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South Australia’s first Governor


                            New revelations and intrigue

  In a cryptic twist of fate there is a statue in Trafalgar Square of the first Governor appointed to South Australia. It is not of Governor Hindmarsh as might be expected, but instead it is a Large Bronze Statue of General Charles James Napier who stands astride a large marble plinth, just West of Nelson’s column and within roaring distance of the two guardian lions. Millions of London visitors pass it by almost every day without so much as a second glance and a Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London 2000 – 2008) has more than once suggested it be removed and sent to the far-flung extremities of what was once the British Empire.

Ironically, this is the same Charles James Napier, who declined the Governorship of South Australia after his appointment had been confirmed by the Colonial Office. He was also coincidentally, a friend and confidant of both, Colonel William Light and the mysterious Mr George Jones, about whom we have heard so much in recent years. Readers will recall that there was great rejoicing and a sense of vindication by the pro Light lobby in Adelaide, when in May 2005, the State Library of South Australia successfully purchased the Colonel Light Letter to Jones which had been written whilst the Surveyor General was on board the Rapid in the Port River on the 22nd of November 1836.

In it Colonel Light reminds us of his determination to survey and fix the city somewhere on the Adelaide Plains between his then anchorage in the Port River and the hill’s Face Zone which could be seen from the masthead. The extent of the Adelaide Hills could be seen stretching away from Flagstaff Hill in the South to Modbury in the northeast.

The high cost of this letter to the South Australian State Government and other contributing benefactors caused much consternation in the community. But for the first time since the South Australian sesqui-centenary celebrations in 1986, Colonel Light’s detractors were strangely silent. Many in the community thought the aura around William Light’s statue on Montefiore Hill had been restored and we would all go back to sleep for another 50 years. However, another letter recently cited 2007 In the special collections of the University College London reveals the story is not yet complete and that we need to further examine our history.

 Here enters Charles James Napier, who with William Light and George Jones, formed a small coterie of long-established friends, and who each had an interest in what Colonel Light was doing in South Australia in 1836-7. Indeed, at one point both Light and Napier saw themselves both holding senior collaborating appointments in the new colony. This new letter dated the 28th of April, 1837, just months after the first ships had, anchored at Holdfast Bay (Glenelg) is from Napier to Jones, and in it he discusses Light’s euphoria about the site for Adelaide on the eastern flank of Golf Saint Vincent suggesting that to set the city there would be a mistake. He says, and I quote

 28th of April 1837.

My Dear Jones., do not plague you with many letters, but when a man wants to ask a favour, he is all activity etc………… I hear you have heard from Light, and he is delighted. Oh! how I wish I were with him! But the hour for the fulfilment of my prophecy has not yet arrived. I give them ‘a year in which to be Merry!  Then will come struggles and with all my heart I wish them through them, for I have conquered a vile wish to prove right, that for a moment entered my heart, in spite of the Commissioners, but which I’m not such a vagabond as to allow footing to, for it is not the Commissioners that will suffer, but those who have not deserved to suffer and to whose misery I was resolved (not) to be witness. As far as moneylenders in London and Commissioners are concerned. I heartily wish a failure would it happen with safety to the colonists? I think if Light will view the colony in the same way I do, he would reconnoitre the Western, not the Eastern coast of Spencer’s gulf. I was resolved to put the gulf between my people and the penal colonies in the East and hold out my hand to Swan River and King Georges Sound colonies on the West. The East will prove trouble troublesome now and injurious hereafter to the South Australian. The East which will soon flourish beyond the penal colonies will help the Australians now and hereafter. The West is moral. The east is immoral. And he may be assured that grand fact is no more important than a thousand minor details.  A legislator must look first to the great outline. But Port Lincoln is the spot if water can be had. But they cannot get money from the English treasury. And I’m convinced that money must be expended without a direct return. And this does not suit speculators? Exclamation. And then again, Hind Marsh will be an extinguisher. Exclamation. Give my love and my wife’s to Miss Jones an believe always most truly yours.

 Charles C Napier

This letter is not only revealing but it is also strangely prophetic. Charles James Napier had become acquainted with both Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his brother Daniel, when they were travelling on the continent in the early 1830s. They were so impressed with his stewardship as Governor of Cephalonia that they invited him to consider the Governorship in South Australia. Napier was flattered and immediately returned to London where the South Australian Association and the South Australian Commissioners endorsed the Wakefield opinion and put Napier’s name forward. The Colonial Office had been considering Sir John Franklin, but demurred to the South Australian Commissioners decision and the appointment fell to Napier. However, it was to be some months before the position could be ratified as there were insufficient subscriptions forthcoming for the South Australian project to immediately proceed as planned.

Because of the delay fissures in the scheme began to emerge. Meanwhile Napier immersed himself in the scheme by reading and studying anything that had been written about or from Australia. Simultaneously, he was elected to the Chairmanship of the South Australian Literary Association, a subset of the South Australian Association, and an organization of intending colonists who met weekly on matters of philosophy and practice as it was to apply in their new home in the Antipodes. Presumably Napier’s close friendship with Lord Byron and his practical experience in Cephalonia made him an obvious choice for this role.

Napier busied himself by writing a book entitled Colonization: Particularly in Southern Australia which was published in 1835, only months before the first ships were to finally sail from London. Colonel Robert Torrens, the Chairman of the South Australian Commission and a ground-breaking political economist was at the same time, writing his book, entitled, Colonization Of South Australia. His theories we’re strongly based on the newly touted principles of the science of political economy on which colonisation was seen as a release of population pressure and a means of establishing a global economy. Based on free trade both books are now considered as economic classics and have been widely reprinted for students of contemporary economic history. The two men, however, fill out on matters of theory. Napier was highly critical of Torrens friend Malthus. and ridiculed the notion that the colony would in any way relieve population pressure in Britain especially as there was so much undeveloped land in Ireland. Torrens, who had secretly coveted the Governorship himself kept his powder dry and reserved any comment.

Whether Napier sensed that he had found himself in an untenable position or not is not clear, but shortly thereafter and in a spectacular back flip he declined the Governorship  on two counts. Perhaps with some justification, he argued that the theory of self-sustainment, so central to Wakefield’s theory and so devoutly followed by the South Australian Commissioners could not possibly work without the injection of extraneous monies from Treasury to support basic infrastructure costs. He was right.! Secondly, he was aware that the moment settlers arrived in the colony, wherever or whenever it was, there would be an influx of convicts and other unsavoury characters from the east who would make it difficult for everybody unless there were some supporting troops, also funded by the Colonial Office.

 Again, he was right! He demanded 200 men for this operation. Both requests were declined, The South Australian Commissioners and the Colonial office, arguing that the scheme was only supported by the Parliament on the condition that it be totally self-supporting and without cost to the Government. Napier walked away from the scheme and suggested to Colonel Light that he apply for the Governorship. As we know Hindmarsh got wind of the vacancy and hurried to England from Egypt to secure the appointment. The rest is history. But in a prescient stroke of vision Napier foreshadowed that there would be trouble with Hindmarsh. The colony would fall on hard economic circumstances and that the eastern settlements in Australia would eventually swamp the southern and western parts of the country. As to whether South Australia would retain its moral integrity we can only ponder why it is that for nearly two centuries, Adelaide is still known as the city of churches.

The Jubilee Celebration at Glenelg in 1886

An Account Of The Celebration

All Aboard from King William Street to Glenelg

                                                                          Part 1

Tuesday, December the 28th, marked an epoch in the history of Holdfast Bay. It was the Jubilee Commemoration Day, and colonists of all classes and every age were interested in making the celebration a success. After the most memorable demonstration in the Town Hall on the evening before, when that fine building was crowded to excess by colonists and their families, all assembled to testify to the interest and veneration they felt for The Pioneers of the Province,  it became Glenelg well to follow with the gala of more than ordinary significance.

The weather was pleasant, light rain fell in the night, a cool change set in, and a fresh sea breeze blew in the morning with the cloudy sky restraining the ardent sun from making the day to salt treat. Thousands of people in holiday garb, and bearing no indication of the pressure of the trying season just passed through, thronged the jetty and the beach, and filled almost every available space in the roadways, and the esplanades chatting, laughing, and enjoying themselves to the top of their bent. An experienced an energetic committee had been working hard for some weeks to organise a programme of land and sea sports calculated to amuse the multitude of pleasure seekers, who, however, seemed to come out as much to see and greet friends and acquaintances as to participate in the regular programme of the day. South Australian crowds are proverbially orderly and good humoured, so that the inconvenience of dust, heat and scrooging have little or no effect upon their tempers. They take it all kindly, and bandy merry words with each other all through the day.

Either the Glenelg Railway Company have learned a lesson from past experience of holiday rushes or the public are getting less excitable, but the fact is that there were far less crowding in the trains and the people got into the carriages in a more orderly manner than usual on such occasions. There was a time when intending passengers, over excited and eager to get seats clambered in by the windows and rushed the doors but not so now. The Glenelg Railway Company provided sufficient accommodation for the travelling public to all appearance, and if there was a little overcrowding it was as much the fault of the people themselves. The guards were prompt and obliging, and the police kept a sharp eye upon the heedless or rough members of the public. The Manager Mr. Quan had made every preparation for the rush and as far as we could see his arrangements were perfect. There is but little doubt that the success of the railway traffic was due to the efforts of the manager and his officials.

Trains were dispatched from Victoria Square and North terrace every half hour, making an alternate quarter of an hour service and these were found equal to conveying the thousands to and from Glenelg without any inconvenience worth speaking of. Throughout the day 10 locomotives, 26 carriages, and five trucks were in use on the two lines, and 70 trains were run each way. Up till 10:00 o’clock in the morning those who travelled by train were very few and it was feared that the celebration was not going to prove a success, but after this hour the public came in thousands, and all fears were dispelled. From 10:00 o’clock to 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon every train was comfortably loaded, that which carried the greatest number leaving Victoria Square about 2:00 o’clock. Approximately there were 48,000 passengers carried on the Victoria square line and 35,000 on the North terrace line.

These figures of course include the return journey’s of all the passengers. Many people seem to have adopted. The prudent practise. Of making a half holiday on the 28th., not going down to the Bay. Until the first rush to the trains is over. New sentence. This is certainly the more enjoyable way of doing the thing., and it distributes has traffic. The railway engine on, thereby relieving the officials of a great source of anxiety. After four o’clock, there was a lull, but a few hundreds took a rundown in the evening to witness the fireworks. The task of bringing the visitors back to the city was affected without the overcrowding which has prevailed in the past. This was in great measure attributable to the fact of the fireworks, which induced a number to stay and thus the traffic was relieved. There was no difficulty experienced in purchasing tickets, The company having provided ample ticket windows. To ensure safety, men were placed at every crossing on the lines. The traffic was greater than it has been for the previous years, it being estimated that altogether something like 83,000 persons were carried on the two lines.

The road this year was also more largely patronised, and in the morning particularly it presented a very lively appearance. Hundreds of vehicles of all descriptions were to be seen wending their way to the Bay. Spring carts and drays predominated, and these were well packed with families who had chosen the seashore for their days outing. One or two were tastefully decorated with evergreens. The proprietor’s evidently thinking it their duty to assist in making the scene as animated as it was possible to be. There was a marked absence of ‘four in hands’ all the better class of vehicle, and the licenced cabman did not appear to have profited but the commemoration. Those who were fortunate to arrive early located their vehicles in the vicinity of the jetty, but later arrivals had to take up positions to the North and South; and so many were there that they extended a considerable distance on each side. At the northern end they reached beyond the Patawalonga Creek. In the afternoon, when the steamers ‘Adelaide’ and ‘Yatala’ arrived with their living freights from Port Adelaide, the number of people on the pier was added to considerably, so that before 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon there was only just enough room to move along the jetty freely. The excellent rule of keeping to the right was fairly well observed and thus much unpleasant jostling avoided. As before intimated, the weather was delightful, the fresh sea breeze blowing with steadiness, and sending the yachts and sailing boats along at a spanking rate. The sea was all sparkle and motion, and we are sure there was less dust than ordinary, the day being so cool. ‘

Proclamation Day was very popular from the point of the Golden Jubilee in 1886 right through to Depression and beyond.
This Photograph was taken in 1922 and comes to you courtesy of the State Library of South Australia {PRG280/1/30/92}

This extract comes to you on my website which is found under the heading of ‘panesof’ Please leave a comment if you like this sort of material as I have 1100 pages of South Australian History to share with you in ‘Behind The Streets of Adelaide.’ Go to for more.

Dr Jeff Nicholas

Konrad Lorenz

Civilised Man’s Eight Deadly Sins

Browsing through my library the other day I came across a book which I purchased in 1973. It is entitled “Civilised man’s eight deadly sins,” and was written by Konrad Lorenz a subsequet Nobel Prizewinner in 1973. Now although it does not neatly fit within the historical lexicon the fact that it is now more than 50 years since I first read it does not mean that it has lost any of its impact on my mind. To be truthful I think it’s significance is more pertinent today than at anytime previously and it must now been seen as an important historical perspective.

In Chapter 10, his last, he writes ‘I have discussed 8 separate but causally connected processes that are threatening to destroy, not only our civilization, but mankind as a species. These processes are:

1. Overpopulation of the earth, because of the super abundance of social contacts, forces everyone of us to shut themselves off in an essentially inhuman way, and which, because of the crowding of many individuals into a small space, elicits aggression.

2. Devastation of our natural environment, with destruction not only of our surroundings but also of man’s reverential awe for the beauty and greatness of a creation superior to him.

3. Man’s race against himself, which pushes the development of technology to an even faster pace, blinding people to all real values and robbing them of time for the genuinely human activity of reflection.

4. The waning of all strong feelings and emotion, caused by self-indulgence. The progress of technology and pharmacology furthers an increasing intolerance of everything inducing the least displeasure. Thus human beings lose the ability to experience a joy that is only attainable through surmounting serious obstacles. The natural waves of joy and sorrow ebb away into an imperceptible oscillation of unutterable boredom.

5. Genetic decay. In our modern civilization, apart from ‘the innate sense of justice’ and a few transmitted traditions of right and wrong, there are no factors that exert a selection pressure tending to preserve instinctive norms of social behaviour, although, with the growth of society, these are becoming more and more necessary. It is an alarming possibility that the many infantilisms are making a certain type of hippie into a social  parasites.

6. The break in tradition. A critical point is reached at which the younger generation is no longer able to communicate with the older one, still less to identity with it. Therefore, the younger treats the older like an alien ethnic group, confronting it with the equivalent of national hatred. Hence, the continuance of tradition is threatened. The reasons for this disturbance are to be found principally in the lack of contact between parents and children, which even at the earliest stages of infancy can have pathological consequences.

7. Increased indoctinability of mankind.  The increase in numbers of people within a single cultural group, together with the perfection of technical means, lead to the possibility of manoeuvring public opinion into a uniformity unprecedented in the history of mankind. Furthermore, the suggestive effect of an accepted doctrine grows with the number of its supporters, possibly in a geometric progression.  There are cultures in which an individual who purposely keeps aloof from the influence of mass media, for example from television, is regarded as pathological. De-individualising effects are desired by all those who’s intention is to manipulate large bodies of people. Opinion polls, advertising, cleverly directed fads and fashions help the mass producers on this side of the Iron Curtain, and the functionaries on the other side to attain what amounts to a similar power over the masses.

8. The arming of mankind with nuclear weapons constitutes a threat easier to avert than the seven other developments described above. The process is of dehumanisation discussed in Chapters 1 to 7 give support to the pseudo-democratic doctrine which maintains that the social and moral behaviour of man is in no way determined by the phylogenetically evolved organisation of his nervous system and of his sense organs, but rather that this behaviour is determined solely by the conditioning to which in the course of his ontogenesis he is exposed by his particular cultural environment  

Some South Australian Gems

I am clearing some of my duplicates.

Find me at sejhn@ozemail for more information

Horton James T    ‘Six months in South Australia’                                 $2,000

Mann W          ‘Six years Residence in the Australian Provinces’         $1600

Cobbett W      ‘The Emigrants Guide in Ten Letters’                 $1000

Spence C.H.    ‘State Children in Australia’                                             $300

Tolmer A.     ‘Reminiscences of an Adventurous and Chequered Career $300

     Torrens  Col. Robert       ‘Colonization of South Australia’                    $1000

Pike, Douglas              ‘Paradise of Dissent’ (First)                                   $200

Bruce, Robert              ‘Echoes  From Coondambo’ 1893                        $250

                       Whitmore W.W.         ‘A Letter on the Present State of Agriculture $250

      Alexander Bain           ‘The Minor Works of George Grote’                     $100

Samuel Sidney            ‘The Three Colonies of Australia’                         $300

Prices derived from two of the best book search engines world wide.

Dr Jeff Nicholas at 0412500717 or

The Grote Street Model School

South Australia has been blessed with some very fine educational institutions and none more so than the Grote Street Model School which was built and opened in 1880. This was the Government’s response to the 1875 Education Act which made it compulsory for all primary school aged children to attend a school.

This school was the first of the kind built in the colony of South Australia. The building is of the pointed style, with gables and gablets. It is of one storey, and the height to the plate 19 feet 6 inches and 25 feet to the ceiling. Accommodation is provided for three distinct schools, to be apportioned respectively to boys, girls, and infants. The principle school-rooms – those for boys and girls – are each 70 feet by 24 feet in the clear, and the class-rooms which open out of each, are 24 feet by 16 feet. A hat and cloakroom and lavatory are also attached to each of these main divisions, the former being 26 feet by 12 feet and the latter by 24 feet by 8 feet. The Infant classroom, also provided with a hat and cloak room and lavatory of rather smaller size than those connected with the other departments, is 40 feet in length by 20 feet in breadth. For the convenience of the headmaster and matron, and their assistants, there are two rooms opening from the main lobby. Between the two large schoolrooms is an arcade, paved with a slate and roofed in a like manner as the other portions of the schools. This arcade has the effect of keeping the classrooms cool and is found convenient as a sheltered walk. Ventilation is secured by tubes from the ceiling to the external air, terminating at the Ridge of the roof. Fresh air is admitted by shaft’s opening just below the level of the plate. In the Infant School room the Gallery accommodates from 90 to 100 juveniles. In each of the larger rooms are five groups of desks and forms, 5 deep, right across the room, with a passage between the several groups the rooms are lighted by narrow pointed windows at the sides and at the ends of the large schoolrooms are coupled lights with cinquefoil openings over them. The turret is the centre of the roof, which rises to a height of 28 feet from the ridge, contains a bronze bell, 100 pounds in weight and of a sonorous tone. The land on which the buildings stand is enclosed with a substantial stone fence 5 feet 8 inches high, with brick coping and piers. The entrances to the schools are furnished with elegant wrought-iron gates.  More than 3/4 of the acre are available for recreation purposes. There is a light iron fence between the respective parts appointed for the boys and girls and infants. The boys enter from Brown St and the girls an infants from Grove St.  The number of scholars on the roll is 1,200 . The average attendance is 950

-The Spectator: September 5th 1712-

The Story of Tom Puzzle & Will Dry

…lucidus Ordo


Among my Daily-Papers, which I (the owner of the Spectator of the day in 1712) bestow upon the public, there are some which are written with Regularity and Method, and others that run out into the wilderness of those compositions which go by the name of Essays. As for the first, I have the whole scheme of the discourse in my Mind, before I set pen to paper. In the other kind of writing, it is sufficient that I have several thoughts on a subject, without troubling myself to arrange them in such order, that they may seem to grow out of one another, and be disposed under the proper heads. Seneca and Montaigne are patterns for writing in this last kind, as Tully an Aristotle excel in the other. When I read an author of genius, who writes without method, I fancy myself in a wood that abounds with a great many noble objects, rising among one another in the greatest confusion and disorder. When I read a methodical discourse, I am in a regular plantation, and can place myself in its several centres, so as to take a view of all the lines and walks that are struck from them. You may ramble in the one a whole day together, and every moment discover something or other that is new to you, but when you have done you will have but a confused imperfect notion of the place; in the other, your Eye commands the whole Prospect, and gives you such an idea of it, as is not easily worn out of the memory. 

Irregularity and want of method are only supportable in Men of great Learning or Genius who are often too full to be exact, and therefore choose to throw down their pearls in heaps before the Reader, rather than be at the Pains of stringing them. 

Method is of advantage to a work, but in respect to the Writer and the Reader. In regard to the first, it is a great help to his Invention. When a Man has planned his Discourse, he finds a great many Thoughts rising out of every Head, that do not offer themselves upon the general Survey of a Subject. His Thoughts are at the same time more intelligible, and better discover their Drift and Meaning for, when they are placed in their proper Lights, and follow one another in a regular Series, then when they are thrown together without Order and Connexion post op there is always an Obscurity in Confusion, and the same Sentence that would have enlightened the Reader in one Part of a Discourse, perplexes him in another. For the same Reason likewise every Thought in a methodical Discourse shows itself in its greatest Beauty, as the several Figures in a piece of Painting receive new Grace from their Disposition in the Picture. The Advantages of a Reader from a Methodical Discourse, a correspondent with those of the Writer. He comprehends everything easily, takes it in with Pleasure, and retains it long. 

Method is not less requisite in ordinary Conversation than in Writing, provided a Man would talk to make himself understood. I, who hear a Thousand Coffeehouse Debates every Day, am very sensible of this want of Method in the Thoughts of my honest Countrymen. There is not one Dispute in Ten, which is managed in those Schools of Politics, where, after the three first Sentences,  the Question is not entirely lost. Our Disputants put me in mind of the Skuttlefish (vis-a-vis the cuttlefish) that when he is unable to extricate himself, blackens all the Water about him, till he becomes invisible. The man who does not know how to methodized his Thoughts, as always to borrow a Phrase from the Dispensary, a barren Superfluity of Words. The Fruit is lost amidst the Exuberance of Leaves.

Tom Puzzle is one of the most Eminent Immethodical Disputants of any that has fallen under my Observation. Tom has read enough to make him very Impertinent: His Knowledge is sufficient to raise Doubts but not to clear them. It is a pity that he has so much Learning, or that he has not a great deal more. With these Qualifications Tom sets up for a Free-thinker, finds a great many things to blame in the Constitution of his Country, and gives shrewd Intimations that he does not believe another World. In short, Puzzle is an Atheist as much as his parts will give him leave. He’s got about half a dozen common-place Topicks, into which he never fails to turn the Conversation, whatever was the Occasion of it: Tho’ the Matter in Debate be about Doway or Denain, it is ten to one but half is Discourse runs upon the Unreasonableness of Bigotry and Priest-craft. This makes Mr Puzzle the admiration of all those who have less sense than himself, and the Contempt of all those who have more. There is none in town whom Tom dreads so much as my Friend Will Dry. Will, who is acquainted with   Tom’s Logick when he finds him running off the Question, cuts him short, with a what then? We allow all this to be true, but what is it to our present purpose? I have known Tom eloquent half an Hour together, and triumphing, as he thought, in the Superiority of Argument, when he has been non-plus’d, on a sudden, by Mr Dry’sdesiring him to tell the Company, what it was that he endeavoured to prove,  In short , Dry is a man of clear methodical Head, but few Words, and games that gains the same Advantages over Puzzle, that a small Body of regular Troops would gain over a numberless undisciplined Militia. 

The Reform Club & South Australia

Following Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, Britain succumbed to two de- cades of instability. The wars against France depleted government coffers to such an extent that the country was almost bankrupt. Thousands of Mili- tary and Naval Officers who fought against Napoleon were retained on half-pay when the country could ill afford it, and the number of sinecures for members of clergy and others, almost emptied the public purse. The cost of staple foods, especially bread, was unfairly inflated because of the Corn Laws.

My three volumes set of books incorporating 58 biographies of those named on Adelaide’s first set of streets can be purchased through If you have an interest please leave a comment or privately contact me on

These statutes ensured a high price for corn in favour of landholders, but at the expense of the population generally. Such excesses led to riots in the countryside and the burning of haystacks by mobs of disenchanted villagers. In the large industrial cities unrest also prevailed. Factories belched smoke and filth and employment conditions and hours of work were so primitive that an embryonic union movement was born out of the protest. Parliamentary representation was linked only to property and status, and the majority of the population had no legal way of venting their frustration. Unrest, both industrial and agricultural broke out in several places and a succession of Whig and Tory Governments seemed incapable of settling the country.

The fear of revolution such as that which Britain had witnessed in France became a very real possibility. Ironically these were the very conditions which were bound to precipitate further violence and or change and reform. Fortunately, change did come through the parliamentary process and not by revolution. For the first time in British history much of the ensuing change was led by a coalescence of the nouveau riche, the intellectual elites, aristocratic men of conscience and the emerging religious minorities. Men like Thomas Fowell Buxton, Daniel O’Connell, Lord John Russell, William Hutt, Joseph Hume, John Arthur Roebuck, Lord Brougham, Charles Buller and many others all called for the alleviation of poverty and wider electoral representation.

Colonization was seen as one of several ways to ameliorate these condi- tions and it became one of the main subjects of discussion among the Political Economists of the time. Adam Smith set the scene with his “Wealth of Nations” and Jeremy Bentham, Colonel Robert Torrens, David Ricardo, Thomas Tooke, James Pennington, William Wolryche Whitmore, John Stuart Mill and Sir William Molesworth continued a pertinent and meaningful discussion in minority newspapers like the Globe and the Westminster Review. Coincidentally a newly released book entitled ‘A Letter From Sydney’ (1829) which Edward Gibbon Wakefield wrote, whilst incarcerated in Newgate Prison, fired the collective imagination of these literati. In it, he outlined his theory of Systematic Colonisation in which capitalists in a new idealised colony, hypothetically imagined in the antipodes, were to be charged, what became known as, a sufficient price for their land purchases. The monies collected in this way were then set aside to fund the further emigration of labourers and young families. Wakefield’s theories prompted a call by the more adventurous to proceed and give the anticipated project a life.

The timing of this movement was fortuitous, because, by 1832 the ground- swell for change in the electoral system in Britain had grown to such an extent, that the momentous Reform Bill of 1832 finally passed through both Houses of Parliament and into legislation. Ordnance Surveyors were engaged to delineate boundaries for a number of new electorates and after a General Election, a new augmented parliament was sworn in. With the widening of the franchise a number of wealthy, but radical young men came into the parliament and briefly held the balance of power between 1832 and 1837. This group, who were known as The Philosophical Radicals were nominally led by George Grote MP. They aligned themselves with the Whig party and carried a number of highly influential reforms.

It was an exciting time and many changes were enshrined in law. The South Australian Act was one of them and with the imprimatur of the Duke of Wellington in the Lords, this Bill was finally assented to. Unsurprisingly, the measure provoked considerable opposition from the Tories from the outset, and the London Times often reported it as a ‘crackpot scheme’ cooked up by a group of wealthy, but outspoken young aristocrat politicians. Carp Diem! The young radicals had seen and captured the window of opportunity. The rest is history! The South Australian Commission was formed in 1835 and by 1836 all appointments in the proposed colony were fixed. Throughout May, June and July of that year a steady flotilla of ships began making their way southward and by December several hundred emigrants were eating their first Christmas pudding in the midst of a long hot Australian summer.

Members of the Reform Club would be well aware that their great institu- tion of conviviality sprang from this same Great Reform Bill of 1832 . However, what is not so well known, if at all, is that the very proponents of this club also initiated and carried into effect this first great experiment in Systematic Colonization in South Australia. These were but two of a raft of developments which sprang from the excitement generated by the coalition of Whigs and Radicals in the Palace of Westminster. In the very week in which the first meeting of the Reform Club was held on May 5th 1836, Colonel William Light sailed from London in the ‘Rapid’ with instructions from the South Australian Commission to find a suitable site to plant the capital of a new colony. It was to be called Adelaide after William lV‘s Queen Consort. Light’s instructions were both clear and detailed. He was to rendezvous on the mid south coastline of Australia in and around Kangaroo Island and the two adjacent gulfs. He was then to search for a suitable harbour. Thereafter, Light was to decide the exact location of the proposed city and immediately begin surveying it by dividing it into 1000 one acre blocks, each with an associated country section of 80 acres. The voyage to Australia usually took three or four months but by December 28th that year there were 9 ships laden with colonists standing off the east coast of Gulf St Vincent. In the afternoon 200 of these immigrants were rowed ashore to witness the planting of the British flag. Later, behind the sand hills at Glenelg , and beneath the shade of some huge gum trees, the new settlers witnessed and heard the proclamation of the Colony in the presence of the first Governor, Captain John Hindmarsh. Canon were fired in salute and in celebration a splendid cold collation was afterwards served to all.

The River Torrens (above) runs through the beating heart of the City of Adelaide as it makes its way from the hills to the sea. Colonel Robert Torrens a distinguished ‘political economist’ seen here under the bridge to the Adelaide Oval would be so proud of this beautiful ‘Athens of the South.’

By early April 1837 the City of Adelaide proper had been surveyed and all was in readiness for intending colonists to take up their lots. The surveyors marked out sixty streets and five squares in a pattern known as a quincux. The total of 1000 city acres was embraced with the now world famous wide band of parklands. On 23rd May 1837 less than six months later a committee of twelve sat down to name the streets and squares. It was comprised the Governor, the Surveyor General, the Chief Justice, some junior appointees of the South Australian Commission, and a handful of influential, but private colonists. Needless to say most of those present were ultimately named among the 58 streets and squares. However, this was not before distributing about forty or so to those in Britain who in some way had helped bring the project to fruition. The committee designated the central Square as Victoria Square after, the then, Princess Royal. The main North-South axis through the city became King William Street. Thereafter the names chosen read like a list of the central inaugural committee and the early membership of the Reform Club. Almost half of the fifty eight streets named in Adelaide on 23 May 1837 were in tribute to members of the Reform Club.

As might be expected most of these people never came to South Australia. However, some did! George Fife Angas eventually came down under in 1849. He spent most of the 1840’s prompting people in Devon and Cornwall to become emigrants. John Brown came to the colony as the Emigration Agent and had a full and productive life here. The two daughters of Matthew Davenport Hill came down in the 1870’s. They had an abiding interest in prison reform and were especially taken with the then newly built Reformatory at Magill. George Grote had a younger brother Francis who emigrated in the 1840’s. He took up a pastoralist lease and died prematurely in tragic circumstances. Jacob Montefiore did come as a visitor in 1843 as he had a brother in Adelaide and other family members in Sydney. Some of William Molesworth’s family came later to Australia and took up large land holdings on the Darling River systems.

Early Adelaide

By early April 1837 the City of Adelaide proper had been surveyed and was in readiness for intending colonists to take up their lots. The surveyors marked out sixty streets and five squares and the whole city was em- braced in a wide band of parklands. This is where it becomes interesting for Reform Club Members! On May 23rd 1837 a committee of 12 sat dowmn to name the streets and squares. The attending included the Governor, the Surveyor General, the Chief Justice, some junior appointees of the South Australian Comission and a hasndful of influential , but private colonists. Needless to say most of those present were ultimate named among 58 streets. However, this was not before naming about 40 or so to those in England who in some way had helped bring the project to fruition. They designated the central Square as Victoria Square after the , the then, Princess Royal. The main North-South axis throught the city became King William Street. Therafter the the names chiosen read like a list of the central inaugural committee and early membership of the Reform Club. Almost half of the 58 streets named in Adelaide on the 23rd of May 1837 were in tribute to the members of the Reform Club.

The magnificent library at the Reform Club in Pall Mall

The Inaugural Committee of the Reform Club

George Grote MP, Leader of the Philosophical RadicalsSir William Molesworth MP,Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Convict Transportation
Lord Stanley, Colonial Secretary, then a Whig and later to become three times a Tory Prime Minister of England

Daniel O’Connell MP, the great Irish Liberator
Charles Shaw Lefevre MP, Speaker in the House
John George Lefevre,Under-Secretary to Stanley Henry George Ward MP,later to become Governor of Colombo. Henry Kingscote, South Australian Company Director

General Members George Fife Angas, of Dawlish- Director of the South Australian Company Edward George Barnard MP, Shipping Magnate
John Brown, 26 Chester Terrace- Emigration Agent in the Colony John Walbanke Childers MP. author on the Corn Laws

Raikes Currie MP, 4 Hyde Park Terrace- An Anglican Banker
Pascoe St Leger Grenfell,Anglican, Welsh Mining Interests
Matthew Davenport Hill MP, (brother of Rowland Hill- Secretary of SA Commission and Father of the Penny Post)
Charles Hindley MP, Manchester cotton mill owner
William Hutt MP, Colonial Theorist and shipping owner.
Edmund Jerningham, Banker
Viscount Melbourne,Prime Minister
Jacob Montefiore 24 Tavistock Square- Jewish Banker associated with the Rothschild family
J Horsley Palmer,(brother to George and Director of the Bank of England) James Pennington, 15 Lower Seymour St and a writer on Currency matters John Rundle MP, Tavistock Banker & Businessman
John Abel Smith (Carrington family), Welton Garth, Hull Colonel Robert Torrens, Adelphi Terrace- distinguished Political Economist after whom the River Torrens is named.
Charles J. Kemeys Tynte MP,
Daniel Wakefield, Uncle to E Gibbon Wakefield, Kings Bench Walk Henry Waymouth, Bryanstone Square

Today there are 1.5 million people living in South Australia and approximately 1.3 million of these live in the City of Adelaide.

The State is often called the Festival State and the city is known as the Athens of the South. The climate is Mediterranean and despite a shortage of water, the lifestyle is casual and benign. The city is especially noted for its stately cultural boulevards and generous shady parklands. It is sometimes thought of as the cultural and intellectual hub of the continent.

As an overseas member of the Reform Club with more than 10 years standing it is my hope that Adelaide comes to hold a special place in the minds of all Reform Club members and I stand ready to introduce any who venture to Adelaide to the spirit of reform which echoes in our streets and terraces.

In closing I invite any who may be passing by to write a comment. I value your feedback.

—Baron Grenfell of Kilvey—

You bear a gentle mind, and heavenly blessings follow”

William Shakespeare from ‘Henry VIII’ Act II, Scene 3

My book set entitled “Behind the Streets of Adelaide : A Pantheon of Dissent” was published by in 2016. I was indeed privileged to have Baron Grenfell of Kilvey, who has recently retired from the House of Lords in Britain, to write the following ‘foreword’ to the 1100 pages of text which follows. Herewith are his most flattering words.

A Foreword

My dear friend Dr. Jeff Nicholas does me great honour in inviting me to write a Foreword to this remarkable set of books. Thanks to his profound research, scholarly analysis, originality of concept and manifest love of his subject, Dr. Nicholas has made a priceless contribution to our understanding of the forces at work during that bleak period in English history, following the defeat of Napoleon, which brought forth the radical-thinking, liberal-minded men and women, many very strong in their Christian faith, who people these pages. Through the prism of their tireless efforts to devise, obtain parliamentary approval for, and then finally implement, often against dispiriting political and financial odds, a more humane and enlightened form of colonization, the author allows us to see why and how the founding of South Australia came to be such a significant milestone in Britain’s colonial history and its gradual creation of a democratic Commonwealth of free nations. 

As a Grenfell I am both proud and flattered that my revered great-grandfather, Pascoe St. Leger Grenfell (1798-1879) is included in Jeff’s “Pantheon of Dissent”. Though not as outstanding a figure in this story as the likes of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Robert Gouger, Colonel William Light, Colonel Robert Torrens, George Fife Angas and others, he played a useful role. The Committee of Twelve, when it came to distributing honours, paired him with his friend Raikes Currie, rating them two of the most valuable young churchmen who had more than generously committed monies to the establishment of the Anglican Church in the colony. A highly successful copper smelter in Wales’s Swansea Valley, Pascoe Grenfell proved himself a particularly enlightened and public-spirited businessman and employer. A man of staunch Christian faith, he devoted much of his wealth to the improvement of housing and living conditions for his employees and their families and building a church, All Saints, in the company’s and his hometown of Kilvey. It is a great sadness for me as for many others that the Anglican Church in Wales recently announced the closure of ‘All Saints’ due to economies that the Church in Wales was forced to make.  It is, however, a comfort to know that in Adelaide, on the corner of North Terrace and Morphett Street, Holy Trinity still thrives on land purchased by my great-grandfather for the purpose of building there Adelaide’s first Anglican Church. His generous spirit thus still lives on in a city in which, to his known regret, he was never to set foot. 

I have learned so much from Dr. Nicholas’s hugely informative and elegantly written book. I knew nothing of E.G. Wakefield’s theory of systematic colonization. Nor had I much knowledge of the heroic determination of its practitioners to harness it to a project to create South Australia as a province for free immigrants promised civil liberties and religious tolerance. It is a stirring and heartening story of the creation of a civilized society. But that is not all I have learned from it. In the telling of the many achievements and occasional failures of those bringing their dream to fruition in South Australia, I have also acquired a deeper understanding my own country’s depressing condition in the early decades of the 19th century which led enlightened minds to see in civilized non-penal colonization a potentially crucial contribution to tackling Britain’s appalling levels of poverty. Dr. Nicholas’s book should occupy an important place in the bibliography of political and social history of the times and places he has described. The street signs in the great city of Adelaide which bear the names of this remarkable band of men and women serve as a daily reminder of the power of enlightened determination in the face of so many obstacles to create a free, humane and prosperous society where no such state existed before. These are names to honour, and Jeff Nicholas has done just that.        Lord Grenfell of Kilvey

Lord Grenfell, his wife Dagmar and Mrs Marlene Nicholas at the Louvre in 2017

Wikipedia reveals a much loved and highly respected man in Lord Julian Grenfell (born 23 May 1935).  He is a Labour hereditary peer and former member of the House of Lords known for his strong Europhile views. Grenfell is the son of Pascoe Grenfell, 2nd Baron Grenfell, by his first wife Elizabeth Sarah Polk Shaughnessy, daughter of Captain the Honourable Alfred Thomas Shaughnessy, second son of Thomas Shaughnessy, 1st Baron Shaughnessy. He was educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union. He was commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (60th Rifles) in 1954 and became a Captain in the Queen’s Royal Rifles (TA) in 1962. Grenfell was a programme presenter at Associated Television from 1960 to 1963 and worked as a free-lance journalist from 1963 to 1964. He was with the World Bank between 1965 and 1995, serving in Washington D.C.New York City (where he was Special Representative to the United Nations from 1974 to 1981) and Paris. Lord Grenfell first entered the House of Lords on his father’s death in 1976. He was a member of the UK Delegation to Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and Western European Union from 1997 to 1999. He lost his seat in Parliament after the House of Lords Act 1999 removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in that body. However, in 2000 he was created a life peer as Baron Grenfell of Kilvey, of Kilvey in the County of Swansea, which allowed him to return to the House of Lords. He was Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees from 2002 to 2008, a Deputy Speaker from 2002 to 2008, Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Union from 2002 to 2008 and a member of the Procedure Committee from 2003 to 2007. Lord Grenfell took formal voluntary retirement from the House of Lords on 31 March 2014, under a procedure laid down in a Resolution of the House of 27 June 2011. In addition, on 1 October 2014 he became the first peer to retire permanently under the statutory provisions of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. He retired to Paris.

Lord Grenfell was President of the Anglo-Belgian Society of the UK, 2006–2014. His honours and awards include



  •  Medal of Honour of the Senate of France

Continuing your South Australian Journey

Unlike Captain Cook’s voyage to the Great South Land which was largely of a cartographic nature, coupled with a search for a remote locality to deposit Britain’s vagrants and petty criminals, the South Australian experiment was imbued with a healthy mix of capital investment and a disposition toward universal suffrage, republicanism, social reform and the separation of church and state. These were for the most part noble sentiments despite the myopia with respect to the local indigenous population. As to who today’s citizens should venerate (because many of them are still strangely undecided) there remains a deafening silence. That Is why I have offered up this second panel of slides from one of my public presentations which is provocatively entitled ‘Who should we venerate?’

Some might be surprised to see that Grote, Wakefield, Torrens and Gouger are included and what is Jeremy Bentham, the Duke of Wellington and John Stuart Mill doing on the panel? Readers are asked to visit the website at for details of my three volume book-set which sets out over 1100 pages of intrigue and passion of those behind the South Australian experiment. Readers are also invited to comment on this relatively new blog which comes to you from my website which I have called

A South Australian Journey

European settlement in South Australia was formalised in two steps- firstly with the passage of the South Australian Act in the British Parliament in August 1834 and secondly with the proclamation of the colony or Province on December 28th 1836.

Over the next few days I will be publishing 4 panels like the one above so that readers can work their way through some of the significant ideas and developments which finally led to European Settlement in South Australia.

Readers are given the chance to reflect on the elements of this slide by way of entry to one of my headline presentations which I have given since 2001. It is entitled ‘The Founders of South Australia: Who should we Venerate?’

Feel free to contact me at should you wish to comment. My 3 volume set of books entitled ‘Behind the Streets of Adelaide: A Pantheon of Dissent’ can be purchased through or at Dymocks in the heart of the city of Adelaide.

Dr Jeff Nicholas

This site is about both History & Biography

The Victorian Commons

Researching the House of Commons, 1832-1868