Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Hutchinson (1772–1846)

by Paul Edwin Le Roy

This article was published:

William Hutchinson (1772-1846), public servant and landowner, was convicted at the Old Bailey in London in June 1796 of stealing goods to the value of over £168. After being sentenced to death he was transported for seven years, and reached Sydney in the Hillsborough in 1799. Convicted of theft from the King's stores in Sydney, he was sent to Norfolk Island. There he was soon appointed an overseer of government stock, an acting superintendent of convicts in June 1803 and a superintendent in 1809. By industry on the island he acquired considerable property, which he increased by trade, being especially active in selling pork to the government. Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Foveaux recommended him to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and he played an important part in the island's evacuation in the summer of 1813-14.

When he returned to Sydney, he was appointed by Macquarie in April 1814 to replace Isaac Nichols as principal superintendent of convicts and public works at a salary of £75, raised to £100 in 1820. In this position he exercised much influence in assigning convicts to private settlers, and became a close associate and confidant of the governor. Though his conduct was the subject of criticism Commissioner John Thomas Bigge could find no proof of his abusing his extensive patronage; however, Bigge thought Hutchinson's antecedents made him unsuitable for the position he occupied and he was replaced by Frederick Hely in 1823.

Hutchinson had received the convicts' money and property when they arrived which, with other deposits, he at times invested to his own benefit. He also supplied convicts for the public works, working harmoniously with the engineer, Major George Druitt. In November 1817 Macquarie made Hutchinson principal wharfinger in place of George Dowling, but despite prolonged correspondence the British government never confirmed this appointment. He was appointed landing-waiter in 1827, but retired because of ill health in 1829.

He was by then an important citizen. He had been active in the establishment in 1816 of the Bank of New South Wales of which he was a director from January 1829 until his death. From 1819 he partnered Edward Eagar, William Redfern and Francis E. Forbes in commercial undertakings. In 1820 with Samuel Terry he was part owner of the Waterloo flour-mill, which two years later was turned into a company with wide interests, including banking. Hutchinson sold out in 1825. He was a considerable landowner and pastoralist, with properties near Moss Vale, Bargo, Mittagong, Sutton Forest, Bringelly and Bong Bong, from which one of his convict servants was removed because of ill treatment. He also owned real estate in the centre of Sydney, Chippendale, Liverpool, Parramatta and Melbourne. In 1835 he was elected a director of the Marine Insurance Co. and the Australian Wheat and Flour Co., and in 1840 was one of the first directors of the Mutual Fire Insurance Association. He was active in the concerns of the Sydney Public Free Grammar School, the Sydney College and the Benevolent Society. He was one of the leaders in the campaign for fuller civil rights. In 1827 and again in 1833 he supported requests for trial by jury and a legislative assembly; in 1831 he rejoiced at the replacement of (Sir) Ralph Darling by (Sir) Richard Bourke; in 1833 he protested against colonial funds being spent for services rendered elsewhere; in 1835 he was active in the formation of the Australian Patriotic Association and in the movement demanding a city government in Sydney.

In June 1801 he married at Norfolk Island Mary Cooper (Chapman), who had arrived in the Britannia in 1798, having been sentenced in Surrey in 1795 to transportation for seven years. She bore him eight children. In 1825 he married again, his second wife being the widow of another successful emancipist, originally Jane Roberts, who was transported for seven years and arrived in the Glatton in 1803. She soon left him but two of the sons of her first marriage wed two of Hutchinson's daughters. Hutchinson died on 26 July 1846, leaving goods worth £20,000 in addition to his extensive real estate.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-12, 14-15
  • J. T. Bigge, Report … into the State of the Colony of New South Wales, Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons, Great Britain), 1822 (448)
  • newspaper indexes (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/133
  • Governor's dispatches A1205 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Hutchinson estate, box 31, 144 (Norton Smith & Co, Sydney)
  • Bank of New South Wales archives (Sydney).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Paul Edwin Le Roy, 'Hutchinson, William (1772–1846)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 12 July 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]




26 July, 1846 (aged ~ 74)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Passenger Ship
Key Organisations
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years