HENRY DANGAR, SURVEYOR, PASTORALIST & POLITICIAN (1796-1861)
This 1852 cover was franked with the 1d imperforate N.S.W. ‘Laureate” (S.G. 46) and postmarked with the Sydney barred cancel, was addressed to Henry Dangar Esq, Cumberland Place (Sydney). It shows the boxed 2 OCLOCK time stamp which replaced the 1 OCLOCK time stamp in April 1850 and was in use until April 1855. The reverse, not shown had the Sydney obliterator postmark (Figure 1).
Cumberland Place is in ‘The Rocks’ area of Sydney and is a State Heritage site with construction beginning in 1807 and the following years. An undated photo of the steep area with shops and dwellings is shown in Figure 2.
Henry Dangar was a surveyor and pastoralist, who was born on 18 November 1796 at St Neot, Cornwall, England, the son of William Dangar and his wife Judith, daughter of John Hooper. He was the first of six brothers to emigrate as free settlers to New South Wales. Soon after arrival in the Jessie on 2 April 1821 he was appointed assistant in the Survey Department and employed in the counties of Camden and Argyle.
Governor Brisbane began preparations in 1822 for the free settlement of the Hunter River District, and Dangar was transferred to Newcastle to make a detailed survey of the valley. He prepared plans for Newcastle and over the next 2 years he made extensive surveys of the area, north of the region. Henry ran afoul of the commandant of Newcastle who accused him of spending too much time on his own property area, 700 acres grant near Morpeth. The next year he surveyed further north and marked the road from Newcastle to the future Maitland.
By August 1824 he explored the present site of Musswelbrook His reports caused an immediate rush of applicants for land grants and in May 1825 he returned having been commissioned to select land for a number of settlers. Dangar was accused of allocating land for himself and his brother and was found guilty. Governor Darling recommended that he be dispossessed of the land under dispute, and he be required to take his grant in some other district. He went to England to argue his case but lost, and whilst on the voyage he wrote his Index and Directory to Map of the Country Bordering Upon the River Hunter, published in London in 1828, which brought him to the attention of the Directors of the Australian Agricultural Co., with whom he accepted the position of surveyor.
Accompanied by his wife Grace, whom he married in England in May 1828 and his infant son, he returned to Australia in April 1830 to take up his new position at Port Stephens. In June 1833 he retired from his job to his property, Neotsfield, near Singleton. This property had previously been managed by his brother, William and it was a flourishing, highly developed farm. Dangar quickly extended his interests, purchasing additional grazing properties and leasing extensive runs which by 1850 amounted to more than 300,000 acres. In October 1845 he was elected MLC for Northumberland which he held until June 1851, at which time he retired from public life. In 1852 he sailed for England, but returned to N.S.W. in 1856, living at Potts Point, Sydney. He died on 2 March 1861, and was buried at Singleton, N.S.W. He was survived by his wife and 5 sons and 1 daughter.
An association of Henry Dangar and Cumberland Place has not been found, particularly at the time of receipt of this cover in 1852, the year of one of his returns to England. Neither the return to England (“early 1852") nor the indefinite date of receipt of the letter in 1852, precludes Henry as the recipient, instead of one of his sons, Henry Cary Dangar M.L.A. (1830-1917). Moreover, the son was receiving his education in England and practicing at the bar from the years of 1849-1857, and thus was a less likely candidate for the letter, than his father.
Henry Dangar senior was described as “by nature irascible and at times impatient... had a strong sense of duty.... was enlightened and just (with his employees) and was rewarded by long and faithful service.” Mount Dangar, Dangarfield and Dangarsleigh commemorate his name, but “His finest memorial, however, was the proud boast of his employees, and of their children and grandchildren, that they were ‘Dangar men’” A picture of Henry Dangar, taken during his parliamentary service, is shown in Figure 3.
A major portion of this paper is based upon the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.