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Thomas Henty (1836–1887)

by Sally O'Neill

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Henty Brothers: Henry (1833-1912), Herbert James (1834-1902), merchants, and Thomas (1836-1887), grazier, were the sons of James Henty and his wife Charlotte, née Carter. Henry was born on 9 May 1833 at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, Herbert in October 1834 at Worthing, Sussex, and Thomas on 24 August 1836 at Launceston. They were educated at Launceston and the junior department of King's College, London. The family visited England in 1833-34 and 1848-51. The father then set up the firm of James Henty & Co. in Melbourne. Henry worked as a clerk in the firm and Herbert in the Bank of Australasia until 1856 when they became partners with their father.

Thomas briefly represented the firm at Launceston, and then managed in turn the family stations of Round Hill near Albury and Muntham near Coleraine. Herbert made his home at Roxeth, Kew, and was elected a member of Kew Municipal Council in 1864 and mayor in 1868-69. He also served on the Melbourne City Council, in one session of the royal commission on education in 1881-82 and as president of the Melbourne Hospital in 1882-84.

Henry was elected for Grenville in the Legislative Assembly in 1866 but resigned next year when the bill for payment of members was passed in the Lower House. He gradually took over the management of the family business from his father who died in 1882. Henry was then chairman of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society, commissioner of the Savings Bank and president of the Chamber of Commerce, while Henty & Co. had more than £90,000 in land and investments. He went to England and returned in 1884 to find that Herbert had managed the family business with such imprudence that the firm was in difficulties. Although in 1885 it was liquidated and reformed with Henry in partnership with Thomas and his uncle Francis, they soon discovered that Herbert had signed unrecorded guaranties in the old firm's name for some £81,000, including £33,000 to the notorious Henry Franklyn. In November Henry filed his schedule in the Insolvent Court, the firm's deficit amounting to £149,518. In May 1886 he was granted an unconditional discharge. In 1889 Francis died leaving Henry as executor of his estate of £300,000. Two daughters disputed Henry's administration and, although some agreement was reached, a writ was issued against Henry. When heard in 1901 the case went against him but the judgment was reversed when he appealed in 1904.

Thomas had moved to Melbourne about 1878. For some years he served on the committee of the Victoria Racing Club and owned several well-known race-horses. In 1884-87 he represented Southern Province in the Legislative Council but seldom spoke in debates. In 1869 he had married Lucy Mary, daughter of James Pinnock; they had eight sons and two daughters. He died at Middle Brighton on 22 September 1887. In 1861 Herbert had married Frances Emma, daughter of Sir Francis Murphy. In 1896 he moved to Deniliquin where he died on 12 August 1902, survived by a son and a daughter of his four children. Henry was described by a friend as 'simple and trusting' and 'the soul of honour'. A lay canon in the Anglican Church, he became a trustee of Bishop Charles Perry's Victorian estate in 1892. He died at his home, Tarring, Kew, on 20 October 1912, survived by his wife Marion Anne McKellar, whom he had married at Geelong on 26 May 1859, and by four sons and three daughters of their nine children.

Select Bibliography

  • F. G. A. Barnard, A Jubilee History of Kew 1860-1910 (Melb, 1910)
  • M. Bassett, The Hentys, an Australian Colonial Tapestry (Lond, 1954)
  • Australasian, 28 Nov 1885, 1 May 1886, 24 Sept 1887, 5 Mar 1892, 21 Oct 1912
  • Illustrated London News, 22 Sept 1888, Australian supplement
  • Age (Melbourne), 24 Dec 1901, 30 July 1904
  • Argus (Melbourne), 24 Aug 1902, 30 July 1904
  • Henty papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Henty, Thomas (1836–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 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]


24 August, 1836
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


22 September, 1887 (aged 51)
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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