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Henry Pares Venables (1830–1890)

by Peter M. Cowan

This article was published:

Henry Pares Venables (1830-1890), educationist, was born in London, second son of Thomas Venables, private secretary to Lord Sidmouth and Sir Robert Peel, and his second wife Jane Elizabeth, née Sturt, sister of Charles and E. P. S. Sturt. He was educated at Eton and matriculated to Exeter College, Oxford, on 3 May 1849 (B.A., 1853). Attracted by the goldfields, he arrived in Melbourne in the Gauntlet with Henry Kingsley on 3 December 1853 but, like Kingsley, little is known of his activities for the next few years.

In March 1858 Venables became sub-inspector under the Board of National Education in Victoria at a salary of £550 and, recommended for his 'quiet and unobtrusive manner and active habits', was promoted to the rank of inspector in October 1860. In September 1862 he became first-class inspector of schools for the Western District under the Common Schools Board set up by Heales's Education Act; based on Warrnambool, he took up duties on 14 April 1863. He had been admitted to the degree of B.A. (ad eund.) by the University of Melbourne on 1 April.

His appointment as examiner under the board in April 1866 made Venables directly accountable to the secretary B. F. Kane: his duty was to deal with the professional work of the office. After Kane's death in December 1872, he became secretary on 2 January to the new department set up under the 1872 Education Act. However, with many other public servants he was dismissed on Black Wednesday, January 1878; instead of being reinstated he was replaced in March by G. B. Brown. The decision excited much comment: the Age alleged that he could not cope with an enlarged department and argued that he should not have been appointed in the first place. But the Argus concluded that Venables had been a laudable success and pointed out that the (C. H.) Pearson report on public education had vindicated him; the real fault lay with the Act itself.

In August 1878 Venables was appointed an examiner in English for matriculation to the University of Melbourne. As well, in June 1881 he became referee for geography and in 1882 examiner in history. In 1884-89 he was examiner in English language and literature and served as assistant librarian from 1884. In 1875 he had bought land at Gembrook as a retreat from work, but he reportedly lost money in gold speculations at the end of the 1880s. He enjoyed rowing and was an avid reader, especially of travel, history and poetry. His published works include Outline of the Geography of Victoria, for the Use of Schools (1861), Syllabus of Parsing and Analysis … for the Pass Examination at Matriculation (1882, 1885, 1887, 1890), and maps of Australasia, Malaysia and Western Polynesia (1870, 1874), and New Zealand (1870). Photographs of three of his sketches are in the university archives, Melbourne.

Venables had married Christina Mary Burke on 27 June 1867 at All Saints Church, St Kilda. He never fully recovered from the shock of her death on 15 November 1885 and on 4 February 1889 he resigned his university appointments because of ill health. On 26 March Venables left Melbourne with his two sons in the Waihora and returned via New Zealand to live in England. He died at his sister Anne's home at Bowerwood, Fordingbridge near Bournemouth, on 31 December 1890, survived by his sons; a daughter had died in infancy.

Select Bibliography

  • D. H. Rankin, The History of the Development of Education in Victoria, 1836-1936 (Melb, 1939)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1867, 1st session, 4 (27), 1877-78, 3 (105)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Jan, 27 Apr, 1-4, 8, 13, 16 May, 6 Aug 1878, 5 Feb 1839, 6 Jan 1891
  • Age (Melbourne), 29 Apr 1878
  • Victorian Survey maps index (State Library of Victoria)
  • Board of National Education, Inspectors' reports, 1858-62, and Board of Education, in-letter register, 1862-73, and Education Dept, Professional record books, index of special cases and file 382 (Public Record Office, Victoria): University of Melbourne Archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter M. Cowan, 'Venables, Henry Pares (1830–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 May 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

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


31 December, 1890 (aged ~ 60)
Bowerwood, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England

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