Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Hipkiss (1772–1853)

by L. J. Hume

This article was published:

Richard Hipkiss (1772?-1853), agriculturist and reformer, was a manufacturer of japanned ware in Birmingham, England, and a farmer at near-by Yardley. His trade moved into depression in the 1820s, and he was drawn into the Birmingham Political Union. He was active in the reform movement until October 1831, but soon afterwards migrated to Sydney, arriving in the Marianne in May 1832.

Hipkiss was an artist of some ability and after arrival was listed in directories as a painter. He took out an auctioneer's licence in 1835, and was later agent for a shipping company. He also had a small-holding, and in the 1840s an orchard at Kissing Point where he made his home. He was active in public affairs during his first years in Sydney. He brought from Birmingham a faith in self-help and self-improvement through co-operative action, and an assumption that the middle and working classes were natural allies in politics. He soon found opportunities to apply these principles. In 1833 he became a member of the first committee of the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, and one of its first lecturers, later serving as librarian. He was also chief spokesman for the Society of Emigrant Mechanics. In 1834 he helped to found the Australian Union Benefit Society, and became a director of the short-lived co-operative Australian Wheat and Flour Co. In 1836 he signed the 'Petition of Emigrants Since 1830', in which access to land was demanded. Perhaps his most notable political effort was at the meeting which established the Patriotic Association in 1835: he challenged the exclusion from its directing committee of those who subscribed less than £5, but William Charles Wentworth opposed him successfully.

After 1835 his leadership of the co-operative movement passed to others. He still appeared on public platforms on such issues as parliamentary privilege in 1844, a consumers' co-operative for meat in 1846, and Earl Grey's constitutional proposals in 1848. He supported male suffrage and opposed taxation without representation, and although ageing, he joined the new Constitutional Association in 1848, spoke at its meetings and won top place in the poll for its first permanent council. In politics Hipkiss remained a mildly orthodox radical, but his dominant interest became the advancement of agriculture. His belief that cultural improvement hinged on solution of the land question was reflected in his lectures and writings on agricultural subjects and in his long term with the Floral and Horticultural Society, of which he became secretary in 1839. At the age of 82, he died at Ryde, New South Wales, on 25 April 1853, leaving a widow.

Select Bibliography

  • L. M. Thomas, The Development of the Labour Movement in the Sydney District of New South Wales from 1788-1848 (Canberra, 1962), M. Roe, Quest for Authority in Eastern Australia, 1835-1851 (Melb, 1965)
  • W. Dixson, ‘Notes on Australian Artists’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 7, part 3, 1921, pp 158-60.

Citation details

L. J. Hume, 'Hipkiss, Richard (1772–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 June 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]




25 April, 1853 (aged ~ 81)
Ryde, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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