Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Craven (1845–1899)

by K. H. Kennedy

This article was published:

Richard Craven (1845-1899), mining entrepreneur, was born on 1 June 1845 at Preston, Lancashire, England, son of Thomas Craven, joiner, and his wife Ann, née Townson. Trained as a millwright with Colin, Mather and Platt, textile manufacturers at Salford, Craven migrated at the age of 20 and settled at Maryborough in Queensland. In 1866 he began prospecting at Crocodile Creek, and during the next three decades worked on nearly every major goldfield in Queensland. He arrived at Gympie three weeks after its discovery in 1867, and staked a profitable claim at White's Gully. Over the next four years, he prospected at Ridley's Rush, Cape River, the Gilbert, Peak Downs, Normanby, Broughton, and on the alluvial field at Mount Leyshon where he met Mosman, Clarke and Fraser only days before they discovered Charters Towers.

By March 1872 Craven had moved there and pegged the Mexican, and subsequently took up the No.2 St Patrick and the St Patrick block, which yielded £250,000 worth of gold. Having established the Enterprise crushing mill, he rapidly acquired other claims, including the No.2 Queen and Kelly's Queen block after the holders departed for the Palmer rush. Charters Towers' fortunes fluctuated until Craven discovered the Brilliant lodes. He supposed that the Day Dawn and Queen lines of reef intersected, and after leasing twenty-five acres (10 ha) and raising £12,000 to prove his theory spent three years sinking a shaft to 700 feet (213 m) with no result. Many derided his efforts until in 1889 a small drive some 200 feet (61 m) underground yielded the field's richest ore body. Craven announced his success to the world at a champagne celebration. His theory was actually erroneous as the Brilliant proved to be an extension of the Day Dawn line.

The fortunes of both Craven and Charters Towers were secured. The Brilliant Gold Mining Co. Ltd, of which he was chairman and major shareholder, and the Brilliant and St George United Gold Mining Co. Ltd, which he also controlled, thereafter invested heavily in many claims. His name soon carried unusual weight among Sydney and London mining investors, and his investments widened to include a sawmill, a cyanide works and a joinery. He founded and endowed the local hospital and sponsored the Charters Towers Jockey Club. In 1891, he moved to Waverley, Sydney, with his wife Kate, née Cummins, whom he had married with Presbyterian forms in Sydney on 30 June 1875, and their six sons and four daughters. He became a director of Burns, Philp & Co., and one of Australia's best-known horse-racing identities.

Despite substantial investments Craven's famous stud at Clarendon produced few winners, the most notable being Woodlark which finished third in both the Australian Jockey Club Metropolitan Stakes and Victoria Racing Club Derby in 1898. He died at his home, Preston, on 17 January 1899 of cirrhosis of the liver and was buried in Waverley cemetery with Roman Catholic rites. Craven's dogged persistence with his 'junction' theory and his enterprising investments in Charters Towers not only crowned his personal success, but more importantly gave impetus to gold-mining in North Queensland by restoring the town's fortunes. His estate was sworn for probate in Queensland at £62,933 and £54,838 in New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine History of Queensland, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • L. W. Marsland, The Charters Towers Gold Mines (Lond, 1892)
  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • R. L. Jack, Northmost Australia, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1921)
  • Northern Mining Register, Christmas no, 1891
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Jan 1899.

Citation details

K. H. Kennedy, 'Craven, Richard (1845–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 June, 1845
Preston, Lancashire, England


17 January, 1899 (aged 53)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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