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Samuel Frederick Milford (1797–1865)

by H. T. E. Holt

This article was published:

Samuel Frederick Milford (1797-1865), judge, was born on 16 September 1797 in Exeter, England, eldest son of Samuel Frederick Milford of Heavitree, magistrate and deputy lieutenant of Devon and Sussex, and his wife Sophia, née Foskett. Educated at the High School, Exeter, he entered St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1819, M.A., 1822). Called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn on 10 May 1822, he practised at Bristol and became a judge in the Diocesan Ecclesiastical Court. In 1842 illness induced him to seek better health in Australia; recommended by his cousin Sir William Follett, attorney-general, he was appointed master in Equity in New South Wales with a proposed salary of £1000.

Milford arrived in Sydney on 1 January 1843 in the Hamlet with his wife Eliza, née Butler, whom he had married in 1825, and their six children. Admitted to the colonial Bar on 23 January 1843 he was sworn in next day as master in Equity. He also became chief commissioner of insolvent estates and deputy-commissary and surrogate of the Vice-Admiralty Court. The Legislative Council reduced his salary but Governor Sir George Gipps charged the difference to Crown revenue.

Milford ably discharged the office of master in Equity but was refused a salary rise in 1848. On 1 January 1856 he was appointed an additional judge of the Supreme Court and deputy-judge and commissary of the Vice-Admiralty Court in New South Wales. He also presided at Brisbane Circuit Courts and in other jurisdictions of the New South Wales Supreme Court but claimed the right, when the two colonies were separated, to be recalled to the New South Wales bench. On 1 April 1857 he became first resident judge at Moreton Bay but sought return to Sydney. He strongly disagreed with (Sir) William Manning, attorney-general, and (Sir) John Darvall, solicitor-general, who held the opinion that on separation Milford would cease to be a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court. However, he helped with court arrears in Sydney and, supported by Chief Justice (Sir) Alfred Stephen and Judge Sir Roger Therry, was reappointed to the New South Wales Supreme Court on 21 February 1859.

As primary Equity judge and judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court Milford continued to preside in all jurisdictions though his talents lay chiefly in Equity, where his hard work, courtesy and kindly disposition won general esteem. His expeditious judgments were generally upheld on appeal. In 1865 against medical advice he attended the Assizes at Maitland where he died on 26 May. He was buried in the Anglican section of Camperdown cemetery with a state funeral. He was survived by his wife, four sons and two daughters, to whom he left goods valued at £4000. A stained glass window in St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, was erected by members of the legal profession in appreciation of his services and those of Judge Edward Wise who had also died that year.

His eldest son Charles Sussex served with the army in India, retired as major-general and visited Sydney, where in 1877 he placed a mural tablet in St Mary's Cathedral to the memory of his mother who had worshipped there for thirty years. The second son Herman, a barrister, was a surrogate to the Vice-Admiralty Court of New South Wales from 1859 until he died in 1865. His third son Frederick, a surgeon on the teaching staff of St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, wrote extensively on medical subjects, and was a keen and fearless yachtsman. His youngest son Henry John Bede became a solicitor in Sydney in 1855 and as an independent in 1864 defeated (Sir) Henry Parkes for Braidwood in the Legislative Assembly. He practised in Sydney until 1867 and then at Rockhampton, where in 1869 he won a by-election in the Queensland parliament but resigned in April 1870 without taking his seat. From 1885 he practised at Charters Towers where he died on 29 February 1888, survived by his wife Katherine Charlotte, née Dick, whom he had married at Sydney in 1856, and by two sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 25
  • J. T. S. Bird, The Early History of Rockhampton (Rockhampton, 1904)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1855, 1, 693, 729, 1859-60, 5, 251
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 1, 10, 1203, 1859-60, 2, 511, 1865, 2, 890
  • J. A. Dowling, ‘The judiciary’, JRAHS, 2 (1906-09)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 13 Mar 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Jan 1843, 23 Feb 1859, 21 June 1865, 30 Nov 1868
  • Sydney Mail, 6 Feb 1864
  • Governor's dispatches 1842-43 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Milford notebooks (State Records New South Wales)
  • Attorney-General's Dept papers, vol 1 (State Records New South Wales)
  • CO 201/508.

Citation details

H. T. E. Holt, 'Milford, Samuel Frederick (1797–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 September, 1797
Exeter, Devon, England


26 May, 1865 (aged 67)
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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