George Alexander Anstey (b 1814)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Many thanks to Julia for her help in this biography.

George Alexander Anstey, a member of the Bampton Ansteys, was born in 1814 in Kentish Town, London to parents Thomas Anstey and Mary Turnbull. George migrated to Tasmania, Australia at the age of thirteen, arriving in Hobart in February 1827 with his brother Thomas Chisholm Anstey on the ship ‘Admiral Cockburn‘.

In August 1830, at the age of sixteen, George led one of his father’s roving parties in the Black War (1824-1832) and captured a small tribe of Aboriginals, winning a 500 acre land grant and receiving official praise for his “humanity and kindness“.

The ‘Tasmanian Newspaper‘ of 13 August 1830 reported “The Aborigines: One of the native women recently captured by Mr George Anstey resided formerly with some of the sealers on the islands in Bass’s Strait. She speaks English tolerably well. The woman states that just before her capture the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes had joined for the purpose of attacking the Ben Lomand and some other tribe, and that of the latter the whole were killed except six.

The ‘Hobart Town Courier‘ of 14 August 1830 reported “We are sorry to learn that the four aboriginals which Mr. George Anstey so gallantly captured last week, have made their escape. Two constables named Holmes and Tyrrell, were entrusted with the care of conducting them to Hobart town. On Saturday having arrived at the Crown Inn, Bagdad, the aboriginal man contrived to make his conductors believe that he was very ill and likely to die, and they consequently conveyed him in a wheel barrow to Bagdad Bridge, where Mr. Irvine, the superintendent of the road party, lodged all four for the night comfortable in the overseer’s hut. The constables it would appear; confiding in the debilitating influence of the aboriginal’s disorder to deprive him of all locomotive power, went to sleep and allowed the whole four to escape during the night.

The ‘Sydney Monitor‘ of 25 August 1830 further reported “The four aborigines lately captured by Mr. George Anstey, and a party hastily collected together, on Monday last effected their escape from two constables. We understand that a sanguinary battle has been fought between four of the Aboriginal tribes, and that a number were killed.

In 1834, George returned to England, however by 1837 he had returned to Tasmania, marrying Harriet Kingham Ruffy, daughter of W. J. Ruffy, on 12 September 1837 at Anstey Barton, Oatlands. They had ten children, being:

  • Mary Louisa Anstey (b 1838, married Andrew Mathew Page in St Margaret, Westminster in 1859 and had a son Percy Louis Anstey (b 1876 in France, a former actor who then studied sociology at the London School of Economics, before serving as the head of the economics department at the University of Bristol. He then became an economics lecturer at LSE, married Vera Powell in 1913 and was appointed Principal of the College of Commerce, Bombay, India in March 1914. Percy met up with Anstey Researcher Thomas John Anstey (Tom) in November 1911, however he died suddenly on 23 November 1920. The ‘Englishman’s Overland Mail’ reported on 2 December 1920 “DEATH OF MR. PERCY ANSTEY PRINCIPAL OF BOMBAY COLLEGE OF COMMERCE Delhi, Nov : OS Mr. Percy Anstey, Principal, Sydenham College of Commerce, Bombay, died of dysentery and heart failure on Tuesday night.“);
  • Arthur Newland Anstey (b 1839, Adelaide, South Australia. Attended Rugby School in 1855, he married Lizzie May Dyer in December 1874 in Onalaska, Wisconsin, America, became a naturalised American citizen in 1880 in Wisconsin, died in Houston, Minnesota, America in 1884);
  • Thomas Henry Anstey (b 1842 Highercombe, South Australia, aka Colonel Anstey (R. E.), an Anstey Hero)
  • Alexander George Anstey (b 1843 Highercombe, South Australia);
  • Agatha Harriet Anstey (b 1845 Highercombe, South Australia, married Lothian Kerr Scott);
  • Martha H. Anstey (b 1846 Highercombe, South Australia, married Captain R. E. Scott);
  • Henry Francis (Harry) Anstey (b 1847 Highercombe, South Australia, communicated with Tom in 1908);
  • Julia S. Anstey (b 1850, Highercombe, South Australia, married Lieutenant R. N. Yonge);
  • Edgar Oliphant Anstey (b 1851 Highercombe, South Australia, an Anstey Hero);
  • William Frederick Anstey (b 1853 Hobart, Tasmania, Australia married Isabella Frances Whitla in Bath, Somerset in 1887. In the 1911 Census William Frederick Anstey was living at Fleet in Hampshire with his son Chisholm Wilfred Anstey (b 1891, Hamilton, Scotland, an Anstey Hero) and daughter Audrey Marion Isabel Anstey (b 1896), together with various members of his family visiting, including his brother Harry Anstey. William was described as a “retired Major in the Army“, He also had a son George Alexander Anstey (b 1888 Curragh Camp, Ireland, an Anstey Hero)).

On his return to Tasmania in 1837, George was shipwrecked in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. In 1837 or early 1838 he took sheep to Port Phillip, sold them to John and Somerville Learmonth, and returned to Oatlands, Tasmania, his father’s estate. He then took sheep to South Australia, but could not sell them straight away and decided to settle there.

George’s first land purchase in and around Adelaide included two 80-acre sections in Campbelltown near Anstey Rivulet (Fourth Creek). George did not purchase his better known estate until 1840, when he bought 150 acres at Highercombe in the Adelaide Hills (Highercombe was named after a village near Dulverton, Somerset, England, his father’s birthplace).

Between 1842 and 1846 George constructed a private road from Grand Junction Road to his newly established Highercombe estate. This road, little more than a bullock wagon and horse dray track, became known as ‘Anstey Hill Road‘. It was used for 20 years, but was never gravelled. It crossed the crest of the then called Tea Tree Range in a saddle just north of Anstey Hill (which was named after George – as was Anstey Rivulet, now known as ‘Fourth Creek’, near Campbelltown, Adelaide).

By 1851 George’s flock had grown and, with nine thousand sheep, he had become one of the South Australia’s biggest stock-holders, with extensive pastoral leases on the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas. The produce of his orchard and vineyard at Highercombe was also gaining a solid reputation.

George was also a politician for a short time, being elected to the Upper House of the South Australian Parliament in 1851. Although a ‘true liberal’ he was defeated by William Giles in two successive polls at Yatala in the first elections for the Legislative Council. Nominated to the first vacancy on 17 December 1851, he resigned on 25 August 1852, despairing of “a reasonable constitution for the people“.

After his father Thomas Anstey‘s death in 1851, George returned to Tasmania, but a short time later in 1854 he returned permanently to live in England. By 1871 he was living in Marylebone, London; he divorced his wife Harriet in 1874. In April 1880 George attended the funeral of his son Edgar Oliphant Anstey in Woking, writing a letter to ‘The Times‘ newspaper about the incident (see Edgar’s biography for the letter details).

George eventually died in February 1895, living at Harley Street, Cavendish Square in Marylebone, London. His death was reported in many Australian newspapers, one of which gave the following obituary:

The late Mr G. A. Anstey. The news of the death of Mr G. A. Anstey of Harley Street London was received by cablegram in Adelaide on Wednesday morning [20 February 1895]. Mr Anstey, who was in his 81st year had been in delicate health for some time and expired somewhat suddenly on the evening of the 18th inst. He arrived in South Australia in March 1838, bringing with him a cargo of sheep from Tasmania where his father [Thomas Anstey] had resided for many years and was one of the oldest members of the Legislative Council in the colony. Mr Anstey at once gave his attention to pastoral pursuits and acquired properties at the Gilbert and also at Yorke’s Peninsula. In 1844 he went into partnership with Mr Thomas Giles, who has been engaged in the active management of their joint concerns for over fifty years. In 1840 Mr Anstey bought the Highercombe Estate, which he developed with great energy and success. He planted a large number of English trees and an extensive apple orchard and vineyard, which flourished so well that in 1852 between 3,000 and 4,000 bushels of apples were sold from his orchard alone. He was a member of the House of Assembly for a short time, but politics being not congenial to his tastes he soon resigned. After his residence in South Australia of fourteen years he returned to Tasmania where he remained for two years. Subsequently he took up his abode permanently in England. He paid several short visits to this colony, the last one being in 1868.”

As well as a probate in England and Australia, there was also a probate in Christchurch, New Zealand (because George had owned over twenty thousand acres of land in Amuri and another twenty thousand acres in Cheviot in 1882 according to New Zealand Land Records).

George is remembered by the names ‘Anstey Hill‘, ‘Anstey Hill Recreation Park‘, and at one time ‘Anstey Rivulet‘, in Adelaide, as well as ‘Highercombe Golf and Country Club’ in Paracombe, which is situated in the vicinity of where George property once stood, and the ‘Old Highercombe Hotel Folk Museum‘.

Note: William Anstey Giles, who is not in the slightest connected to the Anstey pedigree, but is rather famous, was named after George Alexander Anstey, who was a great friend and patron of the Giles family. George Alexander Anstey is also frequently mentioned in letters found in the book ‘Joanna and Robert: the Barr Smiths’ life in letters, 1853-1919

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