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Thomas Ware Smart (1810–1881)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Thomas Ware Smart (1810-1881), businessman and politician, was born in Sydney, son of Thomas Smart, bootmaker, of Pitt Street, who had arrived in the Admiral Gambier in 1808 with a seven-year sentence. After six years as an assistant in Cooper and Levey's Waterloo warehouse he joined Andrew Oliver for two years in a drapery business in Pitt Street. In 1836 he set up as an auctioneer, estate, land and commission agent in George Street. He soon acquired a large fortune and branched out into other activities, including banking and flour-milling. On 8 January 1842 at St James's Church he married Oliver's widow Mary Anne, née Kenyon. In 1845 he was appointed a magistrate and took out a depasturing licence for Cobargo in the Maneroo District. He was a committee-man of the Australasian Botanical and Horticultural Society.

Smart had numerous business and speculative connexions with his friend T. S. Mort, but they had a serious rift over a matter of commercial honour in 1866. In the 1850s Smart had joined with Mort and others in pastoral ventures in the Moreton Bay District and in the Murrumbidgee District; directors of the Sydney Railway Co., they had many shares in it and in the Hunter River Railway Co. In the long and costly action which W. C. Wentworth brought against J. C. Lloyd, C. W. Lloyd and others he was an important witness for the respondents. In 1862 with Mort, G. R. Dibbs and others he formed the Waratah Coal Co. and, with Mort and J. A. Manton, the Peak Downs Copper Mining Co.: Smart was chairman of both companies. He was also a founding director of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Royal Exchange Co., the Hunter River Steam Navigation Co., the Australasian Steam Navigation Co., chairman of the Sydney Fire Insurance Co., the Australian Joint Stock Bank, the New South Wales Shale and Oil Co., founded in 1871, and a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales. He was a supporter of the Anniversary Day regattas and joined the Union Club in 1858.

Active in the anti-transportation movement in the 1840s, Smart represented Sydney Hamlets from September 1851 to January 1855 in the Legislative Council where according to G. Eagar he was 'a dummy', taking no part in legislation. He was in England in 1855-59. Representing Glebe in the Legislative Assembly in 1860-69, under (Sir) Charles Cowper he was colonial treasurer in 1863 and 1865, and secretary for public works from October 1865 to January 1866. As treasurer in 1863 he precipitated the defeat of the government by exposing the existence of a large financial deficit. He was a liberal favouring free trade, extension of the franchise, an elective Upper House and (Sir) John Robertson's land bills.

Self-made, after starting life as 'a poor friendless boy', Smart lived in fine style at Mona, Darling Point, which he had built on a fifteen-acre (6 ha) site. His two sons were educated at Eton and his stepson Alexander Oliver at the universities of Sydney and Oxford. In July 1861 he opened his valuable picture gallery at Mona to the public; it had been largely purchased from Lord Northwick's collection, and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that it included works by Raphael, Murillo, Velasquez, Rubens and Gainsborough. Generous and respected, Smart had much business acumen: Mort asserted, 'It was nice to have him on a board of directors with you, as he always took such common-sense short cuts through any difficulty that arose'. A firm adherent of the Church of England, he was a trustee, benefactor and church warden of St Mark's, Darling Point, a committee-man of the Church Society and of the Diocesan Board of Missions and a fellow of St Paul's College, University of Sydney. Aged 71, he died at Mona on 28 May 1881 and was buried at St Jude's, Randwick. He left his estate, which included town property, several stations in the Gwydir district and a 4640-acre (1878) property near Singleton, to his sons, daughter and three stepchildren. His personalty was sworn for probate at £243,000.

Select Bibliography

  • In the House of Lords, Between William Charles Wentworth, Appellant and J. C. Lloyd … Respondent (np, c1862, ML)
  • T. Richards (ed), An Epitome of the Official History of New South Wales (Syd, 1883)
  • N. Bartley, Opals and Agates (Brisb, 1892)
  • A. Barnard, Visions and Profits (Melb, 1961)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1872-73, 3, 1627
  • Sydney Monitor, 27 Jan 1836
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17, 19, 22 Sept 1851, 30 Nov, 8, 11, 13, 15 Dec 1860, 13, 17, 20, 23, 26, 30 July 1861, 8 May 1863, 29, 30 Nov 1864, 16-18 Feb 1865, 8 Mar 1872, 30 May 1881
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/538/327, 542/345.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Smart, Thomas Ware (1810–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 July 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

Thomas Smart, 1850s

Thomas Smart, 1850s

State Library of New South Wales, 439958

Life Summary [details]


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


28 May, 1881 (aged ~ 71)
Darling Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.