Newtown & Chillwell Fire Brigade
Newtown & Chillwell Fire Brigade c State Library Victoria
William Beales

William Beales (1832 – 1905) was born in Cambridge, England. He married Eiliza (nee Spencer 1836 – 1890) there in 1853. He was a tailor by trade, a member of the Newtown and Chilwell Council for 23 continuous years and founder of the Newtown and Chilwell Volunteer Fire Brigade.[1]  Also a founder of Torquay and longtime member of the Spring Creek (Torquay) Improvement Association – Beales Street is named after him. William was also a veteran artillery man and was a member of the old rifle corps out of which the early 1900s Artillery was formed.

William, Eliza and their children, William Robert and Emily, emigrated to Australia on the ‘Admiral Boxer which arrived in Geelong on 9th March, 1857. William listed his occupation at the time as being a labourer.

By 1882 William had forged a successful tailoring business in Little Ryrie Street Geelong when he expanded to create the upper story of Charles Anderson’s premises in Ryrie street into a clothing factory. He employed 100 people with the expectation that would double over time.[2] He founded the firm of Wm. Beales & Sons, military tailors.[3]

1863 William Beales Taylor Shop
1863 BEALES TAILOR SHOP c. Geelong Heritage Centre

Sutherland and Ellery, 1888[4] record that “On coming to Australia he first tried digging, but with little success, at Forrest Creek and Rosewood. He opened a business in Geelong as a tailor, first in Little Ryrie Street in 1870, and subsequently in his present premises in Moorabool Street, which he took in addition to the original establishment. Mr. Beales joined the volunteers in 1857, and retired in 1883, during which time he was for several years sergeant of the band. He was one of the original members of the Newtown Chilwell Fire Brigade, to which he belonged twenty-years, and was elected a member for the south ward in the Newtown and Chilwell Borough Council in 1881, and is now Chairman of Public Works.”

Map Beales family land

In 1890 William purchased 6 Lots of land in Torquay on the north side of Anderson Street and south side of Boston Road. Over time his holdings grew. Today Payne street runs through the middle of what was William Beales initial property. He built his holiday house in 1893 later purchasing land and building a house in Anderson / Price Street during 1900. His son Arthur had a cottage in Boston Road. After William’s death, the property was subdivided and sold with Arthur holding part of the property in Anderson Street which had a house. Like his father he was an active member of the Torquay Improvement Association. He died in 1921 after a long illness and the property passed to his wife Mary who kept the house in Anderson Street until it was razed in the 1940 fire. She never rebuilt and the land was sold after her death in 1950.

Margaret Ganly in her Torquay recollections refers to the flag pole on William Beales front garden as flying the Jolly Roger.

Claude Beales, William’s grandson recalls —

I remember very early my grandfather William Beales building – a new seaside home at Torquay (The Creek). It was a large bungalow; the design being suggested by grandfather’s close friend Colonel Paul who had lived in such a building while in the Indian Army. The home named ‘The Pirates Lair’ was decorated with weird pictures of pirates. Two oils I shall never forget, one with a buccaneer leaning over the bulwark with a malign expression on his face and a bloody knife in his mouth, the other was similar but this buccaneer had a blood stained bandanna round his head and a smoking pistol in his hand. A strange notice was in each room signed in blood (dark red ink). The side rooms had ships bunks with portholes and on the opposite wall to the top bunk in which I slept when staying with Grandpa. I could see and enjoy the pictures of the dark town, fire brigade or cursing by strange looking dogs. At the end of the room was a picture of a nymph. Throughout the home there were pictures of pirates or pretty half-dressed women or copies and prints of some of the old masters with a collection of old fashioned arms, native spears, bows and arrows and boomerangs. Above the pictures hung old blunderbuss and some very ancient eastern swords. From an exceptionally tall flagpole floated a large silk Jolly Roger put up immediately Grandpa went into residence. In the sitting room were a good piano and a bookcase of adventures of the sea, histories of the British Army, and similar books interesting to every youngster, since they were profusely illustrated. My two cousins Norrie and Percy Richardson were never allowed in this room without an adult but I got away with it and always believed I was Grandfathers favourite grandchild.”

William died 17 September 1905 at his home in Nicholas Street, Chillwell which he called “Cambridge Cottage”. He had suffered a severe influenza attack from which he never recovered.[5] He was buried with full military honours with the coffin carried on the Geelong Fire Brigade’s steam engine and covered with the Union Jack; the cortege was headed by the Geelong Artillery Band playing the Dead March.[6]

William Robert Beales
William Robert Beales

When William died he left to his son William Robert and daughter Kate Richardrson, the sum of 50 pounds each, and 25 pounds to his housekeeper Marion Hind if alive at the time of his death. The residue was to be divided between; Amelia Norton, Emily Hughs, Arthur, Charles Herbert, Thomas Nicholas, Maud Morton and Henry Elijah in equal shares. The real estate was valued at £1888, and personal at £2274.


[1] Investigator, September 1978 p94

[2] Geelong Advertiser, 21 February 1882

[3] Geelong Advertiser 18 September 1905

[4] Sutherland A & Ellery (1888) Victoria and its metropolis: past and present

[5] Geelong Advertiser 18 September 1905

[6] Geelong Advertiser 20 September 1905