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Bingle, John (1796–1882)

by Nancy Gray

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

John Bingle (1796-1882), by unknown photographer

John Bingle (1796-1882), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Original : PXA 943

John Bingle (1796-1882), sailor, merchant and landholder, was born on 15 May 1796 at Gillingham, Kent, England, the only surviving son of John Rayden Bingle, a naval draughtsman of Deptford, and his wife, née Owens, who was a relative of Lieutenant William Bradley of the Sirius. He was educated at Chatham, and employed at the naval dockyard from 1812 to 1817, when he joined the merchant marine. He arrived at Port Jackson as a settler on 16 December 1821 in the Minerva and in the same month was commissioned by Governor Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane 'to survey the coast as far north as Moreton Bay and to explore the bay for fresh-water streams'. As master of the colonial cutter, Sally, Bingle entered Moreton Bay on 5 March 1822. He failed to discover fresh water but received Brisbane's commendation for his work and, with Robert Coram Dillon, was given permission to build a vessel for trade with Newcastle.

Bingle & Co. established the first regular trading service between Sydney and Newcastle in 1822, carrying coal, cedar and merchandise in the Sally. The Eclipse, a small trading vessel which they built at Newcastle in 1822, was stolen from the harbour there by a gang of convicts soon after Bingle sold his interest in the venture.

In August 1824 at Hobart Town, Bingle married Mary, daughter of George Cross of London, who came out in the Lang to join him. After a short period as a commission agent and merchant in Sydney Bingle acquired 1800 acres (728 ha) of land at Dart Brook, in the Upper Hunter district, which he named Puen Buen and on which he settled. For almost twenty years he played a prominent part in the development of the district, serving on the bench of magistrates, subscribing generously to church and hospital funds, and waging vigorous and successful war on bushrangers. The first court-house in the Scone district was built by Bingle in 1832, after he had been severely censured by Governor (Sir) Richard Bourke for holding, in his own home, courts at which his assigned servants were tried by a visiting magistrate. Believing the governor's censure unjust he published his defence in A Letter to the … Secretary of State for the Colonies, printed by Stephens and Stokes in Sydney in 1832. This evoked further adverse comment from Bourke, who believed him to be the tool of his more powerful friends.

Openly associating himself with the faction which opposed Bourke, Bingle gave such provocation that he was removed from the magistracy in 1836, as were others whose conduct as magistrates was considered 'unbecoming'. Next year he agreed to carry to the British government a petition demanding Bourke's recall, but shortly before his proposed departure he was arrested on a charge of cattle-stealing. The charge, which created great public interest, was dismissed, but the newspapers regarded his arrest as a political manoeuvre designed to discredit him before he reached London. They suggested that he was being persecuted, a charge foreseen by Bourke five years earlier. The vigorous support given by the Sydney Herald to 'The Case of Mr. Bingle' was probably influenced by the fact that one of its proprietors, Alfred Ward Stephens, had bought Puen Buen and the other, Frederick Stokes, had agreed to act as its superintendent until payment was completed.

After his acquittal Bingle joined his wife and family in England where, in 1837, he published a Letter to … Lord Glenelg, setting out the charges against him and the evidence in his defence. He bought a home at Sydenham, but Ward Stephens's spectacular insolvency in 1842 forced him to return in order to salvage what remained of his property. Governor Sir George Gipps reinstated him as a magistrate and he remained an active, autocratic and powerful member of the Scone bench until 1850. In this year Bingle opposed John Dunmore Lang's use of the local court-house for public meetings although, as Lang recorded later, it had been made available only a short time before to a band of travelling players.

Poor seasons accentuating his financial problems, Bingle sold Puen Buen to John Robertson of Yarrundi and began business as an agent in Newcastle. Within five years he became director of two banks, a member of the diocesan committee of Christ Church, chairman of the Exchange, and first chairman of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce. The first message sent by telegraph on the line from Sydney to Newcastle, on 11 January 1860, was from his office. He retired from business soon afterwards, devoting his remaining years to writing his reminiscences, of which Past and Present Records of Newcastle (Newcastle, 1873) was his one significant publication.

John Bingle died at Newcastle on 10 April 1882 and was buried beside his wife in Christ Church cemetery. He was survived by his only son, John Rayden, and two daughters. Autocratic, impetuous, often over-confident of his ability and judgment, he was prepared at all times to accept public office and to discharge his duties, even when, as in dealing with bushrangers, personal risk was involved. He was a man of initiative, enterprise and imagination.

Select Bibliography

  • A. P. Elkin, The Diocese of Newcastle (Syd, 1955)
  • G. Mackaness (ed), The Discovery and Exploration of Moreton Bay and the Brisbane River, 1799-1823, part 1 (Syd, 1956)
  • J. D. Lang, An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, 3rd ed (Lond, 1852), 201-02
  • New South Wales Magazine, 2 (1834), no 6
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15, 18 May 1837
  • E. S. Jackson, 'Early Visitors to Moreton Bay', Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 15, part 6, 1929, pp 309-23
  • John Bingle papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Little family papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Nancy Gray, 'Bingle, John (1796–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bingle-john-1780/text2001, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 September 2014.

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

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