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Andrew Crawford (1815–1899)

by G. T. Stilwell

This article was published:

Andrew Crawford (1815-1899), army officer and immigration promoter, was born on 23 January 1815 at Devonport, Plymouth, England, the third son of Andrew Crawford, naval officer, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Linzee Penfold. At 18 he joined the East India Co. as an ensign and for thirty-eight years in India served in various regiments through many campaigns. He was one of ten officers, among them John Nicholson, later the famous hero of Delhi, incarcerated at Ghazni in Afghanistan from April to August 1842. It is to Crawford's 'Narrative' published in the Bombay Courier that history owes its knowledge of the events of the internment.

In the mid-1840s Crawford and his wife came to Van Diemen's Land to spend leave with her relations. He bought land at Richmond and returned to India. Like many others he was disappointed with conditions in the new Indian army and, always an indefatigable pamphleteer, expressed his dissatisfaction in his Remarks on the Indian Army which was privately printed in London in 1857. On 31 December 1861 he retired with the honorary rank of lieutenant-colonel; his last position had been assistant adjutant general of the northern division, Bombay army. After almost two years in England he emigrated to Tasmania with his family in 1864. Once again he was impressed by the potentialities of the colony as a desirable place for Anglo-Indian settlement and immediately began to write his Letter to the Officers of H.M. Indian Services, Civil and Military which was published in Hobart Town on 23 October 1865 and by 1874 in a third edition. In this book he set out his proposals for an association with a hundred shareholders to take up land which he had chosen and named Castra near Ulverstone. Each was to have 320 acres (130 ha) at £2 an acre, double the government price, which after incidental expenses had been met would leave £24,000 to build a church, parsonage, schools and roads. The original scheme came to naught but the reception of the Letter was considerable. The Madras Times claimed that 'nothing has created such a sensation amongst the Indian services as the appearance of Colonel Crawford's now widely circulated and much read Tasmanian pamphlet'. In October 1867 the Tasmanian parliament passed An Act to amend the Immigration Act of 1855, and An Act to enable the Governor to Reserve Land for Settlement by Persons coming from India. The latter, to remain in force for three years but later extended, set aside 50,000 acres (20,234 ha) for Indian settlers. A committee known as Castra & Co. was set up in the Bombay Presidency and by 1876 Crawford had chosen for himself and other Anglo-Indians 9700 acres (3925 ha) at Castra. He calculated the aggregate income of the officers would bring to the colony over £10,000 a year. Few actually settled at Castra though some did clear their land. Of the forty-one who bought land, twenty were living in Tasmania in 1880. The colony and the north-west in particular was greatly enriched by these people who had more leisure, taste and money than most to devote to community affairs. Three entered the Tasmanian parliament and Crawford held the seat of West Devon in 1876-77.

In April 1866 the Crawford family moved from Richmond to Mayfield, New Town, and in 1870 to Hamilton-on-Forth. In 1873 his sons began developing Deyrah, the colonel's farm at Castra; there the Crawfords made their home in 1878. One by one the other settlers left until by 1890 only they remained. At Deyrah, described by the Tasmanian Mail, 12 April 1884, as 'a bijou of elegance and comfort', Crawford spent his last years; a park surrounded the house and the habits of Indian days were retained. He was president of the Devon Agricultural Society, a promoter of the local volunteers and a lay reader in the Church of England. His obituarist in the North West Post, 9 February 1899, called him 'the very type model of an English gentleman and soldier'. In all the controversies that had surrounded his name in the Indian and colonial press his integrity was seldom questioned. In addition to his Letter he published many pamphlets on the developments at Castra.

Crawford died at Deyrah on 7 February 1899. His military funeral, at St Andrew's Church, Sprent, which he had helped to build and loved so well, was a most impressive affair. On 3 October 1840 at Cawnpore he had married Matilda Frederica (1824-1916), third daughter of Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Samuel George Carter of the 16th Regiment; they had a large family. Their only memorial is an elaborately carved stone font in St Andrew's, Sprent, which was presented by him to mark their golden wedding in 1890.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under A. Crawford (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. T. Stilwell, 'Crawford, Andrew (1815–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 18 April 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

Andrew Crawford (1815-1899), by J. W. Beattie

Andrew Crawford (1815-1899), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125880633

Life Summary [details]


23 January, 1815
Plymouth, Devon, England


7 February, 1899 (aged 84)
Ulverstone, Tasmania, Australia

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