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Henry Heylyn Hayter (1821–1895)

by I. J. Neeson

This article was published:

Henry Heylyn Hayter (1821-1895), statistician, was born on 28 October 1821 at Eden Vale, Wiltshire, England, son of Henry Hayter and his wife Eliza Jane, née Heylyn. He was educated privately in Paris and at Charterhouse, where he was a contemporary of Charles Du Cane and George Bowen, and lived in the headmaster's house. He migrated to Melbourne in 1852 and in June 1857 at St Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, married Susan, daughter of William Dodd and his wife Sarah.

In May Hayter began to take temporary assignments on behalf of the assistant registrar-general, William Archer. As one of the five collectors of statistics for Victoria, he was responsible for the western provinces of Ripon, Dundas, Follett and Normanby, and the pastoral district of the Wimmera. After this work ended, he submitted early in 1859 his report which displayed excellent ability and a wide knowledge of the economy, social condition and geography of these districts. The quality of his work led to his appointment as assistant registrar-general of Victoria on 1 September at a salary of £300. In May 1874 the statistical section of the Registrar-General's Office became a separate department with Hayter in charge as first government statist. He started on a salary of £610 with a staff of six and served until 1895.

Until the mid-1880s Hayter was without a peer amongst Australian statisticians and he, rather than Timothy Coghlan or Robert Johnston, made Australian statistical reporting unequalled in the world. His renown began when he replaced the Statistics of Victoria with the Statistical Register in 1859. By the early 1860s he had embarked on a large-scale amplification of the Register, aiming at a detailed, accurate and penetrating description that would convey in simple but meaningful quantities as many of Victoria's characteristics as he could measure. The Register soon surpassed the standardized form of statistical reporting demanded by the Colonial Office. Hayter's Progress of Victoria (1873) was the immediate precursor of the Victorian Year Book for 1873, published in 1874. This slim volume quickly became a popular source book and annual editions in the series grew by 1895 to more than 1000 pages. The notes and descriptive material became so comprehensive that volumes could be used without reference to the Statistical Register, and were praised in England and America for their general utility.

In 1870-72 Hayter had served as secretary to the royal commission inquiring into the working of the Victorian public service; he had also attended to his normal duties but his health suffered and he took leave to recuperate. He went to New Zealand where his advice to the government led to extensive improvement in statistical reporting. He also compiled Notes on a Tour of New Zealand (Melbourne, 1874). In 1875 he represented Victoria at a conference in Tasmania where statisticians of other colonies accepted his system as the pattern to be adopted. In 1879 he went to England as secretary to Graham Berry's 'embassy'. The House of Commons committee inquiry into the reorganization of British statistical collection twice sought Hayter's evidence on his aims and procedures, and highly commended him for his valuable advice and services. In 1881 he was a member of the Social Science Congress in Melbourne.

In the third issue of the Victorian Year Book (1875) Hayter had introduced a summary tabulation of Australian statistics. His leadership in moves towards uniformity emerged even more strongly in the field of census-taking. He had been responsible under the registrar-general for the Victorian censuses of 1861 and 1871. His ambition for statistical uniformity in Australia was realized in 1881 when the Colonial Office recommended each colony in the empire to hold its census on the day chosen by the United Kingdom. In an elaborate report he rejoiced that 'for the first time the populations of the Australasian colonies and of Great Britain and Ireland have been enumerated simultaneously'.

For his distinguished work Hayter was created C.M.G. and named by the French government as an officer of the Order of Public Instruction in 1882, and appointed chevalier of the Order of the Italian Crown in 1884. He was an honorary member of the Royal Statistical Society of London, the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society of Ireland, the Statistical Association of Tokyo and the Royal Societies of South Australia and Tasmania. Among his published professional works, three papers were read to the section for economic and social science and statistics at the first congress of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1888 at Sydney. In his leisure Hayter wrote Carboona, A Chapter from the Early History of Victoria (1885) and My Christmas Adventures; Carboona, and Other Poems (1887).

Despite his skill in measuring social trends, Hayter had shared in the Victorian land and building boom of the late 1880s. In 1887 he became a director of the Metropolitan Bank and Metropolitan Building Society. These institutions were forced to close their doors on 3 December 1891 and later went into liquidation. Hayter had borrowed £32,000 from the bank to invest in the society and was in debt for £36,000. Composition with his creditors was put through the Insolvency Court in secret and allowed for payment of 3d. in the £1. When he realized that the failure of the bank and society was inevitable Hayter asked the government to release him from his official post, but the cabinet persuaded him to remain and to conduct the 1891 census. Due to retire with a pension on 31 March 1895, he died on the 23rd at his home in Armadale. He was survived by his wife (d.1911) and one son.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1875-76, 2 (11), 1883, 3 (49)
  • Town and Country Journal, 24, 30 Mar 1895
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25 Mar 1895
  • Australasian, 30 Mar 1895.

Citation details

I. J. Neeson, 'Hayter, Henry Heylyn (1821–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 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

Henry Hayter, 1895

Henry Hayter, 1895

State Library of Victoria, IAN01/04/95/3

Life Summary [details]


28 October, 1821
Eden Vale, Wiltshire, England


23 March, 1895 (aged 73)
Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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