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Arthur Hardy (1817–1909)

by John M. Tregenza

This article was published:

Arthur Hardy (1817-1909), by unknown photographer

Arthur Hardy (1817-1909), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B18681

Arthur Hardy (1817-1909), pastoralist, barrister and quarry-owner, was born on 3 May 1817, the sixth son of eight children of Thomas Hardy (1775-1849), surgeon of Walworth, Surrey, and his wife Harriet, née Hurst. Until 1836, when Thomas inherited the Yorkshire manors of Birksgate and Shepley, the Hardys attended the South Place Unitarian Chapel in London where they were influenced by the minister, William Johnson Fox, a friend of John Stuart Mill and other Philosophical Radicals. In 1830 Fox introduced Arthur's elder sister Harriet (Mrs John Taylor) to Mill, thus beginning the romance which culminated in their marriage in 1851, two years after Taylor's death.

Arthur attended Camberwell Grammar School and in 1838 was reading for the Bar. Threatened by tuberculosis he decided to follow his elder brother Alfred (1813-1870), who also had tuberculosis and in 1836 had joined Colonel William Light's survey party, hoping that an open-air life would cure him. Suffering at times from 'very violent' pain in his chest, Arthur sailed for South Australia and arrived in the Platina on 9 February 1839 equipped with books on farming and sheep husbandry, a Sussex shepherd, land orders bought by his father for four town acres (1.6 ha) and four 134-acre (54 ha) country sections and a box of specie worth £1000 entrusted to him by a London capitalist, Marmaduke Hart, under articles of copartnership for seven years.

Hardy began mixed farming in what is now the suburb of Paradise. Prolific crops from rich soil, high prices and Hart's capital soon enabled him to stock a sheep run on the River Light. In 1845, after inspecting the coast of Spencer Gulf he took another run in the Port Lincoln district, leaving his sheep in the care of Henry Price. In Adelaide he was also establishing a law practice, prompted by Governor George Gawler who sought his help in drawing up proper indictments. In 1848-50 he visited England where he married Martha, sister of Henry Price. On his return Hardy bought a bluestone quarry at Glen Osmond and in 1851 built the mansion, Birksgate, supplementing it in 1857 with Mount Lofty House, the first summer retreat on the highest ridge of the Adelaide Hills. In 1854, to enable his quarry workers and their families to 'avoid the inducement to pass their evenings at the only public house', he built the colony's first country Mechanics' Institute, later enriching it with books selected by the Mills from their personal library. In August he tried in vain to persuade the Legislative Council to help him build a railway from the city to Glen Osmond. In 1851-57 he was president of the Court of Disputed Returns, in 1857-74 served on the Central Board of Education and in 1875-87 represented Albert in the House of Assembly. On 14 October 1857 he became an original trustee of Adelaide's first Unitarian Church and in 1863 was honorary secretary of the committee which founded and built the Adelaide Club. In 1867-84 he was the first district grand master of the English Freemasons in South Australia. In the 1860s he sent his eldest son to Marlborough. 'Mere school education can be got here', he explained to a relation in England, 'but most of the boys turn out either very badly or the minority puffed up with conceit'.

Reputed one of Adelaide's richest men, Hardy was living beyond his means when depression hit the colony's banks in February 1886; his debts amounted to more than £40,000 and he had to assign his estate to a trustee for his creditors. Unable to regain financial independence he kept up appearances as doyen of the legal profession, even in his nineties tricycling to Glenelg station to catch the train to his Adelaide office. Predeceased by his wife, he died at Glenelg on 13 July 1909, survived by two sons and two daughters.

Although well-read, conscientious in public duties and generous, Hardy usually emptied the House when he rose to speak. He is best remembered as a planter of trees, some of them enclosed in the Arthur Hardy flora and fauna reserve at Mount Lofty.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. R. Morgan, The Adelaide Club 1863-1963 (Adel, 1963)
  • Honorary Magistrate, July 1906
  • Register (Adelaide), 14 July 1909
  • M. Hardy, A History of the Hardy Family in South Australia (State Records of South Australia)
  • Hardy papers (State Records of South Australia)
  • Arrangements by deed, 3390 (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

John M. Tregenza, 'Hardy, Arthur (1817–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 22 May 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

Arthur Hardy (1817-1909), by unknown photographer

Arthur Hardy (1817-1909), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B18681

Life Summary [details]


3 May, 1817


13 July, 1909 (aged 92)
Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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