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James Cox (1790–1866)

by June C. Warrillow-Williams

This article was published:

James Cox, n.d.

James Cox, n.d.

James Cox (1790-1866), landowner, was born on 1 November 1790 at Devizes, Wiltshire, England, the second son of Captain William Cox, later of Clarendon, Hawkesbury, New South Wales. Educated at King Edward's Grammar School, Salisbury, he went to sea to fit himself for colonial life, before joining his parents in New South Wales in 1806. He helped his mother to manage their estates of Clarendon and Fernhill during his father's three years absence in England. On 12 June 1812 he married Mary Connel at St John's Church, Parramatta.

In 1814 Cox moved to Van Diemen's Land, where he received a grant of 700 acres (283 ha), and successfully petitioned for another 6000 acres (2428 ha) at Morven. This he named Clarendon, after his father's home, and took up residence in 1816. Next year, mainly through fear of bushrangers and Aboriginals, he moved to Launceston and became a wholesale merchant, also contracting with the government commissariat to supply meat to the settlements at Launceston and George Town. At the end of the year he was made a magistrate, and in 1820 reported on the establishments at Port Dalrymple to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge. In the 1820s he resided again at Clarendon, where he later built a large stone mansion which cost between £20,000 and £40,000. By this time his industry and intelligence had made him one of the wealthiest men in the island. In 1826 he was prominent in the founding of the Cornwall Collegiate Institute for which the government granted fifty acres (20 ha) at Norfolk Plains. In 1828 he helped to found the Cornwall Bank.

Cox became a prominent pastoralist. He acquired Fernhill, Strathmore, Wimborne and Whisloka near Ben Lomond. He formed the village of Lymington, named it after Lymington in Hampshire, and endowed St Peter's Church there. He introduced fallow deer and set up a deer park at Clarendon. In 1829 for eighty guineas he bought a Spanish ram, the only one to reach Hobart Town from a number shipped from England; he never regretted his bargain, as the ram, Newton, was long to be seen among the Clarendon flock and immensely improved the quality of the merino fleece. He also imported a fine Hereford bull with whose stock he gained many prizes at agricultural shows. In conjunction with James Lord of Quorn Hall, Campbell Town, he imported the Arab horse Hadji Baba, a great asset to horse breeders. Hunting was his favourite sport. In 1829-34 and 1851-54 he was a member of the Legislative Council. He died at Marion Villa, Low Head, his seaside home, on 16 March 1866 and was buried in the family grave at St Andrew's Church of England, Evandale.

His first wife, Mary, had died at Clarendon in July 1828; seven of her eight children survived childhood. On 1 May 1829 he married Eliza Eddington, aged 19, daughter of Lieutenant-Governor David Collins. There were seven daughters and one son of this marriage. Eliza died on 25 August 1869, and Clarendon was inherited by his grandson James, son of John Cox. A portrait is in possession of J. B. Cox, Mininera, Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • Narrative of William Cox of Clarendon, New South Wales (privately held)
  • correspondence files under Cox and Clarendon (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

June C. Warrillow-Williams, 'Cox, James (1790–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 May 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

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