John Hindmarsh

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Rear Admiral
Sir John Hindmarsh
Governor John Hindmarsh.jpg
1st Governor of South Australia
In office
28 December 1836 – 16 July 1838
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by George Gawler
Personal details
Born 1785
Chatham, Kent
Great Britain
Died 29 July 1860(1860-07-29) (aged 75)
London, United Kingdom
Resting place St. Andrew's Church, Hove
Occupation Naval officer, Colonial administrator
Military service
Allegiance Great Britain (1793–1801)
United Kingdom (1801–1846)
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1793–1856
Rank Rear Admiral
Unit HMS Bellerophon
HMS Phoebe
HMS Beagle
HMS Nisus
HMS Scylla
HMS Buffalo
Commands HMS Scylla
HMS Buffalo
Battles/wars Glorious First of June
Battle of Algeciras Bay
Battle of the Nile
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of the Basque Roads
Invasion of Java
Awards Naval General Service Medal
Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order

Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh KH RN (baptised 22 May 1785[1] – 29 July 1860) was a naval officer and the first Governor of South Australia, from 28 December 1836 to 16 July 1838.

Early life[edit]

Hindmarsh was the son of John Hindmarsh, a gunner on HMS Bellerophon, and his wife Mary. He was baptized at St Mary's, Chatham, Kent.[2]

Naval career[edit]

Hindmarsh joined the Royal Navy in 1793 serving on HMS Bellerophon, being listed on the muster roll as the servant of his father.[2] He saw action at the Battle of the Glorious First of June, the Battle of Algeciras Bay (or the Battle of the Gut of Gibraltar) and at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 where he was briefly the only officer on the deck of HMS Bellerophon where he gave orders which saved the ship from destruction. Hindmarsh was promoted lieutenant in 1803.

Hindmarsh served on HMS Phoebe at the Battle of Trafalgar, at the Battle of the Basque Roads (1809) on HMS Beagle and at the invasion of Java on HMS Nisus. A period of inaction followed, but in 1830 he was in command of HMS Scylla and was made a rear-admiral in 1831. In 1836 Hindmarsh went to South Australia as its first governor after winning influential support and applying the Colonial Office.

When the Naval General Service Medal, designed by William Wyon, was introduced, it was discovered that only two people were entitled to the medal with seven clasps (one clasp for each battle the recipient took part in): Sir John Hindmarsh and Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Alexander Gordon.

First Governor of South Australia[edit]

"Bluff Jack Hindmarsh", as he came to be known,[3] arrived in South Australia in 28 December 1836, with a fleet of ships carrying the first British settlers for the colony. The ships in the fleet included the Cygnet (carrying Colonel William Light's surveyors), Africaine, Tam O'Shanter, Rapid, and HMS Buffalo (carrying Hindmarsh). Initially they landed on Kangaroo Island, and sent out the team of surveyors led by Light to find a suitable place for the capital city of the new colony. Hindmarsh wanted it at Port Lincoln,[2] instead of at the present site which had been selected by Light.

Light eventually chose the site of Adelaide, and the fleet moved up Gulf St Vincent to Holdfast Bay, now known as Glenelg, South Australia. Hindmarsh's proclamation on 28 December 1836 announced the colonial government and stated that Aborigines were to be treated justly and were now British Subjects. Although most South Australians have been taught that Hindmarsh's proclamation created the colony, it did not. King William IV, having been empowered by an Act of Parliament in 1834, over a year later, in February 1836 in Letters Patent 'Erected and Established' the Province of South Australia. No governor had the power to create colonies.

There was some question as to the respective powers of the Governor and the Resident Commissioner, James Hurtle Fisher, and the two came into open conflict. Feeling ran high and when Hindmarsh went so far as to suspend Robert Gouger and other public officers, the commissioners brought the matter before the secretary of state for the colonies. Hindmarsh was then recalled to London in 1838.[2] In 1840 he was made Lieutenant-Governor of Heligoland. Hindmarsh was knighted by Queen Victoria on 7 August 1851, attained the rank of rear-admiral in 1856 and retired in 1856 to the seaside town of Hove, England.


Hindmarsh lived at 30 Albany Villas for a number of years, where there is now a blue plaque in his honour. Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh died in London on 29 July 1860 and is buried in the grounds of St Andrews Church, Hove. Hindmarsh was governor of South Australia for little more than a year, an unfortunate episode in an otherwise distinguished career. His position was anomalous from the start, and, though he was sometimes wanting in both tact and wisdom, his difficulties were great. For an interesting summary see A. Grenfell Price's Founders and Pioneers of South Australia, p. 92.


Sir John Hindmarsh married Susanna Wilson. daughter of H. D. Edmeades. Their children were:

  • Jane, who married Alfred Miller Mundy MP of Shipley Hall, Derbyshire, and cousin of the Duke of Newcastle. She was the mother of Maria, who married Sir Constantine Phipps, father of ambassador Sir Eric Phipps. A grandson Alfred Hindmarsh was an MP and early Labour politician in New Zealand.
  • John, a barrister of the Middle Temple and J.P. of Port Elliot, South Australia.
  • Susan, who married John Ellis, a South Australian pastoralist.
  • Mary ( – 27 December 1887), who married George Milner Stephen, barrister of the Middle Temple, formerly Acting Governor and Colonial Secretary of South Australia, on 9 July 1840.[4]

Places named after John Hindmarsh[edit]


  1. ^ There is evidence that his parents married on 23 August 1784. Although he could have been born out of wedlock some years earlier, the marriage date is consistent with his baptism as an infant on 22 May 1785. A member of the Hindmarsh family claimed in 1965 to have seen the parish register recording the 1785 baptism. – ADB Online Project
  2. ^ a b c d "Hindmarsh, Sir John (1785–1860)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. 1966. pp. 538–541. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  3. ^ Kerr, Margaret Goyder Colonial Dynasty Rigby Limited, Adelaide 1980 ISBN 0 7270 1097 2
  4. ^ "The First Governor of South Australia". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 28 January 1929. p. 12. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
    This reference has a nice potted history of his naval career.

External links[edit]

Government offices
New title
State established
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler