Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Florance (1783–1867)

by E. R. Pretyman

This article was published:

Thomas Florance (1783?-1867), surveyor, was born probably in Chichester, England. He worked in Upper Canada as a surveyor and engineer in 1803-16 and served in the Royal Engineers in the American war. Ill health caused him to return to England with the intention of seeking employment in a milder climate than the Canadian. He arrived in Sydney in the Duke of Wellington in November 1817 and sought from Governor Lachlan Macquarie a position as surveyor and applied for a grant of land. He was later allotted 110 acres (45 ha) at Clarence Plains, Van Diemen's Land. He reached Hobart Town on 16 May 1818 and in June, with G. W. Barnard, another free settler, applied for permission to erect a water saw-mill at Port Davey or Macquarie Harbour. After submitting their scheme to Macquarie, Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell refused the application, but on 24 October instructed Florance to make a survey of the west coast. Well qualified to do this, he sailed a week later in the Sophia, James Kelly, taking with him six experienced men, a government boat, other necessary equipment and gifts for Aboriginals. He was told to verify latitudes and longitudes, take bearings, measure distances and to report on varieties and stands of timber and the suitability of country for grazing. He was also advised to name principal points around the two harbours and the River Gordon for the purpose of identification. Although he submitted maps and reports on his return on 29 December, the place names he gave are not now known. In 1819 he was appointed a member of the Lieutenant-Governor's Court at Hobart. In August he was given the sole right for a limited period to ply a scow capable of carrying animals and vehicles from Hobart to Kangaroo Point. In March 1820, at Commissioner John Thomas Bigge's request, he gave him particulars of the west coast rivers and timber. A vessel he was building at Canadian Point in May 1822 was seized for debt, but on 16 December 1823 he was able to launch the Liberty, 40 tons, from his property. In 1825 he was surveying near the South Esk River.

In October 1825 Florance moved to Sydney. In December 1827 he was appointed assistant surveyor with a salary of £200 and allowances, and next year made surveys of the coast near Cape Jervis. On 14 May 1829 at Sydney he married Elizabeth, second daughter of Thomas Kendall. Soon afterwards he resigned and opened a private survey office in Sydney. It did not thrive and in 1830 he moved to the County of St Vincent, where he was granted 1280 acres (518 ha) and leased another 1920 acres (777 ha), naming his farm Curribie. He remained there and continued surveying in the district until May 1834 when he went to New Zealand. There in 1840 he applied for a post in the Survey Department, but an unfavourable report from Governor Sir George Gipps led to his rejection. He died at Auckland on 28 March 1867, aged 84. His widow died in Sydney on 25 August 1870, aged 65.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9, 10, series 3, vols 2, 3
  • Sydney Gazette, 8 Jan 1827, 16 Aug 1832
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 16 May, 29 Sept, 24, 31 Oct 1818, 14, 21 Aug 1819, 4 May 1822, 12 Apr, 20 Dec 1823, 7 Sept 1832
  • Gipps to Hobson, 11 June 1840 (Dispatches, 4/1651, State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

E. R. Pretyman, 'Florance, Thomas (1783–1867)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Chichester, Sussex, England


28 March, 1867 (aged ~ 84)
Auckland, New Zealand

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