He had a finger in whaling, philanthropy and politics
If you take a stroll from the heart of the Hobart CBD along Elizabeth Street, you will come across the elegant building known as The Lodge. Today it runs as accommodation for visitors who can base themselves there and enjoy all the historic city has to offer.
Built in 1829 it was originally called Melbourne Lodge and was once home to the Honourable George Salier MLC and his 14 children. George moved in with his 'tribe' and proceeded to buy the land grant diagonally opposite on the south-west corner of Warwick and Elizabeth Streets from George Augustus Robinson for 1200 pounds in 1851. He would then sell the land in small lots to a number of buyers, including builder Abraham Biggs.
Early photo of Melbourne Lodge. Photo by Samuel Clifford Hobart Town 1860s. Courtesy State Library NSW
George continued to buy and sell land in Hobart well into the 1880s. He was a merchant who followed his brother James out to Hobart Town from England in 1840. James had arrived the year before to assess the prospects for opening a store. James' report was enough to bring George out with a cargo of goods to sell and they opened The Gold Mine Drapery in Elizabeth Street. Their brothers William George and John Jabez arrived soon after.
The business became a family affair where it extended to New Norfolk and William became manager. The Salier brothers combined wholesale trade with importing consumer goods and exporting wool and oil. They even tried their hand at whaling, acquiring a fleet of ships for the purpose. They were for years, the largest buyers and shippers of wool.
James sailed for San Francisco in 1849 with a cargo of prefabricated wooden houses for the goldfields, and his brothers visited the Victorian diggings with little success. George and James were shareholders and directors of a number of financial businesses and also leading members of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce.
While George lived in Melbourne Lodge, and James in Sydney Lodge, John taught music, especially church music, providing many concerts in the Hobart area.
George's public life continued in the town as he became a justice of the peace in 1862 and a member of the House of Assembly for North Hobart between 1866 to 1869 and then 1871 to 1886. He then sat on the Legislative Council in 1886 to 1892. His views were humanitarian as an evangelical liberal and the focus of his life was the Congregational Church in Davey Street.
The Salier brothers' father had been a minister in the church back in England and his influence rang strong. James was the deacon, treasurer, librarian, choir leader and president of the Southern Tasmanian Sunday School Union. George was on the local committee of the Colonial Missionary Society, the board of management of the Brickfields Pauper Establishment for Males and the executive committee of the Servants' Home.
George Salier, philanthropist, businessman and politician. Photo JW Beattie. Courtesy State Library of Tasmania
James became chairman of the Benevolent Society and honorary secretary of the Ragged Schools Association; he joined George on the board of management of the General Hospital, Hobart, and on the committees of the Girls' Industrial School and the Mechanics' Institute, where John organised successful music classes. All three brothers were members of the Glee Club, the Choral Society and various gardening and regatta committees.
The name Salier became synonymous with examples of philanthropic work around Hobart, but their lives weren't without sadness. George's first wife Anne Georgiana, (née Bush), died in 1845 and on 5 March 1846 he married Harriet Mary Willis.
In 1892, in his 78th year, George was walking along Elizabeth Street on his way home from his warehouse, when he tripped and fell. He was seen by the book seller Mr Hood, who rushed to his assistance. With the help of a number of others they carried George into Mr Hood's shop. It was here that after a few groans George breathed his last. The doctor arrived to confirm that he had died.
His death was a shock to the family as George had been in good health and high spirits when he left for work that morning. His heart had given up on him.
George was buried in the grounds of the Congregational Cemetery in Upper Davey Street, Hobart. The Davey Street Congregational Cemetery was located in the church grounds of the Congregational Church. This became part of the Uniting Church in the 1970s. The building itself was closed in 2012. No headstone of George has been found.
The now closed congregational church in Davey Street, Hobart. Wikimedia Commons
Peter Bolger, 'Salier, George (1813–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/salier-george-4531/text7421, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 5 April 2021. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976
'Obituary Hon George Salier', The Mercury, Hobart Tasmania, Monday 13 June 1892, Page 3.
'About The Lodge', The Lodge on Elizabeth, www.thelodge.com.au/about-the-lodge/, accessed online 5th April, 2021.
'Obituary - Mr G Salier', The Tasmanian, Saturday 18 June, 1892, Page 32
'Davey Street Congregational Cemetery, Find a Grave, Davey Street Congregational Cemetery in Hobart, Tasmania - Find A Grave Cemetery, accessed online 5th April, 2021.