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Sutton, Samuel John (1836–1906)

by Gwenda M. Webb

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Samuel John Sutton (1836-1906), businessman and politician, was born on 19 April 1836 in Hobart Town, eldest of fourteen children of free immigrants Samuel Sutton, writer, and his wife Sarah, née Fielder. Samuel senior had reached Van Diemen's Land in the Charles Eaton in June 1834 and Sarah in the Strathfieldsay in August that year. By 1843 the family had moved to Launceston, where Samuel John was educated and where his father worked as a clerk and later a butcher.

About 1862 young Sutton set up as a baker and confectioner in Wellington Street, moving in 1873 to Brisbane Street. On 4 March 1862 he married Annie York with Independent rites at the bride's residence, Launceston. She died in March 1876. On 9 August that year at Talina, Glenore, Westbury, he married with Wesleyan Methodist forms Jane Ann French, a farmer's daughter, who died in June 1877. His third marriage, with Congregational forms, was to Emma Eliza Farmilo on 4 March 1880 at the Memorial Church, Hobart; they had seven children.

In 1880-81, aware of the growing demand for quality facilities for accommodation and entertainment, Samuel built to high standards the Launceston (Metropole) Coffee Palace at 75 Brisbane Street. The success of this temperance hotel brought him prominence. He was a member (sometime president) of the Chamber of Commerce and an alderman of Launceston Municipal Council from 1885 to 1905 (mayor, 1890-92 and 1898). Sutton contested North Launceston in July 1886, represented South Launceston in the House of Assembly from May 1891, failed to win Launceston in January 1897 and March 1900, but was elected for that seat in October 1901. In April 1903 he failed to win East Launceston.

More progressive in outlook than many fellow aldermen, Sutton was the driving force behind the erection in Launceston of the Albert Hall, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and the Victoria Baths. He supported the electrification of the city, slum clearance and improvement of the drainage and water schemes. A highlight of his civic career was the successful organization of the Tasmanian International Exhibition in 1891-92 at Launceston; he was chairman of the commissioners. Appointed a justice of the peace in 1892, Sutton was chairman of Launceston Benevolent Society, member of the Prisoners' Aid and Rescue Society and treasurer of the London dock labourers' fund (1889). He was closely connected with the Tamar Street Congregational Church and superintendent of its Sunday School.

A big, hard-working man, who made the most of his opportunities, with an active and practical interest in his religion, Sutton enjoyed life and was generous and hospitable. He was a total abstainer from alcohol—though he enjoyed a pipe—and he believed that he should provide the public with wholesome entertainment and recreational activities in lieu of drinking. In 1900 he sold his Coffee Palace, but continued his philanthropic and civil work from Fairlawn, his Elphin Road villa, where he died of heart disease on 7 September 1906; his wife, two sons and three daughters survived him. Sutton was buried in Launceston general cemetery, but was later re-interred in Carr Villa cemetery. His coffee palace was demolished in 1976.

Select Bibliography

  • Daily Telegraph (Launceston), 20 Aug 1881, p 3, 8 Sept 1906, p 3
  • Examiner (Launceston), 26 Nov 1891, p 3, 8 Sept 1906, p 7
  • Launceston City Council archives (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston).

Citation details

Gwenda M. Webb, 'Sutton, Samuel John (1836–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sutton-samuel-john-13210/text23919, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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