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Strangways, Henry Bull Templar (1832–1920)

by Dean Jaensch

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

Henry Bull Templar Strangways (1832-1920), by unknown photographer

Henry Bull Templar Strangways (1832-1920), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11138

Henry Bull Templar Strangways (1832-1920), lawyer and politician, was born in Shapwick, Somerset, England, eldest son of Henry Bull Strangways, military officer. As a boy he visited an uncle Thomas Bewes Strangways in South Australia. Back in England he studied law, entered the Middle Temple on 14 November 1851 and was called to the Bar on 6 June 1856. He returned to Adelaide in early 1857, practised as a solicitor and was admitted to the South Australian Bar on 8 August 1861. On 10 January he had married Maria Cordelia, daughter of Henry Wigley, stipendiary magistrate.

In March 1857 Strangways had failed to win a seat in the first elective Legislative Council. Elected to the House of Assembly for Encounter Bay in 1858, he held the seat until 1862 and was member for West Torrens in 1862-71. His first move towards office in 1859 had received a cool reception and he 'declined the call' to form a cabinet, but was a member of seven ministries in 1860-70: he was attorney-general in 1860-61, minister for crown lands and immigration in 1861-65 and premier and attorney-general in 1868-70, when much of his legislation was defeated. In February 1870 he obtained a dissolution; the elections brought sweeping changes and on 30 May his reconstructed ministry was overwhelmed.

Strangways had achieved one notable legislative success. From 1857, when the parliament had been granted control of crown lands, many attempts were made to obtain satisfactory land legislation. Strangways introduced a bill for the Act which now bears his name, and after much conflict with pastoralists in 1868, he carried it in January 1869. The legislation provided for the creation of agricultural areas and credit purchases of up to 640 acres (259 ha) , with a down payment of 25 per cent and four years to pay. The South Australian Register acclaimed him as 'St. George of Land Reformers'. He was also prominent in initiating railways in South Australia and the overland telegraph. He supported exploration and development. Mayor of Glenelg in 1862-66, he also continued to practise his profession.

In February 1871 Strangways returned to England on private business, formally resigning from parliament in July. On his departure the Register noted his arbitrary handling of the parliament. He was remembered by colleagues and the press for his 'powers of administration' and devotion to the 'work of legislation'. Criticized for his 'hostility to individuals and to the government of the day', he was praised as a 'progressive politician, a clear thinker and a man of fine judgement'.

Living in London and on the family estate in Somerset, Strangways became a justice of the peace. He appeared before the judicial committee of the Privy Council, and from 1875 until his death was a resident fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute. On 8 June 1875 he read a paper to the institute, 'Forty Years Since, and Now'; published in the Proceedings, it reviewed the progress of Britain's colonial empire from 1835. In 1877-87 he was a member of the council of the institute. He was also a member of the Windham Club. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died of senile decay on 10 February 1920 and was buried in the churchyard of the family chapel at Shapwick. His estate in South Australia was sworn for probate at £3527 and in England at £22,713.

His portrait is held by the Glenelg City Council; the town of Strangways, Lake Strangways and Strangways River are named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Foster, Men-at-the-Bar (Lond, 1885)
  • E. Hodder, The History of South Australia (Lond, 1893)
  • J. J. Pascoe (ed), History of Adelaide and Vicinity (Adel, 1901)
  • K. R. Bowes, Land Settlement in South Australia 1857-1890 (Adel, 1968)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 1871, 5: Royal Colonial Institute, Yearbook, 1912
  • Register (Adelaide), 28 Feb 1871
  • Observer (Adelaide), 19 Feb 1907
  • Times (Adelaide), 14 Feb 1920.

Citation details

Dean Jaensch, 'Strangways, Henry Bull Templar (1832–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strangways-henry-bull-templar-4652/text7683, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 26 November 2014.

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

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