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Bettington, James Brindley (1796–1857)

by Nancy Gray

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

James Brindley Bettington (1796-1857), merchant and pastoralist, was the son of John Bettington of Bristol and grandson of James Brindley, engineer and canal-builder of Staffordshire. After some years as a general merchant and wool-importer in the family business in Lothbury, London, Bettington arrived in Sydney on 19 December 1827 in the Ionia to establish a wool-broker's office and to breed Saxon sheep. He began business as a shipping agent almost immediately, became a magistrate and joined the Agricultural and Horticultural Society. For his imported sheep and skilled shepherds he leased 700 acres (283 ha) of government land at Rooty Hill, near two famous horse studs, William Lawson's Veteran Hall and Thomas Icely's Bungarribee. He also began breeding horses; the first, Mantrap, won the 1830 Produce Stakes and the 1831 Agricultural Show award as the best colonial-bred horse. Presumably on Lawson's advice he took up his promised land grant of 2560 acres (1036 ha) in the Bathurst district, his Saxon sheep providing competition for the Macarthur flocks.

On 7 June 1830 Bettington married Rebecca Lawson of Veteran Hall, whose interest in horse-breeding matched his own, and in the same year joined his father-in-law on the directorate of the Bank of New South Wales. By 1832 Bettington's wharf at Darling Harbour was a busy centre, chiefly for colonial whalers and timber vessels, but as competition increased he decided to concentrate on pastoral development, in which activity he was joined by his brothers William, John Henshall and Joseph Horton.

The Rooty Hill lease was given up in 1834, the Bathurst grant transferred to Icely, and with his brothers Bettington first leased, then bought Piercefield, Martindale and Brindley Park on the Hunter and Goulburn Rivers. After the dissolution in 1835 of the family partnership, John Henshall retained Martindale, Joseph Horton held Piercefield briefly, while James continued at Brindley Park the sound management which had earlier marked him as 'one of the principal landed Proprietors in the colony', and with his fellow magistrates on the Merton bench earned a well-merited reputation for the kindly treatment of assigned servants.

Bettington announced his retirement from his Sydney business in 1837 and by purchase and lease extended his estate beyond the Liverpool Ranges. By 1850 he also held 90,000 acres (36,422 ha) of leasehold land in the Bligh district and in 1851-53 represented the pastoral districts of Wellington and Bligh in the Legislative Council. He was an original subscriber to and a trustee of All Saints' Church of England, Parramatta, and in 1852 was district warden of Parramatta, where he had made his permanent home at Oatlands in 1840. He died at Plymouth, England, on 2 August 1857, survived by his wife Rebecca who died at San Francisco on 25 February 1882, and by three sons and three daughters.

James Brindley Bettington, eldest son of James and Rebecca, was born on 1 April 1837 at Veteran Hall. He married his cousin Caroline Sophia, daughter of Ambrose Hallen, on 30 July 1864 at Parramatta. He built Brindley Park homestead where he lived after his father's death, continuing the successful production of fine quality wool. As resident magistrate at Merriwa he gave outstanding service to local affairs, was active in Hunter Valley agricultural associations, supported the church and presided cheerfully in the Merriwa School of Arts at the 'penny readings' he had inaugurated to bring the scattered members of the community together. He retired to Oatlands and died there on 22 December 1915, survived by six of his fourteen children. The eldest son, James Brindley, was accidentally killed at Brindley Park in 1893, aged 28; the second, William John Henshall (1866-1940), established Terragong, originally part of a Wentworth grant, which he acquired from the family estate; another son, Albemarle Brindley (b.1877) managed the estate until its sale in 1926. Brindley Park sheep had grown in reputation and number under skilled management. In 1888, the peak year, 58,000 sheep were shorn in the 110-stand shed and the shearing season ended in November with a race meeting, a cricket match and a banquet 'for all hands'. The cricket match was inevitable. The story persists to this day that many a good cricketer was given work during the season at Brindley Park.

Bettington Street, Millers Point, Bettington Road and Oatlands Crescent, Dundas, and Bettington Street, Merriwa, commemorate the family name.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 13
  • G. N. Griffiths, Some Northern Homes of N.S.W. (Syd, 1954)
  • New South Wales Government Gazette, 1833-39
  • J. F. Campbell, ‘"Squatting" on Crown Lands in New South Wales’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 17, part 1, 1931, pp 43-86
  • Merriwa district news, Maitland Mercury, 1875-90
  • Brindley Park station diary (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Nancy Gray, 'Bettington, James Brindley (1796–1857)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/bettington-james-brindley-2989/text4367, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 24 November 2017.

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

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