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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Langdon, William (1790–1879)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

William Langdon (1790-1879), naval officer and landowner, was born on 6 November 1790 at Montacute vicarage, Somerset, England, the fifth son of Rev. William Langdon. When 13, while at school at Beaminster, Dorset, he became inspired by the career of Admiral Hood (Viscount Bridport), obtained an interview with him and asked for an appointment as a midshipman. A few weeks later Bridport wrote to him directing him to join H.M.S. Weymouth, in which he became a first-class volunteer in April 1804. He sailed in her to Madras escorting East Indiamen. In September 1806 he was present at the capture of a French frigate off Rochefort; in 1806 he was transferred to the Monarch and in August 1807 to the Champion; he saw much action and when only 17 was sent to Plymouth in command of a French prize; in 1810 he joined the Badger and in August 1811 became acting lieutenant in the Ringdove in the West Indies, the promotion being confirmed in November. He was invalided from May 1812 to September 1814.

After the peace of Paris, seeing no prospect of speedy promotion, he retired, bought the Lusitania, 245 tons, and took her on a trading voyage to Sydney and Hobart Town, where he first landed in October 1821. On a second voyage he reached Sydney in May 1823. He exchanged the Lusitania for the Hugh Crawford, which reached Sydney in April 1825. In 1828 he bought the Wanstead and in 1829 the Thomas Lawrie. In November 1822 he was fined £800 for breaking the port regulations by giving a passage from Hobart to England to Thomas Kent.

While still engaged in trading between England and the Australian colonies Langdon in 1823 received a grant of 1500 acres (607 ha) on the Clyde River near Bothwell. He added to this property, which he called Montacute, by purchase. In September 1834 Langdon arrived in Van Diemen's Land with his wife Anne, née Elliott, of Somerset, and their daughter Anne, to settle on his colonial estate. On his early voyages to Van Diemen's Land, and later, he introduced blackbirds, thrushes, goldfinches, pheasants and partridges to the colony. In September 1837 Langdon let his properties, totalling 6000 acres (2428 ha) with 2000 sheep, for £1300 a year and in March 1838 returned to England, where he lived at Inwood Lodge, near Sherborne, Dorset. There he entertained friends from Van Diemen's Land and encouraged many people to emigrate; then and later he paid the fares of some who emigrated and even had some educated at his own expense. On 14 June 1842 his only daughter Anne became the second wife of Sir Thomas Howland Roberts, third baronet, of Glassenbury, Kent.

On 20 May 1844 his wife died. In May 1846 he returned to Tasmania, with a second wife, Anne, née Chaffey, of Martock, Somerset. Thereafter he remained in Tasmania except during visits to England in 1857 and 1872. In 1853 he was promoted honorary commander in the navy, and was appointed to the Legislative Council. He was a devoted supporter of the Church of England and in 1856-57 built a church costing about £2000 on his own property; in 1860 he was a leader in establishing the practice of opening parliament with prayer. With the coming of responsible government he was elected to the Legislative Council in 1859 and remained a member until he retired in 1872. He made his home at Derwentwater, Sandy Bay, and died there on 23 May 1879. His obituary described him as 'a true friend, good master, and chivalrous Christian gentleman'.

His widow died at Hobart on 21 May 1902, aged 84. There were three sons and three daughters of this marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • W. R. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (Lond, 1849)
  • R. W. Giblin, The Early History of Tasmania, vol 2 (Melb, 1939)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vols 1-3 (Lond, 1941-58)
  • Hobart Town Courier, 16 Nov 1822
  • Church News (Hobart), 1879.

Citation details

'Langdon, William (1790–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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