Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content


  • In Her Gift: Women Philanthropists in Australian History
  • The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Hall, Eliza Rowdon (1847 - 1916)

26 November 1847
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
14 February 1916
Potts Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


In 1912, Eliza Hall used her inheritance to establish the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust. Funds were distributed in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. A significant proportion of Victoria's share went toward the establishment of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.


Eliza Rowdon Kirk was born in Melbourne, the eldest daughter of George Kirk (a Yorkshire-born butcher) and his wife Elizabeth, née Wippell. In 1874 she married Walter Russell Hall. Walter was born in Herefordshire, England, and arrived in Sydney with little money. He became an agent for Cobb & Co., taking over the firm with James Rutherford and others in 1861. By the time he left Cobb & Co. in the mid-1880s he was a wealthy man. From here his wealth grew via an investment in the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd., registered with a capital of £1 million in 1886. Walter Hall made many anonymous donations to institutions and individuals including a gift of £1,000 to charities when his horse Reviver won the Metropolitan in 1900. He gave £5,000 to the Patriotic Fund during the war in South Africa and £10,000 to the Dreadnought Fund.

Walter and Eliza had no children, but took care of two orphaned cousins. When Walter died in 1911 his estate was valued at £2,915,513 with Eliza his principal beneficiary. Shortly afterwards she put aside £1 million to benefit the community in commemoration of her husband. She was persuaded to link her own name with her husband's in this endeavour, and the terms of the trust deed for the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust were made public in May 1912. The income was distributed according to the derivation of Walter's wealth: half went to New South Wales, one quarter to Queensland, and one quarter to Victoria. The deed was drawn up under Eliza's instructions and stipulated that income be used for the relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion (Church of England), and general benefit of the community. In each state, one third of the income was to be used for the benefit of women and children. A large share of Victoria's allocation went to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Research in Pathology and Medicine in 1916.

On her death in 1916, Eliza bequeathed her estate - valued at £1,180,059 - to relations, friends and servants, with a number of pictures and statues left to the Melbourne and Sydney art galleries.

Sources used to compile this entry: 'Hall, Eliza Rowdon (1847-1916)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,

Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124