Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Denham Pinnock (1810–1875)

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James Denham Pinnock (1810?-1875), public servant and banker, was born at Winchester, England, the son of Timothy Denham Pinnock and his wife Maria, née Doswell. He became a temporary clerk in the Colonial Office, working in 1831 with the London Emigration Committee. In January 1835 he was appointed emigration agent in London, to scrutinize all would-be emigrants seeking bounties. His salary was £200 paid in equal proportions by New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. In October Governor Sir Richard Bourke complained to the Colonial Office that Pinnock was not satisfying the wishes of the colonists: to have their confidence an agent needed an intimate acquaintance with colonial needs. However, Pinnock continued until he was appointed emigration agent in New South Wales, where he arrived in July 1838 in the Amelia Thompson. His salary was £500. In November he was one of a board of five to report on the care of emigrants in the St George. Their report strongly favoured 'bounty' ships, as distinct from 'government' ships, as being cheaper, healthier and otherwise more satisfactory. Pinnock continued to espouse the bounty system and criticize the agents in England. He was accused by the Land and Emigration Commission of making false statements intended to foster the bounty system in which 'large pecuniary interests are involved', and in July 1841 was replaced as emigration agent. According to Governor Sir George Gipps his removal 'caused a considerable sensation in the colony', he 'being generally considered a useful and trustworthy servant of the public, to whom the proceedings of the commissioners had been in many respects “extremely distasteful”.' James Stephen, on the other hand, described him as a man of 'light and unstable character'.

Transferred to Melbourne Pinnock became deputy-registrar of the Supreme Court at £450 a year, holding this office until the Port Phillip District was separated from New South Wales. He went to England in 1851 and on his return in 1854 served briefly as registrar, then as immigration agent in 1857-60 and land titles commissioner in 1862-63. After retirement he was elected to the Legislative Council by the Eastern Province. Earlier he had served as alderman in the Melbourne Town Council and on the committee of the Horticultural Society, but his chief interest seemed to be finance. In 1863 he became a director of the Bank of Victoria, of the Victorian Life and General Assurance Society, and in 1870 of the Melbourne Banking Corporation. As a churchman he served on the building committee of St Peter's, Melbourne, in 1846, and became a member of the Anglican Church Assembly in 1858. He died at his home in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne, on 20 May 1875, aged 65.

In 1844 Pinnock had married the eldest daughter of William Hull, and after her death he married Sibyl Herlock, daughter of John Chipperton, solicitor, on 21 June 1859. He had four children by his first wife and three by his second. Of his sons, James Denham became manager of the St Kilda branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia, and Robert Denham, M.D. (d.1902) practised at Ballarat and in 1884 was commissioned a surgeon in the Victorian Defence Forces, retiring as a major in 1901.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 17-22
  • Argus (Melbourne), 21 May 1875.

Citation details

'Pinnock, James Denham (1810–1875)', 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]


Winchester, Hampshire, England


20 May, 1875 (aged ~ 65)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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