James Puidulles Edwards was born in England, the sixth son of William and Marianne Edwards (d.1860) of Blackheath, Kent, in 1821.
James had immigrated to the colony by the mid 19th century. His brother Nathaniel had immigrated to New Zealand in 1844 and became a member of the New Zealand parliament from 1868-1870.
In 1855 James married Charlotte Rosina Banks, born in the colony in 1830 and the youngest daughter of Captain George Banks (c1797-1876) and Caroline Banks (d.1876). James and Charlotte were married at St Marks Church on 29 March 1855. Captain Banks, a master mariner and later fisherman, arrived in Sydney in 1828 on the Henry Wellesley and was an early settler of Double Bay – the City of Sydney Directory lists him as a resident as early as 1844.
James and Charlotte also made their home in Double Bay and had 8 children between 1857 and 1871: Emily, Rosina, William, Lizzie, Ada, Frederic, Annie and Lucy.
James made a career in the development of the railway system in NSW, initially as a contractor and later as a stationmaster. In 1863 he was associated with the railway contractors Randle and Gibbons, contracted to build the railway from Singleton to Armidale. A later advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald indicates that he had a partnership as a railway contractor with John Goddard – the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent when their contract had been completed in March 1866.
By the mid-late 1870s James was employed in the railway department at East Maitland. In 1880 he was recorded as a railway station and postmaster at Ravensworth on the Great Northern Railway.
From the time of their marriage James and Charlotte were living at Rosina Cottage, a wooden house with slate roof in Cross Street, Double Bay. In 1862 James secured the 99-year lease from the Point Piper Estate to 2 acres of land at the north-west corner of Bay and Cross Streets which included Rosina Cottage, two 4 roomed brick houses with slate rooves and another wooden house with a shingle roof.
In November 1864 Edwards offered his properties in Cross Street for sale by public auction. Included as part of the offer was a market garden which consisted of about 1 acre running as far as New South Head Road. The last reference to James as a resident of the Woollahra municipality was in 1873 when he was living in a cottage in Cross Street. James and his family then moved to the Hunter region.
In about 1886 James acquired leasehold to another group of properties on the opposite corner of Cross Street to his original properties – vacant land (used for storing fuel) and two houses known as Brunswick and Edna. Edwards’ land in Double Bay would eventually form part of the heart of the Double Bay commercial district.
James appears to have led a rather colourful life while he was at Double Bay, with a number of incidences involving the authorities reported in the newspapers and council minutes of the time. In 1856 he and John Woods were convicted of having ‘furiously ridden their horses’ on the New South Head Road – ‘each racing against the other to the common danger of themselves and all other persons travelling on the road’. In 1868 James was in trouble with Woollahra Council when he ‘rescued’ his cattle from the bailiff who was taking these cows to the pound. In another incident in 1870 he was fined for allowing his cows and horses to stray on the public streets.
James Edwards was officially nominated as councillor for Woollahra Council on 21 May 1860 by Mr Randall and Mr Westland. At the election on 28 May he received 47 of the votes and was declared elected. In 1861 he proposed the division of the municipality into wards. He was nominated for chairman in 1864 but was defeated by Joseph Trickett.
He served at various times on the improvement, finance and water committees, and was chairman of the Double Bay Reserve committee. He worked for improvements to Double Bay such as the development of Double Bay Park as a reserve for public recreation, the erection of a public jetty and promoted the building of a public baths. Edwards resigned from council on 10 April 1866.
James moved to Waratah near Newcastle to a house known as Elladale on the ‘Maitland Road’. He died on 24 July 1908 at his home there, aged 77, while Charlotte had died some years earlier on 10 May 1890, aged 59, at West Tamworth.