The Southon Family of Builders

The National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC)
The National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. (Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC) – Click for the larger image

The Southon Family of Builders: Biographical Notes, Photographs and Newspaper articles.
Transcribed and Compiled by Denise Porter (7.2MB PDF File)

Denise Porter has transcribed and compiled information relating to the Southon Family of builders, responsible for the construction of a number of notable buildings across the Hunter Region and beyond. She has decided to cease work on the project for the time being and share what she has done with the wider research community in the hope that some will find it useful and continue the work. In her introduction she writes:

“I have always known that my great grandfather, Thomas Charlton Southon built the bank on the corner of Maitland road and Hanbury Street, Mayfield; that he built the Mayfield post office and the Adamstown post office.

Thomas also told my father that he built the Mayfield Hotel (I have also found out that his brother William had the contract).

It is recorded, via word of mouth in my family, that he built the confessionals at the Monastery at Mayfield, as Thomas had this joke to tell: – quote from dad – “the brother said, did he want to be the first one to use the confessionals?….Thomas said that he had committed every sin bar one – murder”. It is not known if he built the whole church or just the confessionals. (I have not been able to locate any documentation)

I didn’t expect to uncover so many buildings that Thomas, his brother William, and father Richard built… many of them demolished or heritage listed. I was not prepared for 150 years of building sites from Newcastle to Singleton and beyond. I will never find them all, especially Richard’s contribution, as it was early days. Mostly everything I have found has come from Trove’s Digitised Newspapers, so if tenders were not called, you wouldn’t know what they built.

Dad told me on several occasions that the two storey home at the corner of Elizabeth and Bull Streets, Mayfield was a school, and his grandfather Thomas built it. (I have located evidence that it was indeed a school). No documentation that Thomas built it, just hearsay. This school was called, the Hunter College, and was a day and boarding school for boys. It was quietly closed after several years due to child sexual abuse by the principal and another. This was not recorded in Newcastle papers; however, the court case (in Sydney) was covered by the Truth newspaper. (Ref:

This Southon family of builders contributed much to the built environment of our region, as well as William’s contribution as Mayor of Waratah, President of the Master Builders Association, President of the Waratah Bowling Club, President of the Waratah fire brigade, and Trustee of the Waratah School of Arts.

Denise Porter
January 2017″

Further information relating to the National Bank of Australasia building in Mayfield, including confirmation from the Minutes, Monday 11th July 1921, Bank Premises, Mayfield (N.S.W.) that the “Tender of Thomas £2770 for the erection of new premises, was accepted”, was kindly supplied by their archives in Springvale, Victoria.

National Bank of Australasia Limited Historical Materials (296KB PDF file)

he National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC) 600 dpi scan (18MB)
The National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC) 600 dpi scan (18MB)


[Reverse] The National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC)
[Reverse] The National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mayfield (N.S.W.) July 1922. Courtesy of the National Australia Bank Archives, Springvale, VIC)
If any researchers, work integrated learning (WIL) students, community historians are interested in continuing this research work, please contact our Living Histories Co-ordinator, Dr Ann Hardy by email or by phone, on 49 215824.

William Southon BHP Steel (Courtesy of Justin Southon)


William Southon Mayor (Courtesy of Justin Southon)


William Southon Mayor (Courtesy of Justin Southon)

August 2018 Update from Denise Porter:

A great grandson of William Southon contacted me via this site.  His name is Justin Southon.

Justin has provided me with three photos, two of William in his Mayoral robes and one of a BHP keepsake depicting the first rail rolled in 1915.

I am so thrilled and would like to thank John Di Gravio for giving me access to this site.  The Master Builders’ are also pleased to finally be able to replace the lost photo of William since the fire many years ago.



Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist,
Chair Hunter (Living) Histories Initiative

7 thoughts on “The Southon Family of Builders

  1. Excellent work Denise. The importance of our areas history and it’s characters not being forgotten is paramount. I loved the confessional quip also.

  2. B.G.Pearce , who was a partner with W.V.Southon had a daughter who married into the Stronach family. His name was Benjamin and my ancestor was William, called Bill. So Bill and Ben. lol

  3. A hint to Trove users. I have recently found other information on William Southon (Bill) and Thomas Southon (Tom) by accident. The newspapers at times recorded his surname as “Southern”. I have corrected the type. Two of interest are:

    1953 -Re : Master Builders Association, Newcastle: Mr. Davis continued, amid laughter. He said the Newcastle Branch owed a very great debt of gratitude to its early founders, who well and truly laid the foundations for “this most virile association.” , Tracing the history of the Branch, Mr. Davis recalled that the inaugural meeting, at which ten builders were present, was held in the Star Hotel, Newcastle, in 1902. They were: Messrs. Isaac Banks, C. Baker, D. S. Pearce, Andrew Cook, J. Clayton, W. Case, Bates and Evatt, Tom and Bill Southon, and Mr. J. C. Davis (the speaker’s brother), and the only surviving member.

    1920 Mr. W. V. Southon, a prominent builder of Newcastle, and once Mayor of Waratah, in proposing the toast of ‘The Newcastle District” at a send-off to Mr. John Bracken, late clerk of Petty Sessions, at Waratah last Saturday night, said Newcastle at the present time was far in excess of what the greatest stretch of imagination years ago could conceive. When Mayor of Waratah, he had seen the time when he had to pay municipal employees wages out of his own pocket. Things were somewhat different nowadays, when the Mayor of the municipality could put his hand on £1000 and land the ratepayers into a £15,000 debt without a protest. If that state of affairs had happened when he was in the council, he would have been shot at sight. Municipal doings had changed somewhat. ‘I look upon Waratah as a place to be second to none outside the Newcastle City,’ he concluded.

  4. Hi Denise. We were always told by my Nan that our Great, Great, Great Grandfather (who I believe to be Thomas Charlton Southon) built the old Bank building at Mayfield along with a host of other buildings. This all makes sense after finding your article! This is all so interesting particularly as I am now living in Mayfield. Thank you for all your research, our family would love to know more about all your findings if you would be interested in chatting. My email is if you wish to get in contact.



  5. great work denise ..
    thankyou ..
    im the youngest son of Raymond William SOUTHON

    i have a large picture of my great grandfather W . V . SOUTHON.

    sitting on a at his desk as lord mayor
    and a piece of the first rail rolled out of
    bhp steelworks .

    if your intrested


  6. Hi Justin, I will contact you soon. The Master Builders Newcastle have been searching for a photo of him since a fire and a rebuild of their premises. They will be very happy as well as me. Thank you

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