Samuel Jeffrey

Samuel Jeffrey, one of Preston’s first settlers, was born in 1803 in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

At the age of 37, to escape the harsh conditions of Irish rural life, Jeffery moved to Victoria with his wife and two children. In July 1840, after a six month journey aboard the ship Coromandel, he arrived in Melbourne. On his arrival Jeffery worked as overseer for Captain John Harrison at his Yan Yean sheep station; land which included parts of the future Yan Yean Reservoir. It was in this job that he probably saved enough money to purchase, in September 1846, 40 acres of land from Major St Lawrence Webb, running from what is now the corner of High Street and Tyler Street, Preston. In 1850 Jeffrey bought an added tract of land adjacent to the east of this site, taking his property up to what is now Preston Primary School. 

Jeffrey built the first house in the district on land that was gently sloping and well drained, allowing him to grow wheat, milk cows and graze sheep. As Jeffrey and his wife Eliza’s family grew to six sons and one daughter, he began a secondary carting business to make extra money.

Many of Preston’s early settlers were fellow Irishmen and as a result the area became unofficially known as Irishtown. In the early 1850’s the Wood family emigrated from Brighton, England and established Preston's first General Store and Post Office. The Woods were staunch Baptists and anti-Irish and, as a result, disliked the name Irishtown. Since they owned the Post Office the Woods held a meeting with their fellow Baptists to choose a new name for the area. They decided on Preston after the town where their church held their annual picnics back in England.  Jeffrey refused to acknowledge the new name and insisted on leaving “S.Jeffrey, Irishtown” on the side of his Drays and continued to give Irish Town as his postal address.

An enthusiastic Methodist after coming late to the faith in his twenties, Jeffrey held Methodist services in his barn with preachers from Brunswick from 1852, eventually leading to the building of a small Methodist Church and Sunday school on his land in 1854. In 1863 a permanent Methodist church was erected on land donated by Jeffries at the corner of what is now High Street and Tyler Street. The church still stands today as Preston Uniting Church. The Cairn out the front of the church was built from sandstone and bluestone retrieved from Jeffrey’s barn, the site of those early Methodist services. 

In the early 1870’s Jeffrey offered three-quarters of a hectare of land in Tyler Street to the Education Department which lead to the building of Preston Primary School No. 1494, opening on 14 January, 1875. Jeffrey Street which runs to the west of the school is an ongoing reminder of the Jeffrey family’s position as early pioneers. Samuel Jeffrey died in Preston on the 14th of July, 1891 and is buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.

Carroll, Brian & Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.

Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.

IRISH TOWN’ BEGINNINGS. (1985, September 3). Preston Post Times (Melbourne, Vic: 1978 - 2001), p. 33. 

Moore Jeffrey, Samuel (n.d.) The Jeffrey story: the evolving of Irishtown (Preston) 1840-1935. Unpublished manuscript.