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Bland, Revett Henry (1811–1894)

by Luisa Daniele

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Revett Henry Bland (1811-1894), public servant and company manager, was born on 2 February 1811 at Newark, Nottinghamshire, England, son of Dr Thomas Bland and his wife Emma, née Revett. He was educated at Newark Grammar School. Intended for the medical profession, he was sent at 14 to St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. He arrived in Western Australia in August 1829 and in December was appointed superintendent of government stock at York. In 1831 Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) James Stirling asked him to lead an expedition through the Darling Range and establish a government farm at York. The farm was soon broken up by order of the government but in reward for his services Bland was granted 1000 acres (405 ha) which he ably farmed. By 1834 he was resident of York and a justice of the peace.

In October 1841 Governor John Hutt recommended Bland for appointment as protector of Aborigines for his 'thorough knowledge of the native character, acquaintance with their languages, great firmness combined with mildness of temper, long experience as a Magistrate, and a high reputation for integrity and respectability which gives him considerable influence among both the colonists and the native population in the York district'. Bland was in this office in October 1843 when he was granted eighteen months leave to go to England for treatment of his eyes. He left in November and returned to York in 1845. When he left there in October 1848 to become private secretary to Governor Charles FitzGerald and clerk of the council, relations between the Aboriginals and settlers had greatly improved, and he was praised for developing good feeling and mutual confidence. Later that year he accompanied FitzGerald in an expedition which verified a lode of galena discovered on the Murchison River by Augustus Gregory who was also in the party. On the return journey the governor was speared in the leg by natives and Bland narrowly escaped serious injury. In 1855 his paper, 'On the character, habits and customs of the Aborigines of Western Australia', was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, of which he was later a member.

As acting colonial secretary in 1849 Bland was welcomed as a just administrator. Unfortunately he had to take leave on 'private business' and in March 1850 sailed for Adelaide. His health deteriorated and he was confined to the house for nine months by rheumatic ophthalmia, through which he lost the sight of an eye. In August 1851 with much reluctance he resigned and next January went to England for medical treatment.

Bland's interests were diverted to Victoria where his business acumen and contacts with the London Stock Exchange led to his appointment as resident director of the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Co. which had been launched in England with a royal charter and a paid up capital of £100,000 in £1 shares early in 1852. Before Bland arrived in Melbourne he had applied to the colonial government in June for a lease of auriferous land; it was not granted until October 1853, when he reported to his English directors that the land was at Fryer's Creek. Thwarted there and again at Ballarat in 1856, he arranged with some freeholders to begin mining operations at Clunes where he installed an extensive plant. This project was the sole survivor of the English speculation of 1852. Bland arranged in 1857 with Charles Kinnear and others to work the mine on a profit-sharing basis with the Port Phillip Co. which crushed the quartz and extracted the gold. Known as the Clunes Quartz Mining Co. the scheme had a hundred working shareholders as well as the English capital. Bland managed this company for over thirty years and its success must to some extent be attributed to his initiative. The total gold raised in 1857-84 was 506,220 ounces (14,351 kg), valued at £2,029,078 13s. 7d. and yielding a profit of nearly £500,000 from an outlay of less than £20,000.

In 1863-65 Bland was a director of the National Bank, invited by the board probably in the hope of capturing valuable mining accounts. In 1881 he was a juror for the Australian International Exhibition and was offered a medal for his impartial and painstaking efforts. In 1884-85 he presented the first four pictures, paintings by J. A. Turner, to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. With his technical experience he was well equipped to write his History of the Port Phillip and Colonial Gold Mining Company, in Connection With the Clunes Mine (Ballarat, 1888). He gave evidence to the royal commission on gold mining in 1891.

On 28 March 1838 at Guildford, near Perth, he had married Emily Lutzen; she died in childbirth on 24 August 1845 aged 30. On 26 December 1848 at St George's Church, Perth, Bland married the widow Martha Emma Hinds, née McCallum. She and their four children predeceased Bland who died on 18 February 1894 at Clunes and was buried in the Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • G. Blainey, The Rush that Never Ended (Melb, 1963)
  • G. Serle, The Golden Age (Melb, 1963)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 20 Feb 1894
  • F. Strahan, The Growth and Extent of Company Mining on the Victorian Goldfields in the 1850s (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Melbourne, 1955).

Citation details

Luisa Daniele, 'Bland, Revett Henry (1811–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bland-revett-henry-3013/text4411, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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