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John Richard Buckland (1819–1874)

by E. M. Dollery

This article was published:

John Richard Buckland (1819-1874), headmaster, was born on 3 August 1819, the eldest son of John Buckland (1785-1859), officiating minister at St Mary's, Hampton, Middlesex, and his wife Frances, née Arnold; he was a nephew of William Buckland, dean of Westminster and geologist, and a cousin of Francis Trevelyn Buckland, naturalist. He was educated at his father's preparatory school at Laleham, Middlesex, and at Rugby, where his uncle Thomas Arnold became headmaster in 1828. At 17 Buckland won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford (M.A., 1840). On 12 May 1842 at St Mary Newington he married Catherine, daughter of William Latham, builder.

Soon afterwards Buckland decided to migrate to New Zealand with his wife. In February 1843 his ship called at Hobart Town. There he visited an old school friend, Rev. John Gell, at whose request he agreed to stay and accepted the post of second master at the Queen's School. When it was closed in 1844 by order of Lieutenant-Governor Eardley-Wilmot, Buckland opened a private school in Fitzroy Place and at Bishop Francis Nixon's request studied for holy orders. Made deacon in St David's Cathedral on 14 February 1845 he was appointed to the parish of Richmond where he also took a few pupils. He was ordained priest on 5 March 1846.

In June Buckland was chosen by Nixon to become the first headmaster of the newly-founded Hutchins School. It opened on his twenty-seventh birthday and he reigned over it for twenty-eight years, winning distinction as one of the great headmasters of his day in Australia. The two characteristics for which he made the Hutchins School specially notable were its discipline and the thoroughness of its teaching. He allowed none of his masters to use the cane and in 1855 when a parent brought a civil action against him for caning a boy the jury found for the defendant without leaving the box.

Although closely connected with every move for the advancement of education, Buckland had to conserve his strength and in 1863 resigned from the Council of Education. In 1864 the parishioners of St John's, Hobart, presented him with a testimonial for his long years of voluntary service. His health continued to decline and in 1874 past and present students subscribed a purse of sovereigns to give him a well-deserved holiday. He visited friends in Victoria and New South Wales, but soon after his return died suddenly of heart failure on 13 October. He was privately buried in the Queenborough cemetery which, after long disuse, became the site on which the Hutchins School was rebuilt in 1965.

Buckland was an ardent exponent of the Arnold doctrine of the production of 'Christian gentlemen' as the prime objective of a church school. Many prominent citizens owed their success to his careful training. In a fine tribute one old boy, Mr Justice Sir William Dobson, said: 'In Mr. Buckland we have lost a teacher, a master, a scholar and a gentleman', and an obituarist declared: 'The vast benefits which his untiring and masterly efforts in the course of education have diffused throughout the Colony, will render his loss the more deplorable'. His memory is perpetuated by a stained glass window in St John's Church, Hobart, and in the Buckland prizes for Latin, founded by his daughter Katherine at the Hutchins School, where one of the houses is also named for him.

Of his three sons and four daughters, the eldest son, John Vansittart Buckland, was born in Hobart on 3 July 1850 and educated at his father's school. He obtained the degree of Associate of Arts in Tasmania, became assistant classical master at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and while there attended the University of Melbourne (B.A., 1875). He returned to Hobart intending to enter the legal profession and was articled to the firm of Butler McIntyre & Butler. On the death of his father he decided to give up law when offered the position of headmaster. As it was necessary for the headmaster to be in holy orders, he studied for the Church and was ordained on 21 September 1876. He served the school with distinction for eighteen years, during which time his mother, and later his sister, Katherine, acted as matron. His mother died in 1891; next year he resigned and went to England where he served in various parishes until he died on 21 September 1932. He had married Agnes Lucy Kavanagh on 6 September 1894 at Taunton, Somerset.

His younger brother, William Harvey Buckland, was born on 27 March 1858 in Hobart. After completing his education at the Hutchins School he won first place in the examination for Associate of Arts in 1874 and a scholarship which took him to Oxford (B.A., 1880). He returned to Hobart to teach under his brother. Frederic George Howell, who had married their sister Martha on 3 October 1874, was also a member of the staff. Thus for its first fifty years the Hutchins School was controlled and managed by the Buckland family. William founded the school Cadet Corps in 1885, members of which later served in the Boer war and won two Victoria Crosses. After his brother retired William left the Hutchins School and opened a preparatory school of his own which he ran successfully for many years. He died in Hobart on 31 January 1929. His sister, Katherine, accompanied her brother to England in 1892, and until 1930 was matron of one of the houses at Eton. The eldest sister, Fanny, married Arthur P. Blake, a solicitor of Melbourne, and died in London on 15 July 1933.

Select Bibliography

  • B. W. Rait, The Official History of the Hutchins School (Hob, 1935)
  • Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review, 17 Feb 1843
  • Hobart Town Courier, 22 Feb 1845
  • 7 Mar 1846
  • Tasmanian Daily News, 18 Dec 1855
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5, 14 Oct 1874
  • Church News (Hobart), Nov 1874
  • GO 33/47/258 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

E. M. Dollery, 'Buckland, John Richard (1819–1874)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 28 May 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

Life Summary [details]


3 August, 1819


13 October, 1874 (aged 55)
Tasmania, Australia

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