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Theodore Bryant Bartley (1803–1878)

The people of Franklin Village, Launceston, and Northern Tasmania, were thoroughly startled yesterday day morning on hearing that Mr Theodore Bryant Bartley, who had been in a bad state of health for some eight months back had been found dead in a well on his estate, Kerry Lodge. The rumor proved to be only too true, and Mr. Thomas Mason, coroner, made arrangements for holding an inquest at Kerry Lodge at 4 p.m. The evidence taken on that occasion will be found fully reported in another column. It appears that Mr. Bartley had long suffered from a disease of the heart, and latterly with dyspepsis to the extent of almost prohibiting digestion. As his physical powers decayed his mind became more active, depriving him of sound sleep and bringing on confirmed "melancholia," causing him to look upon his past career as a mistake, and to the future beyond the grave, not only without hope, but with settled despair. The state of his mind was undoubtedly the result of disease of the body, and this resulted in the catastrophe which terminated his existence. Mr Theodore Bryant Bartley was born at Nailsworth, Bristol in 1802, and was consequently aged 76 years at the time of his death. He left England in 1818, when only 16 years of age, and arrived at Sydney on the ship Bencoolen in 1819. He occupied an official position there for two years, and then came to this colony as private secretary to General Marquarie. He remained in the colony, and for some time held the position of Under Sheriff for the northern side of the island, and subsequently that of Comptroller of Her Majesty's Customs. This position he occupied for some ten or twelve years, when he was succeeded by Mr D'Arch. During his term of office as Comptroller of Customs Mr Bartley displayed a considerable amount of administrative ability, for which he was highly complimented by the then Secretary of State for the Colonies. Throughout his long career as a leading public man, though he never represented any constituency, Mr Bartley had firm faith in the elasticity of the Customs Duties, and their ability to produce any amount of revenue required without resorting to such expedients as property or income tax, stamp duties, carriage duties, or other direct modes of taxation. Though he declined to enter Parliament, he occupied the position of ''member maker'" for Launceston and the North, and on all public questions affecting the political welfare of the colony he took a leading part. He became very prominent as the opponent of Sir William Denison during the anti-transportation agitation, and the most stinging replies written in answer to "The Letters of Dion," the defender of Sir Wm. Denison, were penned by Mr. Bartley, whose combative propensities were very very largely developed. Whenever questions likely to produce a change in the customs tariff, the levy of new taxation, any fiscal change whatever, Mr Bartley came boldly forward in the press, and on the platform, as the champion, generally, for keeping matters as they were, as he was strictly Conservative in his views. He had been consulted by the "pilgrim fathers," who laid the foundation of the Constitution which has worked so unsatisfactorily in this colony, but he honestly considered it as near perfection as any human institution can be, and venerated it accordingly. He boldly withstood the Northern Patriotic Association which some six or seven years ago attempted to introduce innovations upon the existing mode of raising revenue. Mr Bartley aided Mr R.R. Torrens (now Sir Robert R. Torrens) in forcing the Real Property Act through Parliament in defiance of the strong legal opposition it met with. He was for some time one of the commissioners appointed to value the properties in the Launceston and Western Railway district, and performed the duty ably and, we believe, conscientiously. His last great battle was as the bottle-holder to their Honors the Judges— including Sir Valentine Fleming — in the prolonged correspondence in reference to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy on behalf of Mrs Louisa Hunt by His Excellency Mr Weld, our present Governor. Never have more energy, ink and foolscap, been wasted on so trivial a subject. Requiescat in pace. Mr Bartley acquitted himself creditably in it, but it was fated to be his last great political melee, and he has never enjoyed good health since the publication of his pamphlet upon it. In private life Mr Bartley was an intelligent, courteous, well educated, high principled man, desirous of improving and elevating society on his own plan. He was a foe to the dissolute, and a good friend to the industrious people around him. He expended large sums in improving his estate at Kerry Lodge, and was the first who imported and used guano in Tasmania. He published a treatise on the cultivation of mangold wurtzel, and tried to persuade farmers that a succession of wheat crops tended to impoverish even the richest land in Norfolk Plains. He was agent for Dr. Kenworthy's and Mr. McLeod's and numerous other estates of absentees, whose interests he faithfully protected throughout his long career. The most patriotic act of his life was the establishment of the Van Diemen's Land Meat Company about the year 1846. By a little friendly consultation and understanding amongst those directly interested, beef and mutton had risen to almost starvation point for the poor at a time when wages were declining. Mr Bartley generously supplied capital to purchase the best sheep and cattle on fair terms, opened the premises now occupied by Mr Walter Ferrall in Charles street as the meat bazaar of the V.D.L. Meat Company, placed Mr Betis there as manager, and sold the primest meat at prices which forced a general reduction in the meat tariff at this end of the island. The establishment was carried on for years until Mr Bartley had to import cattle from Victoria to meet the demand, and his losses became so heavy, from cattle dying on the passage — he lost 18 out of 30 shipped by the steamer Black Swan on one occasion— that he gave the business up. These reminiscences of Mr Bartley, we believe will convey a fair and impartial view of his character in his public capacity. In private life he was respected by a wide circle of attached friends as a really kind hearted man, and the soul of honor. We deeply regret to hear that the last few months of his long life were embittered by his mind having fallen into a state of "melancholia." Mr Bartley was in the commission of the peace from the 26th July, 1832 up to 1874, when he took active part in the resistance to the levy of the Launceston and Western Railway rate, resigned his commission, and induced a number of other magistrates to resign with him. But for that his name would now stand sixth on the list of justices for this island and its dependencies. We feel convinced that Mr Bartley lived to regret the hasty step he took in 1874, but he was not in the practice of admitting that he had committed an error. Notwithstanding his peculiarities he was almost universally respected, even by those politically opposed to him, and we feel certain that his remains will be followed to the grave by hundreds of leading men of Northern Tasmania of all shades of political opinions, who will sincerely regret that the last days of so worthy a man should have been embittered by the terrible effect of so painful a disease. The remains of Mr Barltey are to be interred in the cemetery at Franklin Village Church to-morrow morning. The funeral will be at the church at half-past ten o'clock.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas), 22 November 1878, p 2
  • inquest, Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas), 23 November 1878, p 7

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Citation details

'Bartley, Theodore Bryant (1803–1878)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 September, 1803
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, England


20 November, 1878 (aged 75)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


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