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Sir Edward Wolstenholme Ward (1823–1890)

by P. J. Greville

This article was published:

Sir Edward Wolstenholme Ward (1823-1890), military engineer and deputy-master of the Royal Mint, was born on 17 August 1823 in Calcutta, India, son of John Petty Ward, Bengal civil service, and his wife Elinor, née Erskine. Educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from 6 May 1839, he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 19 June 1841. He studied engineering and architecture at Chatham, then served in Bermuda and in Britain. A student at the Royal School of Mines, London, he worked at the Royal Mint and was promoted captain in 1852.

The Treasury appointed Ward on 26 April 1853 to report on colonial proposals to mint gold. His report of 23 May was accepted and he became deputy-master of the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint — its first overseas branch. He arrived in the Calcutta on 22 October 1854. The mint began operations in Macquarie Street on 14 May next year; in 1857 its coins became legal tender in all the Australasian colonies and in 1863 throughout the British empire. Ward proved a capable administrator, and chose a wide library on classical and current economic thought, banking and cambistry as well as technical books on coining. His assayer W. S. Jevons complained of Ward's utter dedication, 'a military man, very determined and arbitrary', but admitted that he was 'generally civil and attentive, but very distant'. In the 1860s he repeatedly advised the opening of a branch of the Royal Mint in Melbourne and a government bank of issue.

In 1855-56 Ward was a nominated member of the Legislative Council and in 1855 a member of the select committee on Circular Quay. That year he was also briefly chief commissioner of railways and served as a commissioner under B. H. Martindale in 1857-58. He lived at Dawes Battery and on 21 November 1857 at Holy Trinity (Garrison) Church married Anne Sophia (d.1923), daughter of Robert Campbell junior. He was the first round-arm bowler in intercolonial cricket and played in the first match in Melbourne and the return in the Sydney Domain on 14-16 January 1857; in four matches he took 27 wickets at 7.62 runs.

Ward was a councillor, sometime honorary secretary and later a corresponding member of the Philosophical (Royal) Society of New South Wales and published three papers in its Transactions. He was also an elective trustee of the Australian Museum, a committee-man of the Church Society, a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales, a local director of the European Assurance Society, a superannuation fund commissioner in 1864-65 and a member of the Government Asylums Board for the Infirm and Destitute. A member of the Legislative Council in 1861-65 he wrote regularly about politics to his friend James Macarthur. In 1863 he published his report for Major-General Sir Thomas Pratt on the Defences of the City of Sydney.

Promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1864, Ward was on leave in 1866 on half-pay and did not return to the Sydney mint. In 1869 he became a colonel and on 13 October arrived in Victoria from England to take up duty as deputy-master of the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint. He supervised its design, construction and setting up, and it was opened on 12 June 1872 on the site of the original Exhibition building. In 1870 he was appointed to the Board of Defence, and in 1872 chaired the board of inquiry into the condition of the existing powder magazines. A member of the 1874 royal commission on volunteer forces, with Sir George Verdon and G. V. Smith he disagreed with most of the commission's recommendations. On 10 June 1876 he went to England on leave with his family and from 1 August 1877 received a pension of £217 from the New South Wales government. From the 1870s he invested in cattle stations in Queensland, first with Langloh Parker in Retreat on the Barcoo River and in the 1880s with his brother-in-law S. A. Stephen, G. H. Cox and V. J. Dowling in Connemara on the Diamantina.

Ward was promoted major-general in 1877 and was created C.M.G. in 1874 and K.C.M.G. in 1879. He lived at 14 Lowndes Square, London, and in 1880 bought the Villa La Garde in Cannes, France, where he died on 5 February 1890. He was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters. His Australian estate was valued for probate at £16,890.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Westgarth, Remarks Upon the Proposed Branch of the Royal Mint About to be Commenced in Sydney (Melb, 1854)
  • R. Chalmers, A History of Currency in the British Colonies (Lond, 1893)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket: A History (Syd, 1959)
  • C. D. W. Goodwin, Economic Enquiry in Australia (Durham, N.C., 1966)
  • W. S. Jevons, Papers and Correspondence of William Stanley Jevons, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1972)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 3, 471, 1056, 1861, 2, 1032, 1863-64, 1, 75, 733, 2, 1057, (LA Vic), 1871, 2 (D7)
  • New South Wales Railway and Tramway Magazine, 1 Dec 1920
  • Australasian, 15 Feb 1890
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Mar 1923
  • Macarthur papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/53.

Citation details

P. J. Greville, 'Ward, Sir Edward Wolstenholme (1823–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 June 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]


17 August, 1823
Kolkata, West Bengal, India


5 February, 1890 (aged 66)
Cannes, France

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