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Francis Guillemard Simpkinson de Wesselow (1819–1906)

by V. W. Hodgman

This article was published:

Francis Guillemard Simpkinson de Wesselow (1819-1906), naval officer and artist, was born on 26 May 1819 in London, the son of Sir John Augustus Francis Simpkinson, barrister and later Q.C., and his wife Mary, née Griffin, who was a sister of Lady Jane Franklin. In March 1832 he joined the navy as a first-class volunteer in H.M.S. Britannia, in which he served, apart from twenty-eight days in October 1833 in the Rainbow with his uncle, Sir John Franklin, until February 1835 when he was transferred to the Jupiter. Ten months later he joined the Sulphur. In 1836 this surveying ship under Captain Edward Belcher began a seven year voyage around the world. In various places Simpkinson helped to take synchronous pendulum observations, and in Belcher's Narrative of a Voyage around the World (London, 1843) he is mentioned as one of the two midshipmen who accompanied Belcher on a visit to the vice-consul at Tepic, Mexico. Simpkinson's own diary from 28 March to 25 August 1837, now in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, describes the ship's progress up the west coast of America especially from Panama to Mexico, and thence to Hawaii, where he thought Belcher's attempt to restore order with the help of a French frigate was very badly handled. Simpkinson did not complete the world voyage, for in June 1838 he was transferred to the Harrier. In the early 1840s he is said to have been admitted to the Royal Naval College and, after serving in the China war as gunner's mate, to have been placed on half-pay.

In May 1844 he was restored to full pay and ordered to Van Diemen's Land to place himself under the orders of Lieutenant Joseph Kay at the magnetic observatory in Hobart Town. Simpkinson arrived in September in the Pestonjee Bomanjee and was allowed double pay for his services at the observatory even after he was promoted lieutenant in December 1845.

Simpkinson was an accomplished artist and in Hobart he painted a number of landscapes, some of which now belong to the Royal Society of Tasmania and are in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Some water-colours by Simpkinson were hung among the 276 works displayed at the first public exhibition of paintings in Australia; it was held on 6 January 1845 in the Legislative Council chambers.

In 1849 Simpkinson left Hobart in the Calcutta for England, where he returned to half-pay. His last commission was in the Fisgard from March 1854 to March 1855 on surveying duties. He was retired as a lieutenant in April 1870. At St Leonard's on 14 December 1858 he had married Emily, daughter of George Henry Malcolm Wagner. They were living at Westminster in November 1869 when Simpkinson added de Wesselow to his surname by deed poll. Later he lived at Cannes where he acquired much property. He died in London on 4 December 1906 and his estate was sworn at more than £70,000.

Select Bibliography

  • W. R. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (Lond, 1849)
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 24 Dec 1906, p 4
  • G. T. W. B. Boyes diary (Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart)
  • Adm 24/106, 119, 37/7930, 8301, 38/9116, 107/75.

Citation details

V. W. Hodgman, 'Simpkinson de Wesselow, Francis Guillemard (1819–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 18 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]

Alternative Names
  • Simpkinson, Francis Guillemard

26 May, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


4 December, 1906 (aged 87)
London, Middlesex, England

Cultural Heritage

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