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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Uther, Reuben (1791–1880)

by David S. Macmillan

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

Reuben Uther (1791-1880), merchant and manufacturer, was born on 27 March 1791 in England, the son of John William and Esther Uther of Southwark, London. John was a skin dresser and seal skin sorter. Reuben was indentured in London on 22 September 1806 to Simeon Lord, the emancipist merchant. He arrived in Sydney in the Sydney Cove in June 1807 and served Lord as clerk or manager until 1811, when he established a hat factory in partnership with Lord and Francis Williams. In 1815 he set up his own hat factory in Hunter Street, Sydney; in 1817 he moved it to Pitt Street.

In 1812 Governor Lachlan Macquarie had granted him 400 acres (162 ha), later known as the Mount Gilead estate, near the junction of Menangle Creek and the Nepean River which, Uther stated later, was 'a reward for successful enterprise in introducing domestic manufactures'. This land was later sold to Thomas Rose.

Like several other Sydney merchants Uther was keenly interested in agriculture. By March 1815 he had a contract to supply meat to the government stores, and Macquarie remarked on the improvements which Uther had made on his farm in the district of Appin. In February 1825 he sailed for England in the Mangles and applied to the Colonial Office for a further grant of land. He was given a letter instructing Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling to make this, but Darling refused to grant the 2560 acres (1036 ha) which the Land Board recommended, and this led to a further series of unsuccessful petitions by Uther to the Colonial Office.

On 21 November 1812 Uther had married Maria Hacking, by whom he had four daughters and two sons. Maria Uther was found drowned at Hobart in January 1829, and on 9 June he married Ann, eldest daughter of Lancelot Iredale (1785-1848), ironmonger, of Sydney; they had three sons and seven daughters. In October Uther was appointed a member of the missionary committee and in December was elected Worshipful Master of Australian Social Lodge No. 260. In 1833 he took over a retail business in George Street and in 1842-51 acted as agent and attorney for his father-in-law who imported and manufactured iron work. In 1846 he presented a petition to the mayor for a meeting to consider the earlier closing of 'drapery and other business establishments'.

From the 1830s Uther lived at Surry Hills. He died on 10 July 1880, aged 89, and was buried in the Waverley cemetery. His second wife died on 27 July 1894, aged 83. His estate, including the Imperial Arcade between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets, was valued at £250,000. He was typical of the early merchants in the range of his interests: agriculture, iron and hat manufactures and the general retail trade.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7, 19
  • petitions, correspondence and other land grant papers, 1838 (transcripts, privately held).

Additional Resources

Citation details

David S. Macmillan, 'Uther, Reuben (1791–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 2

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