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Antill, Henry Colden (1779–1852)

by J. M. Antill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Henry Colden Antill (1779-1852), soldier and settler, was born on 1 May 1779 in New York of British stock, his great-grandfather, Edward Antill, having migrated from England to America in 1680. His father, John Antill, a major in the New Jersey Volunteers, fought under the King's banner in the war of American independence; as a result his property was confiscated and after the war he and his family removed to Canada where Henry Colden spent his youth. In 1796 he joined the British army as an ensign in the 73rd Regiment. He served in India and at Seringapatam was severely wounded in the shoulder. In 1799 he was promoted lieutenant and about this time became associated with Captain Lachlan Macquarie, with whom he formed a firm friendship.

In 1807 Antill returned to England with his regiment and on 11 January 1809 gained his captaincy; later that year he sailed to Australia with the 73rd Regiment, now commanded by Macquarie. On arrival in Sydney on 1 January 1810, Antill was appointed aide-de-camp to the governor, and in 1811 promoted major of brigade. He accompanied the governor on his tours throughout the settled areas and on a visit to Van Diemen's Land in 1811. In 1815 he was in the vice-regal party which officially opened the road to Bathurst. In 1818 he accompanied Macquarie on an inspection of Newcastle and in 1820 he took part in an excursion to the newly-discovered land south of the Cowpastures as far as Lake George. Antill was also a member of various committees concerned with the welfare of orphans, public schools and Aboriginals. He was involved in much work as co-executor with Thomas Moore of the estate of Andrew Thompson. He was a close friend of William Redfern, and firmly supported the emancipist cause. He was a director of the Bank of New South Wales in 1819-21.

On 9 October 1818 at St Philip's Church, Sydney, he married Eliza Wills, the daughter of an emancipist. In 1821 he retired from the army on half-pay. He settled on the land first at Moorebank near Liverpool, and then in 1825 on his estate near Picton, named Jarvisfield in honour of Macquarie's first wife, Jane Jarvis, whom he had known in India; its 2000 acres (809 ha) were granted on 9 July 1822 and enlarged by an additional grant of 900 acres (364 ha) in 1826. Antill was appointed a justice of the peace in 1821 and in 1829 became resident magistrate and superintendent of police for the district at a salary of £150, whereupon he relinquished his half-pay. As a magistrate he was painstaking and unlike most of his fellows was even accused of showing undue sympathy towards the convict servants who were brought before him, though that did not prevent his being described as 'grossly ignorant or culpably capricious' when in 1839 he refused to allow a free man to be represented by counsel.

In 1844 Antill subdivided part of his estate on the north side of Stonequarry Creek and so made possible the founding of the town of Picton. His agricultural and pastoral pursuits flourished. He took up more land on the Molonglo where several of his sons received their early pastoral training. He was well known for his generosity and for his earnest religious outlook which included a strict Sabbatarianism.

He died at Jarvisfield on 14 August 1852 and was buried in the family vault which he had built on his estate. His wife died on 30 September 1858 and was buried beside him. One daughter had predeceased them, but they were survived by six sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • J. M. Antill, ‘Major Henry Colden Antill’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 32, part 3, 1946, pp 172-200
  • Stonequarry Bench books (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

J. M. Antill, 'Antill, Henry Colden (1779–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/antill-henry-colden-1710/text1861, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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