Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Foord Bromley (1776–1836)

by P. R. Eldershaw

This article was published:

Edward Foord Bromley (1776-1836), naval surgeon and civil servant, served as a surgeon in nine warships between 1794 and 1805. Later he transferred to convict ships and first arrived in Australia as a surgeon in the Calcutta. He made another visit in March 1816; in December 1817 he brought 180 convicts to Sydney in the Almorah. On these latter visits he sought a colonial appointment, and on Lachlan Macquarie's recommendation Earl Bathurst nominated him for the situation of surgeon at Port Dalrymple; but this did not become vacant and in November 1818 the secretary of state appointed him Naval Officer at Hobart Town, with a salary of 5 per cent of the duties collected, and to make up for his disappointment hoped 'that his situation as Naval Officer should be rendered as comfortable as circumstances will permit of', with a residence and a large town allotment. He left England in May 1819 as surgeon in the convict ship Lord Wellington and arrived in Sydney next January. He went on to Hobart in February and took up office in March, being also treasurer of the Police Fund at a salary of £60.

Deciding 'to brave the opinion of the world' to do 'an act of common justice to a careful deserving young woman', Bromley took his housekeeper, Sarah Greenow, as his second wife on 23 November 1820. He also became a magistrate and a foundation shareholder in the bank of Van Diemen's Land; but he is remembered chiefly for a spectacular misappropriation of colonial funds, discovered in 1824. Though Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell entirely approved his administration and many friends supported him after his suspension, the evidence at the inquiry revealed a well-nigh incredible laxness and inefficiency. The degree of his personal guilt was never established and it seems likely that his convict clerk, Bartholomew Broughton, participated in the embezzlement; but when (Sir) George Arthur suspended Bromley the deficiency in the Naval Office and Treasury amounted to £5822. Later discoveries brought it to £8388. In the Supreme Court trial of the case brought against him by the Crown, in April 1825, the verdict was for £7096. Arthur queried the difference: it arose from a mistake Bromley had made against himself!

Several times in the next three years Bromley sought leave to return to England to plead his case and to find money for a growing family, but while there was a chance of further recovery from his estate Arthur refused permission; by March 1826, after almost everything he possessed had been seized and sold, he still owed £4200.

In 1829 Bromley did return to England on a bond, leaving his wife and three small children at Montford, one of his former properties at Hamilton. Sarah kept up a stream of pleas to Arthur's government for relief. Arthur, though sorely tried, refused to give in to her lamentations, even when she applied to have her children taken into the Orphan School. In 1831 all her assigned servants were removed because of the irregularity of her household. Meanwhile Bromley had again found employment in the navy; in 1829 he was appointed to the Donegal, fitted as a guard ship at Sheerness. In 1833 and 1834 he made two more voyages as surgeon-superintendent in convict transports. From the second voyage he went on to Tasmania in 1835 but soon returned to England where he was admitted to the Marine Infirmary, Woolwich, suffering from epilepsy. He died on 29 June 1836.

He had been paying off his debt to the Crown in annual instalments of £100, but in 1834 he still owed £3504. Two years later the British government, obviously moved by some influence on Bromley's behalf, inquired whether certain colonial property had not appreciated so much that, if it were now put up for sale, it would easily pay the debt. Arthur's auditor ironically calculated that, allowing for an improvement in the value of the land of £6776 and not counting £6000 worth of normal interest, the debt could be said to be liquidated. As a result, in February 1837 the lords of the Treasury felt 'justified in directing that Dr Bromley may be relieved from any further demand'. Nevertheless he left a pathetic legatee, his daughter, for whom a friend in 1841 sought admission into the New Norfolk Asylum: she was a destitute epileptic who had become too great a burden on her friends.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-10, series 3, vols 3-4
  • correspondence file under Bromley (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

P. R. Eldershaw, 'Bromley, Edward Foord (1776–1836)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 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]


31 July, 1776
Rochester, Kent, England


29 June, 1836 (aged 59)
London, Middlesex, England

Cause of Death

epileptic fit

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