Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fitzhardinge, William George (1810–1884)

by Peter C. Fitzhardinge-Seton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

William George Augustus Fitzhardinge (1810-1884), solicitor, was born on 8 June 1810 in London, son of William Fitzhardinge (M.P. for County Gloucester 1810-11, created Earl Fitzhardinge 1841), eldest son of the 5th Earl of Berkeley and Jane Baldwin, niece of Major-General Thomas Hawkshaw, in the East India Co.'s service. In 1823 he was admitted to Westminster School as a 'Town Boy' (described as the son of Augustus Fitzhardinge, third son of the earl), became a King's Scholar in 1825 and left in 1826. Next year he was articled for five years to Thomas Clarke who later became solicitor to the Board of Ordnance. About 1833 he married Mary Anne Gahen, and a daughter was born in London on 14 February 1836. Later he moved to Chiswick where a son was born on 20 June 1838.

In August 1838 Fitzhardinge left Plymouth with his family as cabin passengers in the James Pattison and reached Sydney on 11 December. A widowed sister of his mother, Mrs Susanna M. Ward, had been in the colony for eighteen years and held several land grants including 1000 acres (405 ha) on the Paterson River, of which she appointed Fitzhardinge superintendent. In March 1839 he and a fellow passenger from England took from her a seven-year lease of Clarendon Park, 500 acres (202 ha) on the eastern side of the river, with three convict servants. The partnership broke up after two months and Fitzhardinge returned to Sydney. On 1 April 1840, after an examination 'as to service, character and on legal matters', he was admitted as an attorney, solicitor and proctor of the Supreme Court. He commenced practice at 4 King Street, where he established the firm of Fitzhardinge & MacKechnie, later successively Fitzhardinge & Son, Fitzhardinge, Son & Houston, and Fitzhardinge, Son & Yeomans, and now incorporated in McCoy, Grove & Atkinson. Fitzhardinge's practice, which became extensive in civil and equity matters, began in a troubled financial period. He acted on occasions for the Bank of Australasia, once in 1843 in a case against John Piper. In that year he acted for Charles Kemp and John Fairfax in an action against John Brenan, and was also reported as appearing with counsel for the defendant in the involved case of Gordon's insolvency in which conspiracy was alleged. Whilst acting for another client, Thomas Broughton, he was charged with perjury in an affidavit; the case lasted a week and was then dismissed by the magistrate, Charles Windeyer. He also acted as Sydney agent for Gilbert Wright, a Bathurst solicitor, and it was perhaps this experience which drew his attention to the potentialities of country practice linked with a city firm, which he systematically developed later as his sons grew up.

By 1842 Fitzhardinge had moved from the North Shore to a house in Spring Street. In 1844 he corresponded with Sir William Macarthur and bought olive trees from Camden Park for his new house at Waverley. In the next year 'John Hardy, gardener to Mr. Fitzhardinge' was a successful exhibitor at the Floral and Horticultural Exhibition in Sydney. The family moved to Waterview Bay, Balmain, in 1849 and two sons later established homes in Balmain. Fitzhardinge's first wife died on 5 July 1844, and on 18 November at Christ Church St Lawrence, Sydney, he married Anna Amelia, daughter of William and Eliza Hyde. She died on 9 June 1865, and on 16 August 1866 he married Harriet Ellen, daughter of Alfred Elyard, solicitor and marshal of the Vice-Admiralty Court. Fitzhardinge's eldest son, William, ran away to sea at 14, and eleven years later was master of a ship trading between Sydney and Manila. Of the remaining nine sons who survived to manhood, five were articled in their father's office and practised as solicitors in Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and Glen Innes. One, Grantley Hyde, graduated from the University of Sydney, practised as a barrister and was for twenty-eight years a District Court judge.

Fitzhardinge brought to the colony a family tradition of responsibility to the community and passed it on to his sons, several of whom were active in municipal affairs and in the raising of volunteer regiments. They were no less notable in rowing and sailing. Three sons were members of the crew that defeated Victoria in the first intercolonial boat race on the Parramatta River on 4 February 1863, and two were members of the winning crew in the first 'Intercolonial Gig Race' in Hobart on 30 January 1872. Five of the brothers were foundation members of the Sydney Rowing Club in 1870 and Grantley Hyde in 1874 owned one of the fifteen boats on the register of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. Fitzhardinge died in Paddington on 12 September 1884 and was buried in the Church of England section of the Randwick cemetery.

Fitzhardinge had a pride in his family traditions and descent and showed his feeling for them in the use of the Berkeley coat-of-arms on his seal and bookplate and by the names he bestowed on his children. Apparently reserved, he was devoted to his family, and his high standard of professional conduct and his industry won him a standing in the community and were passed on to his sons.

Select Bibliography

  • Reserved and Equity Judgments of the Supreme Court of New South Wales Delivered During the Year 1845 (Syd, 1846)
  • J. Welch, The List of the Queen's Scholars of St Peter's College, Westminster, vol 1 (Lond, 1852)
  • G. F. R. Barker and A. H. Stenning, The Record of Old Westminsters, vol 1 (Lond, 1928)
  • Sydney Herald, 12 Dec 1838
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Dec 1933, 9 Feb 1934
  • Macarthur papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Peter C. Fitzhardinge-Seton, 'Fitzhardinge, William George (1810–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fitzhardinge-william-george-3531/text5441, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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