Michael Fenton (Australian politician)

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Michael Fenton
1st Speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly
In office
2 December 1856 – 8 May 1861
Succeeded by Robert Officer
Personal details
Born 1789
Castletown, County Sligo, Ireland, UK
Died 6 April 1874
New Norfolk, Tasmania
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Campbell (m. 1828–74)
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1807–1828
Rank Captain
Unit 13th Light Infantry Regiment

Michael Fenton (1789 – 6 April 1874) was a politician in colonial Tasmania. He was the first Speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly.[1]


Michael Fenton was born in Castle Town, County Sligo, Ireland,[2] the third son of Michael Fenton, who served as the high sheriff of Sligo.[1]

Fenton was a captain in the 13th Light Infantry Regiment.[1] After service in India and Burma, he sold his commission and emigrated to Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land) in 1829, settling on a grant of land at Fenton Forest, near Glenora, on the River Derwent.[3]

He was appointed a member of the nominee Tasmanian Legislative Council by Sir John Franklin in 1840, and was one of the "Patriotic Six" who resigned their seats in the Council in order to frustrate the financial policy of Governor John Eardley-Wilmot, in October 1845.[1][4] However, he was reappointed by royal warrant in March 1847.[3] In 1851 Fenton became one of the first elected members of the Legislative Council, representing New Norfolk. In 1855 he was elected Speaker in succession to Sir Richard Dry. When responsible government was conceded, he entered the House of Assembly for New Norfolk, and was elected the first Speaker in December 1856. Fenton continued to fill the chair of the House until retiring in May 1861. He was succeeded by Robert Officer.[3]


In 1828 Fenton married Elizabeth Campbell, widow of Captain Neil Campbell, also of the 13th Light Infantry at Calcutta. Her father, Reverend John Russel Knox, was rector of Lifford and Inishmagrath, County Leitrim.[1] They had six children; one son and three daughters survived Fenton, who died in New Norfolk on 6 April 1874[1] at the age of 85.[3] Elizabeth wrote a journal titled A Narrative of Her Life in India, the Isle of France and Tasmania During the Years 1826–1830.[5][6] Elizabeth died in 1875.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Robson, L. L. "Fenton, Michael (1789–1874)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Fenton, Michael". The Parliament of Tasmania from 1856. 
  3. ^ a b c d Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Fenton, Hon. Michael". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  4. ^ Fenton, James (2011). A History of Tasmania: From Its Discovery in 1642 to the Present Time. Cambridge University Press. pp. 168–169. ISBN 1108039197. 
  5. ^ Fenton, Elizabeth (2010). The Journal of Mrs Fenton: A Narrative of Her Life in India, the Isle of France (Mauritius) and Tasmania During the Years 1826-1830. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1108022022. 
  6. ^ Ghosh, Durba (2006). Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 232. ISBN 052185704X.  (footnote 76)
  7. ^ Westrip, Joyce P.; Holroyde, Peggy (2010). Colonial Cousins: A Surprising History of Connections Between India and Australia. Wakefield Press. p. 82. ISBN 1862548412. 

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