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JAMES COX, TASMANIAN PASTORALIST, MAGISTRATE & BREEDER

This faint entire has several postmarks and manuscripts that are difficult to decipher. The most legible is at top left, a straight two-line ‘WINDSOR/ N.S.W’ and immediately below this is a manuscript ‘Island postage paid’. Just below the ’James’ in the address is a strike in red of an octagonal ‘WINDSOR/ POST PAID’ and below that an oval ‘GENERAL POST OFFICE/ OC 7/ 1840/ SYDNEY’ (the last 2 inverted). There is a manuscript in black ’7' and to the right of this there is another red unframed Sydney postmark also for 7 OC/ 1840. The entire is addressed to James Cox Esq., Clarendon, Launceston, Van Diemens Land (Figure 1).

In present days, the property of ‘Clarendon’ is better known in Tasmania than the man, but James Cox had considerable impact on Tasmania as a breeder, of more than one species of mammals. James was born on 1 November, 1790 at Devizes, Wiltshire England, the second son of Captain William Cox, later of ‘Clarendon’, Hawkesbury N.S.W. James was educated at King Edward’s Grammar School in Salisbury, and he went to sea to fit himself for colonial life, before joining his parents in N.S.W. in 1806. On 12 June 1812 he married Mary Connell in Parramatta, N.S.W. and he sired 7 living children with his first wife, who died in July 1828 at ‘Clarendon’.

In 1814, James moved to VDL, where he received a grant of 700 acres, and he successfully petitioned for another 6,000 at Morven. This he named ‘Clarendon’ after his father’s home, and he took up residence there in 1816. Mainly because of fear of bushrangers and Aborigines he moved to Launceston the next year, becoming a merchant and contractor for supplying meat to the government commissariat. The same year he became a magistrate, but by the 1820s he resided again at ‘Clarendon’ where he built a large stone mansion which cost him between £20,000 and £40,000. The house is celebrated in a painting and is still mentioned as a tourist site (Figure 2).

By this time his industry and intelligence had made him one of the wealthiest men in Tasmania. In the late 1820's he helped to found two institutions, Cornwall Collegial Institute and the Cornwall Bank. Cox became a prominent pastoralist acquiring multiple sites of land and he formed the village of Lymington and endowed St. Peters Church there. He introduced fallow deer and set up a deer park at ‘Clarendon’. In 1829, he bought for eighty guineas a Spanish ram ‘Newton’, shipped from London and his breeding commenced in earnest; he never regretted his bargain for ‘Newton’ was the sire that immensely improved his quality of merino wool.

He imported a fine Hereford bull, with whose stock he gained many prizes at agricultural shows. He also imported the Arab horse, ‘Hadji Baba’, a great asset to horse breeders. Hunting was his favorite sport. In 1829-34 and 1851-54, he was a member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council. On 1 May 1829 he married his second wife, Eliza Eddington, aged 19 the daughter of Lieutenant-Governor David Collins, and there were an additional seven daughters and one son of this marriage. James died at ‘Marion Villa’, Low Head, his sea-side home on 16 March 1866 at the age of 76, and was buried in the family grave at St. Andrew’s Church of England, Evandale. His second wife, Eliza died at the age of 59 on 25 August 1869, and then ‘Clarendon’ was inherited by James Cox’s grandson, James.

‘Clarendon’ was built on the banks of the South Esk River and is one of the great Georgian Regency homes of Australia. It has large formal gardens and beautiful parklands which cover nine acres. ‘Marion Villa’, Low Head, 40 miles from Launceston, was built in 1839 and it was their sea-side holiday home used by the family for swimming, rowing and picnics for 2 to 3 months in the summers. In ca.1826, James had received a grant of land in Launceston and he built ‘Staffordshire House’ as a town residence, so the large family were well provided for with houses.

Acknowledgment: Although the Australian Dictionary of Biography mentions that James Cox was a Tasmanian MLC in 1829-34 and 1851-54, he could not be found at the excellent Tasmanian Parliament site for previous members (MHA’s or MLC’s). A reply from Natasha Young, Parliamentary Library, Hobart to my query was as follows:

James Cox MLC was first appointed to the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 1829. At this time elections were not held, and appointments were made by official or public nominations. As such, James Cox did not at this time represent an electorate.

In 1851 an Act was made to provide for the establishment of the Tasmanian Legislative Council and to enable the creation of new electorates. In October 1851 James Cox was elected as the MLC for Morven. This electorate no longer exists. My research indicates that the electorate of Morven would now be a part of one or more than one of the following current Legislative Council electorates: Rumney, Apsley, Elwick, Pembroke or Derwent.


 
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