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Lascelles, Thomas Allen (1783–1859)

by Margriet Roe

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

Thomas Allen Lascelles (1783-1859), public servant and settler, was born on 29 September 1783 at Salisbury Street, Strand, London, the son of Michael Lascelles and Martha, daughter of Thomas Allen. According to his own account, he came of farming stock and was brought up on the land. He joined the 73rd Regiment as an ensign in 1811, became a lieutenant in 1813, finally reaching the rank of brevet captain. He went first to New South Wales in 1811, then in 1813 to Van Diemen's Land where in April he was appointed private secretary to Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey.

As Davey's creature, Lascelles antagonized most other people by his arrogance and frequent complaints were lodged against him. Governor Lachlan Macquarie described him as 'generally very much disliked on account of his petulance, domineering manner, and assuming a degree of consequence quite incompatible with his subordinate station'. Like many other officials, Lascelles was anxious to profit from his office. In 1814 Davey assisted him by allowing him to help to seize some smuggled spirits and so to share in the spoil, which earned a reprimand from Macquarie. Later he managed to keep his assigned servants victualled by the government for more than the prescribed eighteen months, and from the stores 'borrowed' wheat which he bartered for rum.

When the 73rd Regiment left for India in June 1814 he remained behind; for allowing this Macquarie again reprimanded Davey severely. Lascelles resigned his commission in August but continued as Davey's secretary at 5s. a day until 16 November 1816. Lascelles then farmed a 1000-acre (405 ha) grant (later Frogmore) in the Pittwater district; in 1819 he received 800 acres (324 ha) in the district of Sussex. On 25 July 1820 he married Mary Ann, the widow of Denis McCarty, née Mary Winwright (Wainwright). At this time he controlled Millbrook, a farm on the Lachlan River, and later a farm near New Norfolk. This estate was sold in the late 1830s, whereupon Lascelles' stepson, Edwin Lascelles, claimed the proceeds as McCarty's heir. Edwin later moved to Geelong where he associated with Charles Dennys (Lascelles' nephew and eventual son-in-law) in founding the wool selling firm of Dennys Lascelles Ltd.

After holding no government position for a decade, in March 1827 Lascelles was appointed police magistrate for Richmond and a justice of the peace. From May he acted briefly as chief police magistrate, and was a member of the committee which that year investigated the robbery of the Treasury. He was relieved of office on 7 September 1829 for malpractices. In January he had appointed John Cooper to the police without the concurrence of his master. It was proved that Cooper had been taken from his master in the middle of harvest and then set to reaping Lascelles' crop. Although told to release Cooper immediately, Lascelles detained him until 26 March. Lascelles was never again a police magistrate, but must have been reappointed a justice of the peace almost immediately because his name appears in the almanacs until 1843.

In 1833-34 Lascelles was editor of the Colonist. He quarrelled with Thomas Mason, police magistrate at New Norfolk when, contrary to government regulations, he lent an assigned servant to a neighbour in return for wheat and meat. This incident and another relating to the flogging of a convict named Greenwood which Mason ordered, led to both parties bringing libel charges against one another. Mason eventually dropped his, prosecuting instead the author of an article, 'The Wretched Greenwood', which appeared whilst Lascelles was editor of the Colonist. Lascelles won one case, though the attorney-general claimed that the verdict was contrary to the evidence, but lost the second when the jury also expressed 'their full conviction that the charge of perjury imputed to the Plaintiff [Mason] was wholly groundless'.

Litigious, corrupt and anti-social, Lascelles was beset by real as well as imagined difficulties. In 1847 he was declared insolvent. Hoping to mend his fortunes, he moved to Port Phillip about 1850. Late in 1852 he was appointed serjeant-at-arms and registrar of records to the Legislative Council of Victoria; for about three months he was also a justice of the peace. His wife ran a school in Hobart Town until the mid-1850s when she joined Lascelles in Victoria. He died of cholera at Geelong on 11 February 1859.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 2-5
  • correspondence file under T. A. Lascelles (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Margriet Roe, 'Lascelles, Thomas Allen (1783–1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 28 October 2016.

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

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