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Robert Culbertson Hope (1812–1878)

by Manning Clark

This article was published:

Robert Culbertson Hope (1812-1878), medical practitioner and pastoralist, was born on 12 May 1812 at Morebattle, near Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland, son of Robert Hope, landowner, and his wife Joan, née Culbertson. He studied medicine, surgery and midwifery and won a prize in surgery at the University of Edinburgh (M.D., 1834). He then worked as an assistant to John Douglas at Hawick in Roxburghshire. On 18 April 1838 he sailed from Leith as surgeon in the Lady Kennaway and arrived in Sydney on 12 August. He practised medicine in Campbelltown for eight years. On 12 August 1846 he married Catherine Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Rev. Thomas Hassall and granddaughter of Rev. Samuel Marsden.

In 1847 Hope overlanded to the Port Phillip District where his brothers George and James held grazing leases. He practised medicine at Geelong until he and George took up land at Batesford, near Geelong, where Robert built Lynnburn and George built Darriwill. They built a flour-mill at Batesford on the Moorabool River and another on the Barwon River near Inverleigh. When gold was discovered at Ballarat and Bendigo the two brothers increased their fortunes by supplying meat, bread and vegetables to the diggers using the route from Geelong to the goldfields. They were early viticulturists in the Geelong district and their vineyard or the Moorabool River thrived until phylloxera ruined the vines in 1877. They had a joint interest in Darriwill, Barwonleigh and Lake Wallace station near Edenhope.

In 1856 Robert was elected to the Legislative Council as a member for South-Western Province. To assist him in his political work he bought Summerlea in St Kilda. In the council he quickly won repute for his conservatism and his severe judgments on the behaviour of his fellow members. He took a stand against every attempt to reduce the privileged position of men of property in elections to both the assembly and the council. He also defended the pastoral tenants of crown lands against free selectors. In 1860 he was chairman of the Board of Agriculture. He retained his council seat until 1864 and represented South-Western Province from 1867 until failing health forced him to resign in 1874. He had been chairman of committees in 1864 and 1870-74. He was a joint founder of the Mechanics' Institute at Batesford, a justice of the peace, president of the Geelong and Western District Agricultural and Horticultural Society and a leading Presbyterian.

Hope died at Hawthorn on 24 June 1878. Of his nine sons and two daughters, Robert managed a cattle station in Queensland for his father before buying Birrark station near Condobolin; Thomas Culbertson practised medicine in Geelong; Charles became assistant manager of Goldsbrough Mort & Co. and John was a government surveyor in East Gippsland.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • Hassall papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Hope papers (privately held)
  • manuscript catalogue under Robert Hope (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Manning Clark, 'Hope, Robert Culbertson (1812–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 18 June 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]


12 May, 1812
Morebattle, Scottish Borders, Scotland


24 June, 1878 (aged 66)
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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