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Stephen Adey (c. 1781–1860)

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Stephen Adey (1781?-1860), manager and banker, arrived in Hobart Town with his wife in the Cape Packet in March 1826. His wife had made no secret that she loathed the ship and on landing he was involved in several lawsuits against the unprincipled captain who had fired several shots at passengers and crew. Adey had been engaged by the Van Diemen's Land Co. as superintendent of stock and farms, and was left in Hobart to carry on negotiations while Edward Curr went with his surveyors to the north coast. Adey bought a whale-boat, hired the schooner Nelson, and sailed north in the chartered Ellen in May. Delayed by contrary winds and the unseaworthy Ellen, he put into Port Sorell but failed to rendezvous with Curr who had returned to Hobart and left his surveyors to explore the heavily timbered country on a diet of shell-fish and parrots. In the whale-boat Adey followed the coast westwards, examining the country at each river mouth, but found no suitable site for settlement until he reached Circular Head. When Curr arrived in the Nelson, Adey returned to Hobart to find his wife living in appalling conditions, but she refused to leave the town and he was obliged to stay, although he had been appointed a justice of the peace with authority limited to the company's settlement. He soon found a comfortable home in Macquarie Street. His unhappy wife or her sister, Mary Leman Rede Grimstone, wrote a satirical sketch of Hobart's high society, which appeared as a 'Letter from a Lady' in the London Morning Chronicle, 24 September 1827. Reprinted in the Colonial Advocate, May 1828, it caused much disturbance in Hobart among the 'voracious' merchants and dull officials who 'turned every entertainment into a ceremony'.

In 1827 Adey was granted 2000 acres (809 ha) in the Western River district, although he continued to work hard for the company. Next year he also became resident director and cashier of the new Derwent Bank. The bank flourished and funds flowed in freely from England, especially after an 1830 Act declared that English usury laws were not in force in Van Diemen's Land. By 1831 Adey held 40 shares out of a total of 200 in the bank. By 1836 management of the bank passed to Charles Swanston. In 1837 Adey tendered for sale his Derwent ferries, the Governor Arthur (£1200) and Surprize (£200) and sailed for England with his wife and infant daughter in the Auriga. In London he acted as agent for the Derwent Bank. In 1857 he was reputed to have revisited Hobart. He died in London on 9 October 1860, aged 79, leaving his estate of £25,000 to be divided between his eight children.

Select Bibliography

  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 1 (Lond, 1941)
  • S. J. Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System 1788-1851 (Melb, 1953)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 9 Feb 1858
  • S. Franks, Land Exploration in Tasmania, 1824-1842 (M.A. thesis, University of Tasmania, 1959)
  • Van Diemen's Land Co, papers (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

'Adey, Stephen (c. 1781–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


c. 1781


9 October, 1860 (aged ~ 79)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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