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Gosling, John William (1798–1852)

by G. P. Walsh

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

John William Gosling (1798-1852), merchant, was born on 18 October 1798 in Fitzroy Square, London, the eldest child of John Gosling (1763-1848) deputy-secretary to the victualling department at Somerset House, and his wife Elizabeth Curtis, youngest daughter of George Cherry of London and Newtown House, Hampshire. At an early age he went to Holland for mercantile experience. He later became a partner in the London firm of Staniforth & Gosling which failed in 1825. He left England with the intention of settling in New South Wales and arrived in Sydney in the John in November 1827. On proving a capital of £1600, one-third of it in agricultural implements, he was granted 1920 acres (777 ha) at Bathurst in 1828, which by May next year he had stocked with 100 cattle and 600 sheep. In 1829 he applied for permission to rent, with a view to purchase, 2000 acres (809 ha) at Bathurst, and in the next two years received two further grants there. He later acquired land in Victoria; he bought 65 acres (26 ha) in Melbourne in the parish of Prahran and 93 acres (38 ha) in the County of Bourke for some £2000 in 1840.

Although his stated intention was to reside on his grazing properties and manage them, he soon became involved in commerce again and it appears that about 1830 he joined Aspinall, Browne & Co. in Sydney, who did an extensive business in shipping wool to London and importing general merchandise. Gosling did so well in his various enterprises that he left Sydney in the John in April 1836 to visit England and the Continent. His remark at the beginning of his journal of this voyage is apposite to many other immigrants of the time who invested capital in commerce and the grazing interest: 'I am', he wrote, 'an instance of an Individual arriving in Australia, single handed, and comparatively unknown, with only limited (and those indeed borrowed) means for establishing myself in an unknown Country: and returning in a few short years to the Land of my Forefathers blessed with moderate independence'.

On his return to Sydney in the Bencoolen in January 1838 Gosling observed that it would be wise 'to persevere in prudence and industry', and in the same year was admitted into the Liverpool partnership of Aspinall, Browne & Co. In July 1842 Richard Aspinall retired from the firm and Gosling entered the Sydney house which then became Gosling, Browne & Co. Gosling assumed control at a difficult time and the firm was finally wound up in the financial crisis in March 1844; in November 1844 it paid a first dividend of 1s. in the £. Despite the firm's insolvency, it was significant that he had invested in land, was a shareholder in the Bank of Australia, continued mercantile activities on his own and in October 1844 was acting as agent for the London firm of Reid, Irving & Co. Gosling was also active in company management and promotion: he was a director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, the Bank of Australasia and the Alliance Assurance Co. and had interests in several shipping ventures. In 1851 he was a member of the committee formed to establish the Royal Exchange, and a founder and first honorary treasurer of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.

Gosling took little part in public affairs; he stood as a candidate for Brisbane ward in the City Council elections of 1842 but was defeated, and although appointed to the Commission of the Peace he was fined several times in the early 1840s for non-attendance as a juror. He was honest, God-fearing and a firm adherent of the Church of England. In 1851 he was a committee member of the Australasian branch of the Church of England Assurance Institution of London, of the Diocesan Committee and of the Board of Missions for the diocese of Sydney, and honorary auditor of the Church of England Lay Association. Later he left a small annuity to the building fund of St Andrew's Cathedral until it should be opened.

At St James's Church, Sydney, on 10 April 1834 he married Catherine, second daughter of the postmaster-general, James Raymond, formerly of Riversdale, County Kerry, Ireland, and his wife Aphrasia, née Odell. They had three sons and six daughters. Gosling lived for many years in Charlotte Place (Grosvenor Street) and in 1851 moved to Cheverells, Darlinghurst, where he died on 21 July 1852. His eldest son William, aged 17, predeceased him in April, and his widow, aged 37, died in August; all were buried in St Peter's churchyard, Cook's River.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 15, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26
  • A. Barnard, Visions and Profits (Melb, 1961)
  • Ford's Sydney Commercial Directory (Syd, 1851)
  • J. W. Gosling, Narrative of a Voyage from New South Wales (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 323/149/357
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Gosling, John William (1798–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/gosling-john-william-2108/text2643, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 November 2017.

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

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