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Joseph Hickey Grose (1788–1849)

by Louise T. Daley

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Joseph Hickey Grose (1788?-1849), merchant and steamship owner, was baptized at Deptford, London, on 17 August 1788, son of Howell William Grose and his wife Sarah. He was referred to as 'a shopkeeping clerk of McArthur's' in 1821, but he had many mercantile interests. Advertising himself as a storekeeper, auctioneer and estate agent at George Street, Parramatta, he tendered successfully as a supplier of wheat to the government stores in 1822, won the Agricultural Society's prize for beer in 1824 and sold yeast for the prisoners' barracks at Parramatta. He owned a large grazing property in Argyle County and other land at Seven Hills. In 1830, hearing of the success of steam-propelled vessels overseas, he commissioned two Scottish shipwrights, William Lowe and Marshall, to build a paddle-steamer for the Sydney-Hunter River trade. The ship, William the Fourth (the 'Billy'), was launched at the Deptford yards, Clarence Town, on the Williams River, on 14 November 1831, the first coastal steamer built in Australia. Afterwards he bought the 153-ton paddle-steamer Sophia Jane, imported from England in May 1831, and held the main share of the Hunter River steamer trade for many years, his vessels travelling between his wharf and store at Morpeth and his wharf in Sydney. He became an original director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney in 1834 but continued to enlarge his fleet by importing the 141-ton paddle-steamer James Watt from England in 1837, and the fast steamer King William the Fourth in 1838. In the late 1830s, when droughts reduced his flocks in Argyle County and he was confronted with opposition in the steamship trade by the formation of the Hunter River Steam Navigation Co., he became interested in the development of the Clarence River valley, sending 8000 sheep to his station there in 1839, and making the King William the Fourth available to the deputy surveyor general, Samuel Perry, and a group of pastoralists for a tour of inspection in May. When the steamer was wrecked a few months later he salvaged her engines and built the 119-ton paddle-steamer Sovereign in 1841, but because of the collapse of the Victoria Mills, entailing a loss of £5000, and the general financial depression in the colony he became insolvent in 1844. He died on 18 April 1849 at Lake Bathurst. He had married three times: Mary Ann Deaton (d.1824) on 13 May 1822; Irene Deaton on 2 November 1829; and Elizabeth Slater on 30 May 1840. A son of his second marriage, and his third wife, their son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. B. Portus, ‘Early Australian Steamers: Period 1831-1856’, Journal and Proceedings (Australian Historical Society), vol 2, part 8, 1904-07, pp 178-96
  • Clarence River Historical Society Records, 1 (1932-35), 2 (1938)
  • Clarence River Historical Society Bawden Lectures, no 49, 127
  • Sydney Gazette, 21 July 1821, 3 June 1824, 13 May, 3 June 1839
  • Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 1841
  • manuscript catalogue under J. H. Grose (State Library of New South Wales).

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Citation details

Louise T. Daley, 'Grose, Joseph Hickey (1788–1849)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 June 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]




18 April, 1849 (aged ~ 61)
Lake Bathurst, New South Wales, 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.

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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years