Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Philip Deane (1796–1849)

by Ann K. Wentzel

This article was published:

John Philip Deane (1796-1849), musician, was born on 1 January 1796 in London. He claimed to have been a member and performer in the Philharmonic Society established in London in 1813, but when he arrived at Hobart Town on 19 June 1822 he did not at once give any public evidence of his musical training. The value of the musical instruments and merchandise he imported earned him 900 acres (364 ha) of land at Kempton which he let without improving. He established a commercial business, became proprietor of a hotel and an auctioneer, while his wife managed a circulating library.

Although little musical life was established on the island, Deane advertised in 1825 that he would receive pupils for pianoforte and violin. He was also appointed organist of St David's Church of England, where he played on the first organ imported to Australia. From this time he gradually became more immersed in musical activities. In September 1826 he organized Van Diemen's Land's first public concert and others followed at irregular intervals. In 1833 he held musical soirées in conjunction with art exhibitions at rooms in Elizabeth Street, and next year gave concerts in an assembly room with specially designed acoustic qualities. In 1834 he also gave the first concert of sacred music in Australia and opened a small theatre in Argyle Street. However, his business ventures were not successful. In 1835 his creditors forced the sale of his property, including the piano he presented to his talented 15-year-old daughter from the proceeds of charity concerts, and he was thrown into debtors' prison.

He had done much to establish music in Hobart when, in 1836, he took his family to Sydney, anticipating enough patronage to make a living by music alone. There he taught violin, pianoforte, violoncello, flute, guitar and singing, took part in many concerts as pianist or violinist, gave lectures, and played the violin in the Theatre Royal orchestra. He is reputed to have introduced Australia to chamber music, although lack of public appreciation limited him to a few performances of a Beethoven quartet in 1836, and later, a Haydn quintet, a modified version of Haydn's 'Surprise' symphony and his own trio for two violins and violoncello, the music of which has not been found.

In January 1844 the Deanes returned to Hobart for six months to give a series of family concerts. Of their seven children, Rosalie was a good pianist, John became well known in Sydney as a violinist and conductor, Edward played the violin and Charles Muzio the violoncello. Deane died on 18 December 1849, survived by his widow Rosalie, née Smith. His son Edward carried on his father's teaching and concert activities.

Deane's professional devotion was notable at a time when reliable musicians were a rarity in Sydney and Hobart. He was one of the most cultured musicians living in Australia during the first part of the nineteenth century.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Arundel Orchard, Music in Australia (Melb, 1952)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 1 July 1825
  • True Colonist (Hobart), 25 Sept 1835
  • Hobart Town Courier, 18 Mar 1836, 26 Jan 1844
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec 1849
  • CSO 1/153/3703 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • W. H. and E. M. Deane collection (University of Sydney Library).

Citation details

Ann K. Wentzel, 'Deane, John Philip (1796–1849)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 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]


1 January, 1796
London, Middlesex, England


18 December, 1849 (aged 53)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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