William Elphinstone


Terms served on Council

Title Council From To
Alderman Glebe 1861 1863
  • Glebe Council logo 1896 (City of Sydney Archives A-00333228)

Family background

William Elphinstone was born at Couper Street North Leith, Scotland in 1800, son of house and ships joiner William Elphinstone Snr and Ann, nee Balfour. William Jnr married Janet Leckie on 27 June 1827 at Leith. Bounty emigrants to Sydney, they arrived on the barque Arundel on 5 September 1832 with three children. There were eventually 10 sons and two daughters of the marriage. Janet Elphinstone died 19 July 1865, aged 56 years. William then married Annie Drysdale on 26 July 1866, a union that produced three daughters and a son. William died at Glebe on 1 April 1877, aged 77 years.

Occupation & interests

Described as a house and ship joiner on leaving Scotland, William Elphinstone tilled the soil on Mahony’s farm Maitland in 1832-33 and established a joiner’s shop in Kent Street in 1834; by 1841 he was living in Athlone Place; Elphinstone was listed as a cabinetmaker in 1844, and a builder three years later. Elphinstone also worked as a timber merchant. He established a brickyard and a building yard at 148 Parramatta Street Glebe in 1851 and worked with brickmakers, plasterers and painters constructing dwellings on St Phillips, Glebe including Broughton Street where he lived, and on Bishopgate and Bishopthorpe estates.He left an estate of 3,800 pounds sworn for probate purposes including the Glebe Coffee House in Parramatta Street.

Community activity

Six of Elphinstone’s sons – William, Alexander, James, Balfour, David and Gourley –  followed their father into the building trade. Elphinstone senior was prominent in formation of Glebe School of Arts in 1860, and a director of the Glebe and Parramatta Street Penny Bank in 1863, whose object was to encouraged thriftiness among working men.

Local government service

William Elphinstone was a Glebe alderman from 1861 to 1863. Elphinstone, a resident of Broughton Street on St Phillips Estate, Glebe, leased from 1842 on 28 year leases, moved a motion on Glebe Council in 1863 seconded by Edmund Blacket that a deputation to the trustees of St Phillips Estate, Glebe urging the trustees to grant an extension of lease to the present lessees. The timber cottages built in the early 1840s were then barely fit for habitation. His son David was also an alderman on Glebe Council.


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

Sydney Morning Herald, 16 October 1860, p. 1

Sydney Morning Herald, 17 January 1863, p. 5

Sydney Mail, 11 July 1863, p. 2

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 1877, p. 1


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