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John Manifold (1887–1957)

The passing of John Manifold, of Purrumbete, Victoria, on 5th November last was only briefly referred to in the December issue of the Pastoral Review because it was not possible, at such short notice, to compile the life story of one who had such a wide range of interests.

Born at Purrumbete, on 10th April 1887, he was the eldest son of William Manifold and, like all other members of his family, went to Geelong Church of England Grammar School. After leaving school he went to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was unlucky enough to get an attack of measles when training with the University crew and this stopped him from getting his rowing blue for Cambridge. However, at Cambridge he took his B.A. degree in Engineering.

In 1913 he married Barbara, eldest daughter of the late Mr. W. B. Grey Smith, of Sandringham, Victoria, and they took a honeymoon trip to England. On their return they only had a few months at Purrumbete before they went back to England where John served as a Captain in the Royal Field Artillery and later in the war in an anti-aircraft battery until invalided out of the army.

Shortly after their return from the war they went to live at his father's property, Milangil, till his father died in 1921, when he succeeded him at Purrumbete. For a time he played polo with Camperdown Polo Club, but his heart was in much more serious things. He read widely and intensively on matters pertaining to the fertility and health of the soil, studying Sir Albert Howard's and Lady Evelyn Balfour's teachings, as well as all the other authors with a world-wide reputation. Frequently he wrote articles to draw the public's attention to the value of the correct treatment and use of organic waste, but many people misunderstood him in his attitude to organic v. inorganic manures. He knew the value of inorganic fertilisers as an aid to raise the level of production of leeched-out soil, but he saw the dangers that lie ahead in the indiscriminate application of artificial manure without the provision of an adequate quantity of healthy decaying organic matter.

John Manifold began his life's work for others by the interest he showed in his church, St. Paul's Church of England in Camperdown, where he was Vicar's Warden, and a member of Synod of Ballarat Diocese. Another great local responsibility was undertaken on the committee of Camperdown and District Hospital, of which he was chairman several times.

Being a grazier himself, he played an active part in the meetings of the Lismore branch of the Graziers' Association of Victoria and was also a member of Council for Victoria, being one of the six members of Council who are selected by members at the annual general meeting.

But of all his works, the biggest and best was the part he played on the Council of the Geelong Church of England Grammar School. Much of the building and organisation of the new school at Corio was carried out under his chairmanship over several years, and, indeed, few families in Australia can show the record of service to a good cause as can the Manifold family in the work they have done for Geelong Grammar School.

In his kindly nature, and in his sincerity, he was outstanding, and he will be greatly missed by a wide circle of friends in all walks of life.

He is survived by his wife, and their three sons—John, who lives near Brisbane; Christopher, of Milangil; and William, at Purrumbete—and one daughter, Marigold, who married John Paine.

Original publication

Citation details

'Manifold, John (1887–1957)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 April, 1887
Purrumbete, Victoria, Australia


5 November, 1957 (aged 70)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.