Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mark Nicholson (1818–1889)

by R. M. Jukes

This article was published:

Mark Nicholson (1818-1889), pastoralist, was born at Clifton, near Bristol, England, youngest son of Rev. Mark Nicholson (1770-1838), sometime fellow of Queen's College, Oxford (M.A., 1797), and president of Codrington College, Barbados, in 1801-21, and his wife Lucy, née Elcock, who came from a distinguished West Indian family.

Trained to the law, Nicholson never practised. Intending to prepare the way for others of his family, he sailed in the Duchess of Kent. Arriving at Port Phillip in June 1840, he took up a cattle run near Mount Macedon with a relation, Dr Edmund Higgins, as partner. In 1845 Nicholson left it and took up Lake Wangoom as well as Cudgee and Mount Warrnambool with Craigieburn as an out-station. In that year he married his cousin Elizabeth Cobham, whose mother was a sister-in-law of Georgiana McCrae, G. W. Cole and Dr D. J. Thomas, thereby becoming connected with other prominent people in the formative years of the Port Phillip District. He had five sons and two daughters.

In 1848 Superintendent La Trobe asked Nicholson, Thomas Manifold and Henry Foster to become justices of the peace so that the new town of Warrnambool might have more influence in the Magistrates' Court at Belfast (Port Fairy). As prominent churchmen, Nicholson and Foster were requested by Bishop Perry to conduct services in the township until Dr Beamish became the incumbent in 1850. In 1853 Nicholson was elected, unknown to himself, to represent Belfast and Warrnambool in the Victorian Legislative Council, where his family connexions, G. W. Cole, J. Graham and W. C. Haines, were fellow members. He successfully moved for a survey of the ports of Belfast and Warrnambool. He was also responsible for the motion to provide funds in 1854 for a museum of natural history, now the National Museum of Victoria. He resigned in 1854 in order to return to England to educate his children.

Nicholson's brother, William Alleyne, was a patron of Ludwig Leichhardt and Mark's migration led Leichhardt to travel to Australia too. Because Leichhardt's ship carried him to Sydney, the two never met in Australia but they corresponded and three of Leichhardt's letters to Nicholson are in the Warrnambool Public Library. In 1843 he asked Leichhardt to superintend his western station but withdrew the offer because of the colony's financial troubles in which Nicholson was heavily involved. At Clifton he had been a pupil of Dr J. E. Bromby and was partly responsible for his becoming the first headmaster of Melbourne Church of England Grammar School in 1858. A nephew, J. H. Nicholson, settled in Queensland.

Nicholson visited Victoria on business in 1859 and 1868, and in 1873 returned with his family to settle. In his 72nd year he died at his home, Waveney, near Warrnambool, on 27 October 1889. His generosity, charm and talent for friendship had won him a wide circle of friends.

A portrait is in the Warrnambool City Council Chambers.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Aurousseau (ed), The Letters of F. W. Ludwig Leichhardt (Cambridge, 1968)
  • C. E. Sayers, By These We Flourish (Melb, 1969)
  • R. M. Jukes (ed), some Nicholson letters and papers (held by author).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. M. Jukes, 'Nicholson, Mark (1818–1889)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 20 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

Life Summary [details]


Clifton, Gloucestershire, England


27 October, 1889 (aged ~ 71)
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

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