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Charles Henry Grant (1831–1901)

by Scott Bennett

This article was published:

Charles Henry Grant (1831-1901), engineer, businessman and politician, was born on 9 November 1831 at Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England, son of William Grant, linen draper, and his wife Mary Ann. After education in applied sciences at King's College, London, in 1847-50, Grant worked until 1866 in the London engineering office of Robert Stevenson. In the late 1860s he worked on railway construction in the United States of America.

On 19 April 1872 Grant was appointed engineer to the Tasmanian Main Line Railway Co. and arrived from London in July to superintend construction of the line between Hobart and Launceston. After completion of the railway in 1876 he served as general manager until the line's purchase by the government in 1890. In March 1892 he floated the Hobart Electric Tramway Co. in London. He was himself a director and had charge of the construction of the tramways in 1892-93, having been consulting engineer to the project as early as 1888. As a director of the Zeehan Tramway Co. he was also responsible for construction of the tramway there in 1893. The Victorian government appointed him a member of a board to investigate the Victorian Railways in 1895.

Grant's business activities also included directorships of Cascade Brewery, Perpetual Trustees, Executors and Agency, Hobart Gas, Hobart Coffee Palace and Parattah Hotel companies, and of several mining bodies. He was said to draw some £12 a week in director's fees, and was described as 'pre-eminently a money making machine and successful speculator'.

In 1892-1901 Grant was a member of the Legislative Council and served until 1894 as minister without portfolio under Henry Dobson. As a Tasmanian delegate to the 1897 Federal Convention he confined himself mainly to railway matters. Most active in local government, he was chairman of the Road Trust (1886-92), Town Board (1889-1901) and Board of Health (1888-1901) at Glebe, where his home, Addlestone, still stands. He was also a member of the Metropolitan Drainage Board (1893-1901), the Queen's Domain Committee (1891-1901) and the Board of Immigration (1883-85), and was a trustee of the Tasmanian Museum, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens. He was president of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce in 1896 and of the Hobart Horticultural Society. He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1874.

Grant died from diabetes in Hobart on 30 September 1901 after attending the Sydney celebrations for the inauguration of the Commonwealth. He was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery, survived by his wife Mary Ann Jane, née Nicholls, two daughters and two sons. His estate was valued for probate at about £48,000. During his time with the Main Line Co. Grant was noted as a 'good boss', being 'always mindful of the comfort and prosperity of the railway man'. The Hobart Mercury described him as possessing 'a power of mind not to be trifled with. His bonhomie was invariable, but his kindly disposition was not weakness'. In 1914 the hamlet of South Bridgewater, north of Hobart, was renamed Granton in his honour.

Charles William (1878-1943), Grant's elder son, was born on 24 April 1878 in Hobart. Educated at The Hutchins School, he worked on mainland sheep stations before becoming a Hobart merchant in 1901 and eventually chairman of directors of several companies. On 10 June 1903 at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, he married Charlotte Bell. Member for Denison in the House of Assembly in 1922-25 and 1928-32, he was honorary minister in the McPhee government. He was a Nationalist and United Australia Party senator in 1925 and 1932-41. He died on 14 December 1943 in Hobart, survived by one son and three daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £112,603.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1873 (26), papers 86, 112
  • Mercury (Hobart), 1 Oct 1901, 15 Dec 1943
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 5 Oct 1901
  • Clipper, 5 Oct 1901
  • Examiner (Launceston), 18 Jan 1896, supplement.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Scott Bennett, 'Grant, Charles Henry (1831–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Charles Henry Grant (1831-1901), by J. W. Beattie

Charles Henry Grant (1831-1901), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125881367

Life Summary [details]


9 November, 1831
Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England


30 September, 1901 (aged 69)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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