The son of
Michael Guilfoyle a landscape gardener and nurseryman and Charlotte
Delafosse, William has born on 8 December 1840 at Chelsea England; the
family migrated to Sydney in 1853. Educated privately by a maternal uncle
and at Lyndhurst College, Glebe he received botanical instruction from
Rev. William Woolls (St. John’s Cemetery), William MacLeay (1792-1865)
and John MacGillivray (1821-67) who all encouraged Guilfoyle to follow his
father’s interest; his earliest appointment was on the scientific staff of
HMS Challenger in 1868 that travelled through the Pacific Ocean.
That same year, the voices of criticism from influential Melburnians were
growing louder against Baron Ferdinand von Mueller’s (St. Kilda
Cemetery) scientific and educational approach as director of
Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. A board of inquiry was later appointed only
to find their recommendations disregarded by the Commissioner of Crown
Lands, (Sir) James
Casey (q.v) who
hand-picked Guilfoyle on 21 July 1873; the two had met while Guilfoyle was
growing tobacco and sugar cane at Tweed River Valley. Where von Mueller’s
approach was scientific, Guilfoyle’s was recreational who based his designs
on the classic English landscape tradition. Acknowledged as the “architect
of the gardens”, Guilfoyle went on to transform a vulgar wilderness into a
picturesque recreation ground of expansive lawns, stunning views, broad
sweeping walks and cleverly designed pathways, curving garden beds, refined
pavilions and rustic bridges into a one of the finest gardens unrivalled in
the southern hemisphere; after the separation of the swamp and lagoon from
the Yarra river under the direction of
Charles Catani (q.v.),
Guilfoyle was able to create the chain of ornamental lakes further adding to
the beauty of the gardens. He also undertook private landscape design work
amongst the many were Nellie Melba’s (Lilydale Cemetery) Coombe
Cottage at Coldstream; Moritz Michaelis’s (St. Kilda Cemetery)
Linden in Acland Street, St. Kilda; and Werribee Park for the
Chirnside brothers. Retiring in 1909, he lived at Chatsworth -
Jolimont Road, Jolimont and died on 25 June 1912 survived by his wife Alice
Darling whom he married in 1888 and their only child William
with courtesy of
Australian National Botanic Gardens)
ADB Volume 4 1851-90 (D-J).
The Age 26 June 1912 & 23 February 1996.
The Argus 26 & 29 June 1912.
The Herald-Sun 24 February 1996.
The Australasian 17 January 1891.
Pescott, R., “The Royal Botanic Gardens,
Cannon, M., “The Roaring Days” (1998).
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