Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir Edward Albert Stone (1844–1920)

by F. M. Robinson

This article was published:

Sir Edward Albert Stone (1844-1920), judge, was born on 9 March 1844 in Perth, Western Australia, third of nine children of George Frederick Stone, lawyer, and his wife Charlotte Maria, née Whitfield. At 11 he was sent to Chigwell Grammar School, Essex, England. After being articled to his father and to E. W. Landor of Perth, he was admitted to the Western Australian Bar in 1865, a third generation lawyer. On 13 July 1867 in the Wesleyan Chapel, Perth, Edward married Susannah Shenton; they were to have seven daughters and three sons.

Having gone into partnership with his father, in 1876 he joined Septimus Burt and founded the firm of Stone & Burt. Edward Stone appeared as counsel in many civil and criminal cases, among them the trial of a squatter, Lockier Clere Burges, for murdering an Aborigine, and the dispute over the will of William Henry Vincent: both cases aroused public interest and excited newspaper comment in 1871-72. Despite his plea of self-defence, Burges was sentenced to five years imprisonment for manslaughter. People in Perth were outraged. When Stone petitioned Queen Victoria the sentence was reduced. The Vincent case resulted in the conviction of Stone's opposing counsel (Sir) S. H. Parker and three newspaper publishers for contempt of court; Parker was fined and the publishers imprisoned. Stone represented two of the publishers and Parker in the contempt proceedings.

Stone was clerk to the Legislative Council in 1870-74 and a nominated member of that body in 1880-82. From 1879 to 1883 he held acting appointments as attorney-general and chief justice. Crown solicitor in 1882-83, he was appointed puisne judge of the Supreme Court in 1883. Turbulent times followed. Disputes between Chief Justice Sir Alexander Onslow and Governor Sir Frederick Broome resulted in Onslow's suspension by the governor and his reinstatement, twice, by the Colonial Office. As chief justice of Western Australia in 1901-06, Stone had an uneventful career. Handsome, austere and stately, he showed marked common sense and kindliness, once addressing a man appearing in his own defence: 'You may be poor, but you are still entitled to justice'. Knighted in 1902, Stone was appointed K.C.M.G. in 1912 and was lieutenant-governor from 1906 to 1920.

In 1874-79 he had been chairman and part-time editor of the Western Australian Times and contributed regularly to its columns. A prominent lay reader and warden, he was choirmaster of St George's Cathedral, Perth. He also helped to found the Perth Musical Union, sang in oratorios and was an amateur actor. He was a trustee of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, and a director of the Western Australian Bank and the Perth Building Society; his benevolence extended to Parkerville Children's Home, the Silver Chain Nursing League and the Victoria Institute for the Blind. Fond of cricket, football, boxing, riding and shooting, he organized and trained a roller-skating club in the Perth Town Hall.

Stone was well known and well liked; he revealed facets of his nature in his autobiography, Some Old-Time Memories (1918). Survived by his wife and nine of their children, he died on 2 April 1920 and, after a state funeral, was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • E. Russell, A History of the Law in Western Australia and its Development from 1829 to 1979, eds F. M. Robinson and P. W. Nichols (Perth, 1980)
  • West Australian, 20 July 1917, 3, 8 Apr 1920
  • F. M. and A. W. Robinson, The History of Stone James and Co (manuscript, privately held)
  • P. U. Henn, Genealogical notes on W.A. pioneer families, Perth 1930s-1973 (manuscript, State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

F. M. Robinson, 'Stone, Sir Edward Albert (1844–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 March, 1844
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


2 April, 1920 (aged 76)
Western Australia, 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.