Godfrey Hirst

Towards the main entrance of the cemetery is the grave of another well-known name in Geelong – Godfrey Hirst.

Godfrey was a Yorkshireman, born in 1857 the son of a spinner and weaver. He trained in the family business and came here, originally for the benefit of his health, in 1885. He first got a job at the Victorian Woollen & Cloth Manufacturing Co in Geelong, but he disagreed with its management and set up in opposition in a shed in Ryrie St. Within three years he was employing 100 people, within six years, 400 in two premises, called the Excelsior number one and Excelsior number two mills.

And he didn’t make carpets – he first made flannel cloth, and then expanded to blankets, suit material, tweeds and eventually rugs and carpets.

Always a blunt Yorkshireman who spoke his mind, Godfrey supported many causes, mostly in the fields of education and music. He poured money into the Gordon Technical College and became its president. He was organist at St George’s Church and president of the Geelong Musical Society.

He stood for council, but was unsuccessful, some said, because of his plain speaking ways. But he was appointed a Justice of the Peace, because of his firm principles.

He died after several years of failing health at his home in Belmont, leaving his wife, three sons and two daughters.

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