Hilton Clothier

Hilton Arthur Clothier

Block 43 Stromlo District

Stromlo Block 43

Hilton Arthur Clothier was born in Hill End, NSW in 1886. He was working as a wool classer in Queensland when World War 1 began and enlisted with the 9th Field Engineers in March 1916. He served on the Western Front and earned the Military Medal in November 1917.

Returning to Australia after the war, Clothier married and resumed his career in the wool industry. He was managing a wool scouring and shearing company in the Walgett district of NSW when he applied for a lease in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). His application, dated the 8th October 1920, included a letter from the Returned Soldiers Settlement Branch in Sydney saying that he possessed the necessary farming qualifications. Stromlo Block 43 was his third choice and his five-year lease began on the 10th November 1920.

There have been two distinct parcels of land designated as Block 43 in the District of Stromlo. The first Stromlo Block 43, an area on the eastern slopes of Mount Stromlo (including Stromlo Forest Park) was allocated to Clothier in 1920. The second iteration of Stromlo Block 43 occurred in 1934 when the lands around the Molonglo River were redesigned and the block allocated to David Tully.

Plan of Stromlo Block 43

Plan of Stromlo Block 43

Back to Top

Google Maps image of area c2013 with the boundary for the original Stromlo Block 43 in red

Google Maps image of area c2014 with the boundary for the original Stromlo Block 43 in red.

Clothier ran sheep on Stromlo Block 43 and took advantage of a Commonwealth stock advance of £420 for 600 merino ewes in 1922. He also agisted stock on Stromlo Block 47 at Green Hills which now forms part of the National Arboretum. It took until the end of 1922 for the Commonwealth to formally survey the block to determine it was 650 acres (263 hectares) in area, attracting an annual rent of £146/5. However, in September 1925, Clothier was advised that Stromlo Block 43 wound be resumed by the end of the year for a pine plantation on the slopes of Mount Stromlo. He was allocated Stromlo Block 19 on a ten-year lease from the 1st January 1926.

Back to Top

Stromlo Block 19

When Clothier's lease for Stromlo Block 43 was determined on the 9th November 1925, he was offered a ten year lease on the much larger Stromlo Block 19. The lease of the 1496 acre (605 hectare) block, located between current suburbs of Chapman and Kambah, began the 1st January 1926 at £467/10 per annum.

Plan of Stromlo Block 19

Plan of Stromlo Block 19. Click on image for larger view.

Back to Top

One of the conditions of the lease was that the lessee must reside on the block. Clothier informed the Chief Lands Officer, Mr Goodwin, "that he had purchased a home in the Federal Capital Territory near Queanbeyan [NSW] where himself and family resided." This residence was 'Hazelbrook' in Oaks Estate.

Mr Goodwin wrote in a memo:

"I told Mr Clothier that the probability was that the Commission would agree to his remaining in his present home provided he remained a bona fide settler. Mr Clothier has a young family just about ready for school and it would not be at all advisable to compel Mr Clothier, at present time, to reside on the block."

Google Maps image of area c2014 with the boundary for the original Stromlo Block 19 in red

Google Maps image of area c2014 with the boundary for the original Stromlo Block 19 in red.

Back to Top

Drought, low stock prices and small wool returns plagued Clothier who immediately struggled to pay his rent. In July 1926, he made a partial payment of £115/12/6 and asked for an extension until the 1st November 1926 on the remainder. He explained:

"Just now the sheep market is extremely low and hard to sell at much reduced rates, also lambing expenses on us after heavy expenses of erecting fencing on this block."

The FCC granted an extension noting:

"On that date the rental owing will be £346/17/6, which will be subject to a penalty of 10% from the due dates. Mr Clothier should understand that all monies, including penalty, must be paid by the extended date."

Despite paying what he could afford, Clothier was unable to make any impact on his overall debts that had increased to £352/5/2 by the 31st March 1927. When he applied for a further extension in October 1928, the FCC Accountant wrote "This man has made so many promises that he has failed to keep that I am doubtful whether, in the end, will not be compelled to resort to legal action." The following month he paid £200 but still owed £248/2/10.

By October 1929, his debt had nearly doubled to £424/18/1. This resulted in the Chief Lands Officer writing:

"It is pointed out that you have not honoured this arrangement and in the circumstances the Commission has reluctantly been compelled to place the collection of the whole of your indebtedness in the hands of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor."

In April 1930, Clothier wrote to the FCC to elicit some sympathy from the Commission:

"Throughout the whole of this period, I have not taken or been able to take, for the maintenance of my wife and family or of myself, any money whatever the proceeds of Block 19 and the whole of the money won from the Block has been expended upon it, so that were it not for the fact that I carried on a Wool and Hides business as well, both myself and my wife and family would be starving."

This appeal did not dissuade the FCC who determined Clothier's lease for non-payment on the 30th June 1930. He owed the FCC £960/2/7 in rental arrears. Surprisingly, the FCC took no further action to regain possession of the land and Clothier continued to use the block for another year without payment.

Clothier subsequently filed for bankruptcy and a Claim on behalf of the Commonwealth was lodged with the Official Receiver.

Clothier made one last attempt to retain Stromlo Block 19. In June 1931, he proposed that a new lease be issued in his wife's name. The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, C.S. Daley wrote "the proposal is not worthy of consideration." In a reflection of the attitudes of that era, Daley continued:

"In view of his bankruptcy, Mr Clothier is unable to hold the lease and the acceptance of his proposal to have the lease granted in his wife's name is opposed to the policy of refusing to grant leases to married women supported by their husbands."

George Bloomfield Campbell took over the lease for Stromlo Block 19 in September 1931.

Clothier remained at Hazelbrook, continuing on as grazier in the Canberra region. He later served as a Councillor in the Agricultural Bureau for the Southern Tablelands of NSW.

Clothier was also prominant in Queanbeyan's community life being a member of the Queanbeyan P.A. & H. Association, a foundation member of the Queanbeyan Rotary Club and a life member of the RSL.

Hilton Clothier died at the Canberra Community Hospital on the 1st March 1959 and is buried in Woden Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Sylvia and three sons.


Back to Top