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Conserving Barwon Grange

John Swire & Sons Pty Ltd proudly contributed to the conservation of local historic property Barwon Grange by making a financial endowment to the Victorian chapter of The National Trust. Barwon Grange is a 159-year-old property with close links to the Swire family. Situated on the banks of the Barwon River in Geelong, the property is one of the very few remaining original river residences of its era.

The Swire endowment will allow The National Trust to continue crucial maintenance and repairs on the heritage listed property, built in 1855 for Jonathan Porter O’Brien. The Liverpool merchant arrived in Melbourne in 1849 with his wife and infant daughter to establish trade connections here. He commissioned the construction of Barwon Grange, a stone-built house in Fernleigh Street, Geelong. Mr Porter O’Brien’s cousin, John Samuel Swire, arrived in Melbourne on 21 December of the same year to set up an office for his family business Swire Bros., on the strength of the growing trade between Australia and the UK.

Successfully trading over the next two decades, profits from the Australian operation financed Swire’s expansion into the far Eastern trades and into shipping, allowing the China Navigation Company (CNCo) to be established. Today, CNCo continues to hold Swire’s global shipping interests and operates services over 130 ports worldwide.

Historic records show that John Samuel Swire visited Barwon Grange and due to the close relationship with his cousin Jonathan, was most likely a frequent visitor to the property whilst it was occupied by the Porter O’Brien’s until their return to England in 1856.

Swire’s endowment to the National Trust will ensure this important historic link remains a public landmark in Geelong, Victoria. The house is open to view on weekends. Visit the National Trust website for more information.


Fast fact

1855
Melbourne, July 1855 Young Liverpool merchant John Samuel Swire establishes Swire Bros. in Melbourne, a modest import-export operation and the start of Swire in Australia.