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James Webber

Tocal's wine industry pioneer

James Webber established a vineyard at Tocal and was a pioneer of the wine industry in the Hunter Valley and New South Wales.

In 1832 James Webber was one of ten settlers in the Hunter Valley who were growing vines - he had three acres of them at Tocal. The other growers were William Ogilvie at Merton (three acres), George Wyndham at Dalwood and George Townshend at Trevallyn (two acres each). Five other growers had an acre each.

In May 1833 the New South Wales Magazine named James Webber as one of four pioneers of viticulture in the Colony of New South Wales. The other three were Sir John Jamison at Nepean, Macarthur at Camden and Shepherd at Sydney.

remains of Webbers vineyard

In March 1834 the Australian described James Webber's efforts as follows: "Mr Webbers grapery at the Hunter, the finest in that part of the Colony has produced an unusual crop of fine grapes this season of the Oporto description; this gentleman expects next season to produce no insignificant quantity of wine from his vineyard...".

On 29 May 1834 George Wyndham of Dalwood visited James Webber at Tocal. Six days later Wyndham recorded in his diary that he received Oporto and Govais cuttings from James Webber. Wyndham Estate at Dalwood is now one of Australia's leading wine producers.

Photo: the rows and trenches of James Webber's vineyard can be clearly seen at Tocal today.

(Sources for the above research can be found in Tocal History Notes, volume V, May 2001).