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Dulhunty, Robert Venour (1802–1853)

by Beryl Dulhunty

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

Robert Venour Dulhunty (1802-1853), landowner, commissioner of crown lands and magistrate, was born at Paignton, Devonshire, England, second son of Dr John Dulhunty and his wife Jane, née Smith. He arrived at Sydney on 11 March 1824 with his brother Lawrence in the Guildford and received a grant of 2000 acres (809 ha). This he chose at Cullen Bullen, where he imported and bred stock, specializing in Arab horses. He later acquired the near-by property of Ben Bullen.

The brothers persuaded the rest of the family to migrate to New South Wales, and on 18 March 1826 their father retired after thirty years in the navy, arrived at Sydney as surgeon-superintendent of the convict transport Sesostris with his wife, their daughter Jane, and a third son, John, also a surgeon. Dr Dulhunty received a grant of 2560 acres (1036 ha) at Bathurst. He first lived at Burwood House, where he and his family were commended for their brave resistance against bushrangers by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, who appointed him a magistrate and principal superintendent of police in the colony. In this office he was unpopular with the press for excluding reporters from the court. He retired in October 1827 and died suddenly on 29 February 1828.

After his father's death Robert Dulhunty found himself in need of more land for his stock. On 4 July 1828 he applied to the government for permission to occupy a station near Cullen Bullen, but was informed that tickets-of-occupation had been discontinued. In 1829 he occupied a run, which he named Dubbo, on the Macquarie. In 1839 at St James's, Sydney, he married Eliza Julia, eldest daughter of Major John Gibbes; they had six sons and four daughters, and made their home at Claremont, near Penrith. He sold Ben Bullen and retained Cullen Bullen as a half-way house between Sydney and Dubbo. In May 1837 he was appointed a commissioner of crown lands and in December a magistrate. In the same year he took out a licence for Dubbo station. In 1839 his brother Lawrence, who was commissioner of crown lands for the Wellington Valley, reported that twenty-eight free men and eighteen male convicts were living on Dubbo station. In that year Robert Dulhunty built a road-side inn, in which he installed one of his overseers as manager, to accommodate travellers passing his station. This Macquarie Inn was known as Bob's Pub, and its opening was marked by a murder. Robert Dulhunty, who was on the bench, convicted a man named Murray on circumstantial evidence and sentenced him to ten years imprisonment. Three or four years later a man named Caffrey confessed to the crime and Murray was released.

Robert Dulhunty increased his holdings and in the 1840s was described as one of the wealthiest men in the colony. In addition to Dubbo he held the stations Ellengerah, Mullingundy, Barbigal, Mount Foster, and Spicer's Creek, each of 16,000 acres (6475 ha). At a time when it was customary for every station to have its flogging post, 'Bob' Dulhunty was an esteemed employer who erected no post and was never known to use one.

When the bad times came in 1841 he found himself in financial difficulties. Advertising sheep and heifers for sale in the Australian on 30 November 1841, he announced that a station would be given away with each thousand sheep sold. In 1847 he moved all his family to Dubbo. A controversy began about where the township of Dubbo should be located. Jean Emile Serisier, backed by M. Despointes, a Frenchman of substance in Sydney, wanting to found a store and finding the Dulhunty establishment antagonistic, with the aid of a schoolmaster from Dubbo station drafted a petition which was sent through Despointes to the government, seeking the establishment of a village. In 1848 G. B. White surveyed the site about four miles (6.4 km) from Dubbo station, and in 1850 the first sale of town allotments took place. The settlement at old Dubbo then broke up and the settlers moved to the present site of Dubbo.

Robert Dulhunty died on 30 December 1853 at the age of 51. His wife struggled to retain her properties, but her sons were too young to control them, and one by one they were sold, ending with the sale of Dubbo homestead in 1866. The sons then had to seek positions in the town.

Marcus (b.1840) joined a wool firm; John (b.1841) became a commission agent at Bathurst and was later a grazier; Robert (b.1843) was appointed stock inspector and coroner at Dubbo; Lawrence (b.1844) developed pastoral properties in Queensland and served in the Public Estate Department; Hubert (b.1849) occupied a small property with his mother; Alfred (b.1851) joined a firm of stock and station agents at Queanbeyan, where he later became a landowner and grazier. Mrs Dulhunty died in 1892.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Dulhunty, The Dulhunty Papers (Syd, 1959), and for bibliography.

Citation details

Beryl Dulhunty, 'Dulhunty, Robert Venour (1802–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dulhunty-robert-venour-2001/text2443, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 November 2018.

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

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