Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Richardson (1810–1888)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

John Richardson (1810-1888), store-keeper and politician, was born at Freuchie Manse, Fifeshire, Scotland, eldest son of Rev. John Richardson, United Presbyterian minister, and his wife Grace, née Pratt. Educated at parish schools in Freuchie and Pitlessie and at Cupar Academy, at 16 he was apprenticed to a linen draper in Kirkcaldy and from 1835 worked in London. In April 1838 he reached Sydney in the Fergusson; he worked with R. Bourne & Co. for four years.

About 1842 he set up as a store-keeper in Brisbane and was one of the first to import goods direct from England. He moved between Sydney and Brisbane and on 10 June 1847 at the Scots Church, Sydney, married Janet, sister of P. N. Russell. About 1850 Richardson built a wharf and warehouse in Brisbane and confined himself to a wholesale commission and shipping agency. In January at a meeting in Ipswich he opposed 'cheap labour' whether convict or coolie. He was an agent for some of Rev. J. D. Lang's migrant ships, defended him against attacks in the press and worked with him for the separation of Queensland. In 1851 he was appointed to the Steam Vessels Inspection Board, Moreton Bay, and in September was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council for the County of Stanley. A radical, he supported J. B. Darvall and voted against the second reading of W. C. Wentworth's Constitution bill. In July 1854 he vacated his seat to visit Britain; on his return in 1855 he won a by-election for Stanley Boroughs and in 1856-59 represented it in the new Legislative Assembly. In June 1859 he won Brisbane but ceased to sit when Queensland was separated in December.

In 1857-58 Richardson, with H. W. Coxen, took up three runs on the Darling Downs and six in the Maranoa District which they added to before their partnership was dissolved in 1863. He held these runs alone until Shepherd Smith joined him in 1866. In 1865 he took up four runs in Leichhardt and in 1866 two in South Kennedy. Richardson and Smith sold most of their runs in 1872 and two more in 1875-76, but they held Gideon Land on the Darling Downs until 1883. In 1871-74 he sold his Leichhardt runs but in 1878-82 with George Loder held nine in the Warrego District and one on his own in Mitchell. In 1882 he added two more in Mitchell but soon sold them. Reputedly he lost heavily on these speculations.

Soon after his return from England in 1868 Richardson was appointed to the Legislative Council by James Martin and sat until 1887. In 1869 he was auditor of the Bank of New South Wales; a magistrate, he was also a councillor of St Andrew's College, University of Sydney, and a committee-man of the Home Visiting and Relief Society. In 1872 he bought John Moore's general store in Armidale and, as John Richardson & Co., he and his sons built up a flourishing business. As 'Universal Providers' it became one of the biggest firms outside Sydney. They also ran a flour-mill and a furniture and upholstery factory.

Survived by his wife, five sons and two daughters, Richardson died in his house Mavorna, Armidale, on 22 December 1888 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery, Armidale. His estate was valued for probate at almost £30,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Armidale Citizens' Committee, Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Armidale (Armidale, 1913)
  • Armidale: Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1863-1923 (Armidale, 1923)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec 1849, 17, 31 Jan 1850
  • Empire (Sydney), 2 Apr 1856
  • Bulletin, 5 Nov 1881
  • press cuttings on cricket (State Records New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Richardson, John (1810–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Freuchie, Fife, Scotland


22 December, 1888 (aged ~ 78)
Armidale, New South Wales, Australia

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