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Seal, Charles (1801–1852)

by Patricia Foster

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

Charles Seal (1801-1852), merchant, pastoralist, shipowner and whaler, was born at Whissonsett, Norfolk, England, the second son of Richard Seal and his wife Sarah, née Pressley. He arrived in Van Diemen's Land in the Regalia in January 1823, bringing property worth £796 and received a grant of 600 acres (243 ha) on the Lower Clyde. He established himself as a merchant in Hobart Town in partnership with Edward Rand and took general cargo to Mauritius by way of the Swan River settlement in 1830. He visited England in 1826 and again in 1830, when, on 2 December at South Creake, Norfolk, he married Phillis, tenth child of Henry Goggs and Martha, née Buscall. In 1835 he became sub-tenant of his brother-in-law Matthew Goggs and rented Maria Island at £180 a year, establishing there two whaling stations and depasturing 2400 sheep. He was in England in 1839 when his lease expired and his agent bid for a five year lease at a total of £513, but the government claimed this was an annual rental. After protests extending over two years the matter was settled in Seal's favour.

In the 1830s he had a short partnership with Judah Solomon and a shop in Murray Street. He was on the Hobart committee of the Bank of Van Diemen's Land and a trustee of the Hobart Town Savings Bank. In 1846 he was elected a town commissioner. He was on the local committee of the London Agency for Van Diemen's Land and, from 1845 onwards, of the Regatta Association.

By 1850 he owned the biggest whaling fleet in the colony, with his shipping office at 20 Salamanca Place, Hobart. Among his ships were the Highlander, Sussex, Southern Cross, Cheviot, Litherland, Pacific, Dundee Merchant, Prince Leopold, Pride and Maria Orr. His Eamont, under Captain Lovitt, is thought to have made the first known contact between Australia and Japan; wrecked off Akkeshi on the island of Hokkaido in May 1850, the ship's crew was kept under guard through the winter and then transferred to Nagasaki where, after much questioning on the English and trade, they were taken in October to Batavia by a Dutch ship and thence to Adelaide. Seal's Prince Regent had been William IV's yacht, and his Aladdin had seen action as the Mutine in the battle of the Nile.

Seal died in Hobart at his residence, St Kilda House, 13 Macquarie Street, on 9 November 1852, well liked for his genial character and the honesty which characterized his business dealings. By his will he left property worth £33,000 to his family. He was survived by his wife and five of their ten children; a daughter Phillis married Charles, eldest son of George Carr Clark of Ellenthorpe, Ross.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Philp, Whaling Ways of Hobart Town (Hob, 1936)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 29 July 1826
  • Colonial Times (Hobart), 1 Jan 1830
  • Hobart Town Courier, 15 Mar 1851, 18 Nov 1852
  • CSO 1/187/4495, 8/31/321 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Patricia Foster, 'Seal, Charles (1801–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/seal-charles-2646/text3687, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 30 August 2014.

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

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