John Hindmarsh

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Rear Admiral
Sir John Hindmarsh
Governor John Hindmarsh.jpg
1st Governor of South Australia
In office
28 December 1836 – 16 July 1838
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by George Gawler
Personal details
Born 1785
Chatham, Kent
Great Britain
Died 29 July 1860(1860-07-29) (aged 75)
London, United Kingdom
Resting place St. Andrew's Church, Hove
Occupation Naval officer, Colonial administrator
Awards Naval General Service Medal
Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order
Military service
Allegiance Great Britain (1793–1801)
United Kingdom (1801–1846)
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1793–1856
Rank Rear Admiral
Unit HMS Bellerophon
HMS Spencer
HMS Victory[1]
HMS Phoebe
HMS Beagle
HMS Nisus
HMS Scylla
HMS Buffalo
Commands HMS Scylla
HMS Buffalo
Battles/wars Glorious First of June
Battle of the 17th of June 1795
Battle of the Nile
Second Battle of Algeciras
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of the Basque Roads
Invasion of Java

Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh KH RN (baptised 22 May 1785[2] – 29 July 1860) was a naval officer and the first Governor of South Australia, from 28 December 1836 to 16 July 1838.


His grandfather William Hindmarsh was a gardener in Coniscliffe, County Durham.[3]

His father, John Hindmarsh, was born on 27 June 1753 and baptized at St Cuthbert's Church, Darlington. He was pressed into the Royal Navy, and eventually became a warrant officer of the Bellerophon. On 23 August 1784, Hindmarsh (senior) married Mrs Mary Roxburgh, a widow, at St George's-in-the East, Middlesex.[3] At the time of the Battle of the Nile, Hindmarsh (senior) was the gunner of the Bellerophon,[4][5][6] (This was a warrant officer position.)

Hindmarsh was John and Mary Hindmarsh's eldest son, and was baptized on 25 May 1785 at St Mary's Church, Chatham, Kent.[3][5]

Naval career

Hindmarsh joined the Royal Navy either in April 1793 (aged seven or eight),[7] or on 19 July 1790 (aged five).[3] In 1793 he was listed on the muster roll of the Bellerophon as the servant of his father.[5] He was schooled by Mr Neale, the purser of the Bellerophon.[8] He saw action on the Bellerophon at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 and the Battle of the Nile in 1798.[5]

He was promoted to First Class Volunteer, when he was nine, for his actions at the Battle of the Glorious First of June.[3]

During the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798, the fire on board the French line-of-battle ship l'Orient put the Bellerophon in danger; all the other officers on the quarterdeck on the Bellerophon were killed or wounded, so 13-year-old[3] Midshipman Hindmarsh gathered some of the crew, cut the anchor cables, and raised a spritsail to get the ship moving. Captain Darby then came on deck from having his wounds dressed.[7][9] Nelson knew of this incident and referred to it five years later when he gave Hindmarsh his promotion to lieutenant on 1 August 1803 on board the Victory.[6][7][9][10] Hindmarsh suffered a contusion during the Battle of the Nile that resulted in him later losing an eye.[5][7][11]

Hindmarsh transferred to the Spencer in May 1800, and took part in the Battle of Algeciras Bay in 1801.[5] He served on HMS Phoebe at the Battle of Trafalgar, and was first lieutenant of the sloop Beagle, which took a conspicuous part in the Battle of the Basque Roads in 1809,[7] and on the same sloop in the Walcheren expedition later in the year.[7] He served in the Nisus in the invasion of Java in 1811.[5] He was promoted to commander on 15 June 1814.[7][10] A lengthy period of inaction on half-pay followed, but from March 1830 to December 1831 he commanded the Scylla,[7] and was promoted to captain on 3 September 1831.[7][10] In 1836 Hindmarsh went to South Australia as its first governor after winning influential support and applying to the Colonial Office.[12]

Naval General Service Medal

When the Naval General Service Medal, designed by William Wyon, was introduced in 1847, it was discovered that only two people were entitled to the medal with seven clasps (one clasp for each battle the recipient took part in): Sir John Hindmarsh and Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Alexander Gordon. The seven clasps on Hindmarsh's medal were for Java, Basque Roads 1809, Trafalgar, Gut of Gibraltar 12 July 1801 (the Second Battle of Algeciras), Nile, 17 June 1795 (known as Cornwallis's Retreat) and 1 June 1794 (the "Glorious First of June").[13] He was listed to be awarded a good service pension of £150 under the 1850-51 Navy Estimates.[7][14] He was promoted to rear admiral on the retired list in 1856.[15]

First Governor of South Australia

"Bluff Jack Hindmarsh", as he came to be known,[16] arrived in South Australia in 28 December 1836, with a fleet of ships carrying the first British settlers for the colony. The ships in the fleet included the Cygnet (carrying Colonel William Light's surveyors), Africaine, Tam O'Shanter, Rapid, and HMS Buffalo (carrying Hindmarsh). Initially they landed on Kangaroo Island, and sent out the team of surveyors led by Light to find a suitable place for the capital city of the new colony. Hindmarsh wanted it at Port Lincoln,[5] instead of at the present site which had been selected by Light.

Light eventually chose the site of Adelaide, and the fleet moved up Gulf St Vincent to Holdfast Bay, now known as Glenelg, South Australia (named after Lord Glenelg, the then Colonial Secretary). The name Adelaide was chosen by Hindmarsh in honour of Queen Adelaide, King William IV's wife.[17] Hindmarsh's proclamation on 28 December 1836 announced the colonial government and stated that Aborigines were to be treated justly and were now British Subjects. Although most South Australians have been taught that Hindmarsh's proclamation created the colony, it did not. William IV, having been empowered by an Act of Parliament in 1834, over earlier a year later, which in February 1836 in Letters Patent 'Erected and Established' the Province of South Australia. No governor had the power to create colonies.

There was some question as to the respective powers of the Governor and the Resident Commissioner, James Hurtle Fisher, and the two came into open conflict. Feeling ran high and when Hindmarsh went so far as to suspend Robert Gouger and other public officers, the commissioners brought the matter before the secretary of state for the colonies. Hindmarsh was then recalled to London in 1838.[5] In 1840 he was made Lieutenant-Governor of Heligoland, where he served until 7 March 1857.[18] Hindmarsh was knighted by Queen Victoria on 7 August 1851,[5] and retired in 1857 to the seaside town of Hove, England.

Hindmarsh's Proclamation

Issued at Glenelg on December 28, 1836:

In announcing to the Colonists of His Majesty's Province of South Australia the establishment of the Government, I hearby call upon them to conduct themselves at all times with order and quietness, duly to respect the laws, and by a course of industry and sobriety, by the practice of sound morality, and a strict observance of the ordinances of religion, to prove themselves to be worthy to be the Founders of a great and free Colony. It is also, at this time especially, my duty to apprise the Colonists of my resolution to take every lawful means for extending the same protection to the native population as to the rest of His Majesty's subjects, and of my firm determination to punish with exemplary severity all acts of violence and injustice which may in any manner be practised or attempted against the natives, who are to be considered to be as much under the safeguard of the law as the Colonists themselves, and equally entitled to the privileges of British subjects. I trust therefore, with confidence to the exercise of moderation and forbearance by all classes in their intercourse with the native inhabitants, and that they will omit no opportunity of assisting me to fulfill His Majesty's gracious and benevolent intentions towards them by promoting their advancement in civilisation, and ultimately, under the blessing of Divine Providence, their conversion to the Christian Faith. [19]


Hindmarsh lived at 30 Albany Villas for a number of years, where there is now a blue plaque in his honour. Rear-Admiral Sir John Hindmarsh died in London on 29 July 1860 and is buried in the grounds of St Andrew's Church, Hove. Hindmarsh was governor of South Australia for little more than a year, an unfortunate episode in an otherwise distinguished career. His position was anomalous from the start, and, though he was sometimes wanting in both tact and wisdom, his difficulties were great. For an interesting summary see A. Grenfell Price's Founders and Pioneers of South Australia, p. 92.

Marriage and children

John Hindmarsh married Susanna Wilson Edmeades (daughter of Henry Dickson Edmeades) on 4 November 1809 at St Nicholas' Church, Strood, Kent.[3] Their children were:

  • Jane, who married Alfred Miller Mundy MP of Shipley Hall, Derbyshire, and cousin of the Duke of Newcastle. She was the mother of Maria, who married Sir Constantine Phipps, father of ambassador Sir Eric Phipps. A grandson Alfred Hindmarsh was an MP and early Labour politician in New Zealand.
  • John, a barrister of the Middle Temple and J.P. of Port Elliot, South Australia.
  • Susan, who married John Ellis, a South Australian pastoralist.
  • Mary ( – 27 December 1887), who married George Milner Stephen, barrister of the Middle Temple, formerly Acting Governor and Colonial Secretary of South Australia, on 9 July 1840.[8]

Lady Hindmarsh died at Cliftonville, Brighton, on 2 April 1859, aged 73.[20]

Places named after John Hindmarsh


  1. From Powder Monkey to Governor, p38
  2. There is evidence that his parents married on 23 August 1784. Although he could have been born out of wedlock some years earlier, the marriage date is consistent with his baptism as an infant on 22 May 1785. A member of the Hindmarsh family claimed in 1965 to have seen the parish register recording the 1785 baptism. – ADB Online Project
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 'The Journal of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society, Volume 12, No 2, Summer 1987, p40, From Durham To The South Seas, by FS Hindmarsh, (This is p13 of the pdf file.)
  4. United Service Magazine, England's Wooden Walls, XI, Bellerophon, by Joseph Allen, 1840, p467.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 "Hindmarsh, Sir John (1785–1860)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. 1966. pp. 538–541. Retrieved 2009-07-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, Vol. I. , Letter 33, 1 August 1803, says: "I have this day made… Mr. Hindmarsh, gunner's son, of the Bellerophon, who behaved so well this day five year, a Lieutenant."
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Navy Estimates 1850-51, p66.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Diamond, AS (28 January 1929). "The First Governor of South Australia". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. p. 12. Retrieved 29 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    This reference has a nice potted history of his naval career.
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, RN, by Ernest Scott, first published 1914, pub Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-108-04061-7 p15-16
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The new navy list for November 1840, p37.
  11. Nelson s Battles: The Triumph of British Seapower, by Nicholas Tracy, originally published 1965, pub Seaforth Publishing, 2008, p72.
  12. From Powder Monkey to Governor, p 80-86
  13. From Powder Monkey to Governor, p 175
  14. The United Service Magazine, January 1850, p139.
  15. The United Service Magazine, Volume 1; Volume 80, p494.
  16. Kerr, Margaret Goyder Colonial Dynasty Rigby Limited, Adelaide 1980 ISBN 0 7270 1097 2
  17. From Powder Monkey to Governor, p 90
  18. From Powder Monkey to Governor, p 179
  19. The Colonies and India newspaper [via], March 4, 1893
  20. United Service Magazine, 1859, part 2.

External links

Government offices
New title
State established
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler
Sir Henry King
Lieutenant Governor of Heligoland
Succeeded by
Richard Pattinson