Robert Molesworth (judge)

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Chief Justice Molesworth.

Sir Robert Molesworth (3 November 1806 – 18 October 1890)[1] was an Irish-born Australian Chief Justice and Solicitor-General of Victoria.

Early life[edit]

Molesworth was born in Dublin, the only son of Hickman Blayney Molesworth, a solicitor, by his first wife, Wilhelmina Dorothea, daughter of Brindley Hone.[2] Molesworth was descended from Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth. Robert attended Trinity College, Dublin where he graduated B.A. in 1826 and M.A. in 1833.[2] After he was called to the bar in 1828, he practised law until he emigrated to Australia in 1852. He married in 1840.

Legal and political career[edit]

After initially arriving in Adelaide the Molesworths soon moved to Melbourne[2] and he quickly established a large legal practice. On 27 January 1853 Molesworth was acting chief justice during the illness of Sir William à Beckett.[2] Molesworth was appointed Solicitor-General on 25 November 1855.[2] On 17 June 1856 he was appointed a Supreme Court judge. Most of his time was presiding over equity cases. Molesworth was also chief judge of the Court of Mines, in this capacity he achieved much in settling the previously confused state of the law.

On 17 January 1854 Molesworth, as acting Solicitor-General, was nominated to the Victorian Legislative Council,[3] a position he held until the original Council was abolished in March 1856.

Late life[edit]

Molesworth was divorced from his wife in 1864.[4] In 1875, he travelled in New Zealand with Hugh Finn;[5] this was his only time out of the country since his initial arrival.[4] He retired as a judge on 1 May 1886, being succeeded by George Webb,[6] and died in Melbourne on 18 October 1890, he was buried in Kew Cemetery. A married daughter and two sons survived him.[4]


  1. ^ "Molesworth, Sir Robert". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Molesworth, Hon. Sir Robert". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  3. ^ Sweetman, Edward (1920). Constitutional Development of Victoria, 1851-6. Whitcombe & Tombs Limited. p. 178. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Reginald R. Sholl, 'Molesworth, Sir Robert (1806 - 1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, MUP, 1974, pp 264–265.
  5. ^ "Untitled". Southland Times (2062). 1 February 1875. p. 2. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Miller, Robert. "Webb, George Henry Frederick (1828–1891)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Additional resources listed by Australian Dictionary of Biography:

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1864–65, 2 (C2)
  • Victoria Government Gazette 1853, 1653; 1854, 37, 182, 1599; 1855, 3125; 1856, 1019;
  • Victorian Law Reports, Insolvency, Ecclesiastical and Matrimonial cases, 1 (1861–62), 57;
  • The Argus (Melbourne), 18–23 November, 15-18, 26 December 1864, 20 October 1890.

Additional resources listed by Dictionary of Australian Biography:

  • The Argus, Melbourne, 20 October 1890, 8 May 1886
  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria
  • Nettie Palmer, Henry Bournes Higgins, p. 79.
Victorian Legislative Council
Preceded by
James Croke
Nominated member and
Solicitor-General of Victoria

17 January 1854 – March 1856
Original Council