Biographies of the Early Aldermen

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Frederick John Goodsell

Councillor/Alderman in 1866-68, 1872-75, 1878-86

The Goodsell family were the most important brickmakers in the colony. Henry Wesley Goodsell arrived in the colony in 1838 and established brickworks around what is now St Peters Railway Station in 1848. It was said at the time to be the best brick land in Sydney. The Municipal Jubilee Souvenir says Goodsell’s red bricks were much admired and tells anecdotes of Goodsell’s mighty six-horse teams which hauled the bricks and of the sailors who used to desert their ship at Sydney Cove and camp in the brickyards en route to Wollongong.

There were many members of the Goodsell clan in the area, near what is now Alice and Clara Streets. Alfred Goodsell had eight sons. Two of them played in the Newtown Cricket Club’s match of April 1857. John Goodsell 1799-1863 was on the Committee of the School of Arts in 1856 and his son Frederick John Goodsell was on the Cooks River Road Trust in 1858. Henry Goodsell signed the 1859 petition approving a municipal council stretching from Parramatta Road to Botany Bay while John and Frederick John signed the counter-petition opposing it the following year. Frederick John was Treasurer of the Wesleyan Sabbath School’s Committee.

Frederick John Goodsell had sons in the 1850s and managed his uncle’s brickworks which covered ten acres from 1863. He nominated to stand in Enmore in 1866 and he was able to defeat the stalwart Joseph Kingsbury by just seven votes.

He campaigned on a street corner and at the Botany View Hotel for the 1872 election.

Warwick Gemmell’s 1986 history of brickmakers ‘And so we graft from Six to Six’ says the company made high quality red bricks, and in 1871 made the first plastic shale bricks. Frederick John Goodsell was (according to Ryan) a Wesleyan and went into partnership with a fellow Wesleyan Mr Alfred Tye to automate their works with steam-operated moulding machinery (see ‘Herald’ 17 June 1870), they were the first to do so in the State (see ‘Clay Products’ 1 Nov. 1935) They could produce over ten times faster, ie 15,000 compared to 1,250 a day, but there was still a great reliance on manual labour. Aldred Tye said a ten hour day was normal. The whole industry was troubled in 1875 by the NSW Committee looking into child labour known as ‘puggers’ but FJ Goodsell was on the Commitee and believed such intensive labour was a healthy improver of men.

There was a call for greater regulation of working conditions and shorter working hours. NSW stonemasons and carpenters had succeeded back in 1856 negotiating for the world’s first 48 hour working week; now workers demanded the eight hour day. In 1879 Alderman Melville moved that all Council employees work no longer than the eight hours on weekdays and until 1pm on Saturday (4 March 1879, see also 20 Sept 1881); Alderman Goodsell objected. Goodsells bricks used in the building of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1876-80.

There were 120 brickworks in the Waterloo/St Peters/Marrickville area in 1880; a number of them were moulders who were paid by tally working in the same yard, which presumably accounts for the Goodsells working in tandem with Tyes and Munro. The Munro & Goodsells Brickworks were located in Edgeware Road in the early 1880s. The company was supplying blue metal to Council in May 1882. The building of the Illawarra Railway went through Goodsell land in 1876?-84, when their land adjoining was offered for subdivision in 1883 creating Goodsell Street & Lane. Management of the company was (according to Gemmell) taken over by Frederick John’s sons, John and Henry from 1884 or 1885.

In 1886, the brickpit filled with stormwater creating a swimming pool for locals. On 13 April that year he requested three months leave from the Council, and resigned on 20 July 1886 to be replaced by builder George Nelson.

Frederick John Goodsell died in 1888?. In May of that year his sons tendered to Council an offer to pave all footpaths with tiles or double-presed brick and maintain for 10 years for 4/6 per cubic yard. The company itelf was bought out by Speares three years later in 1891. A number of Goodsells are buried at the St Peter’s and St Stephen’s graveyards.

A third son, Sidney P Goodsell, married Catherine Raga in 1899 at St Peter’s, and four years later married Lillian Ragan, their son was Sir John Goodsell 1906-1955, Secretary to the Treasurer and Chairman of the Public Service Board and dedicatee of the State Government office block building which overlooks Chifley Square.

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