked together on a variety of building projects for clients. They also appear to have become property developers, acquiring land and constructing cottages or houses on that land for the rental market.

By 1867, within two years of arrival, the brothers were living in Errol Street, Hotham (now North Melbourne) in a house they had built.[2] The brothers had arrived in the colony as single men, were in their mid to late 20s and of a marriageable age. In 1868, John began courting a young schoolmistress by the name of Emma Wentworth and became engaged to be married, but soon found himself embroiled in a farcical affair.

After hearing rumours which raised questions about the girl’s virtue, John broke off the engagement. The young woman successfully sued for breach of promise and was awarded £100 in damages.[3] John, not inclined to pay out, immediately declared himself insolvent. The young woman, equally determined to see her damages payment, sought to have John’s assets sequestered.

At a meeting of creditors ordered by the Insolvency court, John was forced to explain why he had no assets. He claimed that he had sold his property to a brother-in-law by the name of Were[4] in order to raise the necessary funds to defend the breach of promise lawsuit.[5] The case was before the courts for a period of nine months, but eventually petered out. It is unclear whether Miss Wentworth ever received payment.[6]

In July, 1869, John married Amelia Mary Buckland, the daughter of a London labourer and they had one son, Albert John Thurgood (1874-1927) who would become a famous footballer for Essendon. James Thurgood married Elizabeth Weir, the daughter of an English Army sapper and miner, who had arrived in Melbourne in around 1857 and the couple had four children between 1869 and 1876.  

The brothers are recorded at the same address until the time of John’s death in 1881 – but whether the two families lived in separate residences is unclear. James and family remained at Errol Street until around 1884 at which time they moved to a newly developed subdivision in Ascot Vale.

During the 1860s and 1870s, buildings were constructed without the need for planning permits or any kind of local government approval. Accordingly, no central register of construction works, with the names of builders and dates of completion, exists for early Melbourne. Unless a building was the subject of a newspaper report or a lawsuit, it is impossible to ascertain how much work the Thurgood Brothers undertook.

However, all the indications suggest that they were very successful. In 1880, their partnership was dissolved due to the failing health of John, prompting James to sell off their assets, including substantial land-holdings in North Melbourne, North Carlton, Flemington and Gippsland. In addition, when James’ brother died in 1881, both brothers had assets in excess of £800 (excluding John’s residence). [7]

The following is a summary of James Thurgood’s known construction work:

Text Box:  
Presbyterian Church, North Melbourne
Architect: E.McIver Builder: James Thurgood
Construction: 1879
Text Box:  
Queen Victoria Market, Sheds A-E in 1879, shortly after they were built
Contractor: James Thurgood Construction: 1877-78  
Image: State Library of Victoria
Text Box:  
Brunswick Mechanics Institute
Architect: E.McIver Builder: James Thurgood
Construction: 1873-4 Image: State Library of Victoria
Text Box:  
Presbyterian Church, Brunswick
Builder: James Thurgood Construction: 1885
Image: State Library of Victoria

Residence (and occupation, if given):

1867 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1867)

1868 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1868)

1869 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1868)

1870 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1870)

1871 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1871)

1872 James Thurgood, Errol Street, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1872) [No listing for brother]

1873 Jas Thurgood, contractor Errol Street, Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1873)

1874 James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St (West-side, near cnr of Arden or Molesworth Sts ), Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1874)

1875 James Thurgood, contractor Errol St, (West-side, near cnr of Arden or Molesworth Sts ), Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1875)

1876 James Thurgood, Errol St. contractor (West-side, near Haines St.), Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1876)

1877 James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St. Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1877)

1878 James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St. Hotham living with John Thurgood, carpenter (Melbourne Directory, 1878)

1879 James Thurgood, Errol St. Hotham (no details, no mention of John Thurgood)


The Directory is split into residential section (alphabetical by suburb) and a trade section (alphabetical by occupation or trade)

Trade Lists James Thurgood, contractor Errol St. Hotham (Melbourne Directory – Trade Listing – Contractors, 1880) [No listing for John Thurgood in the carpenters’ section of the 1880 Trade Directory]

Residential Lists

  • James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1880)
  • John Thurgood, carpenter, Errol St, Hotham


  • James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1881)
  • John Thurgood, carpenter, Errol St, Hotham


Trade List (Contractors): James Thurgood, Errol St. Hotham (Melbourne Directory – Trade Listing – Contractors, 1882)

Residential List

  • James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St, Hotham (Melbourne Directory, 1880)
  • Mrs John Thurgood, Errol St, Hotham


Trade List (Contractors): James Thurgood, Errol St. (Melbourne Directory – Trade Listing, 1883)

Residential List: James Thurgood, contractor, Errol St. Hotham (Melbourne

1883-84 Errol Street, Hotham (North Melbourne)

1885 The Parade (north side), Ascot Vale (James Thurgood was the sole resident of the Parade in the 1885 listing in the Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directory, residing at what is now No.38).

1888 James Thurgood, The Parade, Ascot Vale (Melbourne Directory, 1888)

1890 The Parade, Ascot Vale (The Age, August 23, 1890, p. 5)


James Thurgood, Parade, As Va. (Melbourne Directory, 1892)

James Thurgood, Parade (North side, near cnr of Bay View Tce) Ascot Vale (Melbourne Directory, 1892)

1893 James Thurgood, 44 Parade, As Va. (Melbourne Directory, 1893)

1894 James Thurgood, 44 Parade, As Va.  (Melbourne Directory, 1894)

1895 – Napier Cres, Essendon, at the time of the death of his wife (Table Talk, 27 September, 1895)


  • Alphabetical: James Thurgood, Napier Cres, Essendon (Melbourne Directory, 1896)
  • Geographic: James Thurgood, Napier Cres (between Brewster and Glass Sts), Essendon – only five households are listed in Napier Cres. (Melbourne Directory, 1896)

1897 James Thurgood, 108 Napier Cres, Essendon (Melbourne Directory, 1897)

1901 James Thurgood, 108 Napier Cres, Essendon (Melbourne Directory, 1897)

1905 -07 James Thurgood, 108 Napier Cres, Essendon (Melbourne Directories)

1908 – ‘Edmonton’ Napier Cres, Essendon.

1911 -1914 James Thurgood, 108 Napier Cres, Essendon

1919 -1922 James Thurgood, 108 Napier Cres, Essendon


Marion Louisa Thurgood, b. abt 1870 Hotham, d. 1948 Essendon

William Ireland Thurgood, b. 1871 Hotham, d. 1875 Hotham

James Thurgood, b. 1874 Hotham, d. 1874 Hotham

James Alfred, b. 21 June, 1876 Hotham; baptized 3 September, 1876 St Mary’s, d. 1946 Napier Cres. Essendon, (became a railway employee in the 1920s)


1841 Birth in Islington, Middlesex

1859 [Family] James sister, Eleanor arrives in Melbourne

1863 [Family] James’ sister, Eleanor marries John Thomas Waugh in Melbourne

1865 [Arrival] James and older brother John arrive in Melbourne

1867 – 1884 [Residence] Errol Street, North Melbourne

1868 [Family] James’ younger brother, Alfred arrives in the colony

1868 [Family] James’ brother, John Joseph is sued for breach of contract

1869 [Family] James brother’ John Joseph declares himself insolvent

1869 [Family] His brother John Joseph marries Amelia Mary Buckland in Victoria

1870 [Marriage] James marries Elizabeth Weir

1870 [Family] Birth of a daughter, Marion Louisa Thurgood at Hotham

1871 [Family] Birth of a son, William Ireland at Hotham

1873-74 Built the Brunswick Mechanic’s Institute (Architect: E. McIver)

1874 [Family] Birth of a son, James (died the same year) at Hotham

1877-78 Built the first stage of the Queen Victoria Market Complex, Melbourne i.e., Sheds A -E in Peel Street

1876 [Family] Birth of a son, James Alfred at Hotham

1872 [Family] James’ brother Alfred marries Elizabeth Rollason in Victoria

1875 [Family] James’ brother Alfred rents house at 3 Haines Street, North Melbourne from James

1880 [Dissolution of partnership] (partner not stated, but believed to be his brother, John) and sale of assets and property

1881 [Death of brother] John Joseph Thurgood died at North Melbourne

1883-84 [Work] Erected the parsonage for the Primitive Methodist Church Trustees, near the corner of Spencer and Abbotsford Streets

1885- [Work] Erected a pair of two-storey houses at 90-92 Miller Street, West Melbourne for the messenger, John Ramage, and made additions to an adjoining house (88 Miller Street), all to the design of the architect, Evander McIver

1885 [Work] Constructed new Presbyterian Church at Brunswick

1885-1894 [Residence] The Parade, Ascot Vale

1888 [Work] Carried out extensions and Rebuilding of Sugar Works at Port Melbourne

1895-1922 [Residence] Napier Crescent, Essendon

Sources and transcripts for James Thurgood



James Thurgood, Born: 14 October, 1841 Baptised 20 February, 1842 at St Lukes, Finsbury Street, Islington Parents: William & Ann Thurgood. Father’s occupation is given as joiner. (Parish Registers, London Metropolitan Archives)



118 Brick Lane, St Lukes Parish, Islington, Middlesex, England

James, aged 9 years is living with:

William Thurgood (ather) aged 40 years Status: Widower Occupation: carpenter

Mary Thurgood (sister) aged 17 years

Eleanor Thurgood (sister) aged 15 years

William Thurgood (brother) aged 13 years

John Thurgood (brother) aged 11 years

Jemima Thurgood aged 7 years

Alfred Thurgood, aged 5 years

Source: 1851 England Census, Class: HO107; Piece: 1521; Folio: 327; Page: 30; GSU roll: 87855

1864 – 1865


John Joseph Thurgood, aged 25 years and James Thurgood aged 23 years, arrived on the vessel, Norfolk. Both are described as single males of English origin. John Joseph’s occupation is given as mariner and no occupation is recorded for James. Departed Gravesend 20th October, 1864; arrived Melbourne 8 February, 1865 (journey 140 days).

Source: VPRS 7666; Series Title: Inward Oversea Passenger Lists (British Ports)


James’ brother Alfred Thurgood, aged 23 years arrives in the colony. (Passenger Lists, Ship: Sussex)


Residence of brother

James’ brother, John Thurgood, contractor and carpenter of Emerald Hill is sued for breach of promise

An action for breach of promise of marriage. The declaration set forth that the defendant, John Thurgood, a carpenter and contractor living at Emerald-hill, had promised marriage to the plaintiff, Emma Wentworth, a schoolmistress, residing at the same place, and had subsequently, without sufficient reason, broken the promise. The reply was that no contract had been entered into, and upon that plea issue was joined. The amount of damages claimed was £300.

The Argus,Thursday 5 November 1868 p 7 [Article]

WENTWORTH v THURGOOOD. — A motion to recover £300 damages for a breach of promise of defendant. Mr Wrixon for Emma Wentworth, the plaintiff; Mr Aspinall for John Thurgood, defendant.

The plaintiff is twenty-one years of age, and until recently kept an infant school at Emerald-hill. The defendant’s age is twenty-nine, and he follows the occupation of a building contractor, having, however, been formerly a sailor.

Emma Wentworth, the plaintiff, a well-dressed young person, was called, and said: My acquaintance with Mr Thurgood commenced on the 25th May last, when I was introduced to him, as I was out walking with my sister and another young lady. He took me to see some land belonging to him in Hotham, and said he would put up a house as soon as he knew for whom it was intended. After that we became very intimate and he came to see me at Emerald-Hill on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.

In June he wished me to be his wife, and I said that I would. After we were engaged, he took me to theatres and other places of amusement. On the first of August, he gave me a gold ring — this one (produced the ring was inscribed with a pair of hearts and two hands clasped together). He often spoke of building a house for us on his land, and once wanted his sister and myself to go to a sale at Prahran, and buy some furniture.

In August I gave up my little school at his request, and our wedding was fixed for September. The school has been a loss to me, as I earned my living by it. One of our usual interviews took place on the 2nd September, when he promised to meet me on the following Saturday, but did not. I wrote to him and he gave me no answer, but came to see me at my brother-in-law’s, Mr Eager’s. I asked why he had treated me thus, and he replied that it was for reasons which it would not he proper for me to know. He then said he did not intend to marry anyone. (Laughter.)

When he used to come and see me he wasn’t dressed so shabby as he is now. (Laughter.) Sometimes he wore one gold chain and sometimes two. He has told me that he had cash in bank, and would have some money at his uncle’s death, of which he expected to hear the news every mail. I was ill for some time in consequence of his treatment.

The following letter was here handed in and read: —  North-street. Emerald Hill, Friday morning, — If Mr Thurgood would wish to see Mrs Wentworth alone he can do so Sunday afternoon, as Mrs Eager is in Brighton. Mr Eager intends spending Sunday with her. I will not ask you to come, but it may be better for you to do so, for it was said, ’twere better things should have turned out as they did than that you should lead me to the alter (sic) with a doubt on-your-mind.

Now it is this doubt this mistery (sic) that I would have cleared up. I am not ashamed to have my deeds puberlicly (sic) known. My greatest fault has been too much loving you, for I had looked upon you as my hushand and since memorabel (sic) night on which I pledged my word to you, which word I pledged under the beams of the riseing (sic) moon (it?) was registered (sic) in heaven, but now another must call me wife, another must place on my finger the ring which ought to have been placed there by you.

You have caused me a deal of pain and suffering but I forgive you, for that I have been weak, but, thank God, I am getting strong again. I now feel that I can meet you as I ought to do — and now I have one thing more to say or rather to ask, it is this, Jhon (sic), as you gaze on the moon, the full moon, of September, in what lanwige (sic) will it speak to you not only this month’s, but for years nay for your life time the moon will speak to you planer (sic) than I could do, and now with kind (love?) to nil yes (sic).

I will say nil, but that there has been treachery well worked out I am sure of. You only have to explain to save yourself a deal of trouble, but rest assured that woman when slighted by him she loves will brave a great deal to find the serpent which has coiled around his heart. I shall remain at home and alone on Sunday. — E. Wentworth.

Plaintiff (in answer to Mr Aspinall): I sent that letter to him after the writ was served for this action, but I did not know it. Mr Aspinall: Who do you allude to when you say that ‘another’ must place the ring on your finger, &c.? Witness: No one in particular. Perhaps someone will. (Laughter.)

Witness continued, in reply to other questions: No, I have nobody ‘ in my eye.’ I had a proposal from a gentleman while I was in GippsLand, and before I knew the defendant, but I didn’t accept it. Letters have been sent to me by the person who made that proposal. I never answered them.

Mr Aspinall: Is it true that your aunt said you came to Melbourne to be confined? Plaintiff asked whether, she was required to answer this question, but being told that she must if the matter comes within her knowledge, she replied: Yes, but it was a cruel slander, and I believe that my aunt now denies that she ever said it.

Had it been any one else, I would have put the matter in the hands of a lawyer. The allusion to the moon in my letter is one which the defendant understands well enough.

Mr Wrixon: Since you have been asked about that, was it in consequence of anything which had been said to you?

Mr Aspinall: All young ladies talk about the moon Plaintiff: As we were going home from Hotham one night, I remarked that it was a beautiful moon, and he said, ‘ Yes; the next moon will see you my wife.’ (Laughter.)

James Eager, plaintiff’s brother-in-law, stated: Defendant told me in June that he would have his house built by the 11th September, and all things ready for. ‘ Emmy,’ I heard him say that she must give up the school she taught, because he wouldn’t have it any longer.

The day when he came to my house to tell us that he meant to break off the engagement, he said, ‘ I’m going to give up Emmy Wentworth, and I shan’t amalgamate with any one, because I think I’ll have to go to England. ‘ (Laughter.)

One night before this he had made up the wedding party in my house, and said I should go, and my Mrs should go, and the children, and Mrs Bucket should go (laughter), but he wouldn’t have any of Mrs Bucket’s children. (Renewed laughter.)

Susannah Bucket was called, and said: The plaintiff is an orphan, and lodges with me at Emerald hill. Mr Thurgood used often to come, and the plaintiff was taken very ill when he stopped away. Messrs Wrixon and Aspinall then addressed the jury, who afterwards retired, and brought into court a verdict for the plaintiff, with £100 damages.

Source: The Age, Thursday 5 November 1868 p 3 Article

The newspapers lapped up this story and it was covered across suburban and regional Victoria. See: The Ballarat Star, Friday 6 November 1868 p 3 [Article]; Leader, Saturday 7 November 1868 p 20 [Article]; Advocate, Saturday 7 November 1868 p 14 [Article]

Not all versions have been transcribed in full, (because for the main part they simply repeat the coverage in the Age and Argus) but a few comments may be worth noting

“A rather amusing epistle, which she sent to him was read in court- and certainly contained some queer notions in the way of spelling for a schoolmistress.”


“It was made out on defendant’s behalf; that he had been much influenced by statements made as to a faux pas committed by the lady, .and although he did not exactly believe the story, still he thought his fears justified him in breaking off the match.”

Source: Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 6 November 1868 p. 2 [Article]

1868 and 1869

Postcript on the Breach of Promise

John Thurgood (James’ brother) applies to the court for insolvency, however, Miss Emma Wentworth applies to the court to have his property sequestered. (The Age, Saturday 26 December 1868 p 3)

Miss Wentworth’s decree nisi is made absolute on 4 February, 1869 (The Argus, Friday 5 February 1869 p 6)

  • John Thurgood of Errol St, Hotham, not having paid Miss Wentworth, is declared insolvent (The Argus, Friday 5 February 1869 p 4 Article)
  • Public meeting of Creditors of John Thurgood’s creditors scheduled for 17th February

(The Age, Tuesday 9 February 1869 p 1)

“An examination was held in the Insolvent Court on Saturday, in the estate of John Thurgood, a carpenter.

Thurgood had promised to marry a young woman named Went worth, but had failed to fulfil his engagement, and she brought an action against him, and obtained a verdict for £100. Thurgood, however, having sold his property before the trial, had not the wherewithal to pay the £100.

He was consequently made insolvent, and the investigation on Saturday was chiefly with the view of obtaining such information as would enable other proceedings to be taken against him.” (The Argus, Monday 1 March 1869 p 4)

Saturday, Feb. 27.

Adjourned Second Meeting.


This was a compulsory sequestration, obtained at the instance of a Miss Wentworth, who had recovered £100 damages from Thurgood for breach of promise of marriage.

The verdict had not been paid, and Miss Wentworth had been debarred from obtaining any profit by it through the insolvent having transferred all his property to a brother-in law named Were. This examination was held with the view of ulterior proceedings in the Equity Court.

Mr. Wise appeared for the petitioning creditor, Mr. Dickinson for the insolvent. The insolvent stated that he had borrowed £40 from Were, part of which he applied towards defending the Supreme Court action.

He had had £82 in the savings bank, hut had drawn it out to build a house in Hotham. He sold the house to his brother in-law shortly before the trial of the action for £150.

Mr. Were [Weir] was also examined, and admitted having bought the house between the time the writ was issued against Thurgood and the trial. (The Argus, Monday 1 March 1869 p 6 Article


Building of Brunswick Mechanic’s Institute


“The committee of the Brunswick Mechanics’ Institute, in reporting on the affairs of the Institution for 1873, are glad to announce a year of steady progress. It will be remembered that at the last annual meeting your committee submitted a series of plans for the completion of the building, which were referred back for further consideration with power to take action.

One of the most serious questions engaging the attention of your committee has been this matter. For some months the completion of the building was considered, and feeling the urgent necessity for additional accommodation to meet the growing wants of the borough in this direction, they resolved on at once finishing the work.

The plans for the building were drawn by Mr. E. McIvor, the borough surveyor, and tenders were opened on the 7th November, 1873, when that of Mr. James Thurgood, amounting to £960, was accepted. This sum includes all the items required, except gas fittings, which will have yet to be provided for.

The contract time expires on the 17th inst., and your committee hope to be in a position to open during the ensuing month. When completed the Institution will comprise mechanics’ library, reading room, and free library of reference; the latter open from seven till ten p.m. daily. This will carry out the original intention of the subscribers, and your committee trust that the lasting advantages of an absolutely Free Library and Reading room for the people of this borough will call forth a hearty liberality equal to sustain them with efficiency in our midst.

In view of the largo expenditure of money in building, your committee made application to the Government for a grant in aid beyond the usual amount allowed, and to receive a lump sum as adopted by similar institutions, in various parts of the colony. For the year just past, however, they have not succeeded, but hopes are entertained that in the distribution of the Parliamentary grant for 1874 your committee will be successful.

From the Treasurer’s statement it will be observed that the sum of £58 was again received from the Government towards the building, and since the books were closed an additional sum of £25 has been obtained for the same object. The number of books issued to members during the past year was about 3000, besides which the periodicals have been regularly given out, and enjoyed by a large class of readers.

The total number of volumes new in the library is about 1100, embracing many important works in the various departments of literature. About 150 volumes have been added in 1873, and those your committee hope have been acceptable to the members.

Further additions will be made as funds for this purpose are placed at their disposal. To facilitate as much as possible the issue of books, and to make the members more acquainted with the contents of the library, a catalogue was prepared by Mr. D. Hobbs, and your committee express their warmest thanks to that gentleman for the time he gave in connection with the Institution.

In September last he tendered his resignation owing to the pressure of other engagements. The drawing school has been continued throughout the year, meeting every Monday evening at half past seven o’clock; the average attendance for the quarter ending September was twenty-five, and for that ending December nineteen.

This decline in numbers your committee hope is only temporary, and was caused in consequence of the school having lost the valuable help of Mr. F. G. Miles, who had charge of the architectural class. Owing to other business engagements, Mr. Hickford also reluctantly gave up his connection with the School of Design at the end of the year.

The best thanks are due to both these gentlemen for their efforts in imparting technical education to the youth of this borough. Your committee have much pleasure in announcing that Mr. J. Ingamells has generously placed his services at their disposal in connection with this school, and they are, therefore, enabled to continue the classes first initiated, and this meeting is relied onto make known the benefits accruing therefrom.”

Source: North Melbourne Advertiser, Thursday 5 March 1874, p 2


Death of James’ Thurgood’s Son

THURGOOD – On the 17th inst. of congestion of the brain, at Errol street, Hotham, William Ireland, the beloved son of Elizabeth and James Thurgood, aged four years and three months.

The Argus, Friday 19 November 1875 p 1 Family Notices


Constructed Initial Stage of Queen Victoria Market Sheds A -E


The City Council had a comparatively brief sitting on Monday afternoon. The most important item of business disposed of was the acceptance of the tender of James Thurgood for the erection of the wholesale vegetable market in Victoria-street, at a cost of £10,421.

Source: The Australasian, Saturday 3 November 1877 p 1 Article

At the meeting of the City Council to be held on Monday afternoon, the recommendation of the Market Committee, that the tenders of Mr. James Thurgood for the erection of the vegetable market… will be considered.

Source: The Argus, Friday 26 October 1877 p 4 Article

Extract from Lovell & Chen Architects, Queen Victoria Market: Conservation Management Plan: [15]

“Tenders for the construction of sheds A to E in the Upper Market were accepted in October 1877 from the builder James Thurgood of Errol Street, Hotham, for the value of £10,422 (Gould, 1992). The sheds were built in time for the opening of the market in 1878.

The five sheds were constructed parallel to each other and open on all sides. They consisted of two parts, which were divided by a roadway across the site. C Shed was the longest shed constructed, extending through to Peel Street (Source: Leader 23 March 1878, p. 10 )

A description of the new sheds was included in the Leader newspaper following the opening of the market in March 1878:

These sheds are ten in number, of which five, extending nearly to Queen street, are each 204 feet in length. Of the upper five sheds, the centre one abuts on Peel -street and is 19feet long, and it is flanked on one side by two sheds each 170 feet long, and on the other by two, each 204 feet long (Leader 23 March 1878, p. 10).”

Additional sources:  Melbourne City Council accepted the tender of James Thurgood in The Argus, Friday 26 October 1877 p. 4 [Article]; The Australasian, Saturday 3 November 1877 p. 1 [Article]


Building of New Union Presbyterian Church, Nth Melbourne

The work of erecting the new Union Presbyterian Church at Hotham has just been completed, and the building forms a prominent and handsome feature in the architecture of the town. The structure which is of brick, black mid white bricks being used for purposes of ornamentation has a frontage of 60ft to Curzon street and a depth of 90ft.

The tower is 150ft high, the upper portion of the spire being stuccoed and surmounted by a weather vane. The style of architecture is what is known as the “Early English.” The side windows are filled with cathedral glass, with stained margin, and there are three very handsome memorial windows at the rear end of the church, the centre one containing portraits of the reformers Knox, Calvin, and Henderson.

There is a gallery in the church capable of seating 320 persons, and m the body of the church there are seats for 560. The building is very compact and will very comfortably accommodate 880 people. The ventilation is good, and it is believed that the acoustic properties of the church will be such that there will be nothing to complain of.

The minister’s platform will be at the rear end of the Church, and behind and above it the choir will be placed There are four entrances to the church. The structure has cost altogether a little over £6,000.

The architect was Mr E M Iver, of Brunswick and the contractor Mr James Thurgood. The church is to be opened on Sunday next when special services will be held. The Rev Dr Steele, of Sydney, will formally open the church in the morning.

Sources: The Argus, Thursday 21 August 1879 p 4 Article; Illustrated Australian News, Saturday 30 August 1879 p 139 Article; The Argus, Wednesday 3 September 1879 p 3 Article

Laying the foundation stone


The congregation attending the Presbyterian Church in Curzon street, Hotham, the foundation stone of which was laid by Sir Henry Barkly in April, 1859 having for some time past felt the need of a larger and more commodious building, determined upon raising the necessary funds for the erection of a new church.

Their efforts happily proved successful, and the memorial stone of the new church was laid yesterday afternoon by Mr. James MacBain, M.L.A, in the presence of a large number of spectators. The proceedings were commenced by the suiting of five verses of a metrical version of the 102nd Psalm.

The Rev John Clark of Williamstown, then read a chapter from the Book of Kings, descriptive of the manner in which the Temple of Solomon was built. Prayer was offered by the Rev John Cooper of Coburg, and a hymn was sung, after which Dr Gilchrist presented Mr MacBain with an elegantly chased silver trowel, bearing the usual inscription, and a mallet similarly inscribed, and formally requested him to lay the stone.

The stone having been declared to be well and truly laid, Mr. MacBain delivered an address congratulating the congregation on the courage they bad displayed in undertaking to build such a large church, which would, when erected, be at the same time an ornament to the town of Hotham, and a credit to the denomination.

He was entitled to say that the Presbyterian Church of Victoria had always been a missionary church, and he hoped and believed that the pastor of the church the, the Rev. Dr. Gilchrist, would always be inspired by a missionary spirit.

The Presbyterian Church had further claims on public support inasmuch as it had always been identified with educational progress, and had taken a foremost place in the struggle for civil and religious freedom.

In the building of this church there would be some difficulties to be met with but he could not doubt that they would be overcome when he saw the crowd that had assembled to witness this ceremony and remembered what had been done towards establishing a college for theological students affiliated to the University.

At the conclusion of his address another hymn was sung and a collection was made in aid of the building fund.

The new church will occupy the same site as the old one which has been pulled down, viz., at the corner of Curzon and Elm streets with frontage to both.  The Early English style of architecture, has been adopted and when finished it will present an elegant and imposing appearance.

The principal front of the building is towards Curzon street with a tower and spire at the angle 150ft high. The gable is in height 63ft, having for its principal feature a large four light traceried window filled with cathedral glass and stained margins, with the main entrance door underneath and a lancet on each side of the door for lighting the main vestibule or corridor.

In addition to the main entrance two separate exit doors are to be provided for the galleries, one in the tower, which contains a staircase at the end of the corridor, and the other in a porch, which also contains a staircase at the other end of the corridor.

Two exit doors are also provided at the rear of the building. The interior of the church is divided widthways in three parts by columns of iron, which run up to carry the roof, and also support the side and end galleries. The roof over the side galleries and also centre roof are to be boarded and panelled, with deal, varnished.

The front of the galleries, choir, stair and platform are to be of light ironwork on a deal base. The church will be 70ft long in the clear by 49ft. wide (exclusive of the area of gallery allotted for the choir and which is placed on the plan immediately behind the platform with, with a stair leading to one of the exit doors at the rear of the church), well lighted with windows in both sides and front filled with cathedral glass and stained margins and at the rear with a large circular window, filled with stained glass.

A vestry is also provided contiguous to the platform. The height of the ceiling in the centre is 42ft., and to the side compartments 30ft. The sittings in area will accommodate 560, and in the galleries 350, making a total of 910. The materials for construction are of the best Brunswick bricks faced with the best black and white dressings on a concrete and bluestone foundations.

Mr. J. Thurgood, of Hotham is the contractor for the building at the sum of £5,819, and Mr. Evander McIver of Brunswick is the architect. The new church will bear the same name as the old one, viz., the Union Memorial Church, which was built to commemorate the union of the different branches of the Presbyterian Church in the colony.

The materials of the old buildings are being utilised in the erection of a commodious schoolhouse at the rear of the church. In the evening a tea meeting was held in the Hotham town hall which was largely attended.

General satisfaction was expressed at the excellent manner in which purveying arrangements were carried out by Mr. Thurgood of Swanston-street. The tables being cleared, a public meeting was held at winch the Rev Dr Gilchrist presided and delivered an address Addresses were also delivered by Mr. James MacBain, Mr. Laurens, Mr. Cook, Rev. Duncan Fraser, Mr. Hutchison (mayor of Hotham), and the Rev. J. M. Abernethy. Some choice selections of music were rendered by the church choir”. [Emphasis added] [Note: The reference to Mr J. Thurgood of Hotham and to Mr Thurgood of Swanston Street suggests that the author refers to two different individuals. We know that both John and James were residents of Hotham at this time. It is possible that Mr Thurgood of Swanston St who procured the building materials refers to another brother, Albert]

Source: The Argus, Wednesday 15 January, 1879, p. 6


James Thurgood takes out advertisements for sale of property following the dissolution of a partnership

  • Plant and equipment – derricks, scaffolding etc
  • House and property –  6 cottages in Carrol St, Hotham, One House & Cottage in Molesworth St and One Brick house in Haines St (currently let to Alfred Thurgood – his brother)
  • Land holdings in Herbert St, Emerald-Hill; Arnold and Arness St, North Carlton; Princess, Bryand and High Sts, Flemington as well as land at Drouin in Gippsland.

This advertisement appeared in both the Age and the Argus between the 9 October and the 16 October, 1880


Erects Portable Schools

The contracts of James Thurgood have been accepted for materials for portable schools at Upper Flinn’s Creek, Winnindoo, Coolungoolun, Sydney Cottage run, Copper Mine, Upper and Lower Moondarra, at £115 7s each. Source: Gippsland Times, Monday 23 August 1880 p 3 [Article]


Death of James’ brother, John Joseph Thurgood

Death Notice

THURGOOD—On the 16th inst., at his residence, Errol-street, Hotham, John Joseph Thurgood, contractor (eldest son of William Ireland Thurgood, builder, of London, Middlesex), aged 41 years. Deeply regretted.

Funeral Notice

THE Friends of Mr. JAMES THURGOOD, contractor, are respectfully invited to follow the remains of his late brother, John Joseph, to the place of interment, Melbourne General Cemetery. The funeral will leave his late residence, Errol street, Hotham, at half past 3 o’clock, on Saturday, 17th. HENRY ALLISON, undertaker, Victoria street west, Melbourne, and 64 Elgin street, Carlton.

Source: The Argus, Friday 16 September 1881 p 8 [Family Notices]


Police Court: Charges


[Before Mr. Shuter, P.M., and Messrs. Stranger, Tinning, Fleming, Collings,Breese and Harrison.]

No Light.

Constable M’Kenzie summoned a contractor named James Thurgood for leaving an obstruction upon a footpath at night without a light. The constable deposed that the defendant was erecting a building in the Sydney-road. There were six barrels filled with clay and a scaffolding pole in each.

The obstruction was very dangerous at night, there had been no light there during the last fortnight. The defendant pleaded that in the City of Melbourne a contractor was never required to keep a light burning under such circumstances, all that was required was to whiten the poles. He had whitened his poles twice. The case was dismissed by the decision of a majority of the bench.

Source: Mercury and Weekly Courier, Saturday 10 March 1883 p 3 Article


Presbyterian Church Brunswick


The new Presbyterian church, which has recently been erected on a frontage to the Sydney-road, Brunswick, was opened for divine worship yesterday.

The building is a very handsome one, and is of the early English order of Gothic architecture. It is built of brick, faced with patent manufactured freestone and has a spire 120 feet high, which materially assists in making the church one of the most attractive edifices in the borough.

The auditorium is semi-circular, and there is sitting accommodation for 500 persons, the space being well economised. There are six aisles, and the floor has a slope towards the pulpit, which gives the congregation the best possible opportunity for both seeing and hearing the preacher, who has his whole audience well placed around him. The acoustic properties of the building are perfect, and special attention has been given to ventilation.

The pulpit is of freestone, plain in design, there being, in fact, no elaboration or ornamentation to be seen in the interior of the church. There is, however, a beautiful stained-glass window, which has been placed in the church by Mr. M. L. Hutchinson, who has for many years past been a leading member of the congregation, in memory of his deceased wife.

The architect was Mr. Evander M’Iver, of Park-street west, Brunswick, and the builder was Mr. James Thurgood of Ascot Vale. The cost of the church has been slightly over £4500, and there is still a debt on it, though the Presbyterians of Brunswick have been very liberal in their donation towards the building fund.

The new church is the third building for public worship erected by the Presbyterian body in Brunswick.

Source: The Age, Monday 3 August 1885 p 6 Article; Mercury and Weekly Courier, Wednesday 12 August 1885 p 4 Article; North Melbourne Advertiser, Friday 14 August 1885 p 3 Article


Death of Sister

BINDEMANN. —On the 4th December, at the London Provincial Bank, Surberton, England, Mary Ann Bindemann, relict of the late F. W. O. Bindemann, and eldest beloved sister of James Thurgood, Ascot-vale, aged 53.

Source: The Argus,Thursday 14 April 1887 p 1 Family Notices; The Australasian, Saturday 23 April 1887 p 3 Family Notices


Contract for Extensions and Rebuilding of Harper’s Sugar Works at Port Melbourne


The larceny of goods from Messrs. Harper and Co’s, premises appears to be assuming a serious aspect. Two men have been arrested, one a German named Hahan aged about 40, and Samuel Goodwin aged 55, said to be Hahan’s wife’s uncle, and an ex-member of the London police force and a pensioner.

Hahan has been employed as gate-keeper, a position of some trust, and lived in a lodge on the premises. It appears that Mr. James Thurgood, contractor, of Pasco Vale, had the contract for the extensive alterations and rebuilding required at the old sugar works and he left a considerable quantity of surplus material on the ground.

Detective Coleman, who has the case in hand, caused the contractor to take stock, when it was found that a quantity of the stuff was missing, including 6000ft. of timber, flooring and lining boards, a lot of red-gum blocks, pipes and builders’ sundries.

Hahan was arrested very smartly by Constable Thomson in the act of carrying some gas pipes out of the yard on Monday morning. The police allege that a house in Dow-street, owned by the two men, has been almost entirely built of material taken from Messrs. Harper’s yard, and that the carters who removed it imagined they were working for Harper and Co., although they were paid in cash by Hahan.

The case will be heard at the local court on Monday next and will occupy a considerable time as there are over twenty witnesses to be examined.

Source: The Standard, Saturday 18 February 1888 p 2 Article


At the Port Melbourne Police court yesterday, ‘before Messrs. Dowsett and Tarver,

J.P.’s, Adolphe Liaban, Samuel Goodwin, and James Mulcahy were charged with having stolen 8,000ft of timber, two doors, some redgum, a ladder, four gas-pipes, other building material, and a quantity of tea and spice, valued at £50, the property of James Thurgood and Messrs Harper and Co.

Source: The Argus, Friday 2 March 1888 p 9 Article

[Note: The pair were found guilty and sentenced to 7 and ½ years imprisonment. See: The Argus, Saturday 31 March 1888 p 13 Article)


Death of Mother-in-Law/ Residence

WEIR—On the 11th inst., at the residence of her son-in-law, James Thurgood, The Parade, Ascotvale, Hannah, relict of the late Alexander Weir, aged 77.

Source: The Argus, Saturday 16 August 1890 p 1 Family Notices


Community Service: Committee member, The Old Colonists’ Association

AGM and list of committee member names (not transcribed)

Source: The Argus, Tuesday 3 February 1891 p 6 Article


Death of Wife/Residence

Funeral Notice

THURGOOD.- On the 31st Inst., at Mizpah, Napier-street, Essendon, Elizabeth, the dearly-beloved wife of James Thurgood, aged 50 years. A patient sufferer gone to rest.

Sources:  The Argus, Thursday 1 November 1894 p 1 Family Notices; The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) Saturday 10 November 1894, p 45 Family Notices and details of will: Table Talk, Friday 27 September 1895 p 16 Article


Death of sister/ residence

WAUGH.—On the 11th September, at her residence, Western Hill, Albury, Jemima, the be-loved wife of John Waugh, mother of Mrs. R. Leverett, Alfred, Marion, Neil, Hobart, Jack, and Minnie Waugh, and sole surviving sister of Mr. James Thurgood, Essendon, aged 61 years.

The Argus, Wednesday 14 September 1904 p 1 Family Notices


Marriage of Son

THURGOOD—DALKIN—On the 16th April, by the Rev. J. Crean, James Alfred, son of James Thurgood, “Edmonton,” Napier-crescent, Essendon, to Ethel, daughter of John Dalkin, “Westgate,”

Source: The Argus, Saturday 16 May 1908 p 13 Family Notices



THURGOOD- On the 2nd February, 1923, at his residence, “Edmonton,” Napier crescent, Essendon, James, relict of the late Elizabeth Thurgood, dearly loved father of Marion and James Alfred (Ararat), aged 81 years. (Interred privately, Melbourne General Cemetery.)


Allom Lovell & Associates [Conservation architects], Queen Victoria Market: Conservation Management Plan, [Report for QVM], 2003 <Online:>

Graeme Butler & Associates, West Melbourne Heritage Review, Statement of Significance, [Appendix Item]

Lovell Chen Architects, Heritage Impact Statement: Queen Victoria Market, Temporary Market, Queen Street, Melbourne, Prepared for Queen Victoria Market, Precinct Renewal Program City of Melbourne, 2017

Lovell & Chen Architects, Queen Victoria Market: Conservation Management Plan, [Appendix B], 2017

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Planning Scheme, [Incorporated document: City North Heritage Review 2013 Statements of Significancep.1454], Revised 2015, <Online:>

Victorian Heritage Database [Searchable database], <Online:>

[1] Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV), Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports), VPRS 7666; Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kingdom, VPRS 14. According to the Nominal List and Disposal List, Eleanor or “Helena” went to work for a Mrs Mac (sp?) of Howard St, North Melbourne

[2] It is difficult to establish definitively who owned the land. In a court case in 1868-9, John claimed that he owned the land and intended to build a house there. However, on John’s death in 1881, James provided a sworn statement that the property was his (See: PROV, Wills and Probate, VPRS 28, P000, no. 264).

[3] The Age, Thursday 5 November 1868 p 3; The Ballarat Star, Friday 6 November 1868, p. 3; The Leader, Saturday 7 November 1868, p. 20; Saturday 7 November 1868, p. 14

[4] Spelling of names reported in the 19th century press was notoriously unreliable. The man named ‘Were’ is almost certainly John Thomas Weir, who had married John’s older sister, Eleanor in Melbourne in 1863.

[5] The known facts suggest that John Thurgood was, at best, somewhat evasive in his dealings with the Insolvency Court. He sold his property within months of the lawsuit, and then sold it to a close relative. He continued to reside at his Errol Street property for many years after the lawsuit, was holding assets in excess of £900 at the time of his death, which was just 12 years after he declared himself insolvent, and perhaps most telling of all, he married another woman just four months after his insolvency became official. He would be unlikely to enter into marital relations if he was genuinely without means to support dependants. And, the speed at which he married suggests that the new relationship may have been partially responsible for his severing his connection with Miss Wentworth. It may be worth noting that no marriage notice for John and his new bride was placed in any of the Melbourne newspapers at the time.

[6] Certain aspects of Miss Emma Wentworth’s account suggest that she may have been less than entirely truthful and was perhaps a confidence trickster. A relatively common 19th century scam was for women to entice young men into a proposal of marriage, and then deliberately create rumours about virtue, designed to have the man call off the impending nuptials, thereby providing grounds for a lawsuit. In evidence, Miss Wentworth produced a letter that she had written to John Thurgood at the time he broke the engagement. The grammar and spelling evident in the letter suggests that the author was very poorly educated to the point that it raises doubts about her fitness as a schoolmistress – a point that was not lost on some of the journalists covering the story. See, for instance, Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 6 November 1868 p. 2. Other aspects of her testimony tend to cast doubt on her truthfulness. Her landlady claimed she was an orphan yet she produced several family members to support her story. And, finally it was her own aunt who was responsible for spreading the rumours about a confinement that led to the termination of the engagement.

[7] PROV, Wills and Probate, VPRS 28, P000, no. 264; See James Thurgood’s sworn statement and the statement made by John’s widow, Amelia Thurgood.

[8] Graeme Butler & Associates, West Melbourne Heritage Review, 2015, p. 1454

[9] North Melbourne Advertiser, Thursday 5 March 1874, p 2

[10] Lovell & Chen Architects, Queen Victoria Market: Conservation Management Plan, [Appendix B], 2017

[11] Victorian Heritage Register Database, VHR Number: H0007; Heritage Overlay Number HO29

[12] Graeme Butler & Associates, West Melbourne Heritage Review, 2015, p. 1454

[13] Graeme Butler & Associates, West Melbourne Heritage Review, 2015, p. 1600

[14] The Standard, Saturday 18 February 1888 p. 2; The Argus, Friday 2 March 1888 p. 9

[15] Lovell & Chen Architects, Queen Victoria Market: Conservation Management Plan, [Appendix B], 2017

Written and researched by Bronwyn Higgs. Footscray, 6th November 2017.

Main photograph at the top © of the Thurgood family and can not be copied, stored or reused without the expressed permission of the original copyright owner.

Frederick William Otto Bindemann arrived in 1877 in Melbourne and was apprenticed to his uncle James Thurgood. source: Mrs. Janet Davis, a Thurgood descendant. 2022.