Original manuscript Record in ink dated 1828 of a Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land case before the Chief Justice, signed by the solicitor and attorney Thomas Wood Rowlands acting for the Plaintiff, Sarah Smith, v. the defendants Sir John Owen and Edward Lord, unfolded size 82.6 cm (height) x 62 cm (width).
Condition: Very good, without tears to the manuscript.
Sir John Owen and Edward Lord were brothers. Sir John (1776-1861), was born John Lord, and took the surname Owen about 1809 on inheriting the estate of Sir Hugh Owen, 6th Baronet. John, who sat as a Welsh Tory MP for more than 50 years, was made a Baronet in 1813. His son Hugh was also a member of the House of Commons, and their linked families were politically influential in representing and controlling five seats in the House. Sir John Owen was Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire from 1824 until his death in 1861, and he fought the last known duel with pistols in Wales in 1836, badly wounding his opponent, a former Mayor of Tenby. Sir John Owen’s wealth came from coal mining, but his mines suffered a disastrous explosion (1830) and inundation (1844), and he was obliged to avoid bankruptcy by selling his impressive castellated mansion owing to debts accrued from costly political embroilments and his mining catastrophes.
Edward Lord (1781-1859) was much more consistently successful in financial terms than his brother. An officer of Marines, he sailed in the first contingent to establish a settlement on the Derwent in Van Diemen’s Land in February 1804 and the same year built the first private house in Hobart Town. In 1805 Edward Lord returned from sick leave with several ewes and a ram, the gift of Governor Philip Gidley King, and by October 1806 was the largest stock-owner in Van Diemen’s Land. Less than a year later he was the senior officer, subordinate only to Lieut-Colonel David Collins.
In Sydney in April 1808 Lord obtained from Lieut-Colonel Joseph Foveaux a land grant in Van Diemen’s Land and appointment as magistrate. When David Collins died unexpectedly in 1810 Lord took charge of the settlement as Lieut-Governor and is said to have burned all the papers at Government House the same night. He sought to succeed Collins, but Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who had a poor opinion of Lord, later describing him as “vindictive and implacable”, hastily sent Captain John Murray to take charge, relieving Lord of his offices and giving him leave to return to England. There, in October 1812, having learned that his application to succeed Collins had failed, Lord resigned his commission in the Marines and through the influence of his brother John Owen MP received an order for a grant of 3000 acres. Lord returned to Hobart in March 1813 in his own brig, the James Hay, with goods worth £30,000, and was soon on intimate terms with Lieut-Governor Thomas Davey. One reason for Davey’s recall was that in defiance of Macquarie he gave preferential trading concessions to Lord, and bought wheat from him at an excessive price. In 1817 Lord was suspected of smuggling from the ship, the Kangaroo. On William Sorell’s appointment as Lieut-Governor, Macquarie named Lord first on his list of ‘bad characters’ at the Derwent. Despite this Lord and Sorell soon became close friends.
When Lord returned to England late in 1819 he told Bathurst that he had been ‘injured to an almost incalculable amount’ by Macquarie’s ‘harsh and unjust proceedings’ and sought redress. Although his charges were refuted Bathurst gave him an order for Macquarie to grant him 3000 acres and recommended him to Sorell. Having bought the Caroline, Lord returned to Van Diemen’s Land in November 1820 with a large cargo of merchandise, and was at once appointed a magistrate. When the Van Diemen’s Land Agricultural Society was founded in 1822 Lord became its first president and he was also an original proprietor of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land. During 1822 he was accused of trying to bribe the head of the commissariat, but Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane was prevented from investigating the matter by Lord’s departure in the Royal George which he had chartered to carry wool to England. The ship was almost wrecked at Cape Town, which caused Lord ‘serious Losses’. At this time he claimed assets in Van Diemen’s Land of £200,000, and debts owing to him of £70,000.
The Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser, Hobart, Tasmania, on Friday 24 November 1826, reported on page 4 that Edward Lord’s interests were “gaining considerable strength in the House of Commons as Sir John Owen (his brother) has the welfare of this Colony very much at heart and will, in the approaching Session, use his influence for our benefit”. Governor Brisbane spoke of Lord’s “sordid interests” and proposed to remove him from the magistracy. Edward Lord had become a major pastoralist, eventually owning three ships, 35,000 acres of land, thousands of cattle and sheep, and by the late 1820s a reputation for sharp practices, and being “the richest man in Van Diemen’s Land”. In 1828, leaving a manager in charge of his estates, Lord returned to England and settled at Downe, Kent. While on a return visit to Van Diemen’s Land in 1846-47, Edward Lord sat for two portraits by Thomas Wainewright.
Though nothing is known of the Plaintiff in this Record document, references to several women named Sarah Smith may be found in this period, variously transported convicts, free settlers or wives of convicts or settlers, but none seems quite plausible as this Plaintiff. Nevertheless she was evidently a woman of boldness and self-confidence to bring a case against these Defendants. Her attorney, Thomas Wood Rowlands, was well-known as a particularly active solicitor appearing frequently before the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land, who was himself involved in actions involving his own practice.