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Richard Rouse (1774–1852)

by Marjorie Lenehan

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Richard Rouse (1774-1852), public servant and settler, was born on 26 February 1774 in Oxfordshire, England, the eldest son of Richard Rouse and his wife Elizabeth, née Taylor. He married Elizabeth Adams on 6 June 1796 and, with a letter of recommendation from the Duke of Portland, arrived in the Nile at Sydney in December 1801 as a free settler with his wife and two small children, one of whom had been born on the voyage. In March 1802 Governor Philip Gidley King granted Rouse 100 acres (40 ha) and he was soon well established on a farm at North Richmond on the Hawkesbury River. In July 1805 he was appointed superintendent of lumberyard at Parramatta. He moved to a house opposite the gates of Government House, Parramatta, and Margaret Catchpole, a convict servant of the family on the voyage and in the colony, was left as overseer at the North Richmond farm.

In 1806 Rouse welcomed Governor William Bligh as a man strong enough to protect the settlers from the despotism of the Rum Corps and was one of the governor's staunchest supporters. He signed several memorials sympathizing with the governor and was named by Bligh as one of the witnesses he wished to take to England. However, the trip did not eventuate as Bligh changed his mind.

This loyalty had cost Rouse his position as a public servant, but he turned his attention to his farms; on 14 January 1810 he was appointed superintendent of carpenters by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and in October 1814 was appointed auctioneer at Parramatta. He superintended the construction of many buildings, tollhouses and turnpikes in the vicinity of Parramatta, Windsor and Liverpool, including the renovation of Government House, Parramatta, in 1815 and the erection of the Parramatta Hospital in 1818, and gave evidence before Commissioner John Thomas Bigge on these building activities.

On 8 October 1816 Rouse was granted 450 acres (182 ha) near the site of the battle of Vinegar Hill, in the Bathurst district; at the suggestion of Macquarie the grant was named Rouse Hill. The actual possession of the land had taken place a few years previously, as the Sydney Gazette had first mentioned Rouse Hill on 27 November 1813, and the homestead was begun soon afterwards. It took a few years to build and was a two-storey, twenty-two room house, which has been occupied by members of the Rouse family ever since.

In 1822 Rouse sent his sons in search of good pasturage in the area north-west of the Blue Mountains which had just been thrown open for settlement; in 1825 they took up land for him ninety miles (145 km) north of Bathurst at Guntawang on the Cudgegong River near Gulgong, which had recently been relinquished by George and Henry Cox because of the hostility of the Aboriginals in that region. This grant of 4000 acres (1619 ha) was gradually increased, and became two stations, Guntawang and Biraganbil, which were inherited by his sons Edwin and George. Both properties prospered and the Rouses were connected with progressive movements in the towns of Mudgee and Gulgong for many years. Rouse also acquired Ewenmar on the Castlereagh River, Gillendoon near Warren, Cobborah near Wellington and other land at Bathurst as well as the properties at Penrith and Richmond. By 1828 he possessed about 10,000 acres (4047 ha), but by then he had retired to Rouse Hill. There he devoted his time to the raising of sheep and cattle, the breeding of thoroughbred horses and the management of his various properties. He became well known for the quality of his stock, which he improved from time to time with imported sires, and he was the original owner of the 'Crooked R' brand, which was afterwards used by his sons.

Rouse was the type of pioneer that the colony needed, a devoted family man, a loyal member of the Church of England, a hard-working and honest public servant and a very efficient grazier. His many properties ensured the future of his three sons and four daughters who survived childhood, including Mary, the eldest, who married Jonathan, son of the missionary Rowland Hassall; Jane who married Alfred Kennerley, premier of Tasmania in 1873-76; Eleanor who married first John Terry of Box Hill, son of Samuel Terry and after his death, Major Thomas Wingate; George, one of the first boys enrolled at The King's School, Parramatta, when it opened in 1832; and Elizabeth Henrietta who married Robert, son of Richard Fitzgerald of Windsor.

In 1847 W. Griffiths of Parramatta executed crayon drawings of Richard and Elizabeth Rouse, both then aged 73, and these are still at Rouse Hill. A copy of the portrait of Richard Rouse is hanging at the Australasian Pioneers' Club, Sydney. Mrs Rouse died in December 1849 and Richard on 10 May 1852. He was buried in a vault at St Peter's Church, Richmond.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 5-7
  • Historical Records of Australia series 1, vols 3-11
  • Sydney Gazette, 7 July 1805, 14 Jan 1810
  • G. H. F Cox, History of Mudgee (State Library of New South Wales), pp 46, 56
  • title deeds for Rouse Hill (privately held)
  • manuscript catalogue under Richard Rouse (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Marjorie Lenehan, 'Rouse, Richard (1774–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 12 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]


26 February, 1774
Oxfordshire, England


10 May, 1852 (aged 78)
New South Wales, Australia

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