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Richard Greenup (1803–1866)

by Nan Phillips

This article was published:

Richard Greenup (1803-1866), medical practitioner, was born on 15 March 1803 at Darcy Hay, near Halifax, England, third son of George Greenup, clothier, and his wife Elizabeth, née Marsh. On 19 May 1826 he entered Queens' College, Cambridge (M.B., 1831; M.D., 1836) and then practised at Salisbury, where in 1837 he married Jane, daughter of William Bird Brodie, banker, and his wife Louisa, née Hussey. Greenup moved to Calne where he practised and was visiting physician for ten years to asylums in North Wiltshire. As surgeon in the John Knox he arrived in Sydney on 29 April 1850 with his wife and children. He opened a private practice but was soon involved in helping to organize the new University of Sydney, became its secretary on 17 March 1851 and later was also treasurer and registrar. He was an examiner for medicine in 1856 and for chemistry and experimental physics in 1858.

Greenup was appointed medical superintendent at the Lunatic and Invalid Establishment at Parramatta on 20 March 1852 at a salary of £600. He joined the asylum in July and his duties included those of medical officer of the Protestant Orphan School, visiting surgeon to the gaol and the Destitute Roman Catholic Children's Institute, and official visitor to the Tarban Creek Asylum where Dr Francis Campbell was superintendent.

Although the Parramatta asylum was for incurable lunatics, Greenup decided that his patients would benefit from humane treatment. He soon stopped the detention of refractory patients in cells and permitted them to exercise, albeit in 'leathern belts with handcuffs'; later even this restraint was relaxed. Orderly systematic visiting was introduced, male inmates were encouraged to work in maintenance, gardening and supplying wood to the orphan schools while female patients made clothing for the institution. In 1853 he could report that out of 253 patients two were cured and three were improved and in 1863 that twenty were cured and six improved out of 476 inmates. He gave evidence at select committees on the management of asylums and alleged wrongful detention of lunatics. Critical of 'inquisitorial duties of a single medical man acting as Official Visitor', he supported the recommendation for a mixed board, and suggested a limited number of visits and duties similar to those prescribed in England. The increasing congestion at Tarban Creek was a constant problem. His plan to increase the intake at Parramatta by transferring invalid male patients to an auxiliary establishment was fulfilled in 1858. He pleaded in vain for a new and bigger asylum at Parramatta but his proposal to buy a near-by farm for asylum inmates was accepted in 1864. On 17 July 1866 during routine inspections he was stabbed in the abdomen by James Cameron, a lunatic with a homicidal record. He died two days later and his large funeral was conducted by Bishop Frederic Barker. He left an estate of £1610.

Among his honorary appointments Greenup was a trustee of the Protestant Orphan School in May 1852 and medical adviser to the government in December 1854. In a smallpox scare in 1858 he supported compulsory vaccination and in a pamphlet next year abridged for colonial use a letter by Dr John Simon on the subject. He was a visiting justice to the Parramatta gaol in 1859 and joined the board of management of the Government Asylum for the Infirm and Destitute in 1862. A fine, authoritative figure, Greenup was active in community affairs and often lectured on literary, philosophical and historical subjects. He was a member of the Anglican Church and Bible societies, a financial supporter of St John's Church, a lay reader at St Paul's, Castle Hill, and conducted services at the asylum for inmates who attended voluntarily. With strong views about the colony's defences he chaired a large public meeting which led to the formation of the Parramatta Rifle Corps; he became its honorary surgeon in May 1861.

His widow petitioned parliament in October 1866 for financial assistance but received only her husband's superannuation of £700. Mrs Greenup later went to Queensland, bought Rotherwood on the Darling Downs and died there on 31 July 1894, leaving an estate of £9200. Her two sons and two of her four daughters married into pastoral families.

Select Bibliography

  • K. M. Brown, Medical Practice in Old Parramatta (Syd, 1937)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1854, 2, 9, 1855, 3, 763
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 3, 375, 1862, 2, 595, 1863-64, 2, 938, 4, 902, 960, 985, 1021
  • D. I. McDonald, ‘Dr Francis Campbell and the Tarban Creek Asylum, 1848-1867’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol 53, part 3, Sept 1967, pp 222-57
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20, 21, 23 July 1866, 14 Aug, 4, 12 Sept 1867
  • Church Chronicle, 8 Aug 1866
  • University of Sydney Archives
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Nan Phillips, 'Greenup, Richard (1803–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 March, 1803
Halifax, Yorkshire, England


19 July, 1866 (aged 63)
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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