Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Rogers Harding (1838–1895)

by M. Carter and A. A. Morrison

This article was published:

George Rogers Harding (1838-1895), judge and author, was born on 3 December 1838 at Taunton, Somerset, England, the only son of George Rogers Harding, LL.B., vicar of Gittisham, Devon, and his wife Elizabeth, née Winter. Enrolled in 1856 at Magdalene College, Cambridge, he did not take a degree but entered Lincoln's Inn in 1858 and was called to the Bar in 1861. In 1860 he had published in London A Handy Book of Ecclesiastical Law which ran to several editions; later he concentrated on equity. On 7 May 1861 he married Emily Morris of Stone House, Worcester, sister of the wife of Eyles Browne.

In October 1866 Harding and his wife arrived at Brisbane where he was immediately admitted to the Bar, the first equity counsel in the colony. He soon won repute for his skill, integrity and kind treatment of juniors. In April 1876 he was appointed a commissioner under the 1872 Civil Procedure Reform Act and in July 1879 became senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Scrupulously fair, he was highly respected for his judgments, even those taken to the Privy Council; the only case to make him unpopular was the conspiracy trial after the 1891 strike when his harsh sentences clearly revealed his prejudice. With great energy he published at least five legal treatises ranging from A Time Table of Proceedings Under the Judicature Act to The Acts and Orders Relating to Insolvency. He built up a fine library, some of which was later acquired for the Oxley Memorial Library, and while on the bench converted the very small collection at the Supreme Court into a large and important library. In 1883-84 he was acting chief justice in the absence of Sir Charles Lilley, and in 1890 visited England on leave.

In 1868 Harding had bought a house in St John's Wood, Brisbane, and extended it as his twelve children were born. He always kept an open house and became famous for his hospitality. Among his guests in 1881 were Prince Albert and Prince George on their Australian tour. After his wife died Harding married Isabella Grahame, sister of Edward Drury's wife, on 23 December 1889. After hearing a case in the Supreme Court in August 1895 Harding became so ill that he could not be taken home. In great pain for three days he was treated in his chambers where, unable to return to court, he delivered his judgment and died on the 31st. His funeral was one of the largest up to that time in Brisbane.

Select Bibliography

  • Town and Country Journal, 16 Aug 1879
  • Bulletin, 7 July 1833
  • Brisbane Courier, 2, 3, 4 Sept 1895
  • Jack newsclipping book, no 10 (State Library of Queensland).

Additional Resources

Citation details

M. Carter and A. A. Morrison, 'Harding, George Rogers (1838–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 18 April 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

George Harding, 1879

George Harding, 1879

State Library of Victoria, 146251

Life Summary [details]


3 December, 1838
Taunton, Somerset, England


31 August, 1895 (aged 56)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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