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Kingston, Sir George Strickland (1807–1880)

by Jean Prest

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

George Strickland Kingston (1807-1880), by unknown artist

George Strickland Kingston (1807-1880), by unknown artist

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5030

Sir George Strickland Kingston (1807-1880), engineer and politician, was born in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, the son of George Kingston. After some training as an architect and civil engineer he migrated to England. He was employed in Birmingham in 1832. He took an active part in promoting the South Australian Act in 1834 and helped to lobby successfully for its passage through the House of Commons.

Kingston was appointed deputy surveyor general to the new colony and sailed with most of the surveying party in the Cygnet in March 1836. Because he detoured to Rio de Janeiro for cuddy supplies the Cygnet did not arrive at Nepean Bay until 11 September 1836, nearly a month after Colonel William Light, who was therefore left short-handed at a critical time. However it was Kingston with John Morphett and Lieutenant Field who discovered the River Torrens, and the surveys of the city site were largely carried out under his supervision. At the ballot of town acres he selected several on behalf of Rowland Hill and for himself.

Kingston's ability as a surveyor was frequently questioned and it was he who was spared to return to England in August 1837 to ask for reinforcements for the Survey Department. The colonization commissioners sent him back next June with orders unpalatable to Light, who resigned with all his staff. Kingston proceeded with the country surveys almost single-handed but, soon after Governor George Gawler's arrival in October 1838, he resigned. He established himself as a civil engineer, architect and surveyor, and in 1840 the Adelaide Municipal Council briefly engaged him as town surveyor. He was later engaged as inspector of public works and, buildings. Among his works still standing are the south-eastern corner of Government House (1839), the original section of the Adelaide Jail (1840), and the residence of Cummins at Camden Park (1841). He also designed the first monument to Colonel Light in Light Square (1843).

Kingston was prominent in forming the South Australian Mining Association to keep the mineral wealth of the colony from overseas speculators. With Edward Stephens, he investigated copper finds at Burra in 1845, and then played a leading role in the 'snobs' party to defeat the 'nobs' for the mine. An original shareholder, he was appointed surveyor and architect of the mining association and with William Jacob carried out the Burra special survey of 20,000 acres (8094 ha). In April 1848 he was elected a director, deputy-chairman in October 1856 and chairman from 1857 until his death. In its first five years the 'monster mine' paid fifteen dividends each of 200 per cent.

In politics Kingston was a republican and a fiery supporter of civil and religious liberty. Elected for Burra and pledged by his constituents to radical reform, he entered the Legislative Council in 1851 and played a prominent part in winning for the colony a democratic Constitution with two elective chambers. In the first parliament under responsible government he was elected first Speaker in the House of Assembly. In 1857-62 he represented Burra and Clare, and Stanley in 1863-80. With one break in 1860-65 he was Speaker until 1880, holding the office competently, although unable to share the quarrels and factions which he earlier enjoyed.

Kingston was interested in the first volunteer movement and was once captain of the East Adelaide Rifles. He was also a member of the South Australian Lodge of Friendship and of the Statistical Society, keeping a valuable register of Adelaide's rainfall in 1839-79. He was knighted in 1870.

Kingston married three times: first in 1829 to Harriet (Henrietta) Ann Stuart (1807-1839), daughter of Captain Felix McDonough; second, in 1841 to Ludovina Catherina da Silva, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cameron; they had three daughters and three sons, the youngest of whom was Charles Cameron; and third in 1856 to Emma Mary Ann Catherine Berry, widowed daughter of Captain Lipson, first harbourmaster of South Australia. She also predeceased her husband. Kingston died at sea on 26 November 1880 on a voyage to India for his health. His funeral service was held at Trinity Church, Adelaide, where he had been a regular member.

The Public Library of South Australia and the South Australian Archives possess lithographic copies of a cadastral map of Adelaide, produced in London in 1842 after a plan made by Kingston in 1840-41, and registers of a rain gauge kept in Grote Street by Kingston 1839-60, and at West Terrace 1839-50. Parliament House, Adelaide, possesses a portrait of its first Speaker by A. MacCormac and the South Australian Archives has Samuel Thomas Gill's cartoons 'Heads of the People' including G. S. Kingston, and a portrait by Somes.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Pike, Paradise of Dissent (Melb, 1957)
  • Register (Adelaide), 30 Aug 1869
  • Finniss papers (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Jean Prest, 'Kingston, Sir George Strickland (1807–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kingston-sir-george-strickland-2311/text2995, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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