John Blaxland

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John Blaxland (4 January 1769 – 5 August 1845) was a pioneer settler and explorer in Australia.

Early life[edit]

Blaxland was born in Kent, the eldest son of John Blaxland and Mary, née Parker, of Fordwich, Kent, England. He was the older brother of Gregory Blaxland. John Blaxland was educated at The King's School, Canterbury, later joined the army and rose to become a captain. He resigned his commission in 1792, managing the family estates at Newington, Kent. His first wife Sarah, née Davies, whom he married in 1794, died in childbirth. In 1797 he married Harriet, daughter of Jean Louis de Marquett, merchant of Calcutta; they had four sons and six daughters.


In 1805 John Blaxland and his younger brother Gregory were persuaded by Joseph Banks to emigrate to Australia. Blaxland made a good bargain with the English government which agreed that if he brought £6000 to the colony he would be granted 8000 acres (32 km²) of land, the labour of 80 convicts who would be fed for 18 months by the government, and a free passage for himself, his wife, children and servants.

Gregory was the first to sail to New South Wales while John remained to sell the family estate in Kent. John Blaxland reached Sydney on 4 April 1807, having, in conjunction with Hulletts brothers, of London, built The Three Brothers, a ship of 252 tons, carrying eight guns and a crew of 21 to bring himself, his wife, and four daughters, a governess, two female servants, a bailiff, a carpenter, a man for agricultural purposes and a boy to this land, Oliver Russell being the master.[1]

He arrived with instructions to Governor Bligh to give him various concessions in place of the free passage. Bligh was no more helpful than he thought necessary, but Blaxland obtained cattle from the government herd, and started a dairy in Sydney, and also sold meat and vegetables.

Blaxland did a very useful piece of work in reducing the prices of these necessities, but Bligh insisted that he should go in for agriculture as well as grazing. He antagonized Blaxland, who joined in the deposition of Bligh in January 1808, but Blaxland could not get the concessions he wanted from Colonel Johnston

Newington House[edit]

Newington House, Silverwater, c.1894

Within ten days of the First Fleet arriving in Australia, records had been made of "The Flats", the extensive tidal wetlands at Homebush Bay. Between the years 1788 and 1831, blocks of land ranging from 100 to 10,000 acres (40 km²) were given out to the first European settlers by dividing up the Wanng-al clans' land. These land grants were inked in on County of Cumberland maps, with names of owners and land granted clearly indicated. In 1807, John Blaxland acquired 520 hectares of land, reserving the original grants of Waterhouse, Shortland, Archer and Haslam. He named the estate Newington after his family estate in Kent, England.[2] Blaxland established a series of salt pans on the banks of the Parramatta River and by 1827, was producing 8 tons of salt each week for the Sydney market. Blaxland also established a tweed mill, limekiln and flourmill. In 1843, Blaxland mortgaged the property to the Australian Trust Company. After he died in 1851 the Trust Company sold the property to John Dobie to recover the mortgage. The Blaxland family re-purchased the estate from Dobie in 1854 but offered it as security against a large loan. The property was transferred to the Official Assignee of the Insolvent Estate of Edward James Blaxland in 1860 and subsequently leased to the Methodist Church, who established Newington College on the estate. The building is now listed on the Register of the National Estate.[3]

Return to England[edit]

Blaxland then decided to return to England. Bligh, however, succeeded in getting him arrested at Cape Town and taken to London. After three years in London he obtained a letter to Macquarie directing that the original agreement should be carried out. But Macquarie was obsessed with the idea that the land grants were for the purpose of growing grain and put various obstacles in his way.

Return to Australia[edit]

Blaxland returned to Sydney on 27 February 1818, on board the Laurel. With him was Mak Sai Ying, the first known Chinese man to settle in Australia. Mak Sai Ying was later to negotiate land deals favourable to Blaxland, while working as a carpenter, until 1821.

However, in the 1820s, under Governor Brisbane, Blaxland obtained good land in the Nepean (800 acres called "Grove Farm" where he had built a weir and brewery where barley and English soft wheat were grown at what became Wallacia) and Hunter Regions as a result of discovering a route to the area. His grant was in the area now known as Broke and by 1860 he had established a mill in the nearby area of Fordwich.[4] Over the years he was successful as a stock owner. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1829 to 1844 and died at Newington on 5 August 1845. Blaxland married twice and was survived by sons and a daughter.

Blaxland was a keen man of business, anxious to drive a good bargain, and as a free settler was in a stronger position than the emancipists. But he antagonized both Bligh and Macquarie and met with much opposition. In spite of this Blaxland as a pioneer grazier became an important figure in the early development of Australia.


  1. ^ "NEWINGTON FARM.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 5 April 1930. p. 9. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  2. ^ The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Compiled by Frances Pollon, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1990, p.243, ISBN 0-207-14495-8
  3. ^ The Heritage of Australia, Macmillan Publishers, 1981, p.2/11
  4. ^ Singleton Website:Retrieved 23 December 2009