Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins (1781–1837)

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Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins (1781-1837), naval officer and pioneer settler, was born on 20 May 1781 in England the son of George Hawkins and his wife Sarah, née Waghorn. He joined the navy as a purser in October 1800 and served throughout the Napoleonic wars. In 1815 while his ship was carrying troops for the Waterloo operations he broke his thigh and thereafter was lame. He married at Deal on 15 June 1802 Elizabeth Lilly, who was born in Kent on 15 July 1783. When the war ended Hawkins's ship, the Berwick, was paid off and he was not re-employed. He went into business in London but lost money and decided to emigrate.

Hawkins with his family and mother-in-law arrived in Sydney in the Minstrel in January 1822. In April he was appointed commissariat store-keeper at Bathurst, and set out with a wagon and three drays, and a tilted cart for his mother-in-law, Mrs Lilly, his wife and seven of the eight children. A servant was picked up at the Female Factory at Parramatta and eventually the party included nine convicts. Mrs Hawkins's account of the journey, dated 7 May 1822, is a valuable and lively record of the experiences of the first family of gentlefolk to make the journey of 137 miles (220 km) over the mountains; it took 18 days.

In April 1822 Hawkins selected 2000 acres (809 ha) on the Macquarie River two miles (3.2 km) from Bathurst and named it Blackdown after a Sussex estate leased by his father's cousin, Thomas Fitzherbert, from whom he inherited £3000. He had no experience of sheep or cattle and followed his inclinations by farming a country estate that would be an agreeable home rather than a source of large profit. He built a fine brick house, cleared and fenced the land, formed a garden, built a mill and planted crops. In 1823 he resigned as store-keeper. In December 1831 the Sydney Gazette reported having received a sample of the first wine made west of the Blue Mountains, and produced by Hawkins. By 1828 Hawkins held 2400 acres (971 ha), and was running 1686 sheep and 457 cattle. He died in 1837, and was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Kelso. Blackdown was let, and sold in 1843. Elizabeth Hawkins moved to Sydney, where she died on 6 April 1875.

The Hawkins had thirteen children of whom two died in infancy in England, and three were born in Australia. When Thomas Jarman, the eldest son, came of age in 1830 he received a grant of 320 acres (130 ha) which he named Walmer; by 1839 he owned 1560 acres (631 ha) in Bathurst County. He was a foundation member of Trinity Church, Kelso, and a magistrate. In 1859 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for East Macquarie. From 1875 to 1881 he was commissioner of crown lands for the western district. He was a founding trustee of All Saints' College, Bathurst. He died at Walmer on 12 December 1885.

Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married John Piper Mackenzie (1798-1878), son of Alexander McKenzie; her sister, Helen, married Mackenzie's brother William Henry (1805-1884). Thomas Jarman Hawkins's daughter married Sir Francis Bathurst Suttor (1838-1915).

Portraits of Thomas Fitzherbert and Elizabeth Hawkins are in the possession of Miss E. L. Hawkins of Collaroy.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Hawkins (with introduction by H. Selkirk), 'Journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822', Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 9, part 4, 1923, pp 177-97
  • Sydney Herald, 30 Jan 1837.

Citation details

'Hawkins, Thomas Fitzherbert (1781–1837)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 30 May 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]


20 May, 1781


1837 (aged ~ 55)
New South Wales, Australia

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