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Former Member Details

Mr Robert TOWNS (1794 - 1873)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 10/11/1794
Place of Birth: Long Horsley, Northumberland, England
Date of Death: 11/04/1873
Place of Death: Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 22 May 1856 10 May 1861 4 years 11 months 19 days First (Quinquennial) Appointments under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 13 May 1856.
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 23 Jun 1863 11 Apr 1873 9 years 9 months 20 days Life Appointment under the Constitution Act. Date of Writ of Summons 17 June 1863
Political Party Activity
Community Activity
Commissioned as a Justice of the Peace
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Merchant and shipowner. Had little formal education. Apprenticed to master of collier and became a mate at 17 and within 2 years was commander of a brig in the Meditteranean trade. Visited ships master in 1827 then almost annually from 1832 until 1842, buying property and seeking investments; settled in Sydney in 1843. Owned his own ship by 1832; In 1850s supplied new French colony at New Caledonia, collected coconut oil and turtle shell from Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and by 1856 had 10 whalers; shipping interests extended to Europe, the East and India. By 1855 had taken (Sir) Alexander Stuart as a partner, firm now styled R.Towns & Co. Director of Bank of New South Wales from 1850 until 1855, 1861 until 1867, president from 1853 until 1855, 1866 until 1867; director of Sydney Gold Escort Company in 1850s. By 1859 was a partner in 2 runs in Darling Downs and Moreton districts. In 1860s took up more land on the Darling Downs and other areas in Northern Queensland. Gave other pastoralists finance, foreclosed then often retained them as managers; by 1847 held 42 runs (almost 2,000 square miles), 94 runs in partnership with Stuart, and 60 with Stuart and (Sir) Charles Cowper by the end of the decade these properties were losing money. From early 1860s grew cotton in Queensland, using Melanesian labour but lost on the venture. Stocked stations on the Gulf of Carpentaria, founding Burketown in 1865; founded Townsville as an export outlet for products in 1865. Member of Committee of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce for many years. President from 1856 until 1857, 1863, 1865. Member of Pilot Board. Member of Committee of Sydney Bethel Union. Introduced labourers from England, Germany, India and China for his ventures. Early Member of Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Military Service
Honours Received
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Son of Edward and Ann Pyle. Married Sophia Wentworth on 28 December 1833 at Sydney and had issue, 3 daughters and 2 sons. Church of England.
Additional Information
Personal papers in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: 1. Robert Towns and Company - papers, 1929 - 1940, including personal papers of Sir Alexander Stuart and W.W Wilson (MLMSS 1279); photographs in the PICMAN Database. 2. Robert Towns & Company - records, 1828 - 1896 (MLMSS 307); photographs in the PICMAN Database. Biography and portrait in ‘Australian Men of Mark’, Volume 1. Sydney, [?1889] , page 111