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Joseph Lucas Horrocks (?–1865)

by Wendy Birman

This article was published:

Joseph Lucas Horrocks (d.1865), medical attendant, merchant and mining superintendent, was found guilty of forgery at the Central Criminal Court, London, on 9 April 1851 and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived at Fremantle in the Marion on 31 January 1852, was granted a ticket-of-leave in June 1853 and a conditional pardon on 19 April 1856. Although he was married, his wife does not appear to have joined him in Western Australia.

In 1852 Horrocks worked in the medical section of the convict establishment at Fremantle. This experience and the scarcity of medical officers led him to apply for the post of medical attendant at Port Gregory, which he accepted at a reduced salary of £20 a year because of his limited qualifications. In September 1853 he left Fremantle in the brig Hero. At Port Gregory his duties were to attend the medical needs of all officers of the civil establishment, ticket-of-leave men and sick natives in the area, purposes for which he had acquired a large supply of surgical instruments and medicines from Fremantle. His requisition for more in October was considered excessive and much reduced. He won repute for generosity to the poor in supplying prescribed drugs at low costs and was soon widely known as 'Doc'.

Late in 1854 Horrocks returned to Fremantle in the Daphne but soon went to Wanerenooka where he opened a store, took an interest in agriculture and was knowledgeable enough to experiment with such crops as tobacco, hops, fruit and wheat, believing that the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was a prime factor in the high incidence of scurvy. Unimpressed by the rough humpies of miners, Horrocks built a stone cottage for himself and several more which he leased at low rentals. On 26 December 1859 he was appointed postmaster at Wanerenooka and in 1864 succeeded in giving the district improved postal services. He began agitating for a railway from Gwalla to Champion Bay, and organized the construction of the Wanerenooka road, employing men and supplying tools at his own cost. Through George Shenton he became interested in copper and lead and was connected with the Wanerenooka mine which produced ore worth £40,000 in its first ten years. He was also instrumental in starting White Peak, Yanganooka and Gwalla mines. Gwalla was worked by skilled Cornish miners, who were brought to the colony for this purpose. His initial freehold surrounding the Gwalla mine was 100 acres (40 ha), but this was subsequently increased.

Deeply conscious of social and economic problems, Horrocks argued that many convicts were more 'sinned against than sinning'. He was concerned for the progress of the sandalwood industry and the need for improved knowledge as agricultural and pastoral lands became available; he urged the government to foster the mining industry in the Victoria district by good roads, to provide steam-driven machinery and to discourage public zest for quick profits. As an employer he was sympathetic; once he started a sustenance scheme for the unemployed to collect stones and build walls. In October 1864 he petitioned for closure of the Miner's Arms, a public house opened by John Hoskins. Of those who signed it ninety were employed by Horrocks and many names were forged; the resident magistrate found that Horrocks had been selling illicit liquor since 1858.

With a dogmatic belief in individual rights Horrocks was responsible for building an undenominational church at Gwalla, its foundation stone engraved with 'My house shall be called a house for all people'. Pulpits were installed, one for Anglicans and one for Nonconformists while anti-ritualists had a reading desk; the bell was later removed to Wesley Church in Perth. Horrocks died from general debility on 7 October 1865 and was buried in the graveyard near his church. His property reverted to the Shenton family.

Select Bibliography

  • J. T. Reilly, Reminiscences of Fifty Years Residence in Western Australia (Perth, 1903)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Great Britain), 1852 (1517)
  • J. M. Drew, ‘Early Northampton: An Undenominational Church’, Journal and Proceedings (Western Australian Historical Society), 2 (1932)
  • A. Carson, ‘The Champion Bay Country: Historical Highlights and Personal Recollections’, Early Days: Journal and Proceedings, Western Australian Historical Society, vol 2, Oct 1939, pp 13-22
  • 'Central Criminal Court, April 9', Times (London), 10 Apr 1851, p 7
  • Perth Gazette, 20, 27 Oct 1863
  • Countryman (Perth), 1 Jan 1959
  • CSO 1853-64 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • convict records (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Horrocks, Joseph Lucas (?–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 18 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

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