Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gatehouse, George (1778–1838)

by G. T. Stilwell

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

George Gatehouse (1778?-1838), brewer, was tried as John Simpson alias George Gatehouse at the Middlesex Gaol Delivery on 14 September 1803 and sentenced to transportation for seven years for stealing from a dwelling house. He arrived in New South Wales in the Coromandel (2) in 1804 as John Simpson, mariner. In December 1812 he sailed for England, where he managed to raise a considerable sum of money which he brought with him to Sydney when he returned in the Dowson in 1816. He received a location order for 400 acres (162 ha) from Governor Lachlan Macquarie and went to Hobart Town. There he entered into partnership with Anthony Fenn Kemp under the style of Kemp & Gatehouse, a firm which engaged mainly in mercantile business and was most successful. Three years later when Gatehouse retired his share of the capital was £8000. He does not seem to have been unscrupulous in accumulating this, for Lieutenant-Governors William Sorell and (Sir) George Arthur both spoke highly of his character and probity; he was refused an auctioneer's licence in 1818, not because of any fault of his, but because of his association with the suspect Kemp. The respect of the lieutenant-governors was, however, not enough, for an ex-convict had many social barriers to overcome. In 1820, when Gatehouse was appointed a member of the committee of five to superintend the distribution of merino rams, George Hull refused to sit with him because of his former status. Yet Hull was permitted to decline and Gatehouse remained.

Gatehouse did not live on his original 400-acre (162 ha) grant but on land which he bought at New Town. Here early in 1820 he established himself as a maltster, miller and brewer, but this business was not a success. By the end of the decade Gatehouse claimed he had spent £12,000 on it, but his returns were low. One difficulty arose from the poor supply of colonial hops, which forced him to import them from England. In 1829 Lieutenant-Governor Arthur allowed Gatehouse a grant of 2000 acres (809 ha) even though he had not improved his original location, since Gatehouse had been encouraged by Commissioner John Thomas Bigge to start the brewery. Gatehouse was an original pewholder in St David's Church, Hobart, was one of the first shareholders in the Bank of Van Diemen's Land, and was one of those who signed a fruitless petition to Lieutenant-Governor Arthur in 1827 asking for the repeal of the Act for licensing the press. But his chief interests were his home and family. At New Town he had what was perhaps the finest garden and orchard in the colony. Here in April 1821 he harvested 150 lbs (68 kg) of tobacco from a few square yards. After his death this estate on which he had lavished so much was sold for a mere £3800.

Childless, he brought a succession of relatives to the colony to share in his prosperity. The first to arrive, his brother Silas (d.1854) of Nonesuch, Sorell, and Grindstone Bay on the east coast, was said to be one of the largest landholders by 1821. A nephew, George Read, was appointed superintendent of government carpenters in 1819 and held this position until he died in 1822. Two other brothers, Clement and William, with their families, reached Hobart in the Hugh Crawford on 27 October 1826. To both Gatehouse gave a bounty of £1000, and they took up land at Prosser Plains (Buckland), some of which still belongs to their descendants. George Gatehouse died at New Town on 13 November 1838, aged 60, and was buried in the imposing family vault in St John's churchyard. This tomb has been recently removed to the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Buckland. His widow Edith died on 6 May 1868, aged 91.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 2-4
  • CSO 1/380/8605 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • correspondence file under Gatehouse (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. T. Stilwell, 'Gatehouse, George (1778–1838)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/gatehouse-george-2082/text2609, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 September 2017.

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

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