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Edmund Lockyer (1784–1860)

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Edmund Lockyer (1784-1860), soldier and landowner, was born on 21 January 1784 in St Andrew's Parish, Plymouth, Devon, England, the son of Thomas Lockyer, sailmaker, and his wife Ann, née Grose. He entered the army as an ensign in the 19th Regiment in June 1803, was promoted lieutenant early in 1805 and acquired a captaincy in August. At Galle, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), on 12 August 1806 he married a widow Dorothea Agatha Young, née de Ly. She died in Ceylon on 13 September 1816; on 6 October Lockyer married Sarah Morris. He was promoted major in August 1819 and in August 1824 transferred to the 57th Regiment. His service had been in England, Ireland, India and Ceylon. He arrived in Sydney in the Royal Charlotte in April 1825 with a detachment of the 57th; with him were his wife and ten children.

In August 1825 Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane instructed him to proceed to Moreton Bay in the cutter Mermaid, 84 tons, and explore the Brisbane River as far as he could go 'with prudence', and report on the animals, birds, minerals and the 'nature, disposition, complexion etc. of the natives'. Lockyer set out on 1 September and, with John Finnegan, a former castaway who had guided John Oxley in this district in 1823-24, explored the river in a small boat for 150 miles (241 km), about twice as far as Oxley had reached. He discovered the stream that bears his name and the Stanley River, and found coal near the present-day Ipswich. Since there was ample water over the bar the Mermaid was brought to Brisbane, the first sea-going vessel to enter the river. With a cargo of timber Lockyer returned to Sydney on 16 October 1825.

In March 1826 the British government, fearing that the French were planning to establish a colony on the west coast of Australia, instructed Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling among other measures to have King George Sound examined as the possible site of a settlement. Lockyer was appointed by Darling to establish a settlement there and, should the French have already arrived, to land his troops and to inform the French that the whole of New Holland was subject to the British government. Lockyer sailed on 9 November 1826 in the Amity, with Lieutenant Festing, twenty-three convicts and a detachment of twenty of the 39th Regiment under Captain Wakefield, who was to take over the settlement when it had been established. The expedition reached the sound on Christmas Day and next day Lockyer and Festing landed. In a preliminary examination of the area one man was speared by Aboriginals but survived. By 10 January buildings had been erected, a garden dug and 'a quantity of amazing fine fish' caught. That day a boat-load of sealers arrived. Lockyer arrested two of these, having evidence that they had committed outrages against Aboriginals, and sent them to Sydney in the Amity when she departed on 24 January. From the sealers Lockyer learnt that Dumont D'Urville had surveyed King George Sound in November. On 12 February Lockyer with five others set out to walk to Swan River, but it rained heavily, a soldier fell ill and the schooner Isabella arrived on her way to Melville Island bringing instructions to Lockyer to return to Sydney and news that Captain (Sir) James Stirling in H.M.S. Success had already reconnoitred Swan River. Lockyer sailed for Sydney in the Success on 3 April, leaving Wakefield in charge.

In 1827 Lockyer sold his commission, having decided to settle in the colony. He was granted 2560 acres (1036 ha), which he named Lockyersleigh, in the Marulan district, and built a house, Ermington, on an estate near Ryde. By 1837 he had added 3635 acres (1471 ha) to Lockyersleigh by purchase, and by 1853 the estate totalled 11,810 acres (4779 ha). In 1838 he leased and stocked Cavan, a run on the Murrumbidgee and Goodradigbee Rivers. Iron was found on Lockyersleigh and a beginning was made with mining, but the work was abandoned for lack of labour in the gold rush. However, the spade which was used to cut the first turf for the Sydney Railway Co. in July 1850 was made from Lockyer's iron.

Although a proficient artist and a devoted parent, Lockyer was easily imposed upon and dabbled in too many things to be a good farmer. In 1830 Lockyersleigh was said to be in great need of improvement and stocked with 'very miserable, coarse sheep' bred from 'old culls'. However, Lockyer was assisted by the occupancy of a variety of public appointments. When he retired from the army be had been appointed police magistrate at Parramatta. In 1828 Darling appointed him principal surveyor of roads and bridges at a salary of £600; but the secretary of state in May ordered that this office be abolished and the duties performed by assistants of the surveyor-general. Thereupon in December 1829 Lockyer became police magistrate at Parramatta again and from February to December 1830 superintendent of police there. In 1842 he was a member of the association formed to gain permission to import coolies from India. In 1852 he was appointed serjeant-at-arms to the Legislative Council and in 1856 usher of the black rod.

He died at his home, York House, Woolloomooloo on 10 June 1860 and was buried in the Camperdown cemetery. Sarah had died on 11 July 1853, aged 68. On 18 November 1854 he married Eliza Colston (Coulson). He was survived by his widow, a son of his first marriage, nine children of his second and three of his third. His son, Nicholas (1855-1933), became a leading New South Wales and Commonwealth public servant.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 12-16, 18-19, 25, series 3, vol 6
  • J. S. Battye, Western Australia (Oxford, 1924)
  • R. Cilento (ed), Triumph in the Tropics (Brisb, 1959)
  • J. Jervis, ‘Settlement in the Marulan-Bungonia District’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 32, part 2, 1946, pp 107-42
  • Australian, 26 Sept 1827, 9 Dec 1829, 24 Feb 1830)
  • Lockyer papers (State Library of New South Wales).

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Citation details

'Lockyer, Edmund (1784–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 13 June 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]


21 January, 1784
Plymouth, Devon, England


10 June, 1860 (aged 76)
Woolloomooloo, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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