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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hook, Charles (1762–1826)

by Margaret Steven

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

Charles Hook (1762?-1826), merchant, was born in Argyllshire, Scotland, and went to India where his brother Captain Lionel Hook was employed by the East India Co. By 1796 Charles was the managing agent in residence at the Howrah distillery, owned by Campbell & Clarke of Theatre Street, Calcutta, an agency house established in 1790. This firm carried on an extensive trade with New South Wales and, though 'not bred a merchant' Hook, after many years employment, was able to buy a partnership interest in it; after 1 January 1805 the firm was known as Campbells, Hook & Co. He arrived in Sydney on 25 June 1808 in the firm's ship Eagle, to join the Australian branch conducted by Robert Campbell. Since Campbell was an open supporter of the deposed Governor William Bligh the firm was subject to the hostile attentions of the rebels, who lost no opportunity to impede its business, and who on 18 March 1809 committed Hook on a charge of sedition for having distributed Bligh's proclamation declaring New South Wales in a state of mutiny. He was directed to pay a fine of £50, and was imprisoned for one month in Sydney gaol.

Between 1810 and 1815, while Robert Campbell was in England, Hook was in sole charge of the company's affairs in Sydney. In 1816 debts had paralysed its activities and resulted in virtual bankruptcy and the company was dissolved. Hook retired to his land grant, Denbeigh, in the district of Cooke, and lived with his neighbour Thomas Hassall at Macquarie Grove until a house was built on his own land. He was an original shareholder in the Bank of New South Wales, a member of the general committee of the New South Wales Philanthropic Society, and held office under Macquarie as a magistrate.

In November 1809 Hook had married Sarah Palmer (1774-1836), the commissary's sister. A conscientious, sensitive and affectionate man, he found pleasure and refuge from uncongenial Botany Bay society in the close family relationships between the Campbells and Palmers. The problems of managing a commercial house in decline, when he felt himself to be 'like a Bear chained to a Stake and Baited by every Dog in the Colony', took a severe toll from his essentially gentle nature. He died in 1826 at the age of 64, and was buried on 25 September in St John's cemetery, Parramatta.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 6-7
  • Calcutta Annual Directory 1805-06
  • Calcutta Gazette, 7 June 1796, 10 Jan 1805, 29 Jan 1807, 4 Aug 1808, 5 Oct 1809
  • Sydney Gazette, 29 Sept 1810, 29 Jan 1814, 27 Sept 1826
  • manuscript catalogue under Charles Hook (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Margaret Steven, 'Hook, Charles (1762–1826)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 1

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