JOSEPH PORTA: the first manufacturer of bellows in Victoria, Australia. :: Genealogy
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JOSEPH PORTA: the first manufacturer of bellows in Victoria, Australia.

Journal by itellya

Joseph Porta was of Italian origin but his family was resident in England, perhaps near Birmingham, and he emigrated to Victoria from there.By about 1861 he had received the grant (title from the Government) for Crown Allotment 63 Moorooduc near Somerville. Within a couple of years he became insolvent and became a cab driver in Mornington by 1866. In this year he was also making bellows, probably in Mornington. As the PORTAMOULDINGS company history explains, he established his Little Lonsdale St factory in Melbourne in 1868.
I have extensive information from Trove which I am willing to provide to people who have read the PORTAMOULDINGS website.Joseph's family was related by marriage to the Bennetts of Mornington.

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by itellya Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2011-04-26 06:47:51

Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.

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by Perci on 2015-05-04 07:45:19

Your blog is simply wonderful. Thank you so much for the good quality articles.

by sik on 2018-11-22 04:23:42

Hi there,
are you able to let me know more information about joseph porta history?

by itellya on 2018-11-22 13:03:29

Hi sik! I got sidetracked when I found an article about Ron Porta coaching Somerville Football Club at the West Rosebud Bowling Club and compiled information in a word document to give to Ron's widow. I called it The Bellows Man. There's no front cover here and the photos won't come out but there's plenty of information. A Porta descendant is a member of the HISTORY OF DROMANA TO PORTSEA Facebook group.

WEBBS LANE 148 A5. K.H.Webb is shown as the owner of lot 63A of 54.2.22 on the west corner. A glance at this irregularly-shaped allotment will explain the length of Webbs Lane. Murray Gomm and other members seeking information on the footy club’s history showed a ninety year old resident a photo dating from 1890 or earlier and she named three Webb boys.
Lot 63, granted to Joseph Porta, obviously included 63A. I believe that Webbs Lane led to Porta’s homestead, thus accounting for the strange shape of 63A. Even when attending a dance at the Rosebud West Bowling Club my historical curiosity was still in overdrive. Displayed on the notice board of the club is a page from the M.P.N.F.L. Record of 2010, prepared by Murray Gomm and others, explaining Ron Porta’s career at the Bulldogs (illustrated by a photo with the great E.J.) and his celebrated involvement with the Somerville Football Club. (See next page.)
Through the bowling club, I contacted Ron’s widow, Dayrel. She confirmed that Joseph Porta and Sons, winners of a prize in Melbourne’s International Exhibition of 1881, were Ron’s ancestors. All that remains is to prove a link between the insolvent Mornington cab driver of 1863 and the prize winner of 1881. Ron was not into family history but Dayrel said that Ron’s younger brother, Lewis, might provide the link between lot 63 Moorooduc in the 1860’s and the Somerville Football Club a century later.
Lewis returned my call tonight and told me that the family was of Italian origin but had settled in England at some time, possibly near Birmingham. He knew nothing about the Moorooduc land but that is not surprising because Joseph had only had it for a short time before he became insolvent. The family trove of information revolves around Joseph becoming the first manufacturer of bellows in the colony! However the missing link emerged between my call and his. Joseph Porta stated in August 1879 that he had been in the colony for 28 years. (Argus 12-8-1879.) He was born in about 1820 (29-3-1898)

The missing link between the Moorooduc grantee and the bellows manufacturer is a Mornington family by the name of Bennett. William Bennett was granted lot 74 of 187 acres on the south west corner of Bungower and Stumpy Gully Rds, only a mile west of Joseph Porta’s lot 63.

John Porta whose death was announced in the Argus of 5-12-1913, was the beloved brother of Mrs A.Bennett of Mornington. The connection between the two families is repeated in the name of Joseph Bennett Porta 27, from whom his wife obtained a divorce; he apparently was suffering from mental illness. (Argus 1-10-1910.) But wasn’t Joseph Porta a farmer near Somerville? Yes, but by 1863 an assignee had control of his 126 acres and when his estate was placed in sequestration on 17-12-1866 he was described as a cab driver of Mornington. By that time he was probably already in Melbourne and asking for a tariff on bellows. (See Argus 30-8-1866). It is likely that he received a certificate of discharge on his insolvency on 5-2-1867, clearing his way to become Victoria’s first bellows manufacturer and a high handed landlord.

The name does not appear much on trove. Apart from the insolvency and 1881 prize, the only others of that name were Ramon, Carmen and August Porta who were recommended for land at Chiltern in 1927. (Argus 22-7-1927.) Carmen Porta, widow of Fidencio, and mother of Ramon, Louis, Theresa, Joseph and Carmen died in Albury where all the others were, except Ramon who had remained at Chiltern.
Frustratingly, most articles with porta in the summary, actually contain words such as importance, and hours were spent opening pages that contained no reference to the family. More success was achieved when I typed in Joseph Porta and Sons and Porta bellows. The following come from the Argus (dates of the issues given.)

Reports on the bellows makers exhibiting, and winning prizes for, their bellows at the Melbourne International Exhibition (for which Dame Nellie Melba’s father built the Exhibition Buildings and Stephen St was renamed), and the National Agricultural Society’s (Royal) Show, appear in Argus issues of 4-9-1889, 10-1-1873, 1-9-1884,
As the family got double value from the death notices by plugging their bellows fame and newspaper article mentioned this connection without fail, I have decided to save hours of one-finger typing by using bf for bellows manufacturer.

22-9-1863. Portion 63 of the parish of Moorooduc was offered for sale on the instructions of E.Courtney and J.Langlands, assignees of the Provident Institute. It faced two government roads and was a first class property of 126 acres 1 perch known as Joseph Porta’s. There must have been a mini recession at this time. The land was only one of many insolvent estates being sold by the assignees. Ralph Ruddell lost Tuerong at this time with his family left with only the name, which they used for their house in Auburn.

2-3-1864. The land did not sell and with identical wording was advertised, in this issue and several others, for sale on March 8. Either buyers were not found or Joseph managed to overcome his financial difficulties (but not for long.)

30-8-1866. This is a letter from four bellows makers (T.Chamber, J.McLaughlin, J.Porta and D.Roberts) asking why there was no tariff on bellows.
There is no address given and I strongly suspect that all of the authors were making bellows, on a very small scale, at Mornington, or in the vicinity of Three Chain (Moorooduc) Road. The name of Roberts is associated with the history of Mornington, Main Ridge and Moorooduc. Joseph Roberts was a landowner in the Mornington area in 1862. (Victorian Historical –Mornington Peninsula page 3.) I have come across the name McLaughlin (I think James), probably in association with the early history of parish of Balnarring and remember taking great care with the spelling but unfortunately two hours of searching for details has been fruitless. As Joseph Porta claimed to be the first bellows manufacturer in Victoria, the other three were probably working with, or for, him.

20-12-1866. The insolvent estate of Joseph Porta of Mornington, cab driver, was placed under sequestration on 17-12-1866.

5-2-1867. INSOLVENT COURT. First and only meeting, Joseph Porta, this day at 11.
19-5-1869. Three ads. All on page 3: col.2 12th item; col.4, 14th item and 15th item.
CAUTION-Joseph Porta, 146 Little Lonsdale St East is the only manufacturer of all kinds of bellows in the colony.
TO BLACKSMITHS AND OTHERS-If you want bellows that will give satisfaction , order from Joseph Porta.

12-8-1879. Joseph Porta, bellows manufacturer, informed the Unemployed Labour Board that he had been in the colony for 28 years. (Confirming arrival in 1851.) He employed nine hands, including boys. He found business dull, more so than the last two years and pointed to last year’s poor crops and imports as the cause.

5-3-1880. J.Porta of Fitzroy won a prize in the Inter- Colonial Juvenile Industrial Exhibition.
17-5-1881. J.Porta and Sons were awarded a prize at the Melbourne International Exhibition for forge bellows, silver. Ron Porta did know enough to tell Dayrel about these being made at his grandfather’s wood-turning factory in Bay Rd, Sandringham and the family’s nearby mansion.

27-7-1881.This case involved a cottage owned by Joseph Porta that possibly adjoined the factory in Little Lonsdale St, although this was not made clear. Joseph had been leasing it to a tenant and Sarah Adams and her two small children had been occupying one of the rooms. The sex of the tenant was not stated. Was it Sarah’s De Facto who shot through or a female friend of Sarah’s? If the latter, perhaps she was a mistress. (See below.) If so, they might have had a falling out causing her to clear out, leaving Sarah in the lurch. Joseph helped Sarah to move by throwing all her chattels out of the cottage and assisting her to exit in the dark of night. Having nowhere to go, she made a bed in the yard for herself and her children. So Joseph locked them up. The police magistrate commented on the inhuman conduct of the high- handed landlord.
Lewis Porta’s grandfather,Leslie John Porta. who built the Bay Rd, Sandringham wood-turning factory in 1904, and had a mansion in Royal Pde, Sandringham often encouraged his wife to travel overseas but she refused because she did not trust him as she knew all about his “appetite”.
The point that I am making is that the mistress business was a way of life for wealthy men in those days, which their wives knew about and reluctantly tolerated. They could always find activities to keep themselves happy, just as Richard Pratt’s wife did more recently.

28-10-1881. The employees of Joseph Porta and Sons donated almost 10 pounds to Hospital Sunday.

12-7-1882. A letter to the Tariff Commission from J.Porta and Sons asks for bellows tacks and nails, which were not made in the colony, to be exempted from duty.

27-10-1882. Joseph J? Porta Jnr stated that his father, who was at present in England, started the industry 15 years ago and the firm now employed 14 hands. As well as household bellows, over 600 blacksmith’s bellows had been made in the past year.

28-10-1882. A letter to the Argus, from Joseph G.Porta, explains that a report that his firm had made 1086 pairs of bellows in the previous year should have read 1086 dozen.

12-2-1890.The death was announced of Edwin Walker (of Walker and Gray, City Iron Foundry) at his residence “Our Nest”, Canning St, Nth Carlton, on the 11th, aged 34.
He was the son-in-law of Joseph Porta, bellows manufacturer.

10-10-1891. Friends of Mr Joseph Porta Sen., of the firm J.Porta and Sons, bellow manufacturers, Little Lonsdale St Melbourne, were invited to follow the remains of his beloved wife, Ann, to the Melbourne General Cemetery, leaving his residence in Grange Rd Alphington today at 3pm.

7-12-1896. A cyclist, Porta, was a back marker in a race during the Austral Wheel Race program. No initial was recorded.

29-3-1898. This was a notice of the death of Joseph Porta, senior partner of Joseph Porta and sons, bellows manufacturers, at his residence, Grange Rd, Alphington, on March 28. The factory was in Little Lonsdale St East. (After renaming and renumbering, this was described later as 15 Little Lonsdale St, between Exhibition and Spring Sts.)He was aged 78 so he would have been born in about 1820. He had been in the colony for 47 years so his arrival would have been in about 1851, at the start of the gold rush and the year before the arrival of the fever ship, Ticonderoga, led to the establishment of the Quarantine Station at The Heads.

16-2-1905. J.G.Porta, 153 George St, Fitzroy, (bellows and forges) made a complaint against imports.

25-4-1908. Frances Porta proceeded against her young husband, Edwin C.Porta, for leaving his child without means of support. They had married on 10-9-1907 and were both now 19. Edwin, a bellows maker earned 55/- per week. Her parents had accused him of assaulting her, but Frances denied this. She was living with her parents who refused to let Edwin see her. Edwin was trying to get them a home and was willing to support Frances. The charges had probably been laid by the vindictive parents.

3-2-1910. W.Porta (Fairfield) won a semi final of the President’s Handicap, over 66 yards, in an interstate swimming championship at the City Baths at which Frank Beaurepaire equalled the world record for 220 yards. Notice that distances were multiples of the surveyor’s chain (22 yards).
1-10-1910. Elsie May Porta of Perry St Collingwood, sued for dissolution of her marriage with Joseph Bennett Porta 27, bf, on the grounds of desertion. They were married on 1-6-1907 and lived with her parents as he was not in a position to support her. They had no children. He obviously suffered from mental illness as he had been in Geelong Gaol and was now in the Ararat Lunatic Asylum. This sad tale offers another link between the Mornington cab driver and bellows manufacturer (grantee of 63 Moorooduc) and the Bennett family of Mornington.

5-12-1913. Death and funeral notice for John Porta, bf. John, aged 54, died at his residence “The Grange”, Grange Rd, Alphington. He was the husband of Anna and father of Mrs J.Hamer, Kew, Mrs A.Therapos,Fairfield, Leslie, Sandringham, Mabel, Tom, Ruby and Jack. He was the brother of Mrs A.Bennett, Mornington, Mrs Theo Bliss, Alphington and Mr J.G.Porta of Elsternwick.
I wonder if John was the grandfather of Sir Rupert (Dick) Hamer who was my favourite politician ever, always displaying humane policy and gentlemanly demeanor.

14-2-1914. John Porta of Grange Rd, Alphington, retired bf, who died on 4-12-1913, left, under his will of 2-10-1909 real estate worth 3322 pounds and personal property worth 664 pounds to his widow and children.

12-8-1914. William Porta, bellow manufacturer, was assaulted within 500 yards of his home in Fitzroy. It resulted from him coming between the assailant and a girl. Whether this action was to protect her from undue attention or because they were rivals for her affection is not made clear. As his attacker had several companions, I suspect that William was a white knight (with black and blue markings!) The accused was let off because there was doubt about which of the group had assaulted William.

22-10-1919. Fire last night swept through the factory of Messrs J.Porta and Sons, bellows manufacturers, at 15 Little Lonsdale St, a two-storied brick structure between Exhibition and Spring St. The greater portion of the contents, insured for 4000 pounds, was destroyed etc.

10-10-1918. Notifies the death of Frederick, aged 32, loved 3rd son of J.G.Porta of New St, Elsternwick.

21-10-1919. In a dispute over the estate of John Porta, late of Grange Rd, Alphington, some actions of the executor, Leslie Elmore Frederick John Porta, were challenged by Laura Rosina Rauser. Her appeal was upheld.

9-7-1925. Two notices. Joseph George Porta, bellows manufacturer, died on July 8, in his 73rd year, at his residence, Clydebank, 488 New St, Elsternwick. He was the husband of Margaret and father of May (Mrs Healy), Ada (Mrs Parkin), Joseph, William, Edward and the late Frederick.The funeral procession was to leave his residence at 10:30 on Friday, 10th for Booroondara Cemetery, Kew.

5-9-1931. The marriage on 11 August at Elsternwick, of Arthur Harvey Andrews and Phyllis Joyce Porta was announced. The groom was the only son of Mr and Mrs A.E.Andrews of Georgiana St Sandringham and Phyllis was the third daughter of Mr and Mrs L.J.Porta of Susan St Sandringham

9-7-1945. Norm Pizzey and Marge (nee Porta) announced the birth of a daughter, Annie Marie. THE END.

Just on spec., I searched for Porta births in the 1850's just now.There were only two results.

EventBirth Event registration number2636 Registration year1855
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesMary Ann SexUnknown Father's nameJoseph Mother's nameAnn (Ingram) Place of birthMOORABBIN
(Mary Ann died in 1855 aged 12 DAYS.)

EventBirth Event registration number5277 Registration year1859
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesJohn SexUnknown Father's nameJoseph Mother's nameAnn (Ingram) Place of birthMOORABBIN

The place of birth would have been the PARISH of Moorabbin, anywhere between Brighton and Mentone. Now would this be our bellows manufacturer?

PORTA-INGRAM-On the 10th September 1837, at the Parish Church, in the Parish of Handeworth, in the County of Stafford, by the Reverend James Hargreaves, Joseph Porta, bellows maker, to Ann Ingram--both of Birmingham.
(P.2, Mercury and Weekly Courier, 9-9-1887.)

Ron Porta's brother was certainly on the ball!
FLASHBACK. "Lewis returned my call tonight and told me that the family was of Italian origin but had settled in England at some time, possibly near Birmingham."

The birth of Ada Louisa was registered at Snapper Point in 1861 but she was probably born at crown allotment 63 Moorooduc. She seems to have been their only child born in the 1860's and their last child.
EventBirth Event registration number19774 Registration year1861
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesAda Louisa SexUnknown Father's nameJoseph Mother's nameAnn (Ingram) Place of birthSCHNAPPER

EventDeath Event registration number15311 Registration year1959
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesLeslie Elmore Frederick John SexMale Father's namePORTA John Mother's nameAnna (Joyce) Place of birthFITZROY Place of deathBRIGHTON NORTH Age75

Has erected, at 153 George street, Fitzroy, a factory for the manufacture of bellows of every description, from the tiny decorative and useful drawing-room one to the heavy blacksmith's necessary article. He is the eldest son of the late Mr. Joseph Porta, the oldest manufacturer of this class of goods in Victoria, and has associated with himself in this work three of his sons, who are competent tradesmen, and employs some 20 hands. The entire works is done on the premises, and although the factory has only been in existence this year, it has had to be extended to double its original size. Mr. Porta has a large South African trade, principally with the gold mining districts. (P.3, Fitzroy City Press, 12-10-1900.)

PORTA-HENDERSON -(Silver Wedding).— On the 17th October, 1874. at St. John's Church, Melbourne, by the Rev. Dr. Torrence, Joseph George, eldest son of the late Joseph Porta, Alphington, to Annie, eldest daughter of the late Thomas Henderson, Canterbury.
Present address, 124 Napier-street. Fitzroy, Melbourne.
(P.5, The Age, 28-10-1899.)

PORTA.— In loving memory of my dear wife, Annie Porta, who died on 10th September, 1907, aged 53.
She suffered long and murmured not, till God in His great love relieved her from her pain.
Never shall your memory fade;
Sweetest thoughts shall ever linger
Round my darling wife's grave.
—Inserted by her loving husband, Joseph George Porta.

PORTA.— In loving memory of our dear mother,who passed away at 124 Napier-street, Fitzroy. on the 10th September, 1907.
Your memory is as dear to-day
As in the hour you passed away
-Inserted by her loving son, William, and Minnie Porta.
PORTA,— On the 10th September. 1907, at 322 Napier Street, Fitzroy, Annie, the loved mother of M. Healey and A. Parkin.
Until the day break and the shadows flee away. (P.7, The Age, 12-9-1908.)

Retyping a list such as a birth index is tedious and has often caused errors such as the father's name in Joseph George Porta's death record. We know whom Ann Ingram married in 1837!
EventDeath Event registration number9268 Registration year1925
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesJoseph George SexMale Father's namePORTA (JohnX PatrickX) Mother's nameAnn (Ingram) Place of birth Place of deathELSTERNWICK Age72

There are only two things known about this bellow fellow but enough to convince me that he was Victoria's first manufacturer of bellows. He must have been only 17 or 18 when he married Ann Ingram and Alphington (as in Joseph George's silver wedding notice) can be reached from Fairfield (as in the Death record) just by crossing Grange Rd.

EventDeath Event registration number2116 Registration year1898
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesJos SexUnknown Father's nameUnknown Mother's nameUnknown (Unknown) Place of birth Place of deathFairfield Age78

EventDeath Event registration number15083 Registration year1891
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesAnn SexFemale Father's nameUnknown Mother's name Place of birth Place of deathFairfield Age71

She was also born in about 1820 and would have been 17 or 18 when they married in 1837.

Their daughter Maria, born in 1848. I found this with a Google search for INGRAM ANN PORTA.

Maria Ann BENNETT (born PORTA), 1848 - 1923
Maria Ann BENNETT (born PORTA) was born in 1848, to Joseph PORTA and Ann PORTA (born INGRAM).
Maria married William Henry BENNETT in 1866, at age 18 at marriage place.
William was born in 1845, in Mitcham, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

There was no marriage notice and I bet Ann Maria wished that there had been no marriage. Very sad. The Portas obviously looked after better than her husband did.

EventDeath Event registration number7201 Registration year1923
Personal information
Family nameBENNETT Given namesAnn Maria SexFemale Father's namePORTA Josepth Mother's nameAnn (Ingram) Place of birth Place of deathMORNINGTON Age74

Ann Maria Bennett, late of Main St.,Mornington, widow, who died on April
3. The assets are sworn at £3601, consisting of realty £2414 and personality, £1117, and are left in trust for testatrix's children and grandchildren. (P.4, Frankston and Somerville Standard, 23-5-1923.)

PORTA-On the 24th November, at Hampton,Anna relict of the late John Porta (late of Alphington) loved mother of Laura (Mrs. J. H.Hauser), Ethel (Mrs Therapos) Leslie, Mabel,Thomas, Ruby (Mrs E Bennett of Adelaide), and
John, aged 75 years. -A patient sufferer at rest. (P.15, Argus, 26-11-1932.)

EventDeath Event registration number3408 Registration year1932
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesAnna SexFemale Father's nameJOYCE William Mother's nameEliza (Belcher) Place of birth Place of deathHAMPTON Age75

ANNA'S HUSBAND JOHN, BORN TO JOSEPH PORTA AND ANN, NEE INGRAM IN 1859. (He lived in Grange Rd, the boundary between Fairfield and Alphington according to the information above sent to Ron Porta's widow.)

EventDeath Event registration number13145 Registration year1913
Personal information
Family namePORTA Given namesJno SexUnknown Father's namePorta Jos Mother's name(ElizaX) (Ingram) Place of birth Place of deathFairfield Age54


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