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Church, Walter Marshall (1829–1901)

Mr. Walter Church, J.P., manager of the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society, died suddenly yesterday afternoon whilst engaged in business at his office at the corner of Pitt and King streets. Mr. Church was a well-known man in the mercantile life of the city, especially in insurance circles, having held the position of manager of the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society almost since its inception nearly a quarter of a century ago. Born in London, the third son of Captain John F. Church, the deceased gentleman arrived in New South Wales with his father at the early ago of 10 years. His education was completed side by side with the late Right Hon W. B Dalley, Mr. S. C. Brown, Sir John Lackey, and others, who distinguished themselves in after life. Fifty-three years ago Mr. Church entered into mercantile life in this city as a minor clerk. His first employer was the Hon George Thornton, M.L.C., who in those early days was one of Sydney's leading custom-house and shipping agents, and is now chairman of the board of directors of the insurance company of which Mr Church was the manager. On Mr. Thornton's, retirement some few years later, Mr. Church succeeded to the business, and carried it on successfully until 1857, when he became a wine and spirit merchant. Subsequently Mr. Church retired from that business, and in 1876, when the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society was but in its infancy, he became its manager, and the success that has marked the history of the society testifies to the wisdom of the appointment. In the year 1869 Mr. Church entered Parliament as a representative of the Western Goldfields, and held the seat for a number of years. During his political career he was the originator of a movement which had for its results the creation of the Department of Mines under a responsible Minister. This arose in the year 1870 when Mr Church obtained the sanction of Parliament for a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Goldfields Act. This inquiry so thoroughly justified Mr. Church's action that the Mines Department was established. For some years Mr. Church also took an active interest in civic affairs, and on more than one occasion filled the position of Mayor of Balmain. It was during his tenure of that office that he received his appointment as a magistrate of the colony. When the Fire Brigades' Board was established in 1884 Mr. Church was elected a member, and sat almost continuously as a representative of the fire insurance companies on the board. At the time of his death he was its vice chairman.

Although as a rule Mr Church had enjoyed fairly robust health, during the past two months he showed signs of weakness of the heart, which compelled him to take occasional rest, and later to seek the advice of Dr. Litchfield. On Wednesday Mr. Church was confined to his room, but yesterday morning he felt much better, and ventured into town. During the day he transacted a considerable amount of business, and seemed in the best of spirits. He was found dead in his office by one of the clerks at 4.30 p.m. His sudden death came as a painful surprise in business circles in the city, where he was widely known and respected. Mr. Church's family of six daughters and four sons all survive him, save the third son. The oldest son is in the head accountant's office of the New South Wales Railway Department, the second is one of the managing directors of Messrs. McDiarmid and Co., Limited, of Brisbane; and the youngest is studying law with Mr. Julian Windeyer, of Newcastle. The eldest daughter is unmarried. The second is the widow of Mr. George Cooper, formerly a partner of Messrs. Royle and Co., of Bond-street, city. The third is married to Mr. A. F. Dawson, barrister-at-law, the fourth to Mr Julian Windeyer, solicitor, of Newcastle, the fifth to Mr. W. E. Daye, an officer of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and the sixth to Mr. E. H. Wilshire, stipendiary magistrate of Sydney. At the time of his death Mr. Church was 73 years of age, and he had lived at Glebe Point.

Original publication

Citation details

'Church, Walter Marshall (1829–1901)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/church-walter-marshall-28650/text36143, accessed 12 December 2019.

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