Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Squire, James (1755–1822)

by G. P. Walsh

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

James Squire (1755?-1822), brewer and farmer, arrived in the Charlotte in the First Fleet, having been convicted for highway robbery at Kingston, Surrey, England, on 11 April 1785 and sentenced to transportation for seven years. He was one of the earliest, if not the first, to brew beer in the colony and the first to cultivate the hop plant in Australia successfully.

At first Squire lived in Sydney where he brewed small amounts which he sold at 4d. a quart; he also brewed privately for Lieutenant-Governors Francis Grose and William Paterson from English malt. In July 1795 he was granted thirty acres (12 ha) at Kissing Point (Ryde), where he built his brewery and tavern which developed as a haven for river passengers between Sydney and Parramatta. Near his brewery he began his hop plantation; from a single vine produced in 1806 it grew to five acres (2 ha) producing 1500 lb. (680 kg) by 1812. Squire, 'the Whitbread of New South Wales', gave detailed written evidence on his brewing techniques and materials to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge in December 1820, by which time he had enlarged his brewery and had an output of forty hogsheads a week nearly all the year round. Peter Cunningham recorded the virtues of Squire's famous colonial solatium and mentioned an epitaph in Parramatta churchyard which, he claimed, the jocose brewer took pleasure in quoting: 'Ye who wish to lie here Drink Squire's beer!'

Because of the vagaries of the local grain market and the import trade Squire could not depend on one activity only for a livelihood; his brewery was an integral part of a large farming and grazing property and he was one of the largest regular suppliers of meat to the commissariat. By 1822 he had about 1000 acres (405 ha) at Kissing Point which included many of the original small grants in the area, acquired from impoverished or dissolute settlers.

Squire was industrious and community-spirited, a popular figure amongst the emancipist class. He was district constable for many years and acted as a banker for many of his poorer neighbours. He was a friend of the Aboriginals; Bennelong was buried on his farm. Squire died on 16 May 1822. According to the artist and fellow emancipist, Joseph Lycett, 'He was … universally respected and beloved for his amiable and useful qualities as a member of society, and more especially as the friend and protector of the lower class of settlers. Had he been less liberal, he might have died more wealthy; but his assistance always accompanied his advice to the poor and unfortunate, and his name will long be pronounced with veneration by the grateful objects of his liberality'.

After Squire's death the brewery was carried on by his son James until his death on 7 March 1826, aged 29. It was then closed but was reopened for a time in 1828 by Squire's son-in-law, Thomas Charles Farnell; after this time the celebrated half-way house to Parramatta receded in the memory of its once noisy and grateful patrons.

Squire had left a wife, Martha, two sons and a daughter in England. In the colony he had one son, James, and seven daughters by Elizabeth Mason, who died on 10 June 1809. Squire's youngest daughter, Mary Ann (b. 1 August 1804) married T. C. Farnell (1800-1834), a free settler, on 6 March 1824: the eldest child of this union, James Squire Farnell (1825-1888), was premier of New South Wales in 1877-78.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 10
  • J. Lycett, Views in Australia (Lond, 1824)
  • P. Cunningham, Two Years in New South Wales, vol 1 (Lond, 1828)
  • Sydney Gazette, 21 May 1812, 3 May 1817
  • Bigge Report, Bonwick transcripts (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Wentworth papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Squire, James (1755–1822)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/squire-james-2688/text3759, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 September 2014.

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

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