Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas James Lempriere (1796–1852)

by W. F. Ellis

This article was published:

Thomas James Lempriere (1796-1852), public official, author and artist, was born on 11 January 1796 at Hamburg, Germany, the son of Thomas Lempriere, a British banker and merchant of Norman-Jersey descent, and his wife Harriet, née Allen. In 1803 he was interned by the French but, owing to his youth, was soon released to join his mother in England. His father, who had conducted a banking house at Calais, remained interned until the armistice of 1813, when he rejoined his family in England and resumed business there as a merchant.

In 1822 T. J. Lempriere emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in the Regalia. In Hobart Town on 29 May 1823 he married Charlotte Smith; they had twelve children. He received a grant of land and became a merchant and foundation shareholder of the Bank of Van Diemen's Land. He was joined by his parents and sisters in 1825 when, with his father, he formed a merchant business in Hobart Town trading as Lempriere & Co., which failed in 1827. He left the company in 1826 for employment in the Commissariat Department as a storekeeper at the penal settlements on Maria Island and Macquarie Harbour. In 1831 he was transferred to the commissariat headquarters at Hobart as a clerk. He was promoted deputy assistant commissary general on 20 January 1837 and assistant commissary general in December 1844. On 25 May 1846 he was also appointed a coroner for Tasmania. He was recalled to England in 1849 for immediate transfer as assistant commissary general in Hong Kong. After a brief service there he was invalided home in 1851 but died on the voyage on 6 January 1852. He was buried at Aden.

Lempriere was a regular diarist and gathered his observations of the convict stations at which he served for publication under the title 'The Penal Settlements of Van Diemen's Land'. This was published in part in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science during 1842 and 1846 and later issued in full by the Northern Branch of the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1954. His artistic talent was well known and he was commissioned to paint landscapes and the portraits of many prominent settlers. He also maintained a keen interest in natural history and was prominent among the early collectors who provided specimens of Tasmanian animals and plants for study in England.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 10, series 3, vols 4, 5
  • A Monograph of the House of Lempriere (priv print, 1862)
  • W. Dixson, ‘Notes on Australian Artists’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 7, part 3, 1921, pp 158-60
  • CSO 1 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • manuscript catalogue under Lempriere (State Library of New South Wales)
  • burial records, St David's Park, (Hobart City Council).

Citation details

W. F. Ellis, 'Lempriere, Thomas James (1796–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 July 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]


11 January, 1796
Hamburg, Germany


6 January, 1852 (aged 55)
at sea

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