Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Burbury (1809–1870)

by G. Rudé

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Thomas Burbury (1809?-1870), landowner, was born in England, the son of William Burbury, formerly quartermaster in the 4th (Queens Own) dragoons. In March 1832 Burbury, a cottage-industry weaver, was sentenced to death at the Warwick Assizes for having taken part, in the previous November, in burning down Beck's steam factory at Coventry, where the weavers had been threatened with unemployment through the installation of new machinery. It was one of the last recorded examples of industrial 'Luddism' in England. On the intercession of Edward Ellice, M.P. for Coventry, the sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Burbury arrived in Hobart Town in the York on 29 December 1832. His gaol and hulk reports gave him a good character and 'respectable connexions', and the surgeon-superintendent's report described his conduct on the voyage as 'excellent'. His wife Mary and an infant daughter followed him to Hobart in the Gulnare, which arrived in February 1833.

In March 1834 he was assigned for service as a constable at Oatlands, and four years later was promoted district constable. Commended for his share in capturing sheep-stealers and tracking down bushrangers, he was granted a ticket-of-leave in December 1837 and a free pardon on 30 October 1839, also receiving local testimonials to his character, and pecuniary rewards.

Soon after arrival he had started acquiring land in his wife's name, first in the township of Oatlands where he built a dwelling house and the offices for his butchery. He first rented and later owned extensive lands at Tooms Lake, Little Swanport, Tin Pot Marsh and the Race Course Marsh near Oatlands on which he ran his herds. In 1842 he was the clerk of the Oatlands Race Course, became district poundkeeper in 1853, and was elected to the municipal council in its first elections at Oatlands in January 1862. He died at Oatlands on 30 July 1870.

For thirty-eight years Burbury had taken part in every public movement in the district and was a member of every public body, commanding general esteem and confidence. He left four sons and a daughter. His youngest son, Arthur James, a lawyer, married Elizabeth Isabel, granddaughter of Richard Lewis. His other children married well and their descendants continued to fill respected roles in Tasmanian society.  They included Sir Stanley Charles Burbury (1909-1995), Chief Justice of Tasmania, and the state’s first Australian-born governor (1973-82).

Select Bibliography

  • J. Prest, The Industrial Revolution in Coventry (Lond, 1960)
  • correspondence file under Burbury (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

G. Rudé, 'Burbury, Thomas (1809–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 20 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]




30 July, 1870 (aged ~ 61)
Oatlands, Tasmania, 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.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: insurrection
Sentence: death
Commuted To: life
Court: Warwickshire
Trial Date: March 1832


Occupation: weaver
Married: Yes
Children: Yes (1)