Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Talbot (1784–1845)

by A. Rand

This article was published:

William Talbot (1784?-1845), pastoralist, was the youngest son of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle, County Dublin, Ireland, and his wife Margaret, the daughter of James O'Reilley of Ballinlough, Westmeath, whose family belonged to the Milesian princely house of Breffney, and who was later created Baroness Talbot of Malahide. In 1796 he was sent to the Manchester School and in 1814-17 travelled in Europe and the Middle East. In November 1820 he arrived in Hobart Town in the Caroline, went on to Sydney where he disposed of his investment to Edward Lord and on the strength of his assets of £6057 received a location order for 2000 acres (809 ha). Returning to Van Diemen's Land next April with six convict servants, he heard of George Meredith's discovery of good land at Great Swan Port on the east coast, and asked him if he might share in its proposed settlement. He received permission from Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell on the understanding that Meredith had prior right of choice. Ignoring this proviso, Talbot selected land, built a hut, began farming, and was firmly established when the deputy surveyor general came to measure off the east coast grants. It was then discovered that Talbot had taken land chosen by Meredith. Sorell supported Meredith's claim to the land and favoured compensating Talbot with extra land elsewhere, but fifteen months passed before the Sydney authorities agreed. Sorell's successor, Colonel (Sir) George Arthur made the final decision to reinstate Meredith, giving Talbot six months to vacate the land and choose 3000 acres (1214 ha) elsewhere. Further compensation for his vacated premises, a five-roomed house, dairy and fencing, was refused, though the government did allow him to choose a very extensive river front at Fingal and supplied convict labour to re-establish Malahide there.

As a wool-grower his success was remarkable. He invested most of his capital in stock, and only two years after taking up residence at Swan Port, he owned more than 3000 sheep and over 300 cattle. Too far from a market to grow crops profitably at Fingal, he concentrated on improving his flocks. By 1827 his Saxon and merino fleeces brought prices well above average on the London market and yielded him a profit of £1000. With extensive use of adjoining crown lands, the advantage of the first settler in the district, his flocks increased to 7000 by 1829 and his cattle numbered 1000. As a reward for his contribution to the wool industry despite the setback of a false start he was granted an additional 1500 acres (607 ha).

William Talbot's success enticed other members of the family to emigrate. In 1830 his nephew Samuel Rodbard John Neil Talbot arrived; too late for a grant, he began buying land in the Fingal neighbourhood. Other nephews came out later, served apprenticeships to sheep farming at Malahide and managed the property while William Talbot visited England and made extensive tours through the Australian colonies. He died unmarried on 22 December 1845.

Samuel Talbot inherited Malahide, which soon afterwards was reckoned to include 40,000 acres (16,188 ha). Although he had brought members of the anti-government party to court for challenging him to a duel not long after his arrival, he took no further part in public affairs. Well informed, kind hearted and affable, he was well liked in the colony where his success was the admitted result of sound judgment and judicious economy. On his return to Ireland, Malahide was managed by another nephew, Richard Gilbert Talbot, who was appointed in 1852 to the Legislative Council by Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison whose transportation policy he supported.

Select Bibliography

  • R. M. Hartwell, The Economic Development of Van Diemen's Land 1820-1850 (Melb, 1954)
  • correspondence file under William Talbot (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. Rand, 'Talbot, William (1784–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 24 June 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]




22 December, 1845 (aged ~ 61)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.