George Brown was born on 9 August 1814 at Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland, son of John Brown and Agnes. On 22 September 1843 he married Margaret Hart at Sydney. He died at 13 Brown’s Terrace, Christie Street, Glebe on 31 October 1871, aged 57 years. There were six children, five sons and a daughter born between 1845 and 1858. Margaret Brown died on 30 August 1900, aged 83 years.
Occupation & interests
Brown arrived in Sydney in 1841 and began work on his own account as a builder from 1850. He told the inquiry into ‘the Working Classes of the Metropolis’ in 1859 that he was an employer of labour in Sydney and Goulburn, and provided the inquiry with daily wage rates he paid to stonemasons, bricklayers, plasterers , carpenters and labourers, incorporated in the appendix of its report. His firm, Brown & Grace, constructed habitations on narrow lots, and difficult terrain at a time when suburban building controls were non-existent. The tendency was to cut construction costs by skimping on drainage and foundations. Brown also told the inquiry children roamed the streets of Glebe ‘committing depredations of all sorts’. He left an estate valued at 250 pounds.
George Brown was present at the Council meeting in 1868 when wages rates for employees were determined; the Council Clerk received 13 pounds per month, foreman of works seven shillings per day, and labourers received six shillings per day. Returning officer for Glebe Council in 1868, on his death, Glebe Council formally ‘placed on record their sense of the valuable service rendered’ by Brown.
Local government service
George Brown was an alderman on Glebe Council from 1860-71. He chaired a meeting at the Friend in Hand Hotel Glebe in 1860 in support of the romantic yeoman ideal which underpinned the ideology behind selection. The Free Selection Acts were designed to settle the ‘small man’ on the land, to encourage agricultural production for self-sufficiency, and for export. Brown was part of a Glebe Council committee in 1862 appointed to consider and report as to the propriety of applying to the Government for leave to reclaim Blackwattle Swamp, and he was also par of a deputation to directors of Pyrmont Bridge Company regarding the toll on their road through Glebe.
Select Committee on the Condition of the Working Classes of the Metropolis, Votes and Proceedings NSW Legislative Assembly 1859-60, 4, pp. 41-42
Empire, 20 November 1860, p. 8
Sydney Morning Herald, 15 August 1862, p. 6
Glebe Municipal Council minutes, 6 July 1868, p. 339
Sydney Morning Herald, 16 November 1871, p. 3