William Brazenor (1833 – 1916)


William Brazenor, pictured above, eldest son of Richard and Mary Brazenor, nee Lewis, was born at Wem, Shropshire, where he was with his family in the 1841 Census. They moved to Birmingham between 1842 – 1846 and were still there in 1851, when William was an 18 year old surveyor’s assistant. In April of 1857, William arrived at Melbourne on the ship Lightning, out from Liverpool, and in the following year he married Ellen Harmer Innes, at St Kilda, Melbourne.

It is recorded in the club history that a William Brazenor was a player with Melbourne Football Club, during the 1859 and 1860 pre – VFL seasons. In those days matches were played at the MCG. On 7 February 1860, a Mr Brasener (sic), took part in an athletic entertainment at the Melbourne Cricket Club, namely the 440 yards Ladies Purse, a handicapped steeplechase. Although he started well he was not strong at the finish. The event was reported in The Argus. This was almost certainly “Our William”, as the only other male Brazenor known to have ever been in Melbourne was his uncle William, who died in Birmingham in 1859.

William worked on several public works projects in Melbourne, including the Flemington Livestock Yards and Flemington Raceway, but on 9 July 1861, it was reported in the Argus that a Mr Brazenor, draughtsman in the City Surveyor’s Department had been granted two month’s salary in compensation for the termination of his engagement. William moved to Ballarat, in about 1861, after winning a tender to construct some railway earthworks there. Amongst other projects he laid out the site for the new Ballarat stockyards, where one of the adjacent streets was named after him. He founded an architectural practice in Ballarat, in about 1862, consisting of William Brazenor and F. Tweedie,  later joined by John Smyth Brazenor and P. S. Richards.  He went on to design and build his own hotel – the Cattle Yards Inn, Ballarat, in 1863, receiving his publicans license on 23 January 1864. He entertained Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Cattle Yards Inn, during the latter’s tour of Australia, in 1867. That same year William and Ellen had a daughter Mary Isabelle at Ballarat. Unfortunately, she was to die in 1868, at the age of 10 months. In that year William became a victim of  crime when two men trespassed on his property and assaulted him. During the 1860’s William designed grandstands for the Dowling Forest Racecourse, home of the Ballarat Cup, joined the Ballarat Hunt Club and founded the Coursing Club.

In 1880, William designed a house called Burnbrae, which was built for the Gubbens family, on Burnbrae Lane, about seven kilometres east of Penshurst. The house was added to by other architects in 1884 and again in 1900, and it is still standing today as an example of provincial Victorian  architecture.

On 29 April 1883, William’s wife Ellen Harmer Brazenor, nee Innes, died in a buggy accident, near Ballarat, aged 47. They had been out for a drive when they met someone they knew. William got down to speak to that person and they were in discussion when something startled the Brazenor’s horse which took off  rapidly, throwing Ellen out onto the ground and killing her. She had been in Australia for 27 years, arriving from Scotland in 1856. They had married in 1858, when she was 21. Tragic though this sad event was for William, it was to have great implications for the Brazenor name. It can be said that the chances of William and Ellen  having children had passed and that it was likely therefore, that the Brazenor name, in Australia, would have died along with them but for Ellen’s untimely death.

In September of 1883, a Miss A Brazenor arrived at Melbourne, on the Lusitania. Presumably Annie, William’s sister, had come out in this time of need to be house keeper for her elder brother. In the following year, on 27 December, Henry, their youngest sibling arrived at Melbourne on the Austral. There were now three Brazenor siblings in Australia, at least two, possibly three, in North America, leaving only Mary, the eldest, in England.

Early in 1885, William was again a victim of crime, this time having cattle and horses stolen. In 1888, some 6 acres of land occupied by William were declared free of quarantine restrictions.

On 7 February 1888, the birth was registered at Ballarat of a boy named William Brazenor Coogan, born at Sturt Street, Ballarat, the informant being a Susan O’Reilly, as Authorised Agent. The mother was Ellen Coogan aged 23, who had been born at Carngham, a small town to the west of Ballarat. A doctor appears to have been present but the name is difficult to decipher. There were no details given of the father, whatsoever. It had been a common practice, at least in England, that illegitimate children be baptised or registered with the father’s surname as a forename. That way the parish administrators had some idea as to who they could call on for maintenance should the need arise.

Unlikely as it may seem, considering the then recent events, on 18 June 1888, William Brazenor married a Maria Smyth, nee Nutt, at Ballarat. He was a widower aged 55, an architect living at Alfredton, Ballarat, whilst she was a widow aged 31, a ladies draper living at Clifton Hill, North Fitzroy, Melbourne. The marriage took place at Rossie House in Mair Street, Ballarat, the residence of William’s friend, G K Coutts Esq J P and was conducted by the Rev. Duncan Frazer (The Argus, 23 June 1888).

Maria had at least three children at the time of their marriage and they were all to take the Brazenor name. They included John Alexander, Mary and Isabella, the children of Thomas Smyth. William’s birth place and parentage was confirmed on his marriage certificate. Maria, who was  born at Cumber Claudy, Derry, Ireland, was the daughter of John Nutt, a blacksmith, and Mary, nee Hanna.

Ellen Coogan, mother of William Brazenor Coogan died at Horsham, Victoria, in 1890. The circumstances of her death are not known. It is also unclear as to when William Brazenor Coogan became a member of the Brazenor family and whether he was legally adopted.

An 1890’s book entitled Ballarat and Vicinity, edited by W. B. Kimberly summarises the achievements of some 200 of Ballarat’s pioneers and includes William Brazenor amongst them. In 1897, William designed additions to the Lutheran Manse, in Eyre Street, Ballarat.

In 1903, William, Maria, John and Mary were on the electoral roll at Ballarat. All were recorded as Brazenors. In 1909, William, Maria, John and his wife Florence, Mary, Isabelle and William Jnr were on the electoral roll and living together at Latrobe Street, Ballarat. William, John and William Jnr were architects whilst all the ladies were occupied in home duties. All were named Brazenor. Annie, William’s sister, had her own home at 12 Ascot Street, Ballarat West.

In 1913, William gave an interview to a reporter which appeared in The Argus, Melbourne on Saturday 11 October. It concerned his personal recollections of his one time friend and fellow huntsman, the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.  A. L. Gordon 1833 – 1870, arrived in Australia in 1853, and committed suicide when aged 37. He is commemorated by a statue in what is now Gordon Park, Melbourne and a bust in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey.

In 1914, William, Maria, John, Florence, Mary and Isabelle were still on the electoral roll at Latrobe Street. The now married William Jnr and his wife Annie Mabel were living at 16 Webster Street Ballarat, which was Annie’s family home. All were Brazenors, William and John were still architects but William Jnr was now a clerk. In November of the same year Misses B and M Brazenor arrived at Melbourne on the ship Warrimoo, from New Zealand. They are assumed to be Bella and Mary, but if so, they both discounted their ages by 10 years.

On 21 September 1916, William Brazenor, one time draughtsman, surveyor, architect and hotel keeper, died at his residence “Severn” (named after Shropshire’s main river, no doubt), Carlton Street, Ballarat West, aged 83. His death certificate is reputed to have his father’s name as Henry William Brazenor. If so, this is incorrect, his father’s name was Richard and his name and occupation are correctly recorded on William’s marriage certificate, as is William’s place of birth. On 22 September, it was reported in The Argus, Melbourne that the death occurred at Ballarat on Thursday, of Mr William Brazenor, in his 84th year. He was born in Shropshire in 1832 and came to Australia in 1857. He took a keen interest in hunting in the early days and claimed close acquaintance with the poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.

William had made a will on 15 December 1913, in which he left all his real and personal assets to his wife Maria Brazenor. If she should happen to predecease him his assets were to be divided equally between his children, as tenants in common, John Alexander Smyth Brazenor, Mary Smyth Brazenor, Isabella Smyth Brazenor and his adopted son William Brazenor, clerk of the Ballarat Water Supply Office.  William left an estate worth, in 1916, a net 1122  pounds 13 shillings and 6 pence, it largely consisted of land and a cottage in the city of Ballarat, worth 600 pounds; and cash on deposit at The Bank of Victoria, Ballarat, to the sum of 500 pounds. William had made John Alexander his executor but both John and William Jnr were away fighting with the AIF, in Europe. This caused some complications with Maria having to obtain administration.

When Maria Brazenor  made her will on 11 December 1920, she left 200 pounds to her son John Alexander Smyth Brazenor and the remainder of her real and personal estate to her daughters and executors Mary Brazenor and Isabella Brazenor, as tenants in common. William junior, now  Lieutenant Colonel William Brazenor, son of William Brazenor and Ellen Coogan was not mentioned in the will. Maria died at Ballarat on 30 September 1925, aged 71.