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William Hurdsfield (1863–1936)

by Frank Bongiorno

This article was published:

William Hurdsfield (1863-1936) bricklayer, building contractor, trade union official and Labor Party pioneer

Birth: 1863 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of William Hurdsfield (1821-1879), bricklayer, and Elizabeth, née Tongue (1826-1915). His parents had been born and married at Stockport, Cheshire, England. Marriage: 1884 at Ballarat to Ballarat-born Elizabeth Patten Smith (1861-1940). They had one daughter and two sons. Death: 31 October 1936 at Ballarat. 

  • Was a bricklayer at Ballarat and a building contractor.
  • Represented the Bricklayers’ Society on the Ballarat Trades and Labor Council (TLC) in 1889; became vice-president in 1890. Member of the TLC’s formation committee, responsible for the organisation of unions. President TLC 1891-1892. Secretary TLC from 1894 to 1910.
  • President of the Intercolonial Trades and Labor Union Congress, Ballarat, 1891. Advocated the federation of labour and political organisation of workers. Defeated for the position of secretary in 1910 under a cloud amidst claims that he failed to enter a sum of cash received from the Amalgamated Miners’ Association in the TLC’s accounts and had issued a receipt from the centre of the book; moreover that other debts had been left out of the Council’s statement of liabilities and that he had employed non-unionists in preference to unionists on a work site.
  • Represented Ballarat TLC at the conference which established the Progressive Political League (PPL, Victorian Labor Party) in 1891. President Ballarat West branch PPL 1891-92.
  • Contested PPL preselection for Ballarat West in 1892. Contested Ballarat West as a Liberal-Labor candidate with support of the TLC in 1902. Member, Ballarat branch Political Labor Council 1903-04.
  • A staunch protectionist he was associated with the group of Liberal craft unionists on the Ballarat TLC which supported Prime Minister Deakin (MHR Ballarat) in the early years of the Commonwealth and were hostile to the radical Ballarat Labor branches and the Australian Workers' Union.
  • Appointed justice of the peace in 1891. Advocated decentralisation. Member of the Australian Natives’ Association.

Death certificate, 1936; Ballarat Courier, September 23 1902 p.4, September 30 1902 p.4, October 1 1902 p.6, October 2 1902 p.3, November 2 1936 p.8; Trades and Labor Council (Ballarat) minutes, 1889-1911, ABL E 97/1/4-7; Progressive Political League minutes, 1891-92, ABL E 97/4/3; W.J. McAdam, ‘Labor Memoirs Ballarat’, 1911, ABL E 97/54; ‘Report of Proceedings of Seventh Intercolonial Trades and Labor Union Congress’, 1891.

Citation details

Frank Bongiorno, 'Hurdsfield, William (1863–1936)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


31 October, 1936 (aged ~ 73)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (prostate)

Cultural Heritage

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