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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fanning, William (1816–1887)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

This is a shared entry with Frederick Fanning

William Fanning(1816-1887), merchant, and Frederick Fanning (1821-1905), army officer and merchant, were sons of William Fanning (1785-1859) and his wife Sophia Cecilia, née Harley. William arrived in Sydney about 1842 and in 1843 entered partnership as a general merchant with George Richard Griffiths. They imported teas from China and wine and spirits. In 1844 William became a member of the Australian Club and in September a justice of the peace. On 6 August he married Oriana, third daughter of G. A. Richardson, M.D. of Jamberoo; her half-sister Henrietta Heathorn married Thomas Huxley in 1855. About 1846 William acquired pastoral interests in the Wellington Valley. In February 1850 he went to England but returned in 1852 and lived at Double Bay. About 1856 he became part-owner of two ships registered in Sydney and was associated with (Sir) Daniel Cooper. In 1854 he had become a local director of the Australian Gold Mining Co., in 1855 a founding director of the Colonial Sugar Co. and a member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and in 1857 a director of the Union Bank of Australia. In 1860 he was living at Hardwicke, near Reading, England, but later at Canterbury House, Canterbury, Sydney, and was the principal partner in Griffiths, Fanning & Co.

In 1838 Frederick enlisted in the Indian army. On 3 October 1840 he became a lieutenant in the 9th Regiment of Native Infantry and on 16 December 1843 was seconded to the revenue survey department, where he became interested in native languages. Promoted captain on 1 January 1852, he retired as a major on 23 July 1858. In May 1850 he had married Sophia (1831-1922), daughter of Rev. Joseph Taylor and his wife Antoinette, née Van Someren. Frederick arrived in 1858 at Sydney where he lived although active in the firm's pastoral ventures. In 1866 the firm owned 195,000 acres (78,915 ha) with 18,000 cattle in the New England district including Wooroowoolgen near Casino. The brothers owned a further 48,000 acres (19,425 ha) and Frederick another 28,000 acres (11,331 ha). By 1871 he had twenty-two properties in Queensland, mainly in the Maranoa district, as well as three sheep runs near Coonamble with William. Most of these stations were sold by the 1880s. Frederick's eldest son William Joseph managed Wooroowoolgen till his return to England in 1890 when his second brother Francis Grant (1860-1942) took over.

About 1870 William returned permanently to England and lived at Bozedown House near Reading, where he died on 24 June 1887. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and three sons, of whom the second was Edward. Frederick returned to England soon after his brother and lived first at Park Wood, Swanley, Kent, then in Kensington, and assisted at the firm's counting house in Old Bond Street, London. He died at Kensington on 16 February 1905 and was survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1900)
  • India Army List, 1905
  • J. Huxley (ed), T. H. Huxley's Diary of the Voyage of H.M.S. Rattlesnake (Lond, 1935)
  • manuscript catalogue under Griffiths, and Fanning & Co. (State Library of New South Wales)
  • newspaper indexes under Fanning (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Fanning, William (1816–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 29 October 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 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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