Thomas Anstey (b 1777)

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

Thomas Anstey, a member of the Bampton Ansteys and an Australian Anstey pioneer, was born in December 1777 in Highercombe, Dulverton to parents John Anstey and Elizabeth Branscombe, who had married earlier that year. Thomas married Mary Turnbull in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1811 and they had the following children:

  • Ellen Lucy Anstey (b 1812 in London – the ‘Sun (London)‘ on 14 May 1812 reported “BIRTH: On Tuesday 5th inst Mr Thomas Anstey of Catherine Street, Strand, of a daughter” She died in 1813 – the ‘Morning Post‘ on 14 December 1813 noting “DIED: At Kentish Town on Friday 10 Dec Ellen Lucy daughter of Mr Thomas Anstey of the Strand“);
  • George Alexander Anstey (b 1814 in Kentish Town, London – he had Anstey hero sons Edgar Oliphant Anstey and Thomas Henry Anstey, amongst others);
  • Thomas Chisholm Anstey (b 1816 in Kentish Town, London – became a Member of Parliament and prominent lawyer. ‘Modern English Biography‘ by Frederick Boase gives the following “2nd son of Thomas Anstey of Anstey Barton, Tasmania, sheep farmer and member of legislative council who d. 23 May 1851 aged 73_). b. London 1816; ed. at Wellington Somerset, and Univ. college London; articled to J. A. Frampton of 10 New Inn, London, solicitor; one of the first affected by the Oxford tractarian movement who went over to Rome; barrister Middle Temple 25 Jany. 1839; equity draftsman; professor of law and jurisprudence at colleges of St. Peter and St. Paul. Prior park, Bath, some years; comr. for insolvent debtors in Van Diemen’s Land a short time; member of the Irish confederation which first met 13 Jany. 1847; M.P. for Youghal (lib.) 7 Aug. 1847 to 1 July 1852; contested Bedford 9 July 1852; signalized himself as the special adversary of Lord Palmerston, moved a kind of general impeachment of him in a speech of 5 hours length during which he never referred to a note for a date, figure or fact 8 Feb. 1848; introduced bills for repeal of Roman catholic penal laws 1848 and 1849; a comr. to revise the statutes March 1853; attorney general at Hong Kong Oct. 1855 to 30 Jany. 1859; poisoned by Ah-lum the Chinese baker there 15 Jany. 1857 but recovered; joined the Bombay bar 1860, became leader of it 1862; acting judge of high court of Bombay as deputy for Sir Joseph Arnould 1865 to 30 Dec. 1865; went to England 1866; revising barrister in England 1868; rejoined the Bombay bar 1869; author of A guide to the laws of England affecting Roman Catholics 1842; Guide to the history of the laws and constitutions of England 1845. (m. 1840 Harriet 2 dau. of Gerard Edward Strickland of Loughlin house, co. Roscommon). d. Bombay 12 Aug. 1873.“. Thomas Chisholm Anstey and Harriet Strickland had at least one child, Fernanda Walstan Anstey (b 30 May 1845 Westminster, baptised 1 June 1845 at Westminster, Horseferry Road, St Mary – in the 1911 Census she was living at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, having never married and living off private means. Thomas Chisholm Anstey was frequently caricatured in Punch Magazine between 1847 and 1852 “a malcontent of the highest bore-power” and “It is said that Anstey has a son who is so clever that he cannot live long. If this sort of principle however be admitted, Anstey himself will live forever“);
  • Clara Anstey (b 1817 in London, died in 1836);
  • Arthur Oliphant Anstey (b 20 November 1819 Lympstone, Devon, died in 1838 “On the 2lst inst in Howe street, Edinburgh, Mr. Arthur Oliphant Anstey, aged 19. third son of the Hon. Thomas Anstey, of Anstey Barton, Van Diemen’s Land, Member the Legislative Council of that Island” – ‘Bell’s New Weekly Messenger‘ 28 October 1838. He was buried at Greyfriars Cemetery in Edinburgh);
  • Henry Frampton Anstey (b 1822 Lympstone, Devon, became a “convert to Popery” in 1846, married Adelaide Mary Roberts in Tasmania, Australia in 1853. Henry died a Papal Knight in Rome in 1862, his widow Adelaide Anstey died in 1866 in Worthing, Sussex);
  • Julia Capper Anstey (b 1824 at Anstey Barton, Tasmania, married Dr John Doughty in 1842);

According to a 1908 letter from Thomas Anstey‘s grandson Harry Anstey to chief researcher of this project T. J. Anstey, Thomas Anstey owned lands and properties in Dulverton, Somerset and sold them, presumably before migrating to Australia (see Tom’s Correspondence for the original letter).

Thomas Anstey and Mary Turnbull‘s migration from England to Australia is detailed in the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography‘ where it states:

Although bred to the law, [Thomas] was not attracted to it. He married Mary Turnbull at Edinburgh on 12 March 1811, and then became a partner in a Bond Street house for the sale of printed calicoes [see below]. When the firm dissolved, he decided to emigrate and practise agriculture on a large scale. With letters of recommendation from the Colonial Office and influential friends, and with implements, furniture and goods worth more than £8000, he sailed in the Berwick with his wife and three children, arriving at Hobart Town in June 1823. He was given a maximum grant of 2560 acres (1036 ha) which he selected on a tributary of the River Jordan near Oatlands and called Anstey Park. Next year he imported fifty pure bred merinos from the flock of Sir Thomas Seabright, and claimed another maximum grant. He also bought much land and by 1836 had more than 20,000 acres (8094 ha), including some choice pastures that he later planned to irrigate. His fine hospitable home, Anstey Barton, knew no want, but he had much trouble with sheep stealers, Aboriginals and convict servants. Appointed a justice of the peace in 1824, Anstey shared in the ambush and capture of the bushranger William Priest. In 1826 he became coroner and next year police magistrate at Oatlands where he was largely responsible for building a township. To complaints that he used his office as a cloak for malice, he retorted that he had only contempt for ne’er-do-wells and always sought to suit punishment to the crime. Anguish came to his own home when his six-year-old daughter was debauched by assigned servants; in great distress, he and his wife had to give evidence at the trial in Launceston, where the three guilty men were sentenced to death. In 1829 Anstey proposed to Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur that civilian parties be organized for the pursuit and capture of stock thieves and other marauders. The plan was successful, the parties being placed under Anstey’s command, four of them based on Oatlands under his constable and clerk, Jorgen Jorgenson. In 1825 Anstey had suggested to Arthur that the Aboriginals be transported to the southern coast of New Holland, somewhere near the present Fowler’s Bay, where there was little chance of contact with Europeans; if left to their own operations in Van Diemen’s Land, he predicted ‘something like a maroon war’. When it came in 1831 Anstey Barton was the headquarters for the central districts. After he resigned as police magistrate in 1833 Anstey offered to raise a public subscription for George Augustus Robinson for ‘unparalleled and successful exertions’ in conciliating the Aboriginals. Anstey was prominent in petitioning for the continuance of William Sorell’s administration in 1824, and was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1827, with one short break through ill health continuing as a member until 1844. He sometimes complained that land was granted to doubtful characters, but usually acquiesced in Arthur’s policy. Under Sir John Franklin he supported the introduction of undenominational education in the British and Foreign Schools system, and deplored the ‘cumbrous machinery’ of alternative proposals. His dislike of sectarian rivalry for state aid never weakened, but he was never averse to state aid for rural employers. When the supply of assigned labour was reduced by the probation system he declared that masters were paralysed by the loss of their convict servants and merited compensation ‘like the slave-owners’. He also spoke darkly of resisting the ‘fearful doings of the Colonial Office’. After retirement from the Legislative Council, in 1845-46 Anstey visited South Australia, whence in 1849 Judge (Sir) Charles Cooper came to recuperate for three months at Anstey Barton. As a leading settler Anstey espoused many good causes and helped to promote agricultural associations and country fairs with vice-regal support. He was a founding shareholder of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land and a director of the Derwent Bank. As a devout Anglican he subscribed to the first church at Jericho in 1831 and, because no ordained clergyman was available, he succeeded in having William Pike appointed as stipendiary catechist. Later he was largely responsible for obtaining Rev. George Morris for Oatlands, and for the building there of St Peter’s Church; tradition credits him with donating the site and much of the funds on condition that the tower was visible from Anstey Barton. His declining years were saddened by the dispersion of his family, but he remained widely respected and an acknowledged leader, outstanding among the enterprising private settlers for his livestock and efficient management as well as for his urbanity, humour and wise counsels. He died at Anstey Barton on 23 March 1851 and was buried in the family vault in the Anglican churchyard at Oatlands. His wife returned to England where she died in 1862, aged 85. In 1860 Anstey Park had been subdivided and sold, and its hospitable homestead passed from the family’s hands.

[Citation details ‘Anstey, Thomas (1777–1851)‘, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/anstey-thomas-1709/text1859, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 27 March 2021.]

Additional Research Notes:

#1. In the ‘Exeter Flying Post‘ on 12 September 1805 appears an advert “To be Sold by Private Contract a very eligible freehold estate called ANSTEY BARTON pleasantly situated near a turnpike road in the parish of East Anstey in the county of Devon, about six miles from South Molton and ten from Tiverton, comprising a good commodious dwelling house, fit for the residence of a genteel family, with extensive and convenient offices and outbuildings of every description, 230 acres of excellent arable, meadow and pasture land and nearly 80 acres of timber and coppice wood..

#2. Thomas Anstey was living at 143 Strand in 1807 (see his uncle George Anstey)

#3. For more on Thomas Anstey‘s “partnership in a Bond Street house for the sale of printed calicoes” in the early 1800s, see his uncle George Anstey (Thomas Anstey was clearly close to his uncle George Anstey as he was Residuary Legatee of his will)

#4. In the ‘Morning Chronicle‘ on 22 May 1820, “Mr Thomas Anstey of 24 Old Bond Street” was advertising to let or lease properties at 16 Catherine Street, Strand

#5. The ‘Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser‘ on 6 September 1823 contained a notice with Thomas Anstey clearly already living at Anstey Park. “NOTICE:—All Persons are hereby cautioned against trespassing, either by Stock or otherwise, on my Estate, called ANSTEY PARK, situate near the new Township of Oatlands, in the District of Bath.—Anstey Park surrounds Huxley’s allotment, and is bounded on the East by Messrs. Fisk and Page’s farms ; on the South by Northumbria, the estate of Thomas George Gregson, Esq. ;on the West by the Jordan ; and on the North by the creek, now called the Dulverton Rivulet (separating it from the location of the late Capt.W. Blyth, Mr. Lakeland, and Messrs. John andMatthew Bowden and by the ravine called Dulverton Glen, through which the said rivulet flows into the Jordan THOMAS ANSTEY.

#6. Thomas Anstey was likely also an accomplished musician who attended Peterhouse College, Cambridge University. The ‘Morning Post‘ 07 August 1823 edition had an advert “Sacred Music. Shortly to be published dedicated by permission to the King, Sacred Music in Two volumes to words from the Bible and Millions Works in solo duet, trio and quartet…by Thomas Anstey Esq formerly of Peter House College Cambridge. Two Guineas for the Two Volumes…” Then the ‘London Literary Gazette‘ on 20 March 1824 “THE SACRED MUSIC of THOMAS ANSTEY, Esq will be published in the ensuing Month of April. A Prospectus of the Work may be seen at Messrs. Mayhew’s; Birchall’s; and Mitchell’s, Bond-street; D’Almaine’s, Soho-square; the Royal Harmonic Institution, Regent-street; and at Mr. Loder’s, Grove, Bath: who respectively will receive directions for forwarding the Copies of the Work which have been already, and shall be, bespoken

#7. In 1826, Thomas Anstey was appointed the first police magistrate of Oatlands. By 1830 he was also Coroner, for example the ‘Hobart Town Courier‘, 19 June 1830 edition begins “An inquest was held at Denniston before Thomas Anstey, esq. Coroner, on the body of the unfortunate woman Mary Daniels, and her two infants, who were murdered by the Blacks [Aborigines], as above stated, on the Thursday preceding at the Den, Regent Plains….“. The ‘Hobart Town Courier‘ on 27 June 1834 “At Oatlands, Mr. Anstey in the course of his address in moving the first resolution, mentioned the appalling fact that in his office of coroner for that single district, he had held no fewer than 28 inquests on the bodies of that number of persons, men, woman, and children, murdered by the blacks

A ‘William Anstey Esq‘ was also a Coroner at the same time in Oatlands – clearly a close relative though currently we cannot place him (for example the ‘English Chronicle and Whitehall Evening Post‘ 05 August 1830 edition has “An inquest was held last week at Bettsholme in Hartington parish [Oatlands] before William Anstey Esq Coroner on the body of William Hopley who had been killed by the Aborigines…“)

#8. Per Eleanor Robin’s 2017 phd thesis on Charles Swanston, a close friend of Thomas Anstey, “Thomas Anstey was n educated man from a legal family of Highercombe near Dulverton, Somerset, Anstey emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1823, establishing his property ‘Anstey Barton’ on a tributary of the River Jordan near Oatlands. Through grants and purchases, by 1836 he owned more than 20,000 acres and was one of the colony’s foremost wool kings. He was known for his ‘urbanity, humour and wise counsels’. Arthur thought him ‘one of the most active and intelligent magistrates in the Territory’. ‘Anstey Barton’ served as headquarters for the central districts in Arthur’s ‘Black War’ of the early 1830s. During this dark episode, Anstey was assisted by Danish eccentric Jorgen Jorgenson, then his field police and assistant clerk, a man with sharp political perception and a flair for writing…. Anstey was one of the first ‘non-officials’ appointed to the Legislative Council by Arthur in 1826, serving with three other wealthy squires, Thomas Archer of ‘Woolmers’, Longford; James Cox of ‘Clarendon’, Nile; and Richard Willis of ‘Wanstead’, Campbell Town. When Swanston joined him on the Council in July 1832, Anstey took it upon himself to instruct Swanston on the prevailing interests of the rural sector – what he called ‘the interior’ – so dear to his heart, and to impart his extensive knowledge of the law.

If you would like to add anything to this biography please contact us at research@theansteystory.com.

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