Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moor, Henry (1809–1877)

by Frank Strahan

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

Henry Moor (1809-1877), solicitor, was born at Greenwich, Kent, England, son of Henry Isaacs Moor and Elizabeth, née Remmington. After education at Rev. Charles P. Burney's school, Greenwich, he entered the legal profession. On 12 November 1831 he was admitted as an attorney, Court of Common Pleas, Lincoln's Inn. From 1832 to August 1841 he was in partnership in Furnival's Inn with John Simpson.

Moor arrived in Melbourne in February 1842, commenced business as a conveyancer, and was admitted as an attorney, solicitor and proctor in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in April 1843. Until November 1850 he was in partnership with Hugh John Chambers in a very successful practice. In December 1842 Moor was an unsuccessful candidate for the town clerkship of the corporation of Melbourne, but became a councillor for Bourke Ward in November 1843. From November 1844 to November 1845 he was Melbourne's second mayor, gaining wide popularity by stabilizing council finances, refusing his mayoral allowance, removing 'violent animosities' from the council and being a liberal chief magistrate. He was an alderman from November 1845 until April 1846, when he retired from the council. He was elected for Lonsdale Ward in November 1846 and had a second term as mayor to November 1847, in which time he was chairman of the provisional Committee for Anti-Transportation. He finally retired from the council in November 1849.

Moor was Port Phillip's most prominent lay Anglican, being the first registrar of the diocese of Melbourne from 13 February 1848 to 18 March 1854. In July 1849 he was elected by Geelong to the New South Wales Legislative Council. With the concurrence of Bishop Charles Perry he introduced two highly unpopular Anglican Church bills for the Port Phillip District; his church temporalities bill sought wider powers for wardens and increased state aid, and his church discipline bill sought civil enforcement of decisions of the church court. Local petitioners attacked the bills as attempts to establish the church by law before Port Phillip was separated from New South Wales and a Victorian legislature established. Faced by John Dunmore Lang's opposition in the Legislative Council in Sydney, Moor withdrew the bills in August 1850.

Moor had pastoral holdings in Victoria, and was attacked for favouring the squatting interests in the debates on the Port Phillip electoral bill. In October 1851 he was defeated as a candidate for Portland in the elections for the first Victorian Legislative Council. It was known at the time that he intended leaving for England. The reason given was his disappointment over a libel suit in March 1851 against Edward Wilson and James Stewart Johnston, the proprietors of the Argus, for calling him a 'double faced and unprincipled schemer'. He won the verdict but damages of only one farthing. However, he won substantial damages in March and August 1848 against William Kerr, editor of the Argus, who had lampooned Moor's activities as chief magistrate:

I'll frolic with the lasses
And feast my carnal sight
On the shameless work that passes
In a bawdy house at night.

In parochial Port Phillip Kerr and the Argus were seen as leaders of 'the Scotch Clique' and Moor as its main opponent with support from the Melbourne Morning Herald and Daily News.

Moor floated a Western Port Coal Co. in May 1850, his supporters including C. H. Ebden, J. B. Were, and G. Ward Cole. From March 1849 to March 1851 he was first chairman of the Victoria Fire and Marine Insurance Co. The Argus attacked Moor for these enterprises, for his 'intimate association with banking' and his friendships with Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe, Judge à Beckett, and Bishop Perry. Moor appears to have been a talented and astute lawyer and businessman, stout in appearance and purse, jovial in manner and generous, but one whose liberal conservatism was not far removed from a less than benevolent despotism.

He left for England in January 1852, came back to Melbourne in December 1853, and returned permanently to England in March 1854. He had built a large fortune and retired at Brighton. He was defeated as a Conservative candidate for Brighton in July 1860, elected in February 1864, defeated in July 1865, and again defeated, as a Liberal Conservative, in November 1868. His first wife, Mary, died in 1870. He married Marion Wynton in 1871 and they had one daughter. He died in May 1877 at Teddington. He is thought to be the author of A Visit to Russia in the Autumn of 1862 (London, 1863). A portrait hangs in the Diocesan Registry, Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • F. J. Corder, ‘A Letter Book of an Early Melbourne Solicitor: Mr. Henry Moor, 1842-1843’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 29, no 2, May 1959, pp 61- 69
  • Melbourne Town Council minutes (City Council archives, Melbourne).

Citation details

Frank Strahan, 'Moor, Henry (1809–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moor-henry-2473/text3319, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 August 2017.

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

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