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Charles Moore (1820–1895)

by Mark Lyons

This article was published:

Charles Moore (1820-1895), by unknown photographer

Charles Moore (1820-1895), by unknown photographer

City of Sydney Archives, NSCA CRS 54/453

Charles Moore (1820-1895), merchant, auctioneer and alderman, was born on 29 August 1820 at Ballymacarne, County Cavan, Ireland, son of James Moore, farmer, and his wife Catherine, née Rogers. Educated at Drumkeen School, Fermanagh, Ireland, he was apprenticed at 12 to an elder brother, a Cavan draper. His indentures finished, he worked at his trade in Dublin and London. In September 1849 he sailed for South Australia with a shipment of drapery which he sold at a good price in Adelaide. After visiting Melbourne he settled in Sydney in 1850 and opened a drapery which prospered in the gold rushes. He soon bought Charles Newton's auctioneering business.

In 1860 Moore built a substantial house, Baden-Baden at Coogee, and was elected to the Randwick Municipal Council, where he often led the minority Coogee faction in protests against the actions of S. H. Pearce of Randwick. A councillor until 1886, Moore was elected mayor in 1863. He was also a member of the Botany-Randwick-Coogee Roads Trust. In December 1865 he was elected to the Sydney City Council for Bourke Ward and was mayor in 1867-69. With R. Driver Moore won repute as an improver. In his mayoralty the site for the Town Hall was acquired, plans drawn and the foundation stone laid. He successfully championed earlier plans for making dams to improve the capacity of the Botany swamps, Sydney's main water source. He had the Tank stream covered, Macquarie Street extended to Circular Quay and the Tarpeian Way formed. His most famous improvement involved the Sydney Common. Of some 1000 acres (405 ha) this sandy waste was generally believed to be crown land but in 1866 he traced documents proving that in 1811 it had been vested in Sydney's inhabitants. He planned to improve and sell part of it to provide funds to improve half of the rest; the remainder was to be gazetted as a water reserve. The scheme was supported in parliament by the colonial secretary, Henry Parkes, and the secretary for lands, J. B. Wilson. Early in 1867 work began on levelling the sand hills and planting them with grass and trees, and the council renamed the common 'Moore Park'. Moore Street (Martin Place) was also named after him.

Moore had a prickly personality and despite his improvements and refusal to accept a mayoral salary he was often criticized by opposing councillors. In May 1869 he resigned and visited Europe. On his return in 1871 he was re-elected to the council and held his seat until 1886. Still an improver, he had plans drafted for an underground railway to Circular Quay. From July to October 1874 he represented East Sydney in the Legislative Assembly; in 1880-95 he served in the Legislative Council. He was a supporter, friend and sometimes creditor of Parkes. In 1880 he moved to Moore Court, a mansion he had built at Springwood.

In January 1854 Moore had married Sarah Jane Wilcox, who died without issue. In 1882 he again visited Europe and in 1883 at Kingston, Ireland, married a widow Annie Hill Montgomery. Evangelical in outlook, he was an active Anglican and, despite contrary assertions by the Freeman's Journal, eschewed the sectarianism that marred municipal politics, although he made a legacy to a niece conditional on her not marrying a Catholic. He was vice-president of the Church of England Defence Association formed in 1886 to combat growing ritualism. Childless, he died of senile decay and heart failure on 4 July 1895 and was buried in the Emu Plains cemetery. His estate was valued at £17,755.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 1 (Syd, 1889)
  • I. Moore, Glimpses of Old Sydney and N.S.W. (Syd, 1945)
  • W. B. Lynch and F. A. Larcombe, Randwick, 1859-1959 (Syd, 1959)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1866, 5, 1009, 1867-68, 4, 974, 1869, 2, 423
  • W. A. B. Greaves, ‘Recollections of old Sydney’, JRAHS, 3 (1915-17)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 1867, 21 Apr 1869
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 25 July 1874
  • Sydney Mail, 13 July 1895
  • G. Gerathy, The Role of the Sydney City Council in the Development of the Metropolitan Area 1842-1912 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1970)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Mark Lyons, 'Moore, Charles (1820–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 17 April 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

Charles Moore (1820-1895), by unknown photographer

Charles Moore (1820-1895), by unknown photographer

City of Sydney Archives, NSCA CRS 54/453

Life Summary [details]


29 August, 1820
Ballymacarne, Cavan, Ireland


4 July, 1895 (aged 74)
New South Wales, Australia

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