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Former Member Details

Mr William Charles WENTWORTH (1790 - 1872)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 13/08/1790
Place of Birth: At sea
Date of Death: 20/03/1872
Place of Death: Dorset, England
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 03 Sep 1861 10 Oct 1862 1 year 1 month 8 days Life Appointment under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Election 24 June 1861
President of the Legislative Council 24 Jun 1861 10 Oct 1862 1 year 3 months 17 days
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 01 Sep 1851 01 Apr 1854 2 years 7 months 1 day An Elective Member of the first Legislative Council 1843 - 1856 for the City of Sydney
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 01 Jul 1848 30 Jun 1851 3 years An Elective Member of the first Legislative Council 1843 - 1856 for the City of Sydney
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 01 Jun 1843 20 Jun 1848 5 years 20 days An Elective Member of the first Legislative Council 1843 - 1856 for the City of Sydney
Political Party Activity
Community Activity
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Landowner and Pastoralist. The date of his birth is open to debate; it appears that he may have been born at sea on the 'Neptune', off Norfolk Island on 13 August 1790 (Ritchie, 1997, p. 52 - reference below). He went to Sydney in 1796; went to Parramatta. Sent to England in 1803 for education at Bletchly and at Dr Alexander Crombie's Greenwich school; returned to Sydney in 1810; appointed acting provost-marshall and granted 1750 acres on the Nepean River, developing it into a Vermont estate; crossed the Blue Mountains with Blaxland and Lawson in 1813; granted another 1000 acres; sailed the Pacific with a schooner in 1814. Went to London in 1816; entered the Middle Temple in 1817; spent over a year in Europe, chiefly Paris; called to Bar in 1822; spent some time at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. Returned to Sydney in 1824; with Robert Wardell founded the Australian 1824, surrendering shares in 1828. Inherited much property on father's death in 1827, including an estate in Homebush; purchased Vaucluse in 1827, later enlarging it to 500 acres and building a stately mansion; acquired big pastoral interests as landowner and squatter; frustrated by Governor Gipps in attempts to buy nearly one third of New Zealand from Maoris in 1840; had disposed of many squatting runs by 1854 but retained others; also sold Belltrees, a freehold estate near Scone, 1853. Went to Britain with the Constitution Bill in 1854; returned New South Wales from 1861 until 1862; returned to Britain until death, but at his wish was buried in Sydney. In 1820s and 1830s became a leader of 'Emancipist' agitation against Governor Darling and for trial by jury, freedom of the press and representative institutions. Vice president of the Australia Patriotic Association, founded in 1835; led squatters in a fight against land policies of Governor Gipps in the 1840s, being associated with the Pastoralists' Association; leader of elective conservatives in old Legislative Council from 1843 until 1854; played a leading role in agitation for local control of Crown lands and revenue. Chairman of the Select Committee which devised the Constitution Bill and abortive proposal for colony aristocracy in 1853. Refused a baronetcy. In England became a Member of the Conservative Club. Estate sworn for probate at 1,096,000 in Sydney and £70,000 in London. Author of A Statistical, Historical and Political Description of the Colony of New South Wales, 1819 (revised and enlarged 1820, 1824)
Military Service
Honours Received
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Son of D'Arcy Wentworth, medical practitioner, public servant and landed proprietor, and his common-law wife Catherine Crowley (died 1800), a convict. Married in 1829 to Sarah Cox, daughter of Francis Cox, emancipist blacksmith in 1829 and had issue, 3 sons and 7 daughters.
Additional Information
Personal papers in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: 1. W.C Wentworth - letter Maitland, New South Wales, to Robert Towns, 1844 on July 9. (MLDOC 1271); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 2. W.C Wentworth - papers, 1851 July 7 - September 25 ( MLMSS 3008); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 3. W.C Wentworth - papers, 1872 - 1873 (MLDOC 3265). 4. Wentworth family - papers, 1794 - 1948 (MLMSS 8); photographs in the PICMAN database. 5. W.C Wentworth - pocket book, 1817 January 23 - March 22 (MLMSS 3009); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 6. Wentworth family - papers A751-A767. 7. Wentworth family letters (A868). 8. W.C Wentworth letters re legal business, 1825 -1826 (A1440). 9. W.C Wentworth business papers, 1853 - 1872 (A1441). 10. W.C Wentworth speeches in New South Wales Legislative Council on transportation in 1850 (A1788). 11. W.C Wentworth - signed copy of a petition by Daniel Cooper, Henry Dangar, James Martin and George Nichols to the Privy Council in England, suggesting amendments to the proposed Australian Colonies Government Bill, 1849 (MLMSS 6052); photographs in the PICMAN Database. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2 John Ritchie, 'The Wentworths - Father and Son', Melbourne University Press, 1997 Wentworth's house, Vaucluse House, is now owned by the New South Wales Historic Houses Trust. Text from the book: 'The Presiding Officers of the Parliament of New South Wales', Sydney, 1995 William Wentworth was born at sea in 1790, the son of D'Arcy Wentworth, later the Principal Surgeon of the Civil Medical Department, and Catherine Crowley, a convict. He went to England to be educated from 1803 to 1810, returning in 1816 to study law. He returned to Sydney in 1824 and in 1829 he married Sarah Cox. They had three sons and seven daughters. Wentworth was appointed acting provost-marshal (head of military police) by Governor Macquarie and was granted 1750 acres of land on the Nepean river. With Blaxland and Lawson he was part of the first expedition to cross the Blue Mountains in May 1813. Co-founder of 'The Australian' newspaper Wentworth used it to campaign for a free press, trial by jury, representative government and to attack the established autocracy. Elected to the reconstituted Legislative Council in 1843 for the seat of Sydney, Wentworth lent his support to squatters demands for new land regulations. He played a leading role in the establishment of the University of Sydney. When the Colonial Office agreed that New South Wales should have responsible government Wentworth became Chairman of the Select Committee which drafted the 1853 constitution. The Committee recommended that a lower house of fifty members be elected on a property franchise and an upper house be established based on hereditary colonial peerage; the latter proposal was ridiculed and quickly dropped in favour of an appointed upper house. In 1855 the Constitution Act passed the British Parliament and responsible government came to New South Wales in 1856. Wentworth accepted appointment to the position of President of the Legislative Council during a crisis in 1861. He saw the Council as analogous with the English House of Lords and argued that since the House of Lords did not claim the right to amend money bills then neither could the Council. However in 1862 he reviewed his stand, arguing that at the time he had been unaware of the 1857 Council resolution that asserted the Council's right to amend all Bills sent up from the lower house. He died in England on 20 March 1872 but was buried at Vaucluse in 1873.