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John Ward Gleadow (1801–1881)

by G. H. Crawford

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John Ward Gleadow (1801-1881), lawyer and politician, was born at Kingston-upon-Hull, England, the descendant of an old Yorkshire family. At 17 he was articled to an attorney and solicitor at Hull, but soon after admission to practise in 1823 he decided to emigrate. He arrived in Hobart Town in the Andromeda in September 1825, and next March was admitted as barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land. Later in 1826 he married Diana Harriet Kearton, a passenger in the Andromeda and daughter of a London solicitor. Gleadow also applied for land soon after arrival, claiming assets worth £2681 and command of another £1500. He was granted 2000 acres (809 ha) at Break O'Day River, but did not live on it as he had brought a free overseer to manage his land.

After a year in Hobart Gleadow moved to Launceston, became its first legal practitioner and opened a store, for which he had brought stock with him. When he inherited £2000 he used it to import more goods and later claimed a profit of £3000 on the deal. His legal practice began in his cottage in St John Street; it grew rapidly and he soon had to build an office next door. He appeared frequently in court at first but less often when other barristers became available. In 1837 William Henty became his partner. When Henty retired Gleadow was joined by his son, Robert, and, after Robert was drowned in 1859, he took as partners William Ritchie and R. J. Parker. As the senior practitioner in Launceston for over forty years, Gleadow did much to set the traditions and tone of the legal profession in that city.

Gleadow had wide business and civic interests. Although he failed to secure an additional grant in 1831 through non-residence, he purchased much land in northern Tasmania, won recognition as an able farmer and supported horticultural and agricultural societies. An able judge of horses, he helped to found the Cornwall Turf Club in the early 1830s and later turned to the importation of draught stallions. He was a foundation director of many companies, including the Cornwall Bank, established in 1828 with him as its first solicitor; when its doors were temporarily closed after four years, he joined the shareholders' committee that overcame its difficulties. In 1833 he helped embarrassed businessmen to draft a petition for the appointment of a competent officer in Launceston to take affidavits of debt and to issue writs against absconding debtors. He also served on many committees for raising and distributing philanthropic funds, for building and improving roads and shipping facilities, and for adjusting quitrents on free land grants.

Gleadow joined the Wesleyan Church in 1834 and soon became secretary and superintendent of its Sunday school. He was also treasurer of its Missionary Society, an active supporter of the Cornwall Auxiliary Bible Society, a founder of the Town Mission and a member of the Launceston Benevolent Society. He served on the Infant School Board in 1834, helped to build a chapel and school room at Morven (Evandale) and joined the management committee of St John's Hospital. From 1855 to 1861 he was a leading member of the board of education and in 1867 was chairman of a commission of inquiry into the management of the Queen's Asylum for destitute children.

In politics Gleadow did not at first support the anti-transportation movement, but later became an ardent advocate. He was also active in the struggles to end state aid to churches and to gain representative government. When representation was won in 1851, he presided at the celebration dinner in Launceston and tried without success to postpone the execution of three criminals on that day. After the abolition of transportation he encouraged bounty immigration. At the first elections for the Legislative Council he was returned unopposed for Cornwall and became chairman of committees. Long sittings in Hobart made heavy demands and he resigned after four years. In 1866 he was elected to the House of Assembly for Morven but resigned three years later after serious injury through a fall from a horse. He also retired from active legal practice, although keeping his name on the roll of practitioners. He died at Launceston on 25 August 1881, four days after the death of his wife, survived by four daughters and two of his five sons. Of liberal views and sound business acumen, Gleadow's opinion was respected by both politicians and clients, many of whose estates had been saved by his prudent advice in the financial crisis of 1845-47.

Select Bibliography

  • Independent (Launceston), 3, 10 Nov 1832
  • correspondence file under Gleadow (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Citation details

G. H. Crawford, 'Gleadow, John Ward (1801–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 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 Ward Gleadow (1801-1881), by J. W. Beattie

John Ward Gleadow (1801-1881), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125880203

Life Summary [details]


Hull, Yorkshire, England


25 August, 1881 (aged ~ 80)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

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