Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Woore (1804–1878)

by G. J. Abbott

This article was published:

Thomas Woore (1804-1878), naval officer, surveyor and pastoralist, was born on 29 January 1804 at Londonderry, Ireland, eldest son of Thomas Woore, army captain, and his wife Catherine Anne, née Darcus. Educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, he disappointed family hopes of an army career for him by joining the navy as a midshipman in December 1819. He served on ships suppressing smuggling along the south coast of England until April 1823 when, using family connexions, he transferred to the Thetis. He resigned his commission in February 1826 to settle his father's estate in Ireland but rejoined later that year. Posted to the Alligator, he was engaged in hydrographic experiments off the east coast of North America. He acquired skill as a surveyor and in 1828 was offered a post in the hydrography section of the Admiralty; he took command of The Woodlark.

In 1829 Woore joined the Zebra, based in India, in which he first visited Sydney. In the Crocodile in 1831, he was promoted to lieutenant and joined the Alligator which was operating out of Sydney in 1832. At the end of 1834 he resigned because of ill health. On 1 January 1835 in the Scots Church, Sydney, he married Mary, daughter of John Dickson and in February they left for Britain. Woore returned to New South Wales in 1839, was made a magistrate and bought a station, Pomeroy near Goulburn, where he built a charming house and became a leading pastoralist.

In May 1846 the government refused to have a survey made of the proposed railway line and Woore, on his own initiative and at his own expense, examined possible routes. He reported the results to a public meeting in Sydney in August. Insufficient funds were raised for a detailed survey, so he volunteered to do it on condition that his expenses be met and that any company subsequently formed should pay him 'proper remuneration'. He completed the work by 1848, but it was criticized and his efforts were deprecated in many quarters. When the Sydney Railway Co. was formed Woore vainly applied for the post of engineer and was refused payment for the preliminary work. He accepted the harsh treatment stoically and in 1849 prevented a group of Goulburn people from forming a rival company. In 1858 Woore asked the government, which was using his plan, for compensation but although the select committee on his railway services recommended an award of £1500 it was not accepted by the Legislative Assembly; in 1866 he petitioned parliament and in 1871 £1500 on the estimates was reduced to £1.

In 1867-69 Woore was a member of the commission on the water-supply of Sydney and its suburbs and in his minority report vainly suggested building a dam at Warragamba. In the 1870s he pressed for the scheme in two pamphlets and published Errors in the Great Western Railroad New South Wales … (Goulburn, 1876). He was also a talented artist. About 1875 he advertised Pomeroy for sale and went to live with his only daughter Catherine Anne, wife of William Busby, at Redleaf, Double Bay, where he died of chronic diarrhoea on 21 June 1878. Buried in Randwick cemetery with Anglican rites, he was survived by his wife and daughter to whom he left personalty valued for probate at £500.

Select Bibliography

  • G. N. Griffiths, Some Houses and People of New South Wales (Syd, 1949), and Some Southern Homes of New South Wales (Syd, 1952)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1858, 3, 1037, 1858-59, 1, 207, 228, 1866, 5, 715, 1870, 2, 485, 1878-79, 7, 66
  • Busby family papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • T. Woore, diary and family papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. J. Abbott, 'Woore, Thomas (1804–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 18 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]


29 January, 1804
Londonderry, Londonderry, Ireland


21 June, 1878 (aged 74)
Double Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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