Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Laing (1803–1842)

by Anne McMahon

This article was published:

Henry Laing (b.1803), architect and surveyor, was a native of St Martin's, Westminster, England. On 23 March 1829 at Hereford, Laing was convicted of larceny to the value of £5 and transported to Van Diemen's Land in the Thames. His connexions were described as 'respectable', though his former course of life was listed as 'indifferent'. In the colony George Augustus Robinson made immediate use of Laing's ability on some of his expeditions about 1830. In 1831 and 1833 Laing was tried for various misdemeanours even though by this time he had become a convict overseer. In March 1834 he was sent to Port Arthur and then became a clerk in the Colonial Engineer's Department, but in May 1836 he was back in Port Arthur because of several minor offences. Good conduct and useful service on Tasman Peninsula resulted in his appointment as constable on 10 September 1837.

Laing performed a variety of tasks during his four years on Tasman Peninsula. His most useful professional services included the preparation of numerous plans, elevations, sections and estimates of buildings, including the corn-mill and granary at Port Arthur, new barracks at Point Puer, and copies of buildings at the Salt Water River coal-mine and at Eaglehawk Neck. Laing was also responsible for the working drawings, plans and estimates of all the buildings that were erected while he was at Port Arthur. Some were ambitious structures but in all of them Laing demonstrated his competence by meticulous care and attention to detail. He also prepared a duplicate register of all buildings on the peninsula including plans, elevations and sections of each.

In November 1840 Laing was sent to the coal-mines to supervise the mining operations and held this position until an overseer was appointed. In 1841 he made sketches of parts of the bays on the peninsula as eligible sites for the new probation stations. In September Laing's appeal for a transfer from Port Arthur and professional employment by the government was supported by Charles O'Hara Booth, Thomas Lempriere and Cart. It was not successful. In May 1842 Laing was granted a ticket-of-leave; he left no further record in Van Diemen's Land.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Henry Laing (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anne McMahon, 'Laing, Henry (1803–1842)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




1842 (aged ~ 39)

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.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 14 years