Faces of Tamworth: City’s first mayor Philip Gidley King

Philip Gidley King

Philip Gidley King

Did you know Tamworth’s first mayor was also part of Charles Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands, which lead to his theory of evolution?

Philip Gidley King was perhaps Tamworth’s first man of influence.

His father was a politician, surveyor and head of the incredible wealthy Australian Agricultural Company, while his grandfather (also named Philip Gidley King) was the first Governor of NSW.

King was only 14 when he sailed aboard Darwin’s HMS Beagle in 1831. He sailed with the famous scientist for four years, joining him on many land expeditions in South America and the Galapagos Islands.

In a letter to his wife, Darwin described King as the “most perfect, pleasant boy I ever met with and [he] is my chief companion”.

The pair went on to be life-long friends and exchanged letters throughout their lifetime. 

King disembarked the HMS Beagle in Sydney in 1836 and began a career on the land.

In 1852, when gold was discovered on the bed of the Peel River, he became manger of the the NSW Peel River Land and Mineral Company.

At the same time he had followed his father's footsteps, serving as superintendent of stock for the Australian Agricultural Company.

He moved with his family to company’s crown jewel, Goonoo Goonoo Station. It was a tough few years for King, who lost many of his stockmen to the gold rush, but he managed the estate efficiently.

He had a township laid out on the southern end of Goonoo Goonoo across the river from the Nundle goldfield. By the 1870s, Goonoo Goonoo was essentially its own village.

He oversaw the expansion of the elaborate station, which had a homestead, post office, school, numerous cottages for employees, an accommodation house and a woolshed.

King was first elected as Tamworth mayor in 1876 and went on to serve five consecutive terms.

He encouraged the building of the Anglican parsonage and school in West Tamworth, persuading his company to contribute £3600, and was also responsible for bring the first fire engine to the city.

King was appointed as a member of the NSW legislative Council – a lifetime appointment, which last from when he stood down as Tamworth mayor in 1880 to his death in 1904.