Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Richard Hardy (1807–1858)

by Nancy Keesing

This article was published:

John Richard Hardy (1807-1858), gold commissioner and pastoralist, was born on 18 May 1807, the third son of Robert Hardy, vicar of Walberton, Sussex, England, and his wife Sophia-Adair, née Hale. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity Hall and Peterhouse, Cambridge (B.A., 1831). A cricketer, he played for Cambridge in 1829. In 1832 he migrated to Sydney where he edited the Australian for two years and reputedly introduced round-arm bowling into Australian cricket. On 18 May 1837 he married Clara, fourth daughter of John Stephen and sister of Alfred Stephen.

In 1837-43 Hardy was an able police magistrate at Yass where he acquired property and reduced the bushranging threat. In bitter quarrels with local settlers he was supported by Cornelius O'Brien but in 1843 after accusations of irregular magisterial procedures Hardy was suspended. In 1849-51 he was police magistrate at Parramatta. On 15 June 1850 his estate was sequestrated and the order was finally discharged in 1888. Soon after the discovery of gold was announced in 1851, Hardy was appointed chief gold commissioner of crown lands for the New South Wales goldfields at a salary of £600. His instructions were to implement the government's newly-devised goldfields regulations, preserve the peace and 'put down outrage'. Much of his time was spent in riding over the goldfields issuing licences, settling disputes, allotting claims and buying and dispatching gold. Colonel Godfrey Mundy and Captain John Erskine praised his administrative qualities and testified to his fairness, rectitude, adaptability and humanity.

In September 1852 in evidence to a Legislative Council select committee inquiring into goldfield management, Hardy opposed any alteration of the charge for licence fees and advocated that gold found on private land be accessible to licensed applicants. He hotly defended himself against imputations of improper preference to his brother William. Erroneous information implied that Hardy had not satisfactorily accounted for some moneys collected, and he considered himself the victim of 'an atrocious slander'. In December 1852 the committee reported that Hardy's professed views and opinions were 'of a character wholly incompatible' with his office, and recommended the abolition of his commissionership with compensation and the offer of a suitable vacancy in the public service. However, Hardy retired to his property, Hardwicke, at Yass. In 1855 he published a pamphlet, Squatters and Gold-Diggers, Their Claims and Rights. As a founder of the Yass Mechanics' Institute in 1857, he gave its opening address. He died without issue on 21 April 1858 and was buried according to Anglican rites in the garden at Hardwicke. He left a large estate to his wife and brother Charles, who were charged to make adequate provision for his brother William.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Erskine, A Short Account of the Late Discoveries of Gold in Australia (Lond, 1851)
  • Australian Journalist, The Emigrant in Australia or Gleanings From the Gold-Fields (Lond, c1852)
  • G. C. Mundy, Our Antipodes, vols 1-3 (Lond, 1852)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket: A History (Syd, 1959)
  • N. Keesing, Gold Fever (Syd, 1967)
  • Further Papers Relative to the Discovery of Gold in Australia, Parliamentary Papers (Great Britain), 1854 (1719)
  • Illustrated London News, 3 July, 23 Aug 1852
  • Yass Evening Tribune, 19 Aug 1920
  • Edward Deas Thomson papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • insolvency file 2072 (State Records New South Wales)
  • newspaper cuttings, vol 41A (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Nancy Keesing, 'Hardy, John Richard (1807–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 July 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]


18 May, 1807


21 April, 1858 (aged 50)
Yass, New South Wales, Australia

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