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.

Henry Waterhouse (1770–1812)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

Henry Waterhouse (1770-1812), naval officer, was the eldest son of William Waterhouse and his wife Susanna, née Brewer. William was a page to the Duke of Cumberland who was Henry's god-father. He entered the navy at an early age and saw service in the Portland, Mediator, Ganges and Merlin. In 1786 he joined the Sirius as a midshipman, having been recommended to Governor Arthur Phillip by Cumberland House. He was present at the first settlement of New South Wales in 1788 and the settlement of Norfolk Island, and accompanied Phillip on many excursions into the new country, including the landing at Manly where Phillip was speared. In December 1789 Phillip made him acting third lieutenant of the Sirius when Lieutenant Maxwell was discharged; the appointment was confirmed in July 1792. His return to England was delayed by the loss of the Sirius at Norfolk Island in 1790 and his transfer to the Supply in February 1791; he eventually sailed in 1791 with a letter of recommendation from Phillip to Sir Charles Middleton at the Admiralty. In May 1792 Waterhouse was appointed lieutenant in the Swallow, was transferred to the Bellerophon in March 1793, and was present at Howe's victory on the Glorious First of June 1794.

Meanwhile Captain John Hunter had been appointed governor of New South Wales and had sought the appointment of Waterhouse as second commander of the Reliance with the rank of commander and power to act in Hunter's absence. Waterhouse was duly appointed, took charge of the Reliance in July 1794, and arrived in Sydney in September 1795. Next year he took her to the Cape of Good Hope to buy stock for the colony. The widow of Colonel Gordon, who had imported Spanish sheep to the Cape, offered her husband's flock for sale; Waterhouse and Lieutenant William Kent bought twenty-six after Commissary John Palmer had refused them. The return voyage was very stormy and slow, but more than half of Waterhouse's stock survived to reach Sydney in June 1797. These were the first merino sheep imported into the colony, and Waterhouse supplied lambs to many of the settlers including John Macarthur and Samuel Marsden; most of the flock was sold to William Cox when Waterhouse left the colony. He was not happy in New South Wales and wrote to Phillip and Lord Sydney seeking their influence to have him sent home. He quarrelled with Hunter at one stage but was later reconciled and supported the governor against the officers of the New South Wales Corps. He was granted 25 acres (10 ha) at Liberty Plains and 4½ acres (1.8 ha) at Parramatta in 1797, and bought another farm; that year and in 1799 he acquired two leases at Port Jackson, one of which, on Garden Island, he sold to Robert Campbell on his departure. He made several voyages to Norfolk Island but complained bitterly that the Reliance was unseaworthy. In March 1800 he achieved his desire to go home when Hunter sent him back to England.

On his arrival in London Waterhouse was promoted first captain of the Reliance; he sought leave on account of ill health, but appears to have recovered, for in October 1800 he began dismantling the Reliance, and was appointed captain of the Raison the same month. He was one of the witnesses at the marriage of George Bass to his sister, and after 1810 regularly visited Matthew Flinders. Most of his later life was spent at The Hermitage, near Rochester, and his opinions on sheep breeding in New South Wales were sought by John Macarthur and Sir Joseph Banks. He did not marry but had an illegitimate daughter, Maria, by Elizabeth Barnes (Baines), born in Sydney in 1791 and taken to England by the Patersons in 1796. In his last years Waterhouse tried to trace his brother-in-law, Bass, who had disappeared on a voyage to South America. Waterhouse died on 27 July 1812 and was buried at St John's, Westminster.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 2, 3, 4, 6
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 1-2
  • J. S. Cumpston, Shipping Arrivals and Departures Sydney, 1788-1825 (Canberra, 1963)
  • manuscript catalogue under Waterhouse (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Bass papers and Waterhouse papers (microfilm, State Library of New South Wales).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Waterhouse, Henry (1770–1812)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 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]




27 July, 1812 (aged ~ 42)

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.

Passenger Ship
Key Events