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Henslowe, Francis Hartwell (1811–1878)

by G. T. Stilwell

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

Francis Hartwell Henslowe (1811-1878), civil servant and composer, was born at Fulham, London, the sixth son and youngest child of Edward Prentis Henslowe (1772-1857), paymaster-captain of the 15th Hussars, and Cecilia Maria (1767-1859), only child of François Hippolyte Barthélémon (1741-1808), the celebrated violinist and composer. His paternal grandfather, Sir John Henslow (1730-1815), was chief surveyor of the navy and John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861), the famous botanist, was a first cousin. Henslowe was educated at Shrewsbury and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was admitted a sizar on 5 February 1829 and matriculated at Easter next year. He did not proceed to a degree, but went to the British embassy at Turin where he served until 1833.

On 20 September 1836 he married Anne Rocke (1810-1859), eldest surviving daughter of Robert Allwood of Harding Hall, Jamaica, judge of the Supreme Court of that island. They lived for some time at Budleigh Salterton but in 1839 emigrated to join her brother, Rev. Robert Allwood, in Sydney.

Henslowe arrived at Hobart Town on 4 January 1841 and a month later was appointed private secretary to Sir John Franklin in succession to Ronald Gunn. He soon won the confidence and friendship of the Government House circle and in March 1842 became acting clerk of the Legislative Council, but in March 1843 resumed his former duties when Adam Turnbull was restored. Franklin held a very high opinion of Henslowe's ability and several times recommended him to the Colonial Office for advancement. It was this patronage which fanned the enmity of the lieutenant governor's opponents who blamed Henslowe for securing the dismissal of John Montagu. In November 1843 when Henslowe succeeded H. B. Torlesse as police magistrate at Campbell Town the appointment was criticized by the radical newspapers. However, he performed his work there to the entire satisfaction of his superiors. George Boyes alone held a poor opinion of his capabilities. In 1849 Henslowe applied unsuccessfully for the colonial secretaryship at Port Phillip.

In March 1851 Sir William Denison appointed him clerk of the Legislative Council and in September to a seat on the Caveat Board. In October 1852 he became chairman of the commission for examining titles to land; he held this post until 1858. With the introduction of responsible government, Henslowe was appointed first clerk of the House of Assembly, which position he occupied until his retirement in 1864 on a pension of £230. On 8 September the House passed a motion recording its appreciation of Henslowe's work. After leaving Tasmania Henslowe went to India, where his sons already had preceded him, and held an important post with an irrigation company.

Henslowe was a popular figure in the social life of the colony and used his inherited musical talent to compose a number of dances and light musical pieces. An incomplete list of these appears in C. Craig, The Engravers of Van Diemen's Land (Hobart, 1961). In addition he wrote some religious melodies under the title of the Songs of Zion which achieved a local reputation. During his twenty-three years residence Henslowe was associated first with the Tasmanian Society of which he was secretary in 1841-42 and later with the Royal Society. He and his eldest son, Francis Boyle (1837-1910), were both foundation members of the Tasmanian Club.

He died at Lee, Kent, on 10 May 1878, leaving two sons and two daughters; three other children died in infancy. A brother, Commander Frederic John Francis Henslowe R.N. (1799?-1890), a knight of Windsor, was a well-known figure in Hobart during his last thirty years.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Henslowe (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. T. Stilwell, 'Henslowe, Francis Hartwell (1811–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/henslowe-francis-hartwell-2178/text2799, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 28 July 2016.

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

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