David Elphinstone


Terms served on Council

Title Council From To
Alderman Glebe 1881 1887

Family background

David Elphinstone was born at Broughton Street, Glebe on 15 January 1846, the eighth son of William and Janet nee Leckie. On 25 December 1868 he married Sarah Logan Cooke at Market Street, Sydney.There were 11 children of the marriage, of which all but two died in infancy. David died at Summer Hill on 9 May 1916, aged 70 years. Sarah Elphinstone died on 27 November 1908, aged 69 years.

Occupation & interests

David Elphinstone began his trade as a carpenter in 1868, he moved to Ramelton House, Derwent Street in 1874, where he lived till 1884. The Elphinstone building yard was at 148 Parramatta Street, and when he moved to new offices at 246 Pitt Street Sydney in 1877, he was described as a building surveyor; two years later David was listed as an architect. Between 1877 and 1885 he called tenders for 211 houses and new shops in St Phillips, Glebe making him the largest builder in Victorian Glebe. Elphinstone formed a close and very remunerative association with the Metropolitan Mutual Permanent Building and Investment Association in deveoping St Phillips.He left an estate of 15,565 pounds sworn for probate purposes.

Community activity

In 1885 David Elphinstone moved to Strathnairn, 7 Gower Street Summer Hill, and took commissions for building work at Leichhardt, Balmain and Summer Hill; from the beginning of 1888 he formed a partnership with brother Alexander, tendering for government contracts let by the Department of Public Instruction for about five years but it was not particularly productive. As building activity slowed in the economic recession David began trading as Elphinstone Steam Pottery Works in 1894 but withdrew as managing proprietor in 1899 due to failing health. A foundation member of the Builders and Contractors Association in 1873, Elphinstone became its president in 1880. An elder of Glebe Presbyterian Church, he was also a founding member of Glebe Masonic Lodge in 1881.

Local government service

David Elphinstone nominated for Forest Lodge ward at the 1875 election,and although unsuccessful was increasingly active in community affairs, and was first elected to Bishopthorpe ward in 1881. Elphinstone told a public meeting at the Currency Lass Hotel in 1877 that in the morning the Glebe Point omnibus were full by the time they had travelled a relatively short distance, and, as a consequence, residents of Glebe and Forest Lodge had to walk all the way to the railway station. There was, he said, an urgent need to increase the number of omnibus on the Glebe run.


Back, Nicholas 1978, The Elphinstone family: builders and architects, B.Arch Thesis, University of NSW

Burton, Craig 1979, Housing the Glebe: Architects,Bulders and Styles 1828-1915, M.A.Thesis, University of Sydney

Sydney Morning Herald 23 January 1877 p. 6; 15 May 1880 p. 3; 9 February 1881 p. 2; 29 August 1894 p. 7

Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 1916 p. 11; 9 June 1916 p. 5


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