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Thomas James Crouch (1805–1890)

by Peter Bolger

This article was published:

Thomas James Crouch (1805-1890), under-sheriff, was born on 22 October 1805 in London, the eldest son of James Crouch of Hertfordshire and his wife Sarah, née Marston, of Shropshire. His parents had moved to London before their marriage in 1804 at St George's, Hanover Square, and his father was, among other business projects, proprietor of public baths in Cannon Street. Thomas's education at various small city schools was interrupted by ill health and convalescence at Worthing and Barmouth, and he later became clerk to a barrister at Lincoln's Inn. He was friendly with Dudley Fereday, who was appointed sheriff of Van Diemen's Land. Crouch agreed to become his clerk and arrived at Hobart Town in the Phoenix in January 1825. He was a successful clerk in various commissariat offices, specializing in legal matters until he was appointed under-sheriff in 1836; he held the post until he retired on a pension in 1868.

On 20 February 1832 at St David's Cathedral Crouch married Sarah Rothwell, from Limehouse, London, whom he had met when she passed through Hobart as governess to the family of Rev. Joseph Orton. The Crouch family had been Anglican but in 1826 Thomas had become attached to the Wesleyan Methodists and was an active Sunday school teacher. Sarah was also a Wesleyan but their cottage became the lodgings of the missionaries James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, and she adopted Quaker manners and attended their meetings. Crouch helped to initiate the schools of the Hobart Wesleyan circuit and was a trustee of the Melville Street Church for fifty-eight years. With James Bonwick and G. W. Walker he organized the first local temperance society in 1833 and in 1843 signed the pledge. He was a prominent founder of the Tasmanian Temperance Alliance and chaired its 34th annual meeting on the evening of his death on 28 May 1890. He was also a founder of the Hobart Town Benevolent Society in 1860, a committee member for thirty years and its secretary for seventeen years. For many his greatest claim to fame was his part in the recognition and capture of Martin Cash in Hobart in 1843.

Crouch's wife, after seven years of paralysis, died on 16 January 1876 in her seventieth year. She remained loyal to the Society of Friends and was buried in their ground at Providence Valley. Sarah had shared in her husband's religious and temperance activities, organized a female petition for a Maine Liquor Law in the colony and another to forestall Sunday licensing, and served on the committees of the Maternal and Dorcas Society and of various societies such as the Van Diemen's Land Asylum for the Protection of Destitute and Unfortunate Females, which Walker had promoted in 1848. She was one of the Ladies Visiting Committee which each week inspected female paupers at New Town, Cascades and the Brickfields, and was reputed to have kept her own dispensary where she gave medicines to the needy. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the welfare of Hobart poor was her Servants' Home in High Street, which only closed in her final illness.

Crouch and his wife had at least eight children, most of whom died in childhood. One daughter, Mary, was married to Robert S. Caseley, Wesleyan minister in South Australia in 1863, and another, Ann, to Robert Shoobridge in 1871. The eldest son, Thomas James, became an architect, designing among other work the General Post Office in Melbourne; there he died on 4 December 1889.

The second son, George Stanton (b. 1 May 1834), was educated like his brother at Bonwick's and Hutchins Schools. They were active in Wesleyan Sabbath school and temperance work at St Kilda after failing at the diggings. George was a farmer at Kangaroo Valley, near Hobart, from 1854 until 1863 when he sailed with his wife for New Zealand. His job at Invercargill as clerk and book-keeper at the Southland News ended in 1870 when he became part-owner of both it and its rival, the Southland Times. In these years he advocated total abstinence and was a prominent Wesleyan. He returned to Hobart in 1871 and ran an auctioneer's salesroom until 1905. In 1883 he was elected alderman of the City of Hobart and served for twelve years, being mayor in 1892, but was prevented from becoming a justice of the peace by his Quaker-like refusal to take the oath. He gained ambivalent repute as the 'Teetotal Mayor' and startled Saturday night revellers by regular inspections of public houses, always with a police bodyguard.

He was associated with several commercial enterprises that were also partly philanthropic; chairman of the Tasmanian Mutual Trustees, Executors and Agency Co. Ltd, the Coffee Palace which became the Imperial Temperance Hotel, the Hobart Mutual Building Society and the Agricultural and Pastoral Society which in 1874 began annual show days at Elwick. He was senior circuit steward of the Wesleyan Church in 1871 and a deacon of the Memorial Congregational Church in 1886. In 1871 he joined the committee of the Hobart Town Benevolent Society, became its honorary secretary in 1882 and its treasurer for over twenty years. He represented Tasmania at early meetings of the Australasian Charity Organization Society in Melbourne in 1890 and 1892 and read papers written by himself and by Lady Teresa Hamilton, the wife of the governor of Tasmania.

Crouch published his reminiscences in the Hobart Critic in 1912 and died at his home on 11 June 1914. He had married the organist at the Wesley Centenary Chapel in 1861; she died in 1880, survived by a son and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Tasmanian Tribune, 18 Jan 1876
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5 Dec 1889, 31 May 1890, 12 June 1914
  • T. J. Crouch, Personal Biography, 1880 (microfilm, Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Peter Bolger, 'Crouch, Thomas James (1805–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 16 July 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]


22 October, 1805
London, Middlesex, England


28 May, 1890 (aged 84)
Tasmania, Australia

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