01 September 2013

James Ball, Redfern Municipal Councillor/Alderman

I spent a bit of time at the City of Sydney Archives last week. I can't remember where I first saw it, but a little while ago I discovered that a James Ball was a councillor of Redfern Municipal Council. Was it my James Ball, my great, great, great grandfather? No one in my family knew anything about it...

Redfern Municipal Council no longer exists but I was able to work out that the Redfern council records that do still exist (many do not) are held by the City of Sydney. I contacted their archives and they were able to tell me that a James Ball was indeed a councillor of Redfern Municipal Council between 1865 and 1867. I made an appointment to look through the Redfern Municipal Council Minutes books, held at the City of Sydney archives.

The minutes show that on Thursday 16th February 1865, Mr. James Ball of Botany Road was elected a councillor of Redfern Ward with 79 votes (with a majority of 23). He was proposed by Mr. Robert Ellison, who was elected councillor of Surry Hills ward at the same meeting.

So, my great great great grandfather was in local politics. He was quickly co-opted onto the Finance Committee, which is interesting considering he had been bankrupt back in London! The meeting minutes show that they were sticklers for getting the processes of the meetings correct, moving motions and seconding and debating etc. However for all the legalism, the council certainly did some good, as most of the correspondence to the council at the time seemed to be about petitions to upgrade street drainage and roads, which they generally approved, unless there weren't enough funds available.

The councillors (later aldermen) seemed to have a rotation of three years on council, so in 1867 James Ball was up for election again. It was a two-horse race, between James and Mr. Henry Hudson. James received 129 votes, and Mr. Hudson 175, so my great great great grandfather's reign on Redfern Municipal Council was at an end. He was never re-elected to council.


  1. Prue, It's interesting to read about your James Ball who is not to be confused with the lot in my tree. We have a Gillespie from Alexandria Council that no longer exists. I must check with City of Sydney to see if Alexandria became part of that LGA.

    1. Hi Jill, they may well have become part of the City of Sydney, though whether there is any useful information still available is another thing. Not much from Redfern Council has survived. Good luck!