SELDON, Richard 1817 – 1885

Richard Seldon,  Mayor of Willoughby 1876-1880.
Richard Seldon,
Mayor of Willoughby 1876-1880.
A migrant in Devonshire, England, Richard Seldon initially settled in the Hunter River district. He married Elizabeth McEvoy (born in County Down Ireland in 1830) at Hinton on 24 March 1855. Elizabeth had arrived in Sydney on the Earl Grey as a free migrant on 6 October 1848 with her younger sister Margaret, both girls subsequently working as house servants.1

By 1858, Seldon was the licensee of the Hope and Anchor Inn on the corner of Druitt and Sussex streets in Sydney and was the owner of the sloop Koh-i-Noor, which traded between Darling Harbour and northern NSW ports. Richard and Elizabeth Seldon had two sons, John T (1857-1914) and Richard (b 1859). There was tragedy for the family, however, when Richard died on 24 February 1861 aged just 18 months. Richard’s death had a severe impact on Elizabeth, who suffered numerous apoplectic fits. She was reported to be “gradually approaching recovery until … a return of fits came on which continued, at short interval, until the time of her death, which occurred on Sunday morning” 15 March 1863.2

The Hope and Anchor Inn had been advertised ‘To Let’ as a boarding house on 30 January 1863, presumably in consequence of Elizabeth’s illness. On 15 September 1864 Richard Seldon, now described as a ‘master mariner’, married Sarah Ann Frances, youngest daughter of Mr. Henry Hyland, of Sydney at St Andrews Cathedral.3

Evidently, Seldon moved to the North Shore with his new wife and surviving son. By 1872 he owned 28 acres of land on the Lane Cove Road. A street that was constructed through the garden of the Seldon’s residence on the corner of the main road (now the Pacific Highway) was named Seldons Road in 1882, but was renamed Albert Avenue the following year. Today Albert Avenue is a major thoroughfare within the booming Chatswood CBD.4

The family then moved to Artarmon House (where the Institute of TAFE now stands), the house built by Richard Harnett in about 1869 on land previously owned by William Gore. In 1875 the family moved again, this time to a property built by John Ffrench and named for Ffrench’s mother Charlotte, nee Gore. This home, Carlotta, was another substantial house with a large orchard on the corner of Clarendon and Carlotta Streets, Artarmon.5

Richard and Sarah Seldon had six children — Henry (b 1865?), Matilda (‘Tilly’, b 17 May 1867), Elizabeth S (b 3 March 1870), Florence (‘Florrie’, b 12 July 1872), Edith (b 6 April 1875) and William (‘Willie’).

Seldon was leading local politician, being elected as an alderman on the North Willoughby Municipal Council, being elected annually year as mayor between 1876 and 1880. He was highly regarded by his colleagues who described him as “one of the best” and he was an early promoter for the development of the North Sydney tramway system. The construction of a harbour bridge was also a key focus of his political platform and he had five lengthy letters in the subject published in the Sydney Morning Herald between April 1878 and May 1882.6

Richard Seldon died suddenly at the Masonic Hall North Shore during a ‘Farewell to Europe’ banquet on 30 April 1885. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that he had “expired suddenly while speaking at a public dinner on the evening of the 30th ultimo”.7

He survived his wife Sarah by two years. His estate was granted on 26 June 1885 and realised £37.

–Judy Baird, with research material provided by Angus Gibson

1 Angus Gibson, research noted for Elizabeth and Margaret McEvoy, email to WDHS, June 2013..

2 Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1858, Letter Richard Seldon; Monday 25 February 1861, ‘Deaths’; Monday 16 March 1863, ‘Deaths’; Saturday 21 March 1863, ‘Coroner’s Inquest’.

3 Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 30 January 1863, ‘Advertisement: To Boarding House Keepers’; 20 September 1864, p 1 ‘Marriages’.

4 Booker, Nancy, and Bennett, Ida, The West Ward. Chatswood, Willoughby Municipal Council, 1988, pp 18, 41, 48.

5 Grace Warner, Artarmon Past, Present and Future. Chatswood, Willoughby Municipal Council, 1988, pp. 27 and 31

6 Leplastrier, Claude, Willoughby Fifty Years: a retrospect. Chatswood, Willoughby Municipal Council 1915, pp. 27-28; Sydney Morning Herald,Friday 5 April 1878, ‘Letters: Bridge from Sydney to North Shore’; 12 April 1879. ‘Letters: North Shore Bridge and the Great Northern Railway’; 29 November 1881, ‘Letters: Bridge to the North Shore’; 29 November 1881, ‘Letters” North Shore Bridge’; 17 December 1881, ‘Letters: The North Shore Bridge’; Wednesday 3 May 1882, ‘Letters: North Shore Bridge

7 Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 9 May 1885, ‘Mr Richard Seldon’.