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Clark, George Carr (1789–1863)

by G. T. Stilwell

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

George Clark, by Robert Hawker Dowling, 1851

George Clark, by Robert Hawker Dowling, 1851

George Carr Clark (1789-1863), settler, was born on 18 February 1789, the fourth son and seventh child of Thomas Clark (1750-1832) and his wife Ann, née Carr (1753?-1836), of Ellinthorp Hall, Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, England. He was the great-nephew of the architect John Carr (1723-1807) from whom the Clark family derived much benefit.

Clark is said to have been first apprenticed to a silk merchant in Ripon, but at 16 he entered Leaf, Levers & Co. in London; after eight years he became a partner in the new firm of Wilcock & Clark, silk mercers and warehousemen in Watling Street. At first successful, they were over £1000 in debt by 1821 and Clark decided to emigrate. With a letter of recommendation from Downing Street, he sailed in the Heroine, reaching Hobart Town in September 1822. He went on to New South Wales, but in March 1823 he returned to Hobart in the Admiral Cockburn, and promptly bought the Waterloo Mill and its large allotment for £2114. In the next few years he bought and sold the Old Mill, renaming it Ellinthorp Vale Mill, and built and sold the new Waterloo Mill in Collins Street. By August 1828 his property in Hobart was worth £5684.

On 18 December 1824 in St David's Church Clark married Hannah Maria Davice (1794-1847), a relation of Rev. Henry Dowling. She had arrived in the Berwick in June 1823 bringing with her a partner, Elinor Binfield (later Mrs Joseph Archer), an apprentice, and equipment for a school, which she opened in Buckinghamshire House. In 1825 she moved to Carr Field House, newly built by her husband in Murray Street. As the colony's first trained woman teacher, she had rare courage, ability, and means; her seminary lasted seventeen years in various locations, a record in Van Diemen's Land's first fifty years.

Before marriage, both Clark and his wife had received 2000-acre (809 ha) grants near the Isis and these became the nucleus of the Ellinthorp Hall estate. On 16 December 1826 the homestead's foundation was laid and next September the school reopened there to suit Mrs Clark's delicate health. Tied by his wife's profession, Clark afterwards regretted his change from business to grazing, but Ellinthorp became the most fashionable girls' school in the colony. High fees enabled her to select about forty pupils, and to support some gratuitously or at reduced rates. Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur often visited the school and other notables such as James Backhouse and George Washington Walker reported favourably on her methods. Mrs Clark's dedication is the more remarkable because she was the wife of a rich man, and while headmistress gave birth to six children. The school closed in December 1840, but her methods lived on at Carr Villa, near Launceston, run by her protégée and kinswoman, Susannah Darke Purbrick (Mrs John Knight), from 1848 until 1866. In March 1841 Mrs Clark went to England to finish the education of her own children. She died at Wigmore Street, London, on 31 December 1847, and was buried in Lee churchyard, Blackheath, Kent.

Clark remained in Van Diemen's Land until just before his death. On the vacant land around the former Waterloo Mill and Carr Field House he built a terrace of eleven shops. He also increased his pastoral holdings until he owned more than 40,000 acres (16,188 ha). During forty years in the colony Clark was connected with many public and local activities. He was a foundation director of the Bank of Van Diemen's Land in 1823, a committee member of the Hobart Town Agricultural Society in 1825, and chairman of the Midland Agricultural Association in 1841. Later he chaired the two meetings of the Australasian League held in the Midlands, but withdrew over the pledge not to employ convicts. He was an inaugural member of the Ross Municipal Council, and treasurer of the trustees of the Great Lake road district and of the Southern Macquarie road district.

With no definite religious belief, Clark detested Dissenters, although he was a total abstainer and a working member of the Hobart Town Auxiliary Bible Society. Politically a disciple of Cobden and an anti-transportationist, he was prominent in establishing the London Agency under John Alexander Jackson, and most helpful to the Irish exiles whose cottage at Lake Sorell was on his land. During childhood a brother had accidentally shot an arrow into his right eye. Although vain of this disfigurement, he won such local nicknames as 'one-eyed Clark of the Hanging Sugar Loaf' and 'Old One-Eye'. By 1846 his left eye began to fail and he gradually became blind. In June 1863 he left for England to have an operation for cataract, but it failed. He died at St Leonards-on-sea on 19 December 1863 and was buried beside his wife at Lee. He was survived by two sons and two daughters. His sons sold Ellinthorp Hall about 1870 and became leading pastoralists in Queensland.

In 1851 Robert Hawker Dowling painted three portraits of Clark and a posthumous likeness of his wife. Miniatures of Clark and his wife are in the possession of H. C. Clark of Toorak, who also owns an idealized portrait done by Lock in 1864. Rear Admiral C. C. Clark of Seymour, Victoria, has a water-colour of his ancestor in middle age.

Select Bibliography

  • G. T. Stilwell, ‘Mr and Mrs George Carr Clark of Ellinthorp Hall’, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 11, no 3, Apr 1964, pp 72-109.

Citation details

G. T. Stilwell, 'Clark, George Carr (1789–1863)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/clark-george-carr-1897/text2237, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 20 October 2017.

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

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