John Woods

Carrying Contractor And Agent

Terms served on Council

Title Council From To
Alderman Redfern 1859 1859
Alderman City of Sydney 1860 1872
Mayor City of Sydney 1865 1865

Family background

John Woods was born at Castleblayney, County Monaghan, Ireland in 1828; his parents were named Moses and Nellie. Woods arrived to Sydney with his wife Margaret in 1853, where he started a carrying business. Woods died at ‘Leona’, Manly, on 13 July 1904, after a paralytic fit followed by a fall from his carriage. He had nine children. An obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald noted that he was one of Sydney’s oldest residents, and had celebrated his golden wedding anniversary in 1903.

Occupation & interests

In April 1858, with Thomas McKeown and James Smith he was granted a council contract for the emptying and cleansing of privies throughout the City. At this time he was a dray contractor of Bullanaming (now Renwick) Street, Redfern. He also became an agent joining Thomas McDonald to form Woods & McDonald, agent for carriers, at 25 Campbell Street. He later founded the carrying company called Woods, Shortland & Co. By 1873 this company had expanded and was based at Glenfield, Liverpool. In 1861 Woods’ address as a contractor was in Redfern but by 1863 had moved to the Corso, Manly Beach. In 1873, he was living at The Esplanade, Manly Beach. In 1880 he bought Fairlight House, built for Henry Gilbert Smith in 1854. Woods added the distinctive tower and porch in the early 1880s. He caused a public protest when he attempted to buy the public reserve in front of his house for private use in July 1882.

Community activity

From 1876, John Woods was a Director of the Port Jackson Steam Boat Company, becoming Chairman in 1882. In 1877 he received a presentation for his services to the Co-operative Fire Brigade. He was Returning Officer for Manly Council in February 1877 when fellow city Alderman Thomas Rowe was returned as first Mayor. In 1883 he was the first chairman of the Manly Gaslight and Coke Company.

Local government service

Woods was elected as an alderman for the Redfern Ward, Redfern Council on 14 September, 1859. He served on Redfern Council for just over a year, before standing for and being elected as Alderman for Denison Ward from 1 December 1860 to 1 December 1872. Woods was Mayor in 1865.


‘Redfern Ward’, Empire, 6 September 1859, p. 3,

‘Redfern Municipality’, Empire, 15 September 1859, p. 4,

‘Obituary’, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 1904, p. 7

“Death of Mr. John Woods’, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 20 July 1904, p. 161,

‘Redfern, Historic and Industrial Suburb’, Daily Telegraph, 12 May 1922, p. 4

City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files; Archives Investigator; Photo: THC 88/376

Curby, Pauline 2001, Seven miles from Sydney: a history of Manly, Manly Council, Manly, NSW

Terri McCormack, ‘Woods, John’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2012,, viewed 05 December 2012

Hughes, Joy & Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales 1999, Demolished houses of Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of N.S.W, Glebe, NSW

P C Gledhill: Historic pictures of Manly and Pittwater, 1856-1937 No 109 Fairlight House, State Library of NSW, PXB 417; Clarke, J.W.R.: Album of Portraits ML PXA 549 No 25d


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