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Guide to Tocal

James Phillips Webber

Tocal’s first European settler, James Phillips Webber, is one of Tocal’s more enigmatic characters. In 1821 this wealthy, well-educated and well-connected young man sailed from London to try his hand in the colony of New South Wales.

He was only 24 years old when he was granted 2,000 acres at Tocal in 1822 on the condition that he feed, clothe and maintain 20 convicts.

photo of James Phillips Webber

Three years later he was appointed a local magistrate, and this role required him to sentence convicts to be flogged for various misdemeanours such as neglecting their work.

Under Webber’s ownership, the Tocal estate expanded to 3,300 acres by 1828. At that time Webber employed 34 convicts to tend his sheep and cattle and grow wheat and tobacco.

James Webber was one of the pioneers of the wine industry in Australia, and the mounds of his vineyard can still be seen at Tocal. In 1834 he sent vine cuttings from Tocal to George Wyndham’s vineyard at Dalwood, which in the 20th century became the well-known Wyndham Estate winery.

Webber’s library at Tocal held one of the largest private book collections in the colony, including many titles in French and Italian. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Webber sold Tocal in 1834 he established his main residence in Italy and became a successful merchant who travelled widely.

In about 1850 James Webber settled on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, where he built a magnificent villa which survives to this day. This talented pioneer agriculturist, vigneron, merchant and connoisseur of art and literature died in Pisa, Italy in 1877.