Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Beamont, John (1789–1872)

by Isabella J. Mead

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

John Beamont (1789-1872), settler and public servant, was born probably in London where his father had a 'lockup shop' in Wych Street. He became a protégé of Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey who was said to have been in debt to Beamont's father. He arrived at Sydney presumably as Davey's secretary in the Minstrel on 25 October 1812, and proceeded to the Derwent; there Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered that he be granted 300 acres (121 ha) and assigned two convict servants. An expected appointment as crown agent did not eventuate and he was offered instead the position of postmaster-general of Van Diemen's Land, which he accepted; however, when Davey wished to appoint him a magistrate Macquarie refused approval. Since his position as postmaster-general was a sinecure, Beamont worked for John Ingle and acted as manager for Edward Lord; in December 1817 he explored the central plateau of Van Diemen's Land, so making his most important contribution to the development of Van Diemen's Land. By this time Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell had recommended and Macquarie approved Beamont's appointment as Naval Officer and treasurer of the police fund in succession to John Drummond who had been sent to Sydney in September to be tried for the murder of his illegitimate infant. In February 1819 Beamont was also appointed provost-marshal when Martin Tims was suspended, but in 1820 he was superseded as Naval Officer by Edward Bromley who had been appointed from England. When the office of provost-marshal was abolished, in 1824 Beamont was appointed acting sheriff, but he had to relinquish this post too when the English nominee, Dudley Fereday, arrived in January 1825.

Beamont was an original subscriber to the Bank of Van Diemen's Land in 1823 and one of the signatories to the petition for separation from New South Wales in 1824; he had chaired the meeting held in October 1823 to protest against Sorell's recall, and acted as his agent after he left the colony; in return, Sorell repeatedly stressed to the British government the value of Beamont's past services. Arthur was embarrassed by the close association Beamont had with his predecessor and by his marriage in 1820 to Harriet, the daughter of Surveyor-General George Evans, with whom the governor's relations were not good, so he protested when in 1826 the British government, on the urging of Sorell, appointed Beamont clerk of the council in compensation for the loss of his former office. Arthur asserted that Beamont was 'by education, by habits and by his associations, totally unsuited to the Office', and nominated instead his nephew, John Montagu. Though the British government supported Beamont, it empowered Arthur to transfer him to another post of equal value. In 1827, after Beamont had refused the position because of injuries to his hand, Arthur appointed him to the newly created office of registrar of deeds, and granted him 1000 acres (405 ha) as well. When this work was transferred to the registrar of the Supreme Court in 1836, he became sheriff again. In 1841 he retired on a small pension and lived in Hobart until his death on 19 December 1872.

John Beamont was typical of many of the early settlers in Van Diemen's Land. He was without much education, fond of life, easygoing, but imbued with some ambition and with a spirit of adventure. Everywhere he seems to have been popular, and to have got along well enough while standards were low; he bought and sold land to his own advantage and even amassed wealth, but with the years had little impact on the life and progress of a developing community.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-10, series 3, vols 2-6
  • correspondence file under Beamont (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Isabella J. Mead, 'Beamont, John (1789–1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beamont-john-1759/text1961, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 October 2014.

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

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