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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Angel, Henry (1791–1881)

by Gordon Buxton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Henry Angel (1791-1881), grazier, was born in Salisbury, England, son of William Angel and his wife Mary, née Shearan. Lacking formal education and a marksman all his life Angel became a skilled farm worker. At 26, with a life sentence from the Warwick Assizes in July 1817, he was transported in the Neptune and arrived at Sydney on 5 May 1818. In 1824 he was one of six servants assigned to accompany Hamilton Hume and William Hovell on their journey of exploration in which they discovered the River Murray. Both leaders testified to Angel's ability in managing working horses and cattle and attributed part of their success to his careful planning of transport arrangements. On his return he was rewarded with a pair of bullocks and a ticket-of-leave for the Illawarra district. On 3 September 1834 at a schoolhouse near Wollongong he married the young widow, Mary Ledwidge (b. Hawkesbury River, 1812), daughter of 'John' Brooker, farmer, and Mary Wade, and in 1839 began buying small sections of farming land in Illawarra.  

In October 1840 Angel was granted a conditional pardon and soon afterwards, when squatting was rapidly spreading in New South Wales, he and John Rae took up the rights to Uardry station on the saltbush plains of the lower Murrumbidgee. In 1844 he rented his Illawarra farm and moved with his ever-increasing family to the Riverina. Like most inland stations Uardry was first stocked with cattle, and in the 1840s Angel periodically set off for Sydney, 450 miles (724 km) distant, with a ton of cheese. On such trips he invariably spent a night with Hamilton Hume near Yass. Despite early difficulties, including trouble with Aboriginals, Angel remained at the Heavenly Plain until the early 1860s when he sold the station leasehold and moved to Spring Vale, in the more settled district near Lake Albert, south of Wagga Wagga, where he lived and worked until his death on 7 December 1881, at the age of 91.

With his remarkable energy and endurance he was described by James Gormly as 'one of the most reliable, honest, industrious men … abstemious, persevering and full of resource'. In his will he remarked how hard and long he had worked to gain his estate of several thousand acres and earnestly besought his children not to mortgage or part with it easily. On his death he left several dwellings, some dozen oddly-named pieces of land varying from 80 (32 ha) to 1000 acres (405 ha) each and many town lots scattered along the family track from Wollongong to Hay.

The fertility of the Angels was a byword in the Wagga Wagga district. Besides two children from her first marriage, Mary Angel bore eight sons and eight daughters to Henry; she died in 1890 leaving 13 children, 90 grandchildren and 49 great-grandchildren. Angel and his wife were buried in the Church of England section of the Wagga Wagga cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Andrews, First Settlement of the Upper Murray, 1835-1845 (Syd, 1920)
  • J. Gormly, Exploration and Settlement in Australia (Syd, 1921)
  • J. J. Baylis, ‘The Murrumbidgee and Wagga Wagga’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 13, part 5, 1927, pp 294-304
  • Wagga Wagga Advertiser, 4 Oct 1890, 2 May 1891
  • manuscript catalogue under Angel (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Gordon Buxton, 'Angel, Henry (1791–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 1 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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