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James Denton Toosey (1801–1883)

by P. R. Hart

This article was published:

James Denton Toosey (1801-1883), pastoralist, was born on 11 March 1801 at King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, the son of James Bramall Toosey and his wife Elisabeth, née Denton. His father served with the British army in Canada and then became a corn merchant and estate manager in Norfolk. His grandfather, Rev. Philip Toosey, was ecclesiastical commissary in Canada in 1784.

After eight years at Walsham School, Norfolk, Toosey learnt farming in 1820 from Charles Champion, a celebrated Shorthorn and Durham breeder, of Blyth, Nottinghamshire. Next year he worked at Feltwell Place, Norfolk, where his father and his uncle, James Denton, were joint proprietors. When the farm went bankrupt in 1825 he left England with six officers of the Horse Breeding Co. of the New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land Establishment, arriving in Hobart Town in the Albion in May 1826. He worked on the Cressy estate of the company, then rented the 5000-acre (2024 ha) Trevallyn estate from William Barnes in July 1827. When this venture was not successful, he left for Sydney to manage for twelve months a large agricultural farm at Shoalhaven, belonging to Alexander Berry & Edward Wollstonecraft. He returned to Hobart in 1830, intending to go to India, but was persuaded to rejoin the Cressy establishment. He moved into Cressy House, but the estate was verging on bankruptcy. Toosey appealed to Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur in May 1833 against intended sequestration, and with support from the three directors he became temporary manager in 1833-36. With his understanding and experience he quickly restored its prosperity and improved its stock by imports from England and Dresden.

In April 1836 he visited England, and married Charlotte Septima (1804-1851). They returned to the colony in December 1837. He was gazetted a justice of the peace six years later. After his wife's death on 29 May 1851 Toosey took his only child, James Denton junior, to Hobson's Bay, Victoria, but suffered a severe illness at Ballarat. On recovery he sailed for England in April 1853 to have his son educated at Winchester and at Exeter College, Oxford. While in England he persuaded the proprietors of the Cressy establishment to sell the estate as property prices had risen after the gold discoveries. He returned in 1854 and the estate was sold for £135,000.

Toosey himself bought a part, including Richmond Hill, and in 1858 added McRae's Hills to other land purchases that together involved him in a debt of £35,000, which took him twenty years to clear. His son took up pastoral pursuits at Cressy House, the adjoining property, on his return from England.

A strong Anglican, he acquired two acres (0.8 ha) for the church and cemetery at Cressy. He held Evangelical views and in 1845 joined the protest against the ritualist innovations of surplice and weekly offertory at Longford. When Christ's College was closed in 1856 Toosey was appointed for his shrewd business ability as one of the trustees, under whose direction the institution was freed from debt in fourteen years. At his death on 4 December 1883 at Cressy he left £400 to enlarge and improve the Cressy Church, and from his Richmond Hill estate endowed both the college and church, the estate later becoming St Wilfred's Theological College. His portrait, painted by Henry Mundy, hangs in the hall of Christ College, Hobart. Kindly and hospitable, he was highly esteemed in the district. The year before his death, he published Brief Jottings of My Life (Launceston, 1882). His son survived him, and inherited his public spirit, endowing the Longford Hospital, named in his memory, before he returned to England in 1888.

Select Bibliography

  • K. R. von Stieglitz, Story of Holy Trinity Church, Cressy (Cressy, 1958)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 6 Dec 1883
  • Church News (Hobart), Aug 1898.

Citation details

P. R. Hart, 'Toosey, James Denton (1801–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 19 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]


11 March, 1801
Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England


4 December, 1883 (aged 82)
Cressy, Tasmania, Australia

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