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Shenton, Arthur (1816–1871)

by O. K. Battye

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Arthur Shenton (1816-1871), printer and journalist, was born on 11 October 1816 at Winchester, Hampshire, England, second son of Edward Shenton and his wife Charlotte. In 1843 he sailed in the Trusty from Falmouth and arrived at Leschenault (Bunbury), Western Australia, on 22 May 1844. He settled in Perth and in December 1846 bought into the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. On 1 January 1848 he became editor-owner and, to emphasize his independence, renamed the newspaper the Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News. He also bought new printing plant to avoid reliance on the press owned by the government, which had been used by the former owner; but he was government printer in 1848-57. An excellent craftsman he was not a facile or willing writer and relied heavily on contributors. In 1864 he took over a year-old contemporary, the West Australian Times, and enlarged his publication under the title Perth Gazette and West Australian Times. He became prominent in 1865 in a renewed campaign for representative government, using his editorial column to attack his opponents.

In 1870 Shenton took up the cause of a young solicitor, S. H. Parker, in a quarrel with Chief Justice Burt; together with Edmund and John Stirling of the Inquirer, he was found guilty of having published a 'gross and scandalous libel' on the Supreme Court, and was fined £100 and sentenced to two months: the Stirlings were sentenced to thirty days. The case was highly contentious and Shenton received much public support. The three journalists published abject apologies, said to have been drafted by Burt, and were soon released, but the punishment had worsened Shenton's already-failing health and he died, intestate, of apoplexy on 16 March 1871. An obituary in his own newspaper said, 'his friends have at least the consolation of knowing that he died at his post, and that almost his last act was in defence of the proper privileges of the Press, and the right to criticize the acts of public men'. The £100 fine, for which the court had badgered him, was remitted only after his death.

Shenton had married Mercy Heal, of York, on 9 November 1848; they had two children.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • J. T. Reilly, Reminiscences of Fifty Years' Residence in Western Australia (Perth, 1903)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • J. S. Battye, Western Australia (Oxford, 1924)
  • Inquirer (Perth), 22 Mar 1871
  • Perth Gazette, Mar 1871
  • Quarterly Bulletin (W.A. Newspapers Ltd), Aug 1963.

Citation details

O. K. Battye, 'Shenton, Arthur (1816–1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/shenton-arthur-4570/text7501, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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