Peter Warburton

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For other people named Peter Warburton, see Peter Warburton (disambiguation).

Colonel Peter Egerton-Warburton CMG (born 16 August 1813, Cheshire, England – died 5 November 1889, Adelaide, South Australia) was a British explorer who sealed his legacy by a particularly daring expedition from Adelaide crossing the centre of Australia to the coast of Western Australia via Alice Springs in 1872.

A younger brother of Rowland Egerton-Warburton, Peter was educated at home in Cheshire and by tutors in France before being commissioned in the Royal Navy at the age of 12, serving as a Midshipman in HMS Windsor Castle.

Egerton-Warburton was seconded to the Indian Army and served in India from 1831 until 1853, before retiring as Deputy Adjutant-General with the rank of Major.

Egerton-Warburton married on 8 October 1838 Alicia (who died 1892), daughter of Henry Mant, a solicitor, however by the time of his arrival in Australia, he had apparently adopted the pseudonym of Peter Warburton. His father Rowland Egerton, who was in remainder to the Egerton baronetcy (as too are his descendants), assumed by Royal Licence, the additional surname of Warburton in accordance with the terms of his wife's inheritance, viz. the Arley and Warburton estates.

In 1853 Warburton visited his brother George and his wife Augusta (daughter of Sir Richard Spencer), in Albany, Western Australia. From there, he went to South Australia to take up the position of Commissioner of Police in the Colony of South Australia on 8 December.

Following an internal police force inquiry in 1867, to which evidence was given against him but not disclosed, it was suggested to Warburton that he might find "... other employment more congenial to his habits and tastes".[this quote needs a citation] The allegations against him were never substantiated and he staunchly refused to resign, although he was dismissed in early 1867.[1] A subsequent Legislative Council inquiry recommended his reinstatement; however, on 24 March 1869, he accepted appointment as Chief Staff Officer and Colonel of the Volunteer Military Force of South Australia.

Based on expeditions undertaken, it appears that he was accused of allowing his passionate interest in exploration, which required long periods in isolation, to distract him from normal police duties. Warburton later received further honours in recognition of his groundbreaking work.


  • In 1860 he explored Streaky Bay with three mounted police, reporting back that the area was unfavourable for farm use.
  • In 1864 Warburton examined the area around the north-west of Mount Margaret.
  • On 21 September 1872, Warburton departed Adelaide, leading an expedition of seven men and seventeen camels with the aim of finding an overland route to Perth and determine the nature of the country in between. The expedition included his son Richard; J. W. Lewis, a well known and experienced bushman; two Afghan camel drivers, Sahleh and Halleem; Dennis White, the expedition cook and assistant camel man; and Charley, an Indigenous Australian tracker. The expedition arrived in Alice Springs in early 1873 before heading westward on 15 April 1873. They endured long periods of extreme heat with little water and survived only by killing the camels for their meat. After finally crossing the Great Sandy Desert, they arrived at the Oakover River, 800 miles north of Perth with Warburton strapped to one of the two remaining camels and near death themselves. They were eventually brought to the De Grey station in a perilous condition. The men were all suffering from scurvy, and Warburton had lost his sight in one eye. They finally reached Roebourne on 26 January 1874 before returning to Adelaide by ship. Warburton received a grant of £1000 and his party received £500 from the South Australian Parliament for the expedition. All of the men recovered from their ordeal, with Warburton later attributing their survival to the bushcraft skills of Charley.

Egerton Warburton returned to England in 1874, but finding the climate not to his liking, returned to Australia after a stay of only six weeks, after receiving the Royal Geographical Society's Gold Medal. In 1875 Warburton's account of the expedition, Journey across the Western Interior of Australia was published in London, and he was appointed CMG.

A son, Rowland James Egerton-Warburton (4 February 1846 – 1918) married Annie Hart ( – 1 December 1913) on 14 May 1872. Annie was a daughter of John Hart.

He died in 1889 at his estate (including a vineyard), Norley Bank, Beaumont, near Adelaide.


Two ranges, a river, and a beetle were named after him and he was commemorated by an Australia Post stamp in June 1976 on one of a set of 6 Australian Explorers.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Commissioner of Police". South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1867) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 16 February 1867. p. 2. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  2. ^