Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gunning, George Weston (1772–1845)

by F. C. Green

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

George Weston Gunning (1772-1845), soldier and settler, went to Van Diemen's Land from Sydney in 1810 as a lieutenant with a detachment of the 73rd Regiment sent to the colony by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. In 1812 he was appointed inspector of public works, and next year was granted forty-four acres (18 ha) at the Coal River (Richmond). In 1814 he resigned from his regiment and from his position as inspector of public works, took over his farm and became the local magistrate at Coal River and Pittwater, receiving six government servants, rations and six cows from the government herd. He was later given extra grazing licences and by purchasing imported merino rams his flocks began to improve, but he failed to prosper. By 1818 he owed the merchant, Roland Loane, £650, and while he was in prison for debt Loane laid claim to payments that had been made to Gunning for meat sold to the commissariat and drove off his cattle; for this misdemeanour Loane was committed to trial by Gunning's magistrate friends.

With the acquisition from Governor Macquarie of two fine land grants on the Coal River Gunning's fortunes changed. On these properties his flocks and herds improved in quality and increased in numbers so that by 1828 his stock alone was worth £1500. As a magistrate he was held in high esteem by Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, who encouraged his inclination for experiment with hop-growing and the extensive planting of orchards and vineyards. His cultivation of hops was successful and his efforts were rewarded with additional land grants that brought his total holdings to 4000 acres (1619 ha) . Despite his increasing agricultural activities he devoted more time to the public service, and acted as the local police magistrate for nine months in 1827. But the strain proved too much; shattered by the death of his only remaining daughter in February 1828, he determined to sail at once for England, careless of his large fruit and grape harvest that needed only picking. He offered his properties for sale or lease, but despite their obvious attractions, ten acres (4 ha) of matured fruit trees, a nursery of 2000 young trees, well-finished farm buildings and pastures sown in expensive English grasses, he could not dispose of any of them for twelve months and had to abandon his plans. His interest in his agricultural enterprises returned, but another blow fell in 1834 when a fire destroyed his crops and wheat stacks. An editorial in a leading newspaper used the incident to urge the establishment of an insurance office in the colony, and fellow settlers subscribed to a reward for the apprehension of the culprit, but Gunning's financial stability had received an irrevocable set-back. He struggled on for some years but was forced to dispose of his Coal River properties. By 1842 all had been sold, and he retired to Weston Lodge which he had bought at New Town in 1829, and died there on 31 August 1845. He had married twice; first, the daughter of Robert Nash, the colony's first miller, and second, the widow of George Harris, the former surveyor-general.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-8, series 3, vols 1-4
  • correspondence file under Gunning (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

F. C. Green, 'Gunning, George Weston (1772–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gunning-george-weston-2136/text2713, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 20 November 2018.

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

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