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Thomas Moore (1762–1840)

by M. L. Loane

This article was published:

Thomas Moore (1762-1840), sailor, farmer and philanthropist, was born in England of humble parents. He had little education, but was endowed with robust common sense and developed a character of great stability. He took to the sea and in October 1791 arrived in the Britannia in Sydney. There he may have met Rachel Turner who had arrived in 1790, but he continued to sail the Indian and Pacific Oceans for another five years. In May 1796 he berthed in Port Jackson again, went ashore as a free settler and next January was married to Rachel Turner.

In 1796 Governor John Hunter had made him master boatbuilder in the dockyard at Port Jackson, and in 1798 he was a member of the Vice-Admiralty Court set up to try those accused of mutiny in the Barwell. In 1803 he was commissioned to survey and procure timber from George's River for ship building and naval purposes. He built his own cutter Integrity, and began to trade with Brisbane Water; he also engaged in general building. His heart was turning away from the sea and his eyes were on the rich new lands then being opened for farming.

In 1799 he received a grant of 470 acres (190 ha), at Bulanaming, between Petersham and Cook's River. By 1804 he owned 1100 acres (445 ha), and 1920 acres (777 ha) by 1807, mostly pasture land. He lived on a grant which he had been given beside the Tank Stream, on what became the southern side of Bridge Street in Sydney. This was a three-acre (1.2 ha) orchard and the centre of his business activities. Moore was one of 833 persons who signed the 'Settlers' Address to Governor William Bligh just before he was deposed by John Macarthur and Major George Johnston in January 1808. He became a captain in the Loyal Sydney Volunteer Association in March 1808 and in March 1809 his name was listed among those whom Bligh forbade any shipmaster to assist to leave the colony.

In 1809 Moore gave up his post as master boatbuilder and withdrew from Sydney. He had received a large grant in the George's River district known as Moorebank, and the site which he chose for his home was to make him the first citizen of Liverpool. On 7 May 1810 he was gazetted a magistrate for George's River. He joined Macquarie on his tour of the district when the town site of Liverpool was proclaimed on 15 December. His last years were spent at Moorebank. He steadily added to his original grant by purchase and became one of the colony's largest landholders. He regularly supplied meat to the government stores in Sydney and his sources of income were wide and varied. He shared in the foundation of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817 and helped to open a savings bank at Liverpool in July 1819. He visited England in 1818 and in 1834 and went to Adelaide in 1839 to arrange for the sale and transhipment of 2000 sheep.

Moore was reappointed as magistrate for Liverpool each year until 1820 when his jurisdiction was extended throughout the County of Cumberland; in 1821 he became a magistrate for New South Wales. He contributed towards the building of a two-storey church school and a court-house opened in 1813, a Roman Catholic chapel in 1821 and a Presbyterian church in 1826. He helped to found an auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1817 and served on the Liverpool committee of the Wesleyan Auxiliary Missionary Society in 1824. It was natural that he should be called 'the King of Liverpool'. Although generous in his religious sympathies, Moore was primarily a devoted member of the Church of England. He was a constant friend of 'parson Marsden' and 'Mr. Cowper', and used to worship at St Philip's, Church Hill. After he settled at Liverpool he would ride across to St John's, Parramatta, but the building of St Luke's, Liverpool, was begun in 1818 and it was used for worship in 1819 when the roof and four walls were up. In 1823 it still lacked pews and a gallery and Moore was active on the committee which sought to raise funds to complete it. It was ready for dedication in 1824 and Moore became a member of its first committee. His home, with its habits of household prayers each day and of worship in St Luke's Church every Sunday, was a model of ordered piety and simple contentment.

On 13 November 1838 Rachel Moore died and Thomas was left without children or kinsfolk. He had formed a great admiration for Bishop William Grant Broughton and had given him land in the Rocks area of Lower George Street as a site for a future cathedral; the land was later resumed but the £20,000 received as compensation helped to build St Andrew's Cathedral. After his wife's death Moore determined to leave all his property to the Church of England in New South Wales. Next year his will was drawn up to give effect to this desire, and he died on Christmas Eve 1840. Under his will the rents and income from 2080 acres (842 ha) of Moorebank were to form an endowment for the see of Sydney; those from the remaining 4315 acres (1746 ha) were to provide a fund to augment clergy stipends. His house and grounds at Liverpool were left for the foundation of a college for the education of young men of 'the Protestant persuasion'. The income from 700 acres (283 ha) at Minto and Liverpool were to provide an endowment for the college. On 1 March 1856 Moore Theological College was opened at Liverpool with Rev. W. M. Cowper (1810-1902) as acting principal and three students in residence. The college was transferred to a site in Newtown adjacent to the University of Sydney in 1891. A portrait of Moore hangs in the Chapter House in Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 3-7
  • M. L. Loane, A Centenary History of Moore Theological College (Syd, 1955)
  • Sydney Gazette, 11 Dec 1803, 1 June 1806, 15 May 1808
  • Oddfellow (Sydney), 15 Oct 1924.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

M. L. Loane, 'Moore, Thomas (1762–1840)', 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]




24 December, 1840 (aged ~ 78)
Liverpool, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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