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Swire connects with local family heritage site

Date: 11-Jun-2013

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) recently received a financial endowment from John Swire & Sons Pty Ltd for a local historic property in its care. Barwon Grange is a 150 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 1854 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 brick house, now with the address of Fernleigh Street, Newtown. Mr Porter O’Brien’s cousin, John Samuel Swire, arrived in Melbourne on December 21st 1854 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. The house is open to view on weekends. For details, visit the Barwon Grange page on the National Trust website.

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