Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Foster (1792–1875)

by Patricia Foster

This article was published:

John Foster, by J. W. Beattie

John Foster, by J. W. Beattie

State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125880260

John Foster (1792-1875), pastoralist, merchant and member of parliament, was the eldest son of John Foster, farmer, of Armitstead Hall, Settle, Yorkshire, England, and his wife Jane, née Dowbiggin. He was educated at Heath School, Halifax, and Kemplay's Academy, Leeds. He arrived in Van Diemen's Land in June 1823 in the Berwick with his mother and youngest brother Henry. He was granted 500 acres (202 ha) near Ross, adjoining his mother's property, which he named Fosterville. In October 1826 they were attacked by five armed bushrangers and robbed of property worth £300. Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur put a price of £250 on the head of each bandit and all were captured within three months.

By 1827 the family had grants of 1500 acres (607 ha) adjoining Fosterville and 12,000 acres (4856 ha) at Cape Portland in the north-east. In 1832 Foster bought twelve acres (4.8 ha) of the Cottage Green estate, on part of which the family home, Wivenhoe, now stands in Hampden Road, Hobart. He developed cattle and sheep properties in Gippsland, producing large numbers of fat stock for Victorian and Van Diemen's Land markets. The properties he owned or controlled were The Heart at Sale 1843, Tangel 1848, Glenfalloch 1850, Boisdale 1850, Dargo 1850, Glencoe 1850, Erinvale 1852, and Castleburn 1856, making an aggregate of some 180,000 acres (72,844 ha).

He owned and operated several ships including the Joseph Cripps, Lady Loch, and Mary Ann and was owner of the Clarence. He also built and owned the Derwent Hotel at Port Albert, and as a Hobart merchant exported grain to Mauritius.

In September 1836 Foster was appointed a justice of the peace and in 1848 was police magistrate for the Sorell and Prosser River districts. He was a foundation member of the Tasmanian Club and in 1868-74 represented the Huon district in the Legislative Council. He was a director of several companies including the Mersey and Deloraine Tramway Co. Ltd., which built the railway from Latrobe to Deloraine, and the Douglas River Coal Co., from which he later bought 2096 acres (848 ha) at Bicheno. He was also director of the Hobart Town Gas Co., and the Launceston Marine Insurance Co., and with Askin Morrison was joint owner of the Derwent twin ferry Kangaroo. In Victoria he was associated with the Bank of Victoria, and several insurance companies. He also wrote prose and verse; those included in the Berwick Journal are probably the best known.

In 1863 he married Anne Riddiford, a widow of Hobart, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. Genial and hospitable, he was devoted to his mother, 'a lady of the old school' who died in 1846 aged 78. John Foster died at Hobart on 27 June 1875, and was buried in the family vault at Cornelian Bay Church of England cemetery.

John Foster's younger brother, William, arrived in Sydney in 1827 from Trinity College, Cambridge, and Lincoln's Inn Fields. He was appointed solicitor-general of New South Wales in 1827 and chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions. In 1828 he became commissioner of the Court of Requests and in 1843-45 represented the County of Northumberland in the New South Wales Legislative Council.

Select Bibliography

  • Hobart Town Gazette, 28 June 1823, 2 Dec 1826
  • Colonial Times (Hobart), 13 Oct 1826
  • Mercury (Hobart), 29 June 1875
  • LSD 1/3/513, 1/18/499, 1/63/524 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Calder papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Patricia Foster, 'Foster, John (1792–1875)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 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

John Foster, by J. W. Beattie

John Foster, by J. W. Beattie

State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125880260

Life Summary [details]


28 February, 1792
Giggleswick, Yorkshire, England


27 June, 1875 (aged 83)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.