John Pascoe Fawkner

John Pascoe Fawkner (20 October 1792 – 4 September 1869) was an early Australian pioneer, businessman and politician of Melbourne, Australia. In 1835 he financed a party of free settlers from Van Diemen's Land (now called Tasmania), to sail to the mainland in his ship, Enterprize. Fawkner's party sailed to Port Phillip and up the Yarra River to found a settlement which became the city of Melbourne.

John Pascoe Fawkner
Portrait of John Pascoe Fawkner, founder of Melbourne, by William Strutt, 1856: oil on canvas; 61.3 x 51.2 cm. National Library of Australia.
Born(1792-10-20)20 October 1792
Died4 September 1869(1869-09-04) (aged 76)
OccupationBusinessman, pioneer, politician
Spouse(s)Eliza Cobb
Parent(s)John Fawkner, Hannah Pascoe

Early years

John Pascoe Fawkner was born near Cripplegate[1] London in 1792 to John Fawkner (a metal refiner)[1] and his wife Hannah née Pascoe, whose parents were Cornish.[2] As a 10-year-old, he accompanied his convict father, who had been sentenced to fourteen years gaol for receiving stolen goods, being transported on HMS Calcutta—alongside his mother and younger sister Elizabeth—[3] as part of a two ship fleet to establish a new British colony in Bass Strait in 1803. The colony landed at Sullivan Bay, near modern-day Sorrento, and the next day Fawkner turned 11. For several months the colony struggled to survive. There were some 27 convict escape attempts, including that of William Buckley. Lack of wood and fresh water eventually persuaded Lieutenant-Governor David Collins to abandon the colony in 1804 with the settlers and convicts departing for the new town of Hobart in Van Diemen's Land.

In 1806 the family obtained a farm, upon which he worked without horses, without capital, and with scarcely any other appliances than a spade and a hoe. At eighteen years of age he apprenticed himself to a builder and a sawyer, and laboured for some years in a saw-pit.[4]

In Hobart the young Fawkner assisted his father (who had obtained a conditional pardon) in his bakery, timber business and brewery and soon afterwards fell into trouble. A letter dated 19 October 1814 from Lieut.-governor Davey to Lieutenant Jeffreys instructs him that he is to receive on board John Fawkner,

"one of those persons who lately absconded from the settlements after committing some most atrocious robberys and depredations, and is under sentence of transportation for five years; he proceeds to Sydney for the purpose of being sent to the Coal river during the period of his sentence, and also to break the chain of a very dangerous connection he has formed in this settlement".

This gives a misleading account of what had occurred. Fawkner's account of this incident, which appears to have been true, was that "a party of prisoners, determined to escape, sought his assistance and that in a moment of foolish sympathy he undertook to help them".[5][6]

In December 1819 transported convict, Eliza Cobb, and John Pascoe Fawkner loaded up a cart and moved to Launceston. They were married on 5 December 1822, with a permit from Governor George Arthur. They established a bakery, timber business, bookshop, a newspaper The Launceston Advertiser in 1829, nursery and orchard. Soon after Eliza had received a pardon, Fawkner obtained a licence to run the Cornwall Hotel in 1826.

Settlement of Melbourne

In April 1835, John Pascoe Fawkner purchased the topsail schooner, Enterprize, to search for a suitable settlement site in the Port Phillip District.

John Batman led an exploring party to Port Phillip District in May 1835, on board the schooner Rebecca. He explored a large area in what is now the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as far north as Keilor, and saw it as ideal country for a sheep run, before returning to Launceston.

When the Enterprize was ready to leave in August 1835, at the last moment creditors prevented Fawkner from joining the voyage. On board the Enterprize as it departed George Town, were Captain John Lancey, Master Mariner (Fawkner's representative); George Evans, builder; William Jackson and Robert Marr, carpenters; Evan Evans, servant to George Evans; and Fawkner's servants, Charles Wyse, ploughman, Thomas Morgan, general servant, James Gilbert, blacksmith and his pregnant wife, Mary, under Captain Peter Hunter.

On 15 August 1835, Enterprize entered the Yarra River. After being hauled upstream, she moored at the foot of the present day William Street. On 30 August 1835 the settlers disembarked to build their store and clear land to grow vegetables. The Fawkners arrived in the Port Phillip District, on Friday, 16 October 1835, on the second trip of the Enterprize. Fawkner's diary reads: 'Warped up to the Basin, landed 2 cows, 2 calves and the 2 horses.'[7]

Melbourne businessman and politician

Fawkner did much to secure his place in the early history of Melbourne. He opened the first hotel on the corner of Market Street and Flinders Lane.[8] He published the Melbourne Advertiser on 1 January 1838 which was the district's first newspaper. The Advertiser's first nine or ten weekly editions were handwritten in ink. The old wooden printing press brought to Tasmania by Lt. Governor David Collins in 1803, and some worn typeface were eventually obtained from Launceston and the first printed edition appeared on 5 March 1838. It was to last for a further 17 editions when it was closed down on 23 April 1838 for want of a newspaper licence from Sydney. The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser was commenced on 6 February 1839 by newly licensed John Pascoe Fawkner. It was published daily commencing on 15 May 1845. In association with the newspaper he ran a bookselling and stationary business.

Fawkner acquired a property in 1839 as one of eleven lots in the subdivision of the Coburg district by the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle. The property was called Pascoeville, and was bounded approximately by the Moonee Ponds Creek, Gaffney Street, Northumberland Road and the western prolongation of Boundary Road. He lived at his farmhouse and at his town-house in Collingwood between 1840 and 1855.

In 1842 Fawkner was elected one of the Market Commissioners, and in 1843 a town councillor, an office which he held for many years.[3] On 18 September 1851 Fawkner was elected to the first Victorian Legislative Council for Talbot, Dalhousie and Angelsey,[9] and held the seat until the original Council was abolished in March 1856.[10] In November 1856 Fawkner was elected to the first Parliament of the self-governing colony of Victoria, as a member of the Victorian Legislative Council for Central Province, a seat he held until his death on 4 September 1869.[10]

In Melbourne as in Launceston, Fawkner made many enemies, before dying as the grand old man of the colony on 4 September 1869 in Smith Street, Collingwood at the age of 77. At his government-appointed public funeral[6] over 200 carriages were present, and 15,000 persons were reported to have lined the streets on his burial day, 8 September 1869. He was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery. He and Eliza did not have any children.


Many sites in Melbourne have been named in honour of John Fawkner including the John Fawkner Private Hospital as well as the suburbs of Fawkner, Pascoe Vale and Fawkner Park and the Fawkner Beacon weather station in Port Phillip.

In 1979 a statue of Fawkner, commissioned by Melbourne City Council and produced by sculptor Michael Mezaros, was unveiled on Collins Street, where it stood outside the National Mutual building, alongside a status to John Batman, for almost forty years, before being removed to make way for the CBUS Collins Arch development.[11][12]

A replica of the Enterprize, the ship he purchased to form the settlement of Melbourne, was built at the Melbourne Maritime Museum and was launched in 1997 and sails with tourists aboard from various places around Port Phillip Bay.


  • History of Melbourne
  • Billot, C.P. (1985). The Life and Times of John Pascoe Fawkner. Melbourne: Hyland House. ISBN 0-908090-77-3.
  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Fawkner, John Pascoe". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  1. Anderson, Hugh (1966). "Fawkner, John Pascoe (1792–1869)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  2. C. P. Billot, The life and times of John Pascoe Fawkner, 1985
  3. Mennell, Philip (1892). "Fawkner, Hon. John Pascoe" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co via Wikisource.
  4. "JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER". The Argus. Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia. 6 September 1869. p. 5. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  5. Bonwick, James (1883), Port Phillip settlement, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, p. 283
  6. Gonner, Edward Carter Kersey (1889). "Fawkner, John Pascoe" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 18. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. John Pascoe Fawkner (edited by C.P. Billot) (1983), Melbourne's missing chronicle; being the journal of preparations for departure to and proceedings at Port Philip, Melbourne, Quartet, p.10. ISBN 0908128207
  8. McGuire, Paul (1952), Inns of Australia, Melbourne, William Heinemann, p.86-7
  9. Labilliere, Francis Peter (1878). "Early History of the Colony of Victoria". Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  10. "Fawkner, John Pascoe". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012.
  11. Ridley, Ronald T. (1996). A Walking Guide to Melbourne's Monuments. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0 522 84727 7.
  12. Millar, Benjamin (18 September 2018). "Statue of limitations: No place in the city for men we'd rather forget". The Age. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
Victorian Legislative Council
New district Member for Talbot, Dalhousie and Anglesey
September 1851 – March 1856
With: William Mollison
Original Council abolished
New district Member for Central Province
November 1856 – September 1869
With: John Hodgson 1856–60
William Hull 1860–66
James Graham 1866–69
Henry Miller 1856–58
Thomas Fellows 1858–68
John O'Shanassy 1868–69
John Hood 1856–59
George Cole 1859–69
Nehemiah Guthridge 1856–58
Thomas T. à Beckett 1858–69
Succeeded by
Henry Walsh
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