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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kennerley, Alfred (1811–1897)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Alfred Kennerley (1811-1897), premier and philanthropist, was born in Islington, London. In the Vibilia he arrived at Sydney in October 1831 by way of Hobart Town. With ample means he applied in December for land at Rooty Hill and in 1832 was assigned some male convict labour. By 1837 he had bought the Retreat, a large farm at Bringelly, and 4000 acres (1619 ha) on the Cudgegong River in County Wellington and property in Parramatta. On 18 February 1834 at Windsor he had married Jane, daughter of Richard Rouse. When his father died Kennerley leased his land and sold his livestock, planning to return to England. He sailed with his wife for London in March 1842 and returned to Sydney in January 1845. He resumed farming at Bringelly, became a magistrate and, in trust for his wife, acquired from Rouse more property in Parramatta. Kennerley was not robust and found the climate very trying. In 1853 he returned to England with his wife.

In June 1857 the Kennerleys arrived at Hobart in the Gloucester and named their new home Rouseville. He became a magistrate in 1858, joined the city council and was elected alderman in 1861 and mayor in 1862-63 and in 1871-72. He had been elected to the Legislative Council in 1865 and on 4 August 1873 to 20 July 1876 was premier without office. With Thomas Chapman, Frederick Innes, William Giblin, William Moore, (Sir) Philip Fysh and George Gilmore in his ministry, he was an active supporter of liberal legislation, advocating such bills as marriage to a deceased wife's sister, maintenance of deserted wives, children and indigent persons, public charity (1873), infants' custody and life assurance companies (1874), destitute children and juvenile offenders (1875) and building societies (1876). He also initiated a policy of extending public works but party strife hindered progress and he resigned from the Legislative Council in 1877.

Kennerley had served on the committee of the Benevolent Society in the 1860s and the board of the Public Library and the Education Department. In 1869 he was treasurer and a founder of the Boys' Home and Industrial School, which first admitted 30 boys and within six years had trained over 70 juveniles. In the 1870s he was on the committee of the General Hospital Board, a director of the Brickfields Invalid Depot and a commissioner for Charitable Institutions. A dedicated Anglican he had long given a large annual sum towards the incumbent's stipend; he became churchwarden of All Saints parish in 1876 and donated a new Sunday school building and many subscriptions towards improving the edifice.

His wife died on 4 May 1877 and soon afterwards Kennerley had a paralytic stroke. He recovered but was unable to continue his public activities. He died at his home in Elboden Place, Hobart, on 15 November 1897 in his 88th year. His estate included many shares in the Union Bank, government securities and much landed property in New South Wales and Tasmania. He left generous legacies to relations and friends in England, his church, his servants and many benevolent societies. His will was challenged by distant relations without success.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1875 (64)
  • Weekly News (Hobart), 20 Feb 1869
  • Mercury (Hobart), 16 Nov 1897
  • Australasian, 4 June 1898
  • Governor's dispatches, 1832-33 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • correspondence file on Kennerley (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

'Kennerley, Alfred (1811–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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