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John Rose Holden (1810–1860)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

John Rose Holden (1810-1860), by William Nicholas

John Rose Holden (1810-1860), by William Nicholas

National Gallery of Australia, 69438

John Rose Holden (1810-1860), soldier and settler, was born on 22 February 1810 at Beaminster, Dorsetshire, England, the son of Rev. William Rose Holden and his wife Betty, née Everleigh. He was commissioned an ensign in the 17th Regiment on 26 November 1829 and in February 1831 came with it to New South Wales. He soon acquired land and had two assigned servants by 1832. On 8 April 1834 he married Mary, the third daughter of William Hutchinson. They had sons and a daughter, but only George, born in May 1833, and one other son, Henry Augustus, seem to have survived infancy.

In August 1834 Holden resigned from his regiment, shortly before its departure for India, and settled at Retreat Farm, near Liverpool. He soon took an interest in the Parramatta horse-racing and the Cumberland Hunt, and in May 1840 was elected to the committee that initiated a new racecourse at Homebush. One of his horses won a place in the St Leger Stakes at its inaugural meeting in March 1841. In February 1842 he was present at the meeting which led to the foundation of the Australian Jockey Club. By this time Holden was once more living in Sydney, where he was active in William Charles Wentworth's campaigns for representative government and in opposition to the incorporation of the city of Sydney. For the former he was anxious that city interests should be well represented, with a liberal property qualification for voters and a franchise for educated men. He thought the incorporation of the city was a scheme to shift expenses from the British and colonial governments to the shoulders of the ratepayers, but when the City Council was created he stood for election as a councillor in Brisbane Ward and headed the poll in November 1842. In November 1845 he was appointed an alderman for Gipps Ward, but in August 1846 he resigned because of duties as executor of his father-in-law's estate.

For some years Holden took a prominent part in colonial affairs, becoming a director of the Mutual Fire Insurance Co. and of the Sydney Infirmary, and in 1845 a magistrate of the city of Sydney. In September 1843 he became a director of the Bank of New South Wales and played an active part in determining its policy, having earlier that year served on a committee which investigated its affairs and which recommended that mortgages should not be admitted as bank assets and that the credit allowed to directors and customers should be restricted. In August 1846 Holden became a vice-president of the bank and in 1849 during a visit to England carried out negotiations on its behalf with the London Joint Stock Bank. In October 1851 he became president, but took no part in its affairs after the termination of the 'old Bank' in February 1852.

In July 1850 Holden stood for election to the Legislative Council against John Dunmore Lang, who attacked him bitterly as a supporter of continued transportation and as a follower of Wentworth. Holden lost the by-election, but in September 1851 was elected for the Cumberland Boroughs. He resigned in 1853 and soon afterwards returned to England. He was known to his contemporaries primarily as a sportsman, but was rather too much of a gentleman for the 'rough and tumble' of politics. After his wife died in September 1849 he married Susan Broadhurst. They lived in London and at Lark Hill, Worcester. He kept up an interest in New South Wales, where he still had property in Macquarie and Bent Streets, Sydney. He died at Lark Hill on 1 May 1860.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 22
  • Australian, 20 Feb 1838, 12 May 1840, 6 Apr 1841, 22, 29 Mar, 9 Apr, 30 June, 4 Nov 1842
  • Representative (Sydney), 1 (1850), nos 1-8
  • Bank of New South Wales Archives (Sydney).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Holden, John Rose (1810–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 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

John Rose Holden (1810-1860), by William Nicholas

John Rose Holden (1810-1860), by William Nicholas

National Gallery of Australia, 69438

Life Summary [details]


22 February, 1810
Beaminster, Dorset, England


1 May, 1860 (aged 50)
Worcester, Worcestershire, England

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