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Theodore Bryant Bartley (1803–1878)

by Yvonne A. Phillips and Constance E. Vickers

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Theodore Bryant Bartley (1803-1878), public servant and farmer, was born on 22 September 1803, son of Onesiphorus Windle Bartley, physician, and Elizabeth, née Bryant, of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England, and a grandson of William Bartley, distiller of Bristol. When his father died Theodore emigrated to Sydney, arriving in the Bencoolen in 1819, and was engaged by Governor Lachlan Macquarie as assistant secretary and tutor to his son Lachlan. He accompanied Macquarie to Van Diemen's Land in 1821 and was given 500 acres (202 ha) near Launceston. This was increased in 1828 for his service in pursuit of the bushrangers under Matthew Brady.

In May 1824 Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur appointed him under-sheriff at Launceston. On 10 May 1826 he married Hannah, the daughter of John and Jane Pickering of Biningham, Durham, England, who had been brought to Van Diemen's Land by her uncle, John Headlam of Egleston, near Campbell Town. Bartley spent eighteen months as a commissioner reorganizing the customs and naval office, was appointed controller of customs at the port of Launceston in 1830, and in 1832 was gazetted a justice of the peace. During his term of office the Launceston customs revenue rose from £4700 in 1829 to about £30,000 in 1836. He resigned in 1836 because the Colonial Office withheld the advancement he expected, but maintained his interest in the business world as a trustee of the Launceston Bank for Savings. He asked for further land grants in recognition of his services to the government, but the policy of granting land had been discontinued and these were refused. By 1870, however, he had acquired about 5000 acres (2024 ha) in northern Tasmania. A keen agriculturist and horticulturist, Bartley's estate at Kerry Lodge was one of the most systematically worked in the colony.

He was concerned with the passing of the Real Property Act in 1847, opposed the unnecessarily severe Scab Act of 1869, and was a founder of the Anti-Transportation League, in which cause he was a forceful speaker.

From 1867 to 1872 he was one of three commissioners appointed to safeguard the government interest in the building of the Launceston and Western Railway and to assess landowners' claims for compensation. In the arguments between the government and contractors over finance he favoured arbitration. With twenty-eight other northern magistrates he resigned his commission as a justice of the peace in 1874 during the northern Tasmanian opposition to the levying of a railway rate.

As an efficient member of Lieutenant-Governor Arthur's administration Bartley was highly esteemed by his chief and his colleagues for his integrity in public and private business, though, as an over-strict disciplinarian, he too frequently interfered in the affairs of other departments by uncharitably reporting their employees for alleged disrespectful conduct towards himself. In 1876 a purse of 600 sovereigns and an illuminated address signed by many principal landholders were presented to Bartley expressing the appreciation of a grateful community. He was an active member of the Church of England and was responsible for the addition of the chancel of Hagley church in memory of Sir Richard Dry. He died on 20 November 1878, survived by his wife and nine of their fifteen children.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Macquarie, Journals of His Tours in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land 1810-1822 (Syd, 1956)
  • W. A. Townsley, ‘The Launceston and Western Railway Company: How the Railway Age Came to Tasmania’, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 3, no 1, Mar 1954, pp 4-12
  • Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 24 Apr 1847
  • Examiner (Launceston), 23 Feb 1888
  • CSO 1 & 5 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas), 22 November 1878, p 2
  • inquest, Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas), 23 November 1878, p 7

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Citation details

Yvonne A. Phillips and Constance E. Vickers, 'Bartley, Theodore Bryant (1803–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 July 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]


22 September, 1803
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England


20 November, 1878 (aged 75)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


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