Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Broughton (1768–1821)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

William Broughton (1768-1821), public servant and settler, was baptized in November 1768 at Chatham, Kent, England. He came to New South Wales in the First Fleet as a servant to Surgeon John White. He was appointed store-keeper at Parramatta on 20 February 1789 and was granted small plots of land in 1793 and again in 1795. In December 1800 he replaced William Chapman as store-keeper and acting deputy commissary at Norfolk Island. In April 1804 Captain Wilson ordered Broughton to be court-martialled, but Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Foveaux could find no grounds for his suspension; he recommended that the charges be dropped and Broughton be reinstated. Next year Broughton was discharged on the reduction of the Norfolk Island establishment, and on 1 November replaced Chapman as deputy-commissary of stores in New South Wales at 5s. a day.

In November 1809 Robert Fitz, whom the rebels had made commissary in place of John Palmer on the deposition of Governor William Bligh, was suspended for malversation; Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson appointed Broughton as acting commissary in his place. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived he restored Palmer to his post, but in March 1810 when Palmer returned to England for the court martial of Colonel George Johnston, Broughton was made acting commissary again. Macquarie warmly praised Broughton for his diligence and honesty during his three years control of the commissariat, though he had been harassed by the debts which Fitz had contracted, and which Palmer had neglected and made difficult to collect by taking the books to England. Macquarie urged that Broughton's appointment be made permanent, but the British government decided on a new establishment under David Allan. Broughton was made deputy assistant commissary general in June 1813, but on Macquarie's further strong recommendation in 1814 he was promoted acting assistant commissary general at a salary of £365.

In May 1815 Broughton, who had been a magistrate since November 1809, clashed with Jeffery Bent when with Alexander Riley he wished to allow, temporarily, ex-convict attorneys to appear as agents before the newly established Supreme Court. Bent did not forget this dispute and in June 1816 had Broughton arrested for contempt when he refused to return a servant who had been legally transferred from Mrs Ellis Bent's employ to Broughton's. Bent's action was held to be illegal and in refusing him bail Bent was said to have behaved in an ungentlemanly way.

Broughton was soon in trouble again when in July 1816 Macquarie sent him to relieve Patrick Hogan at Hobart Town and correct abuses in the commissariat there. He quickly did so, so it was not surprising that Edward Lord, who had been trading profitably with the store, charged him with malversation. An inquiry into Broughton's conduct in July 1817 found grounds for a general court martial, but when Macquarie ordered the witnesses to Sydney, they refused to come, and Judge-Advocate (Sir) John Wylde found Lord's charges frivolous and false. In March 1818 Broughton was ordered to resume his duties at Sydney. Macquarie recommended that he should succeed Allan, but again the British government passed him over and appointed Frederick Drennan. Broughton strongly disapproved the promissory notes which Allan and Drennan issued, and which Macquarie stopped in 1815, and again in 1820 when Broughton advised that they led to fraud and negligence. Broughton upheld the system of store receipts which he had found very satisfactory in 1810-13 and which Commissioner John Thomas Bigge later approved. Partly because of these commissariat quarrels Broughton was charged with 'scandalous and derogatory' conduct to Mrs Allan at a ball. Found guilty at first, he was later acquitted because the Mutiny Act under which he had been tried was not then applicable to commissariat officers in New South Wales.

Broughton had been granted 1000 acres (405 ha) near Appin in 1811, gave valuable evidence to Bigge on the employment of convict labour, was a large shareholder and had briefly been a director of the Bank of New South Wales, and supporter of the Benevolent Society. Between 1792 and 1807 he had five children by Elizabeth Heathorn (alias Ann Glossop), who had arrived in the Pitt in February 1792 after being sentenced at Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, to transportation for seven years. She sailed for England in October 1809 in the Boyd but perished in the massacre in New Zealand of all on board except four, of whom her daughter Betsey was one. This child was brought back to New South Wales, where all the others grew up as did the five born from Broughton's marriage on 4 December 1810 to Elizabeth Charlotte, a daughter of James R. Kennedy, of Nettlestead, Kent, and widow of Captain Roger Simpson of Parramatta. Broughton died on 22 July 1821 and was buried at St Luke's, Liverpool. Elizabeth remained at their farm, Lachlan Vale, Appin, and died on 20 December 1843.

Among a motley crowd of dissolute officials Broughton stands out as a loyal, trustworthy public servant, who, as Macquarie reported, performed 'faithful, honest, useful and ardous Service' for thirty years; but because he had no powerful patron in London, he was consistently passed over in favour of less competent men.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 2, 4, 6, 7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 1-5, 7-10, J. T. Bigge, Report … on the State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of NSW, Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons, Great Britain), 1823 (136)
  • mansucript catalogue under William Broughton (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Broughton, William (1768–1821)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 14 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

William Broughton, n.d.

William Broughton, n.d.

State Library of New South Wales, 011596

Life Summary [details]


Chatham, Kent, England


22 July, 1821 (aged ~ 53)
Appin, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Organisations