Joseph Foveaux

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Joseph Foveaux (1767 – 20 March 1846 [1] ) was a soldier and convict settlement administrator in colonial New South Wales, Australia.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.


Foveaux was baptised on 6 April 1767 at Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England, the sixth child of Joseph Foveaux and his wife Elizabeth, née Wheeler. [1] Family tradition maintains he was actually born almost a year earlier, on 10 April 1766. [2]

Ampthill town in Central Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire, UK

Ampthill is a town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Luton, with a population of about 14,000. It is administered by Central Bedfordshire Council. A regular market has taken place on Thursdays for centuries.

Bedfordshire County of England

Bedfordshire is a county in the East of England. It is a ceremonial county and a historic county, covered by three unitary authorities: Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.

Foveaux was an ensign in the 60th regiment [3] and then joined the New South Wales Corps in June 1789 as lieutenant and reached Sydney in 1791. There he was promoted to major and, as senior officer between August 1796 and November 1799, he controlled the Corps at a time when the senior officers were making fortunes from trading and extending their lands. He soon became the largest landholder and stock-owner in the colony.

Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank acquired the name. This rank has generally been replaced in army ranks by second lieutenant. Ensigns were generally the lowest ranking commissioned officer, except where the rank of subaltern existed. In contrast, the Arab rank of ensign, لواء, liwa', derives from the command of units with an ensign, not the carrier of such a unit's ensign, and is today the equivalent of a major general.

The New South Wales Corps was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment to relieve the New South Wales Marine Corps, who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia. It was disbanded in 1818.

In 1800, having established a reputation as an able and efficient administrator, Foveaux offered to go to Norfolk Island as Lieutenant-Governor. Finding the island run down, he built it up with particular attention to public works, for which he earned the praise of Governor King.

Norfolk Island external territory of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean, consisting of the island of the same name plus neighbouring islands

Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres (877 mi) directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Lord Howe Island. Together with the two neighbouring islands Phillip Island and Nepean Island it forms one of the Commonwealth of Australia's external territories. At the 2016 Australian census, it had 1748 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.

Philip Gidley King British Colonial governor

Captain Philip Gidley King was the third Governor of New South Wales, and did much to organise the young colony in the face of great obstacles.

During this period, part of the first settlement of Norfolk Island (1788–1814), Norfolk Island was basically a free settlement with convicts making up no more than 10 per cent of the population. While some individuals were sent from Sydney as a means of isolation, the Island was not a place of secondary punishment as it became in the second settlement (1825–1855).

Judgements of Foveaux's career are often clouded by a manuscript purporting to be the recollections of Norfolk Island gaoler Robert Jones. This document is dated 1823, five years after Jones's death. It contains paintings of buildings on Norfolk Island which were not erected until the 1840s. Modern scholarship reveals it to be a forgery from after 1850 which contains no valid evidence on Foveaux's life and career.

In September 1804 Foveaux left Norfolk Island for England to attend to his private affairs and seek relief for the asthma that affected him. Having recovered, he returned to New South Wales on the Sinclair to serve as Lieutenant-Governor. On arrival in July 1808, he found Governor Bligh under arrest by officers of the New South Wales Corps in the event known as the Rum Rebellion. Foveaux assumed control, stating that he was not favouring either Bligh or the rebels. His control was characterised by a desire for cheap and efficient administration, improvement of public works, and encouragement of small-holders.

Sinclair, also known as Lady Madeline Sinclair, was a three-decker sailing ship built in Scotland but registered at Kingston upon Hull, England. She was built of fir, which made for speedier construction at the expense of durability. She made two voyages to New South Wales, and on her first return voyage, via China, she carried a cargo for the British East India Company.

William Bligh officer of the British Royal Navy and a colonial administrator

Vice-Admiral William Bligh was an officer of the Royal Navy and a colonial administrator. The Mutiny on the Bounty occurred during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789; after being set adrift in Bounty's launch by the mutineers, Bligh and his loyal men reached Timor, a journey of 3,618 nautical miles.

Rum Rebellion

The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was the only successful armed takeover of government in Australian history. During the 19th century, it was widely referred to in Australia as the Great Rebellion.

In January 1809, the acting Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel William Paterson, returned and Foveaux remained to assist him and his successor, Major-General Lachlan Macquarie.

Robert Hughes writing in The Fatal Shore describes Foveaux as brutal in his dealings with convicts.

Macquarie was impressed with Foveaux's administration and put him forward as Collins's successor as Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land, because he could think of no one more fitting, and considered that he could not have acted otherwise with regard to Bligh. However, when Foveaux returned to England in 1810, Macquarie's recommendation was put aside. Foveaux was promoted to Inspecting Field Officer in Ireland and in 1814 became a major-general. He pursued an uneventful military career after that, rising to the rank of lieutenant-general in 1830. [4] In 1814 he married Ann Sherwin, his partner since 1793, and they had a daughter born in 1801. He died in London on 20 March 1846 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

Surry Hills

Surry Hills near the centre of Sydney was once a farming area owned by Foveaux. His property was known as Surry Hills Farm, named after the Surrey Hills in Surrey, England.

Foveaux Strait in New Zealand is named in his honour, as are streets in the Sydney suburbs of Airds, Barden Ridge, Bella Vista, Cromer, Harrington Park, Lurnea and Surry Hills, the Maitland suburb of Metford, and the Canberra suburb of Ainslie.

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  1. 1 2 B. H. Fletcher (1966). "Foveaux, Joseph (1767–1846)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. pp. 407–409. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  2. Joseph Foveaux page by Anne-Maree Whitaker
  3. Percival Serle (1949). "Foveaux, Joseph (1765–1846)". Dictionary of Australian Biography . Angus & Robertson. Retrieved 28 July 2009.
  4. A.W. Jose; et al., eds. (1927). The Australian Encyclopaedia Vol.I. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. pp. 485–486.

Further reading

Government offices
Preceded by
William Paterson
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Maurice O'Connell