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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cordeaux, William (1792–1839)

by D. Morgan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

William Cordeaux (1792-1839), land commissioner, was born on 9 October 1792 at Crambe, Yorkshire, the son of Richard Cordeaux, a veterinary officer who served in the Peninsular war and at Waterloo. He joined the British army commissariat service in Spain as a clerk in November 1810, became a deputy-assistant in January 1814, served in Flanders in 1815 and was placed on half-pay in February 1816. He was appointed to the Commissariat Department in New South Wales in May 1817 and arrived in Sydney next January in the convict transport Friendship. He was placed in charge of the provision section at commissariat headquarters in Sydney and became involved in Commissioner John Thomas Bigge's investigation into the department. Lachlan Macquarie instructed him to take charge of the commissariat after the arrest of Commissary Frederick Drennan in April 1819 and he was called as a witness during the inquiry. A convict, Caro Lissour, accused Cordeaux of accepting wheat which was not storable, theft of goods, and passing store receipts under fictitious names. He was not convicted, although in January 1825 he was censured by the governor for having received into store at Liverpool salted meat later declared unfit for use.

In 1820 he accompanied John Oxley and Bigge on a tour from Bathurst to Lake Bathurst, and in July 1821 took charge of the commissariat at Liverpool. He returned to England on duty for a brief visit in 1823-24 to elucidate points concerning Drennan's accounts. On 23 July 1825 he was appointed a joint commissioner for apportioning the territory, and later in the year a justice of the peace, but he also continued as a deputy assistant commissary general on half-pay until 1833.

The duties of the commissioners were to divide the territory into counties, hundreds and parishes, to make a valuation of all the waste and unoccupied land in each county; and to reserve in each a tract of land comprising a seventh part in extent and value as the Clergy and School Estate. He and the other commissioners were accused of being very slow in their work, and their positions were abolished on 1 November 1830, their function being taken over by the surveyor-general. Cordeaux was also a director of the Bank of Australia and a member of a Protestant committee in opposition to National schools and secular education. During his time in office he received considerable land grants and made his home at Leppington, his Liverpool estate. Mount Cordeaux was named after him in 1828 by Allan Cunningham.

Cordeaux was married to Ann Moore on 19 September 1818 at St Philip's, Sydney. She was the sister of William Moore solicitor, and had arrived in the colony in the Marquis of Wellington in February 1815. William Cordeaux died at Leppington on 7 August 1839; his widow died on 9 September 1877, aged 86.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-11, 13-14, 16, 18
  • Sydney Gazette, 25 July, 19 Sept 1818, 21 July 1821, 6 Feb 1823
  • Australian, 18 Aug 1825, 5 June 1835, 19 July 1836, 10 Aug 1839
  • Lachlan Macquarie journal (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

D. Morgan, 'Cordeaux, William (1792–1839)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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