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Lady Clarinda Parkes (1813–1888)

We regret to have to announce the death of Lady [Clarinda] Parkes, wife of Sir Henry Parkes, which took place at their residence, Hampden Villa, Balmain, early yesterday morning. The deceased lady had been very ill for a considerable period, but, latterly she appeared to get much better; she came to table, took some part in conversation, and occasionally appeared cheerful. Sir Henry was with her at 1 o'clock on Wednesday, and at about that time she complained of feeling much worse, and soon afterwards was assisted to bed. In the evening of Wednesday Sir Henry Parkes had business with his Excellency the Governor, and on leaving Lord Carrington a little before 10 o'clock he proceeded to the Colonial Secretary's Office where, not supposing there was any special danger or cause of alarm in Lady Parkes's condition, he intended to remain for the night in order that he might get to work early the next morning. So unaware, in fact, were the Premier's family of the possibility of any serious turn in Lady Parke's illness taking place that Dr. MacLaurin, who had been attending her was not sent for. But at half-past 6 yesterday morning, while the Premier was sitting in his office writing, a servant came to summon him to Hampden Villa, and on reaching home he found that Lady Parkes had died at about 15 minutes before 6 without the faintest word or movement. The body will be taken to the burial ground at Faulconbridge, where the remains of the deceased lady's oldest son were interred some years ago, the funeral being strictly private and confined to members of the Premier's family. Lady Parkes' maiden name was Clarinda Varney. She was the only daughter of the late Mr. Robert Varney, of Deritend, Birmingham, England, and she was born on the 20th July, 1813. Her father throughout his life was a member of the Carr's-lane Congregational Church, under the ministry of that eminent preacher, the Rev. John Angell James. Miss Varney grew up in the Carr's-lane Church, serving as a teacher in its Sunday-schools. On the 11th July, 1836, she was married to Sir Henry Parkes (then Mr. Parkes) by the Rev. Charles Pixall, vicar of Edgbaston, Birmingham. In 1838 Mr. Parkes and his wife removed to London, living through the winter in the metropolis. In March, 1839, they sailed for Sydney, arriving here in July of that year. For several years Mr. Parkes lived quietly in the humbler walks of life in this city, and he has often said among his personal friends that those were the happiest years of his life. His wife never lost her love of home and domestic seclusion, and throughout her husband's long parliamentary career, which commenced more than a generation ago, she never appeared but once either at the opening or prorogation of Parliament. She went little into society, and never appeared more happy than when among her children, in her garden, and in the midst of her little household cares. When she became entitled to be spoken of as Lady Parkes, 10 years ago, she never seemed to fully recognise the change, and it may be doubted whether she ever appreciated the most notable triumphs in her husband's public life. She was an unpretending single-minded woman, with no ambition beyond performing her daily duties as wife and mother, living to the last under the influence of her earliest Christian lessons. Of late years Lady Parkes suffered from severe bodily affliction, which she bore with great fortitude. She was the mother of 12 children, only six of whom are now living, her only surviving son being Mr. Varney Parkes, M.L.A. for Central Cumberland.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • memorial poem, Australian Town and Country Journal, 11 February 1888, p 28

Citation details

'Parkes, Lady Clarinda (1813–1888)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Clarinda Parkes, 1880s

Clarinda Parkes, 1880s

National Library of Australia, 23351526

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Varney, Clarinda

Birmingham, West Midlands, England


2 February, 1888 (aged ~ 75)
Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

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.