Cowper Street, looking north.
PROMINENT FIGURES IN AUSTRALIAN AND BRITISH HISTORY who were associated with Stroud and the founding of the Australian Agricultural Co.
Sir Edward Parry, the commissioner who directed the building of St John’s in 1833, was knighted for his courageous explorations of the Canadian Arctic 1818-1827. He established many of Stroud’s early buildings and, with the dedicated support of his wife, Lady Isabella, fostered education, religious life and moral conduct among the company’s servants and their families. Parry dealt with disarray after his arrival in 1829: disaffected servants, dwindling sheep flocks, and shareholders ready to forfeit their shares. Much of the land grant at Port Stephens had proved unfit for sheep. Parry directed a search for better land to the north and west and won the British Government’s approval for an exchange. He opened the way for the company to become one of the Hunter Valley’s greatest coal producers.
Phillip Parker King had won recognition as a giant of marine surveying through arduous explorations of Australian and South American coasts. In 1839 King was appointed Resident Commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Company, a position he held for 10 eventful and testing years. He lived at the company’s headquarters, Tahlee, on the shore of Port Stephens, and was a frequent visitor to Stroud, the town founded by the A A Company in 1826.
Philip Gidley King followed his father to the company in 1841. He served as superintendent of cattle, stud and agriculture before becoming superintendent of pastoral operations 1850-53 and in addition Assistant General Superintendent 1852-54. For most of that time he lived in Stroud House, today the home of his great grandson.
Conrad Martens’ journey to Stroud began in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1832, when at the age of 31 he joined HMS Beagle as topographical artist. The Beagle was on a momentous survey voyage, carrying Charles Darwin as he began to explore the ideas about evolution which led him to publish his Origin of Species in 1859. Another shipmate was P. Gidley King, at that time a teenage midshipman. Martens formed an enduring friendship with Darwin and with Midshipman King.
Martens left the Beagle, after two years’ service, and arrived in Sydney in 1835 carrying a letter of introduction to P. Parker King, then living on his property Dunheved, near Penrith. The letter helped Martens gain contact with well-placed patrons in colonial Sydney.
Martens visited Stroud in 1841 and 1852 when P Gidley King was serving as an officer of the A A Company in Stroud. He was a devout Anglican and he certainly would have visited St John’s and perhaps worshipped there. Martens’ drawings and paintings are among the treasures at the State Library of NSW.
John Macarthur, pastoralist, who with his sons, James, William and Hannibal, served on the Australian committee of the company.
Lt. Colonel Henry Dumaresq, an officer in the Battle of Waterloo, master of a model estate near Muswellbrook, and Company Commissioner after Parry.
James Ebsworth, trusted long‐serving officer of the company and later prominent in Sydney banking.
William Barton, AAco accountant under Parry, and father of Australia’s first Prime Minister.
Henry Dangar, surveyor and pastoralist, who selected land on the Liverpool Plains more suitable to the company’s purpose than the Port Stephen’s location.
Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, explorer and scientist, friend of Phillip Parker King, and director of the Peel River Land and Mineral Company (instigated by AAco).
William Macquarie Cowper, company chaplain at Stroud for 20 years before serving as Dean of Sydney for 40 years. First Australian born Anglican clergyman.
Edward C. Merewether (1820 - 1893) had a distinguished public service career before lifting the coal mining and pastoral fortunes of AAco as general superintendent 1861-1875. He was a benefactor of schools, schools of arts, St Paul’s college at Sydney University, and exploration of New Guinea. A Newcastle suburb and a river in New Guinea carry his name. The Merewether window in St. John’s depicts the wine miracle at Cana.