James Sutherland Mitchell

Posted on Mon, 02/24/2014 - 19:23

James Sutherland Mitchell (1819-1893) Harold Ozanne's grandfather-in-law and owner of the Tooth Brewery, Australia

James Sutherland Mitchell was born on the Orkney Islands in 1819 and emigrated to Australia in about 1840

 He found work with the Commissary Department in Hobart, Tasmania later moving to the Commissary in Sydney. The Commissary was the key institution in each colony of the British Empire and particularly in Australia because of its remoteness. With a staff of 40 and offices in all the main centres of population, it was responsible for all the provisions and finances of the colony. It bought and paid for all the food, clothing and other stores required by the Colonial staff, the local military and the huge convict population; convicts were being transported to Australia until 1853. The Commissariat built all the roads, docks, warehouses, prisons and other public buildings. It worked alongside the Governor but reported separately to London.

In 1828 the Australian Commissary was headed by James Laidley, Deputy Commissary General, equivalent in rank to a Colonel. He had served in the Peninsular War, in the West Indies, Canada and Mauritius. James Sutherland Mitchell was one of his staff.

Laidley died suddenly in 1835. He left a widow and eight children, but no will, and as his property reverted to a son who was not yet 10 colonial observers forecast a hard time for the family. But his daughters all married very well; Theresa married Thomas Mort, Maria married Henry Mort and Elizabeth married James Sutherland Mitchell. These three brothers in law were to become some of Australia’s most successful businessmen.

James Mitchell had used the experienced gained in the Commissariat to become the manager of a fire insurance company in Sydney. In 1856 the long established Tooth and Co were looking for a manager for their Kent Brewery, and having been turned down by one candidate, they offered the job to James Mitchell. He subsequently acquired a major shareholding and was the senior partner for many years, becoming a very wealthy man in the process.

He expanded his business interests to include amongst other things, key shareholdings in;

Tooth and Co

The Argyle Bond  http://www.sydneyvista.com/Argyle-Stores.html  

Peak Downs Copper Mine  http://www.cqhistory.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Places/PeakDownsCopperMine  twice visiting their extensive mining operations in Queensland.

The Australia Joint Stock Bank (where he was Chairman)  http://www.australianstamp.com/coin-web/aust/notes/colonial/ajsb.htm  

“A J S Bank, an outline of the history of this, one of the most successful of all our mercantile institutions, may not be uninteresting. The Bank was established in January 1853, and the paid-up capital was £500,000 shares of £8 each, with power to increase to £1,000,000. The reserve fund stands at £95,000. Immediately after the formation of the company, the business widely extended itself, till, up to the present, thirty-eight branches have been established in this colony, and twenty in Queensland. There is also a branch of the Bank in London, and agencies have been established throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, America, India, and China, thus affording more than the usual business facilities.”

James Mitchell was obviously not a man to be meddled with. The Australian newspaper archives have numerous examples of him taking action in the Courts to recover debts, even from customers who had died;

VICTORIA, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c, &c. To the Widow and next of kin of JOHN GEORGE CURTOIS, late of the Stanmore Road, near Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, Licensed Victualler, deceased. GREETINGS: WHEREAS it hath been represented to us, in our Supreme Court of New South Wales, that JOHN GEORGE CURTOIS, late of the Stanmore Road, near Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, departed this life on the twenty-second day of October last past, intestate, having at the time of his death goods, chattels, and credits in the said colony : We do therefore peremptorily cite you and each of you, to appear personally or by your proctor, before our said Court, at the Court-house, King-street, Sydney aforesaid, on the nineteenth day of November instant, at the hour of ten o'clock in the forenoon, and there to abide, if occasion shall require, during the sitting of the said Court, and then and there to accept or refuse letters of administration of all and singular the goods, chattels, and credits of the said deceased, or otherwise to show sufficient cause (if you or either of you have or know any) why the same should not be committed to JAMES SUTHERLAND MITCHELL and ROBERT LUCAS TOOTH, carrying on business together as Tooth and Co., of Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, Merchants, creditors of the said deceased. Witness, the Honorable Sir James Martin, Knight, our Chief Justice of our said Court, at Sydney, this fourth day of November, A.D. 1878. , T. M. SLATTERY (L.S..), Prothonotary. JOHN DAWSON and SON, Proctors for the said James Sutherland Mitchell and Robert Lucas Tooth, 136, Pitt-street, Sydney. [The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 11 November 1878, page 1]

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW SOUTH WALES ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION. In the Will of JOHN GEORGE CURTOIS, late of Rushcutter Bay, near Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, Publican, deceased. NOTICE is hereby given that, after the expiration or fourteen days from the publication hereof in the GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, application is intended to be made to this Honorable Court, that probate of the last Will and Testament of the above named deceased may be granted to MARY CURTOIS and CHARLES WOODWARD, both of Sydney, the Executrix and Executor named in and appointed by the said Will. Dated this 8th day of November, A.D. 1878. JOHN WILLIAMSON, Proctor for the said Executrix and Executor,Williamson's-chambers, King-street, Sydney. [The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 9 November 1878, Page 9]



By the age of 50 James Mitchell had acquired enough wealth to buy a house set in 40 acres on Darling Point, and to have it demolished and replaced by a new mansion built to his own design. Named Etham this house became one of the centres of Sydney social life.

Etham, on Darling Point overlooking Double Bay, was a grand house built in 1869 for James Sutherland Mitchell (1819-1893), a partner in Tooth's Brewery. In an article on Darling Point in 1906, it was reported that Mitchell demolished an old house called The Willows to build Etham but retained its natural pond surrounded by willows, as a feature of the Etham garden which extended from Mount Adelaide to Carthona along the shore of Double Bay. Etham house was built on the edge of the slope fronting Double Bay. 

Dowling records that "Mr Mitchell was a very handy and ingenious man, and a clever amateur carpenter, making many of the wooden fittings and carvings of the house". He also enlarged his original house, first with additional wings, then with a billiard room. The original ballroom, "enclosed with glass on both the north-east and south sides, which faced the whole frontage overlooking Double Bay" was also enlarged at a later date to nearly twice its original size.

"To go to an entertainment at Etham", says Dowling, "was the ambition of all in the social world". In 1891 the composer J.C. de S. Mann published a piece of piano music called The Etham Waltz, dedicated to Mrs Mitchell.

In 1868 the year before he moved into Etham, James' wife Elizabeth died,  leaving him with 7 children ranging in age from 4 to 20 years old.

In 1884 some 14 years after his first wife’s death, James (aged 65) married Maria Allen (aged 35, about the same age as his children). Maria was the sister of Sir George Wigram Allen, Speaker of the New South Wales Assembly, and of Arthur Allen a solicitor and the then owner of a neighbouring mansion on Darling Point called Carthona.  James and Maria had one childen, a daughter.

Allens is still one of the largest law firms in Australia.

When Arthur Allen (his new brother in law) died two years later in 1886, James bought Carthona for his son William Broadfoot Mitchell who worked for his father at the Tooth Brewery. James now owned the two largest mansions in Sydney both standing in extensive grounds.


James Sutherland Mitchell was not just a very hard working and successful businessman, but also a talented painter and wood carver. At the Australian Museum Exhibition in 1854 he exhibited an etching entitled The Momentous Question. The etching was presented in an elaborately carved wooden frame also by James Mitchell.

James was described by a contemporary as 'a gifted and scientific man and author of some very valuable experiments on the strength and tenacity of Australian timbers, while as a wood carver his amateur efforts in the way of gigantic picture frames, reproducing birds, fruits and flowers in marvellous fidelity, would almost vie with the masterly productions of artists like Grinling Gibbons’.

His watercolour Ballroom at Etham Point, Sydney (c.1870) recorded by the National Library of Australia, shows a grand conservatory-like room in his home with two little girls (presumably his daughters) gazing out at the splendid harbour views. This watercolour is in the possession of his great great granddaughter Tessa McKenzie.

James Sutherland Mitchell died at Etham on Darling Point in 1892 at the age of 74. One obituary stated that “He was a genial and large hearted man and leaves a stainless record behind him as one more of the now fast sundering links left us with the 'quiet forties'”. His Estate amounted to £363,935 and the duty paid was £18,196.

 He appointed his wife Marian Isabel Mitchell and his son William Broadfoot Mitchell and William Alfred Cottee, manager of the Australian Mortgage Land and Finance Company executors and trustees under the will. The following legacies are bequeathed:

£3000 to his sister Helen, widow of Rev. Jas. Robinson, formerly of Edinburgh

£1000 to her daughter Jessie Walker, widow of Wm. Walker

£1000 to her daughter Mrs. Bingham wife of Joseph Bingham

£2000 to testator's son, Wm. Broadfoot Mitchell

£1600 to testator's daughter Theresa Mary wife of Edward Andree Wylde

£500 to Mrs. Graham, widow of the late Thomas Graham of Nova Scotia

£500 to Minnie Graham her daughter

All the real and personal estate is bequeathed on trust to Marian Isabel Mitchell, Mr. Broadfoot Mitchell and Mr. A Cottee to sell and convert into money as they shall think fit and to form a trust fund principally for the benefit of wife and children. The furniture in the boudoir at Etham is left to the wife and all the etchings and carved frames to the son Mr. Broadfoot Mitchell.


With James Mitchell’s son William dying young in 1899 and his second wife dying in 1900 both Etham and Carthona were put up for sale and marketed together. Carthona remained as a private residence and still stands on Darling Point, but Etham after a few more years as a private house was demolished for redevelopment in 1920.

Report in The Newsletter; 7 December 1901 Nearly everyone has admitted that Sydney Harbour is the most beautiful in the world, and there is no doubt there are some particular spots on its shores which may be described as the prettiest on earth. In this category stands undoubtedly Darling Point, where, fortunate to relate, nature has not been impaired by the handiwork of man. This delightful suburb of Sydney, thanks to its beauty and convenience to Sydney, has never fallen into vandal hands, but rather has been held from the very first by persons who had taste and the money at their back to indulge it. The one result has been that Darling Point has steadily held the premier place as the beauty spot of Australia. The whole Point is covered with splendid mansions and residences of handsome architecture, standing in beautifully laid-out grounds, and from every part has been preserved the enchanting view of the harbour to all points — with the ever-changing incidents of life upon its waters — steamers, ships, yachts, ferries, and craft of every kind. Now, through a turn in the wheel of fortune, the public hear that one of the choicest areas at Darling Point, the Etham Estate, is for sale on the 7th December instant. The property includes the magnificent mansion Etham, standing in 1 1/2 acres of ground, and Prudhoe, a substantial family residence, both fronting the harbour waters. In addition, and this concerns the general public, there are several building blocks, all with harbour frontages and of a size suitable for comfortable residences. Each gives facility for the erection of a salt-water bath — that most desirable healthful adjunct to a family residence, and in addition each block has uninterrupted front and view of the harbour. No such sale can ever take place here again, as the Etham Estate stands alone, the rest of Darling Point being held by residential owners. Messrs. Raine and Home and Messrs. Richardson and Wrench are the firms in whose hands the disposal of the estate has been placed, and from them all particulars, plans, etc., are obtainable.

Some of the estates on Darling Point were describe at the time as follows;

ETHAM - Demolished house, previously near Etham Avenue, Darling Point. House built for James Sutherland Mitchell, 1870, part on each of the southern Holt grant and the Chisholm grant, demolished in 1920. The drive to the house was along Etham Avenue - Mitchell's name is commemorated in two streets nearby.

CARTHONA - Carthona Avenue, Darling Point. Victorian Tudor Gothic house built in 1841 for Major Sir Thomas Mitchell (founder of the Mitchell Library, but not related to James Sutherland Mitchell). He died in 1856 and the property was purchased by J. S. Mitchell for his son William B. Mitchell. For a time, the Misses Cooksey operated a school there.

WILLOWS - Demolished house in Darling Point Road on the southern James Holt 'grant' of 7 1/2 acres which contained a large pond, drained and planted out in the moisture loving trees that gave it its name. Originally built for Acton Sillitoe, owned to 1880 by Thomas Skinner, bought by James Sutherland Mitchell who demolished it to extend his property Etham.

ST MARK'S COTTAGE - Darling Point Rd, Darling Point. The Laidleys were a family of considerable significance in the history of Darling Point. James Laidley (1788-1835) arrived in Sydney in 1827 becoming Commissary-General living at Rose Bank (site of the old William Street Post Office) and had eight children. His first daughter, Theresa, married Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, the second, Elizabeth, married James Mitchell, the third, Maria married Henry Mort, the fourth, Catherine Marianne, married James Dowling and another Emily married a George Merrivale (Annery). His son William was to donate the spire for St Mark's Church. James died in 1835 and his widow lived for some time before her death in 1860 in St Mark's Cottage.

And more recently a newspaper commented;

Etham Avenue is one of the last bastions of single family villas in the now apartment-dominated suburb of Darling Point. It wasn’t always this way. The Etham Estate, an elegant Victorian Italianate mansion resting on over 40 harbour front acres, was subdivided in 1900. The infill development of the parcels spanned several decades and were significantly smaller than its neighbouring mansions, including ‘Winslow’, ‘Swifts’, ‘Ascham’, ‘Prudhoe’, ‘Carthona’, and ‘Lindsay’. Thus it comes as a slight surprise that the listing agent for 3 Etham Avenue claims that this freestanding residence was originally one of the grand Edwardian mansions gracing sought after Darling Point’ when in fact it was more Darling Point starter home than imposing Edwardian mansion. Nonetheless, the rarity of single family homes in Darling Point today provides the home with more significance now than it ever had before.

The All-Time Richest Australians lists James Sutherland Mitchell at #151


(Ranking)  (Name)  (Year of Death/Birth)   (Original Value)    (Current Value)  (% of GDP)

143. John Frazer (d. 1884) £405 000 1.79 billion 0.250

144. Edward Wollstonecraft (d. 1832) £6000 1.79 billion 0.250

145. Sidney Baevski Myer (d. 1934) £1 532 171 1.78 billion 0.248

146. Richard Brooks (d. 1833) £7000 1.78 billioin 0.248

147. William Hutchinson (d. 1846) £20 000 1.77 billion 0.247

148. Robert Campbell the Elder (d. 1846) £20 000 1.77 billion 0.247

149. William Wilson (d. 1846) £20 000 1.77 billion 0.247

150. Edward Flood (d. 1888) £468 487 1.74 billion 0.243

151. James Sutherland Mitchell (d. 1893) £369 000 1.73 billion 0.241

152. Alexander William Robertson (d. 1896) £385 003 1.73 billion 0.241

153. James White (d. 1842) £15 000 1.72 billion 0.240

154. Sir John Langdon Bonython (d. 1939) £1 992 041 1.70 billion 0.237

155. John Hepburn (d. 1860) £170 000 1.68 billion 0.234

156. Charles Hadley (d. 1828) £4000 1.67 billion 0.233