Biography of William Kimberley

by Greg Wighton (E-mail: Greg Wighton)


William Kimberley (1796--1861) was born on Norfolk Island in 1796 to Edward Kimberley and Mary (nee Cavenaugh). In808, at the age of 12 years, he sailed to Hobart Town with his parents and two youngest sisters on the City of Edinburgh.

On 10 June 1816 at the age of 20 years he married Sarah Stanfield, daughter of Daniel Stanfield and Ann Harmsworth (nee Mansfield), at Cottage Green. They had the following children:

  1. Mary Ann, b. 10 May 1817, married Charles Kerr on 10 May 1837
  2. Sarah, b. 14 Mar 1819, married Alexander Foster Hogg on 12 Jun 1849
  3. William, b. 3 Sep 1821, died 19 Dec 1841 (unmarried)
  4. Edward, b. 24 Jan 1824, married Elizabeth Peeler on 9 Sep 1847 (Victoria)
  5. Sophia Matilda, b. 8 Mar 1826, John Weston Lutterell on 9 Sep 1847
  6. Amelia Maria, b. 18 Apr 1829, married Thomas William Bramich on 10 Dec 1850 at Deloraine
  7. Henry, b. 4 Apr 1832, married Harriett Hatchett in 1855 in Victoria
  8. Frederic Theodore, b. 3 Apr 1833, married Jessie Bonney on 13 May 1858.

In 1817 William was still living in the Clarence Plains area near/with his parents, as the Hobart Town Gazette (HTG) of 12 Jul 1817 contained the following news item:

" His Honor the Lieutenant Governor is gratified in holding up for Public Approbation the conduct of William Kimberley Jnr. of Clarence Plains; who in company of a stock-keeper seized Parker a bushranger and brought him in as a prisoner. Such should be the conduct of all honest settlers and good subjects; who by exertion of proper spirit might generally be able to resist, and frequently to sieze and bring to justice, criminals who could only go on their career of plunder from want of exertion in those who are subject to their depredations. A reward of ten guineas will be paid for the apprehension of Parker".
(Parker was a member of Michael Howe's gang who took to the bush in July 1816)

Soon after his marriage he moved out of the Clarence Plains area and settled in the Bagdad area, where he obtained two locations originally granted to John Ingle, who sold them to William in 1818. This is believed to be for 600 acres. These locations were known as:

  1. "The Sheiling" - situated behind St. Marks Church, it faced the original road which came from Old Beach, before the Bridgewater and Pontville bridges were built. This house passed to John Butler of "Brookby" in 1877, and
  2. "The Row", known locally as the "Barracks". It is said to have been built in 1824 and to have quartered soldiers for a time. It stands on a portion of land sold by William to Gamaliel Butler in 1844.

These were the beginnings of his complex land transactions. He became known as the "King of Bagdad" due to his extensive holdings, however the exact timing, size and location of all his land dealings has been difficult to follow with certainty. At various time he is also recorded as having large contracts with the Commissariat Stores to supply meat and grain.

There are various descriptions of William's land given in early sources. For instance, the "Journals of the Land Commissioners for Van Diemen's Land 1826-28" describes William's properties, variously:

In 1823 (Col Arthur's file 5786) a letter from William describes a dispute over 300 acres at the back of the farm at Bagdad in which he claimed to have been promised the land by Lieut. Gov. Sorell " in consideration of my extensive services then recently rendered in the detection and apprehension of sheep stealers and others ...".

In July 1825 William wrote to Governor Arthur "... respectfully soliciting additional grants of land trust ....". In this letter he stated that he had "only received by grant from your Honours predecessors 1200 acres of land, 300 of which were granted by the memorialist as Chief District Constable during a period of nearly five years ..." This application letter was supported by the Superintendent of Police (A.W. Humphries) who stated, in part, "... he is at present suffering from a gun shot wound which he received at the tenth of last month while endeavouring to apprehend James Preece and Richard Brown, two runaway convicts who are charged with felony, one of whom he secured".

The Governor approved an additional 500 acres noting, "This it must be understood is given to him purely on account of his services, because he cannot have yet improved by cultivation the land granted last year so much as to entitle him to an augmentation".

On 10 July 1829 William made yet another application for an additional grant. Governor Arthur duly approved an additional grant of 500 acres.

In 1830 William took part in the "Black Line" as one of the leaders, then on 26 May 1831 he made a claim for an additional grant. It so happened that this application reached the authorities just after the instructions to discontinue free granting of land reached Arthur, however they eventually recommended "that he be permitted to rent 1000 acres of land for eighteen months with the understanding that the same shall become an additional grant on the usual conditions."

In May 1831 when William was making this claim he stated his holdings as:

This comprised properties at Clarence Plains, Bagdad and Salt Pan Plains.

It appears that hard times then befell William; coupled with his problem with alcohol; and in 1849 he was declared bankrupt. A preliminary notice of sale appeared in the Hobart Town Courier on 18 Aug 1849 and again on 8 Sep 1849 and the auction of a major part of his estate took place on 24 Sep 1849. T.Y. Lowes acquired the property and renamed it Lowes Park. It contained the original grants to William Kimberley and Askin Morrison. The property was then purchased by James Gibson in 1870, and is now in the hands of the Headlam family.

In 1850 William took 4,000 sheep north to the Kentish Plains. He was given charge of the probation station at what became known as Kimberley. The spot at which he crossed the River Mersey with his sheep and cattle was called Kimberley's Ford. (although this has also been attributed to Lord Kimberley, Secretary of State for the Colonies).

William's death notice then appeared in the Mercury on 19 November 1861, thus:

"On the 4th inst. at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. T. Bramich, Mr. William Kimberley aged 65 years"

The cause of death was dropsy, and his son Henry reported his death to the authorities. (His wife, Sarah, had died on 3 Feb.

1843 and was buried at Oatlands.)

Two streets, one at Rokeby and one at Pontville perpetuate the memory of this colourful pioneer.

[My line of descent is through William's daughter, Amelia Maria Kimberley (Mrs. Thomas Bramich)]

(Special thanks to Mrs. Steph. Burbury, "Bowsden", Jericho, for permitting me to extract this from her research).

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Updated 05-Feb-2002