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Edward William Andrews (1812–1877)

by Walter Phillips

This article was published:

Edward Andrews, by Townsend Duryea, c1880

Edward Andrews, by Townsend Duryea, c1880

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 10774

Edward William Andrews (1812-1877), newspaper proprietor and editor, was born on 17 May 1812 at Romford, Essex, England, the first child of Dr Edward Andrews and his wife Elizabeth Honor, née Symons. The Andrews family claimed a connexion with Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), but his father and his grandfather were Congregational ministers, and his maternal grandfather, William Symons, was a wealthy Dissenting merchant. His father attended Rowland Hill's Surrey Chapel before taking charge of the Independent Chapel at Romford; a strict Calvinist, his eloquent preaching so impressed his father-in-law and another wealthy merchant that in 1819 they provided him with Beresford Chapel and a manse at Walworth. There Dr Andrews also tutored the sons of wealthy merchants in the classics; among them was John Ruskin, whose family worshipped at Beresford Chapel and who was introduced to the pre-Raphaelites by Dr Andrews's daughter, the first wife of the artist, Coventry Patmore, who had immortalized her as 'The Angel in the House'.  

After education by his father, Edward William chose law for his profession, entered his uncle's law office in London, left after a disagreement and turned to commerce. He became a partner of William Gorton in London and migrated to South Australia with a young wife and infant daughter in the Anna Robertson. He arrived in September 1839 and set up the firm as general merchants. In December he helped to promote the South Australian Insurance Joint Stock Co. and in 1841 was a director of the short-lived Marine Fire and Life Insurance Co. The Statistical Society chose him with others in April 1841 to collect information on the financial prospects of the colony, but in December 1842 he became insolvent in the financial depression. Discharged in 1845 he continued as a merchant until 1850.

Andrews then joined the staff of the South Australian but in May 1852 moved to the South Australian Register. He was reputed to be the smartest long-hand reporter in the colony. In May 1853 with Joseph Fisher, Anthony Forster, William Kyffin Thomas and others he bought the Register from John Taylor, and followed Forster as editor in November 1864. He worked with passionate dedication and was known as the 'resident editor', for he had a bedroom and bathroom over the office where his coachman delivered him each Monday morning and on Saturday took him to his home, St Margaret's, Glenelg. In January 1869 he began the Evening Journal which continued until 1923.

Although in Adelaide Andrews worshipped in the Church of England he remained a staunch defender of religious freedom and civil liberty. At Beresford Chapel his father had followed a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer and 'generally agreed' with the doctrines of the Church of England, according to the Evangelical school, though not with the state connexion. Thus it was but a small transition for Andrews to combine Anglicanism with voluntaryism. In April 1841 he sat on the committee of the Society for the Preservation of Religious Freedom with Thomas Stow and other Dissenters. Though he opposed the state endowment of the colonial chaplaincy he had the chaplain, Charles Howard, baptize his children. When Lieutenant-Governor Frederick Robe introduced state aid to religion in 1846 Andrews joined the revived League for the Preservation of Religious Freedom. The Register had supported the league and among the new proprietors in 1853 Forster had also been on its council, so the newspaper was dubbed 'the rump of the Religious Freedom League'.

In November 1867 Andrews printed an uncontroversial summary of the evidence of the Legislative Council's select committee on the police force; the minutes had been printed but not officially published and the chairman, John Baker, determined to bring Andrews and Kyffin Thomas to the bar of the council for breach of privilege. Andrews maintained that Baker was taking revenge for the Register's earlier criticisms of him. In the council on 16 December Andrews, showing scant respect for Baker and the proceedings, refused to disclose how he came by his information and was excused from further questions. In his leader on 17 December he rejoiced in the vindication of the freedom of the press and the liberty of the individual after 'the Privilege Farce', and rebuked John Barrow, who was also on the select committee, for preferring the dignity of the parliament to the freedom of the press.

Andrews was stern and dignified in appearance and had strong features. He was quiet and cultivated in manner, but fearless in controversy. Widely interested in community affairs, he sat on Adelaide's first Municipal Council in 1840, became a justice of the peace in 1864 and as mayor of Glenelg in 1867 was the first to welcome the Duke of Edinburgh, whose ship arrived at Glenelg a day before it was expected. For some time Andrews was a governor of the Botanic Gardens, and always interested in the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society; in 1858 he founded its Farm and Garden, assuming complete responsibility for editing and publishing it; in 1860 he was president of the society and then a vice-president until 1877. He was also a member of the Chamber of Manufactures, prominent in the Society of Oddfellows and active in Freemasonry where he held high offices until, on taking over the Register, his connexions with it virtually ceased.

Andrews died of liver disease at Port Elliot, South Australia, on 23 February 1877, leaving an estate worth £20,000. On 23 February 1836 at St Peter's Church, Walworth, he had married Emily Annette, daughter of Lieutenant Benjamin John Bray, R.N. Their first child died soon after their arrival in South Australia; their two sons and another daughter were born in 1840-43. His wife died on 30 July 1853, and in 1861 he married Margaret Elizabeth Hunter, who was related to John Paul Jones, 'founder' of the American navy; they had no children.

A window and other memorials to him are in St Peter's Church, Glenelg, and a window is in St Jude's Church, Port Elliot.

Select Bibliography

  • E. T. Cook, The Life of John Ruskin, vol 1 (Lond, 1912)
  • D. Leon, Ruskin, the Great Victorian (Lond, 1949)
  • Select Committee on the Police Force, Votes and Proceedings (South Australia), 1867 (120)
  • Register (Adelaide), 24 Feb 1877
  • W. J. Sowden, Our Pioneer Press … A History (State Records of South Australia)
  • C. Davies, newsclippings, vol 18 (State Records of South Australia)
  • E. W. Andrews, Memoranda Relevant to My Birth and Parentage (privately held).

Citation details

Walter Phillips, 'Andrews, Edward William (1812–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Edward Andrews, by Townsend Duryea, c1880

Edward Andrews, by Townsend Duryea, c1880

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 10774

Life Summary [details]


17 May, 1812
Romford, Essex, England


23 February, 1877 (aged 64)
Port Elliot, South Australia, Australia

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