Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Rose (1754–1833)

by Arthur McMartin

This article was published:

Thomas Rose (1754?-1833), farmer, was born at Blandford, Dorset, England, and baptized on 24 November 1754, son of Christopher Rose and his wife Mary, née Belben. On 8 August 1779 at Sturminster Newton he married Jane Topp, who bore him three sons and one daughter before 1792. In August that year, as the result of repeated requests by Governor Arthur Phillip for the dispatch of intelligent and experienced farmers, Thomas Rose and his family together with four other free settlers sailed in the Bellona for New South Wales. Rose and his companions were the first free and independent settlers to reach Australia. They arrived in Sydney on 16 January 1793, when David Collins noted that Rose was 'the most respectable of these people, and apparently the best calculated for a bona-fide settler'. The new arrivals chose land about seven miles (11 km) west of Sydney, which they called Liberty Plains, now the Strathfield-Homebush district, where Rose received first 80 (32 ha) and later 120 acres (49 ha). Why they settled there is uncertain, for the soil was poor, and without manure was quickly exhausted, but possibly Lieutenant-Governor Francis Grose wanted to establish settlement between Sydney and Parramatta for the safety and convenience of the travelling public. Rose soon decided that they had 'made a hasty and bad choice of situation' and according to family records he soon afterwards moved to Prospect, where he was made an overseer in charge of the government farm and stock, and where his second daughter, Sarah, was born. He appears to have stayed at Prospect for some twelve years. He and his family then moved to more fertile lands along the Hawkesbury River where they purchased the 30-acre (12 ha) grant of William Mackay near the later-named Wilberforce, which Grose began to settle in 1794. There he spent the rest of his life and became a well-known and highly respected figure, surrounded by a growing army of descendants. A son and a daughter had been born in the colony. He died on 15 November 1833 and was buried in the cemetery of St John's, Wilberforce. His wife, who predeceased him in 1827, was, according to the Sydney Gazette, the first woman to attain the status of great-grandmother in the colony since its establishment.

Quiet, homely, unassuming and industrious, Thomas Rose belonged to that humble band of men who, in a rough and licentious age, helped to lay the foundations of ordered social life in a new country.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2-6
  • D. Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1798-1802)
  • J. F. Campbell, ‘The Dawn of Rural Settlement in Australia’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 10, part 4, 1924, pp 169-98
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 21 Aug 1925
  • manuscript catalogue under Thomas Rose (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Arthur McMartin, 'Rose, Thomas (1754–1833)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 14 April 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]


Blandford, Dorset, England


15 November, 1833 (aged ~ 79)
New South Wales, Australia

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