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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Thomas Bawden (1833–1897)

It is with feelings of the deepest regret that we record the demise of one of the oldest and best-known residents of Grafton and the Clarence district, Mr. Thomas Bawden, which took place on Tuesday evening. For some days previously it had been recognised by his medical advisers, and those who attended upon him, that there were but little hopes of his surviving the severe attack of illness by which he had been prostrated for a couple of weeks. Deceased, who remained conscious to the last, fully recognised that the end had come, and bade the members of his family farewell shortly before he breathed his last. Death was due to failure of the heart's action, but deceased had shortly before had an attack of inflammation of lungs, and was also a sufferer from asthma. Mr. Bawden survived his wife but a few months.

His association with the Clarence had extended over nearly 60 years, and covers what might fairly be termed the whole history of the district. He could recount the early incidents that marked the settlement of Grafton and the Clarence, and this formed the subject of several interesting papers read by him in the School of Arts some years ago. He arrived on the Clarence, with his father, in 1840, doing the journey from Maitland overland, quite a feat in those days, when the route lay for much of the distance through a trackless bush. Since that early period Mr. Bawden's connection with this district has not only remained unbroken, but he has been closely identified with its progress, its public institutions, and its commercial and political affairs; in fact no single individual has taken so prominent a part in these matters as did the subject of this notice, and the name of Thomas Bawden will ever figure conspicously in the history of the Clarence. There was no one in the district that was more universally known, and the news of his death will be received with the deepest regret. Grafton was scarcely worthy the name of even its earlier designation "The Settlement" when Mr. Bawden set foot upon its site, and there were then little prospects of its attaining the rank of city within so brief a period. He took part in the establishing of nearly the whole of our public institutions, and there were few public movements in which the prosperity of the town and district were involved that he did not take a leading part in. For some years he resided at Lawrence, where he married a daughter of the late Mr. W. Hindmarsh, but removed to Grafton nearly forty years ago, and this period really includes his public career. He opened business as an auctioneer, which speedily developed into extensive proportions, and was the largest of its kind in the Northern districts. The district was then advancing rapidly. Mr. Bawden was regarded as an expert salesman, and an immense business passed through his hands. Land values ran up with the prosperity of the district, and the amount of this class of property that he disposed of was very large. Besides an extensive local business, he had the privilege of a large connection with outside districts. During his prolonged sojourn of 57 years he witnessed great developments in the district: the transformation of the brushes that studded the river banks into densely settled agricultural areas; the site where Grafton stands changed from its primeval condition to a centre of trade and commerce. He had also experiences of the reverses the district had undergone during the period referred to, and shared in the troubles and visitations that have overtaken the Clarence of recent years. In every phase of the district's history Mr. Bawden took a leading part, ecclesiastical, political, educational, charitable, and recreative. He was well conversant with many subjects, was a great reader and thinker, and his advice was frequently sought and accepted as an authority. He was a fluent speaker, and in the years of his active public career could hold his own as a debater. His ability in this respect was so far recognised that to 1869 he was elected to represent the Clarence electorate in the Legislative Assembly, the seat being then vacated by the late Sir John Robertson. He was twice re-elected to the position. The electorate then embraced the Clarence, Richmond, Brunswick, and Tweed Rivers, an area now represented by seven members. The difficulty of representing such an extensive electorate as formerly comprised The Clarence, especially as there were very few Northern members in the House on which to look for assistance, can be readily imagined. One of the district works that had been undertaken during his representation was the structure across the Orara, on the Newton Boyd road, and which takes the designation of Bawden Bridge. One of the great desires of his life was to see Grafton connected by rail with New England, and for the construction of this line he was a strenuous and persistent advocate. He left no stone unturned to accomplish this much desired object, and by word and pen can be credited with doing more than any other person to obtain this boon for the Clarence. But he has passed away without immediate prospect of his long cherished hopes being realised. For a number of years he was one of the civic representatives of the Borough, and was elected Mayor of Grafton on seven occasions. He was one of the promoters of the Grafton Chamber of Commerce, and for some time after its establishment was member of committee. From this position he retired, preferring to have a free hand in all public matters, more especially in the matter of carrying on railway agitation. He became member of committee of management of the C.P. and A. Society on its establishment in 1866, and maintained a close connection with it ever since, taking a keen interest in its exhibitions. That of the current year was the first public function he attended. He was elected President of the Society, to succeed Rev. A. E. Selwyn on the latter's departure front Grafton. He held this position for many years, and was one of the trustees of the Society's property. He took a part in the initiation of the sugar industry, and was instrumental in the formation of the Grafton and Carr's Creek Sugar Co., holding the position of chairman and managing director. The mill erected on Carr's Creek was finally destroyed by fire. He was one of the founders of the Clarence and New England Steam Navigation Co, and filled the position of Secretary during the years it existed. The company ran several steamers to the river till it eventutually collapsed. Mr. Bawden's connection with it gained him an extensive knowledge of the trade of the district to Sydney and New England, and after the winding up of the local steam company he filled the position of local manager for the C. and R.R.S.N Co., now amalgamated with the firm of Messrs. John See and Co., under the name of the N.C.S.N. Co. He ever took a lively interest in the progress and operations of the Grafton Hospital, and was for 30 consecutive years its Treasurer, being the second who held the position. He was one of the trustees of the Grafton School of Arts, and for many years held the position of President. In the face of many difficulties, he unsuccessfully endeavoured to keep up the prestige of the Institution, and did not long survive its collapse. He became a member of the Local School Board under the Act of 1866, and on the passing the Act of 1880 was again appointed member of the Public School Board for the district of Grafton, in which he held the position of chairman. In other educational matters he evinced a keen interest, being secretary for conducting the local University examinations, and also one of the committee in connection with the Trinity College examinations. Many years ago he was appointed to the Commission of the Peace and was one of the senior magistrates of the colony. He was also one of the local Licensing Bench, and since the retirement of Mr. A. L. McDougall has filled the position of Deputy Sheriff. He was one of the few magistrates to whom the privilege of giving consent to the marriage of minors was conceded. On the institution of Local Land Boards, Mr. Bawden was appointed one of the member of the Grafton Board, but afterwards relinquished the position. On the retirement of Mr. A. Lardner as Returning Officer for the Grafton electorate it was accepted by Mr. Bawden and held by him for some time. He became a candidate to the Federal Convention a few months ago at the request of his fellow citizens. Deceased was one of the founders of the Palmerston Lodge of Freemasons, E.C., which was established In Grafton in 1866. He has ever since remained a staunch and active member of the craft. He was one of the few to whom the lodge charter was granted. On eight different occasions he had been elected to the office of W.M., and on the union of the various constitutions, and the founding of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, the Provincial Grand Lodge conferred on Bro. Bawden the title and rank of Provincial Grand Senior Warden in recognition of his services to the craft. It was one of his last wishes that he should be buried with Masonic honors, a desire that was duly carried out. He was also one of the original members of the Star of the East Lodge of Oddfellows, M.U., and the members of the order exhibited their appreciation of the services of their departed brother by the number that marched in procession to the funeral on Thursday. At the time of his death he was the oldest local member on the lodge roll, had filled the various offices in the lodge, and was for many years one of the trustees. He had at one time been a trustee of the Savings Bank of N.S.W., and held a similar position for the Susan Island Recreation Reserve. He also held a position in various building societies that conducted operations in Grafton. He was for many years closely identified with the Clarence River Jockey Club, was for a length of time its secretary and one of the trustees for the Grafton racecourse. For some years he held the office of Inspector of Stock under the Stock and Pastures Act, for the district, embracing the area from south of the Clarence to the Queensland border.

In ecclesiastical matters Mr. Bawden held the highest position possible for a layman to occupy. He took a leading part in the establishment of the See of Grafton and Armidale, and rendered estimable service in the interests of the Grafton Cathedral parish. As a churchman his loss will be keenly felt. He was a churchwarden from a very early period after the establishment of the Church of England on the Clarence; was instrumental in the erection of the Cathedral; was trustee of the local Church property; was elected representative to General Synod, Provincial Synod, and Diocesan Synod. In these he took an active and intelligent interest, and as in other matters, much attention and respect were paid to his opinions.

Mr. Bawden took a great interest in the aborigines of the district, and gave assistance to any project that was initiated for the amelioration of the condition of the native population. He was a member of the local Aborigines Board for some time after its formation.

In regard to his private affairs, Mr. Bawden many years ago erected a residence on the bank of the river at the foot of Victoria street, known as "Trefusis." Here he resided close upon 40 years, with his family. As already stated, Mrs. Bawden died some six months ago, and the loss thus sustained was manifestly keenly felt by her afflicted husband. A large family have been doubly bereaved within the short space of a halfyear. Of five sons one is married, Mr. T. T. Bawden, J.P., of Grafton; Mr. E. Bawden is Road Superintendent at Deniliquin; Mr. P. Bawden is a solicitor, practising at Grenfell, and is an alderman; Mr. R. D. Bawden is articled to Messrs. Norrie and McGuren; Mr. C. Bawden holds a position in the Bank of N.S. Wales at Deniliquin. Two of six daughters are married, Mrs. Duckett White, of Nymboida, and Mrs. Dr. Ventry Smith, of Grafton. Much sympathy is felt for the afflicted relatives, and telegrams and letters have been received from many parts of' the colony.

On Thursday morning was very largely attended, and the cortege was upwards of half a mile in length. Numbers of mourners attended from long distances in the country, to pay the last homage of respect to one that was more universally known than any other in the district. The funeral obsequies were entrusted to Mr. M. Sanders, and shortly after 10 o'clock a muffled toll from the Cathedral bell announced that the procession was in motion, and soon after the plain polished coffin, bearing the mortal remains of the deceased, was borne into the edifice in which he had been a regular worshipper. The burial service, was conducted by Ven. Archdeacon Flower (who at much inconvenience hurried back from the Richmond to be present), assisted by Rev. J. W. Upjohn from the Lower Clarence, and Rev. A. Dallas, from South Grafton.

The Archdeacon gave a short address, in which be he said that he scarcely knew in what terms to make reference to the sad event. He felt he could scarcely let the congregation separate from the holy house of God without expressing what he and others felt. He could hardly realise that there had been lost to the city, to our neighbours and friends, one who had taken such a deep interest in that Cathedral Church. Many of them knew full well the life of him who had lived on the Clarence River during the early days of settlement. Many knew full well of the perseverance, activity and energy of the departed. Some knew, too, of the blows of adversity, trial and long patience that were experienced in that life; they were also cognisant of the reverential respect, sympathy and attachment of one whose departure from our midst we now lament. He could not then quite realise that the face of one who had so long worshipped there would not be seen, that there would be missing from them one who had set a striking example of piety and marked reverence for the house of God. He could not forget that a blow had fallen upon that Cathedral Church, upon the Diocese, the Synod and the Bishop. It had been his sad duty to send word through the electric current to the Bishop what had transpired. He confessed how poorly he took the place of one who would on such an occasion speak his own word of appreciation, respect and esteem. They dearly mourned over their departed brother, who had just a short time before occupied the position of mourner himself. God grant that the loss they sustained may not be without its blessings and helpfulness. There were many ways in which the example set by the deceased could be worthily imitated. God grant that in the coming generation there may be more loyal, intelligent and staunch devotion to the Lord and Master and to the great divine society that He planted on the earth, to which their dear brother was so much attached.

The members of the Star of the East, M.U., and of the Masonic body marched in regalia, and each read their respective services at the grave. There were a large number of vehicles in the procession, that immediately following the hearse bearing a large number of wreaths. Among these were tributes front the Bishop of Grafton and Armidale, the Synod, and the Cathedral Council, also one from the Lay Canons of the Cathedral Chapter, which was placed in the vacant seat hitherto so regularly occupied by the lamented deceased, and laid upon the coffin at the end of the service. Wreaths were also sent by the Matron and Nurses of the Grafton Hospital, the Committee of C.R.J. Club, the employees of the Examiner office, by Mr. John See, Mr. and Mrs. F. McGuren, Mr. W. Small. sen. and Family, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith, Mr. E. J. Laman (Deniliquin), Mrs. McGuren and Family (South Grafton), Mrs. Maurice, Mrs. and Miss Purdie, Mrs. Doberer, Mr. and Mrs. Varley, Mr. and Mrs. C. Sanders, Mrs. and Misses Oakes, Mr. and Mrs. W. Stevenson, Mr. and Mrs. F. Schaeffer, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, Dr. and Mrs. Henry, Mrs. McLeod (Maclean), Mrs. Bondfield, Mrs. Lipman, Mrs. Blaxland, Mrs. Readett, Mrs. Harkness, Mrs. Ebsworth, Mrs. Casper Glese, Mrs. J. J. Driscoll, Mrs. Manning, Mrs. Balzer, Mrs. S. Powell, Mrs. F Walshum, Mrs. Nevile, Mrs. Flower, Mrs. Weston, Mrs. P. McMahon, Miss Carson, Miss Smith (Rosewood), Mrs. Winter, Mrs. McNeill, Misses Foott, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Munro, Mrs. F. Weller, Mrs. Alderson, Mrs. A. Read, Mr. Lewington, Mr. C. Page and Mr. R. Waddell.

The Northern Star (Lismore) thus refers to the death of Mr. Bawden—"A brief telegram last evening conveys to us the intelligence that Mr. Thomas Bawden, one of the very oldest residents of the Clarence, died at Grafton. In this issue we cannot more than briefly refer to his death, by saying that it removes a man who for many years was the foremost in public life of the Northern districts, and amongst the people of 25 years ago no one was better known. His death will evoke widespread sympathy throughout his own and adjacent districts, and we would tender our sympathy on behalf of this district to the members of his family in their sore bereavement."

At a meeting of the Parochial Council on Thursday evening, a resolution was carried to the effect that the Archdeacon convey the sympathy of the Council to the bereaved family. The Council then adjourned till Thursday next out of respect to deceased.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • Trove search
  • profile, Illustrated Sydney News, 30 May 1874, p 6
  • profile, Australian Town and Country Journal, 27 February 1897, p 31
  • recollections, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW), 17 July 1909, p 7

Citation details

'Bawden, Thomas (1833–1897)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 December, 1833
Cornwall, England


18 May, 1897 (aged 63)
Grafton, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations