Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Suttor, George (1774–1859)

by Vivienne Parsons

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

George Suttor (1774-1859), by unknown photographer

George Suttor (1774-1859), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 18042

George Suttor (1774-1859), settler, was born on 11 June 1774 at Chelsea, then on the outskirts of London, the third son of a Scottish market gardener and his wife, née Thomas. He went to school in Milman's Row, Chelsea, and then to Leith's Academy in Paradise Row until he was about 14, when he began work in his father's garden. His first ambition was to be an actor, but after reading accounts of the voyages of Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks, he became interested in settling in New South Wales. Possessed of a wild and romantic imagination, Suttor dreamed of converting the wilderness into a fruitful garden and building a new life with his childhood sweetheart Sarah Maria Dobinson. He also seems to have felt that there was little opportunity in England for a younger son.

Through the auspices of George Aufrère, for whom Suttor's father had originally worked, he gained an interview with Banks in February 1798. Banks warned him of the difficulties of settling in New South Wales without capital, but arranged for him to take charge of a collection of plants being sent to the colony as a replacement for those lost in the Guardian, in return for a free passage for himself and his wife and the usual land grant and indulgences given to settlers. In August Suttor began preparing the plants for shipment in the Porpoise. He married Sarah Dobinson on 2 August at the Church of All Saints, London Wall; their families helped to fit them out for the voyage and Banks presented them with £30. On the way to Portsmouth the Porpoise was nearly wrecked off Margate, and when the ship sailed in September she was disabled in a gale in the Bay of Biscay and again had to put back to port. A Spanish corvette was commissioned to take her place and renamed the Porpoise; in her the Suttors finally left England on 17 March 1800, arriving in Sydney in November. Many of the plants failed to survive the voyage but some were replaced at the Cape. Banks commended Suttor for his care and, on his recommendation, Suttor received a five guinea reward from the Treasury.

Suttor went first to Parramatta, where his family lived while he selected his grant, 186 acres (75 ha) at Baulkham Hills, which he received in March 1802. He was disappointed in his prospects in the colony and wrote to Banks asking for a civil appointment. For many years the family struggled, held back by lack of capital and high prices although Suttor did have a limited success with his orangery, grown from trees presented to him by Colonel William Paterson. Before Governor Philip Gidley King left he promised Suttor another 200 acres (81 ha), but he did not receive it, and a grant promised by Governor Bligh was forestalled by the rebellion. Suttor was a firm supporter of Bligh and a leader among the settlers. In May 1808 he was instrumental in drawing up an address of welcome to Paterson, anticipating his arrival in Sydney and asking him to take action against the rebels; but as Paterson did not come it was not presented. In November Suttor drew up another petition to be sent to the Colonial Office and with Martin Mason was chosen for a mission to London to explain the abuses in the colony and ask for the reinstatement of Bligh. In the meantime, however, Suttor was imprisoned for six months for failing to attend Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Foveaux's general muster and for impugning his authority.

In 1810 Bligh took Suttor with him in the Hindostan as a witness against the rebel leader, Colonel George Johnston. While in England Suttor approached Banks for help but, impatient at Banks's delay, he wrote to the Colonial Office himself. His appeal was rejected and he returned to the colony in the Mary in May 1812. He found his family well, but he had incurred considerable debts and again appealed to Banks. When Samuel Marsden began to undertake his missionary voyages to New Zealand he recommended that Suttor replace him as superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum at Castle Hill. Suttor was appointed in August 1814 at a salary of £50, with quarters and rations for his family and the use of the government land there. Suttor quarrelled with Parmeter, the surgeon in charge of the asylum, about the extent of their respective authorities, and in December 1818 charged him with neglect of the patients. Suttor's and Parmeter's depositions were heard before Hannibal Macarthur, who concluded that both men had neglected their duty. One of the main charges against Suttor was that he had used the lunatics to labour on his farm at Baulkham Hills, and as a result of this inquiry in February 1819 he was dismissed.

He returned to his farm, but in 1820 he sought an additional grant, since his stock were dying and his land was cut by the roads to Windsor and Castle Hill. The caterpillar plague ravaged his farm and he began to think of settling beyond the Blue Mountains. Knowing that Governor Lachlan Macquarie was not likely to grant him anything more than the 100 acres (40 ha) he had received at Eastern Creek, he waited until Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane arrived and then applied for a grazing licence at Bathurst. He selected land on the Bathurst plains and applied for a grant in 1822, having taken his stock across with the help of his sons. The station was granted to someone else, but Suttor selected another, eventually establishing Brucedale at the junction of Winburndale and Clear Creeks, and there the family found the prosperity they had sought so long.

In 1825 Suttor was a member of the notorious Parramatta Grand Jury which, led by Hannibal Macarthur, criticized Henry Grattan Douglass. After 1833 Suttor lived in Elizabeth Street, Sydney. In March 1839 he and his wife left for Europe in the Laura and toured the Continent, where Suttor obtained information on vineyards and wine-making. In 1843 he published in London The Culture of the Grape-Vine, and the Orange, in Australia and New Zealand, and during his stay there was elected a member of the Linnean Society. After his wife died at Rouen on 17 August 1844, Suttor embarked in the Thomas Lowry for Sydney. He arrived in November 1845 and in 1851 acquired Alloway Bank, Bathurst. In 1855 he published at Parramatta Memoirs Historical and Scientific of the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Banks (reprinted, Sydney, 1948). On 5 May 1859 he died at Alloway Bank and was buried at Kelso, near Bathurst. He had five sons and three daughters, of whom William Henry was a pioneer squatter and member of the Legislative Council. His grandsons, William Henry Suttor and Sir Francis Suttor, later became members of the Legislative Assembly.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 4-7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 15
  • G. S. Oakes, Kelso Church and the Pioneers of the West (Syd, 1923)
  • H. V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion, 1st ed (Syd, 1938)
  • C. H. Bertie, ‘The Suttors’, Home (Sydney), Mar 1930
  • manuscript catalogue under George Suttor (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Suttor, George (1774–1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/suttor-george-1270/text3813, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 25 October 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

George Suttor (1774-1859), by unknown photographer

George Suttor (1774-1859), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 18042