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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gurner, Henry Field (1819–1883)

by Carole Woods

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

Henry Field Gurner (1819-1883), by Samuel Calvert, 1883

Henry Field Gurner (1819-1883), by Samuel Calvert, 1883

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN16/05/83/77

Henry Field Gurner (1819-1883), solicitor, was born on 31 March 1819 in Sydney, the second son of John Gurner and his wife Rebecca Ann, née Gallefant. He was educated at William Timothy Cape's School, became a clerk under his father in the Supreme Court in 1834, then worked for the crown solicitor, Francis Fisher, and in 1841 was admitted as an attorney, solicitor and proctor in New South Wales. On 10 February he was appointed deputy-registrar and clerk of the Supreme Court of New South Wales for the Port Phillip District and in May became the first attorney, solicitor and proctor admitted in Melbourne. He entered private practice in November but on 6 January 1842 became clerk of the peace and crown solicitor at Port Phillip and in September agreed to act until December as the first town clerk of Melbourne. Gurner was crown solicitor of Victoria from July 1851 until he retired in November 1880.

Gurner's attachment to his native land and legal work was reflected in his valuable collection of Australiana (list published in 1878) and his own publications: The Rules and Orders of the Supreme Court of New South Wales for the District of Port Phillip (1841), Practice of the Criminal Law of the Colony of Victoria (1871), and Chronicle of Port Phillip now the Colony of Victoria from 1770 to 1840 (1876). He was well known and respected in Melbourne and was a member of the Melbourne Club from 1844 and president in 1870. He lived with his family in William Street, Melbourne, until 1854 and then moved to a house in Princes Street, St Kilda, with a view overlooking Hobson's Bay. Gurner Street, St Kilda, was named in his honour. During a brief recall as crown solicitor he died at the Melbourne Club on 17 April 1883 and was buried in the St Kilda cemetery; he left an estate worth £61,000. His wife Augusta Mary, daughter of Edward Curr, was a skilled horsewoman and travelled widely before she died aged 88 in 1917. Of their eight surviving children, Henry Edward and John Augustus were barristers and the latter became crown prosecutor in Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Gurner, Life's Panorama (Melb, 1930)
  • E. Scott, Historical Memoir of the Melbourne Club (Melb, 1936)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 Apr 1883
  • Australasian, 21 Apr, 12 May 1883.

Citation details

Carole Woods, 'Gurner, Henry Field (1819–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 12 August 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 4

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