Thomas Greenway and Elizabeth (Wheeler) Burge
and Family
Thomas Greenway Burge and Elizabeth (Wheeler) Burge 
Painted portraits circa 1865 - click on each for enlargements 

(The background image is also Thomas, taken some thirty years later) 

Thomas Greenway Burge
bpt. 12 June 1831 Batheaston UK. d. 23 December 1900 Redbank, Vic
son of William and Mary Burge
Elizabeth Wheeler
b.1831 Short Street, Wiltshire, UK. d. 29 October 1895 St. Arnaud Vic, buried 
Redbank, daughter of William and Martha Wheeler.

Marriage 1 May 1853 at Christ Church, Parish of St. Marylebone, London.


Thomas and Elizabeth Burge arrived in Australia on the ship Neleus on 23 October 1854. They and 396 other passengers arrived in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne on a grey afternoon, the ship battling a strong east-northeasterly wind as it ran up the bay. The Neleus was among the fastest clippers on the run, and had taken 71 days 13 hours for the voyage. The run had not been uneventful, before Thomas and Elizabeth embarked four passengers had died of cholera between Gravesend and Southampton. The ship had hit the dockhead at Southampton and been considerably damaged. Luckily, the worst of the cholera had been contained during the lengthy stay for repairs, and only one further death occurred after Thomas and Elizabeth's departure from Southhampton, on a fine day of 68 degrees on August 10. Other than the one death, the most notable events of the journey were five healthy babies born en route. Other ships were sighted along the way - the Dutch Ondermening off the coast of the Canary Islands, and Sappho, 900 miles off the Guinea coast. (Information from Florence Chuk's The Somerset Years*)

Thomas was the eldest child of twelve, the son of William and Mary Burge of Batheaston, Somerset, England. His date of baptism was 12th June 1831. The family were mostly carpenters, and this was also the trade taken up by Thomas, following in his fathers footsteps. William had been born in Frome, but all twelve of his children were born in Batheaston. More may be found on William and Mary's family here

Elizabeth Wheeler had been employed as a domestic servant in the home of George Parsons in Batheaston. Her sister Ruth Wheeler was also employed there. Elizabeth was born in 1831 in Short Street, near Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire, the daughter of William and Martha Wheeler.

The young couple were married at Christ Church, Parish of Marylebone, London on 1st May, 1853. The address given by both at the time was 'Huntworth Terrace' in London. 

Soon after their arrival in the colony of Victoria, on 20th November 1854, Thomas went to work for William Plummer in Warnambool on a three month contract, on a wage of 80 pounds per annum. William Plummer was one of the earliest settlers in the Warnambool area, and had started a flour mill there in 1850. 

Within the year, Thomas and Elizabeth and family were to move to Redbank, near Avoca, Victoria, where the pair stayed until their deaths. Their eldest child, Caroline Elizabeth, was born in Warnambool in 1855. By the birth of their second child Mary Anne on 20th February 1856, the family was in Redbank, where all ten of the younger children were born. The two above were followed by Sarah Ellen in 1859, Thomas William 1862, twins Alfred Augustine and Albert James in 1863, John Henry (my grandfather) in 1865, Edward Benjiman 1867, Martha Ellis in 1869, Selina 1872, and Rhoda in 1875. All survived to adulthood, but Sarah died young at the age of 23. 

Redbank was a gold mining area, and gold was the major reason for Thomas and Elizabeth's journey to the other end of the world. The Australian gold rush, having started in 1852 to the north in New South Wales, was at it's peak in 1854, and young men from all over the world had made their way to the colony to make their fortune. Like most, making a dazzlingly large fortune was not to be the outcome for Thomas. He certainly found considerable amounts of gold, but supplemented this with a grant of land under Section 42 of the Land Act. This entitled miners to a holding of land which, when combined with their takings of gold, would make them self-sufficient. 

Thomas was one of the earliest to seek land under this scheme, and 20 acres of land was made freehold by the issue of a Crown Grant to him on the 18th December 1855. This 20 acre block of land fronted the main road between Redbank and Stuart Mill. This small holding began what grew into the 'Burge Bros. Consortium', as my father described it, I'm not sure if this was an actual company - or if dad was once more exhibiting the rather bombastic style he tended to write in sometimes! Regardless of whether there was actually a company involved in land aquisition by Thomas and his sons or not, the result was the same. Large tracts of hundreds of acres of land between Redbank and Stuart Mill belonged to the Burges (particularly Alfred) within the next fifty years, and Burges are known as one of the more prominent pioneering families in the district. The term Burge Bros. Consortium may have been a misnomer, however, because large areas also belonged to 'M E Burge', and the only family member with these initials is Thomas and Elizabeth's daughter Martha Ellis (Alice) Burge. I hope so. 

Thomas also 'selected' a further, very small, area of land near what was known as 'The Forty Foot' in 1884. It is obvious from the size of this allotment that it was intended as the means to the 'dazzlingly large fortune' in gold spoken of above - but if this happened the knowledge was never shared! I did, however, grow up on tales of 'Old Tommy Burge' sneaking out of town being sure never to be followed and coming back with nuggets - which fired my childhood dreams and allowed me to find numerous golden specks along Redbank Creek at the back of our land when I went to visit - avoiding 'diggers holes' all the way! 

Elizabeth passed away from 'chronic dyspepsia' on 29th October 1895, and Thomas was to follow her two days before Christmas 1900 - regretfully dying of pneumonia following nine days diarrhea. 

The last section of Burge land in Redbank was to pass out of the family in 1996, when myself, my sister and brothers decided it was time to let go. I regret it still, and would not make the same decision today if I had it to make again. 



Caroline Elizabeth

Mary Anne

Sarah Ellen

Thomas William

Alfred Augustine

Albert James

John Henry

Edward Benjamin

Martha Ellis (Alice)

Selina Ruth


DOB & death where known

1855 - ?

20 June 1856 - 25 June 1942

1859 - 1883

15 June 1862 - 12 April 1941

6 April 1863 - 22 Feb 1952

6 April 1863 - 4 May 1927

16 March 1865 - 22 Aug 1955

1867 - 1933 

21 Nov 1869- 27 Feb 1937

1872 - 3 April 1943

29 March 1875 - 1935

Links will be added to these with all the information I have on them and their families as I get to them. If you have a query about any of them, please feel welcome to email me.I'll slowly plug away building more pages, but there's an awful lot of them needed! 

Tommy and Bessie, my great grandparents, and their family were to share joys, tragedies and scandals, but mostly the days rolled on into what is now exactly a century and a half of gentle change, and their Australian descendants eventually numbered in the hundreds. As time goes by I'll attempt to add all I know of my family on here.  Any input will be greatly appreciated from anyone attached to us. Please feel free to email me if you'd like to tell me family secrets, ask questions about bits I've not put on here yet - or just say hello. 

Next: John Henry and Mary Louisa Burge

Back: Burge and McLean Index

Family Album


* Florence Chuk: The Somerset Years. Pennard Hill Publications, Ballarat.