Robert Knopwood

Robert Knopwood

Robert Knopwood (June 2 1761 - September 18 1838) was an early clergyman and diarist in Australia.

Knopwood came of a well-to-do Norfolk family. He was educated at the Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1786, M.A. in 1790, and was ordained deacon in 1788 and priest in 1789. Having inherited a fortune as a young man, he became a member of the gambling set associated with the Prince Regent and quickly lost his money. He obtained a position as chaplain in the navy, and was appointed to Colonel Collins's expedition which, after the failure of the Port Phillip settlement, landed on the site of Hobart on 19 February 1804. Knopwood's salary as chaplain to the settlement was £182 10s. per annum. He was appointed a magistrate on the following 17 March.

Knopwood kept a diary for more than 30 years. It is now in the Mitchell Library at Sydney, an interesting first-hand record of early Tasmania. From it we learn of the want of food and other hardships of the pioneers, the troubles with blacks and bushrangers, and the slowly improving conditions. It was a brutal, hard-drinking, hard-swearing age, and Knopwood does not appear to have been in advance of his time. He records dreadful floggings of convicts for comparatively trifling offences without indignation, and probably as a magistrate ordered them himself. On the other hand he interested himself in two boys both under 18 years of age, who had been condemned to death and succeeded in getting them reprieved at the foot of the gallows. He tells us that he took them to a room and prayed with them, and that everyone thanked him for what he had done.

He obtained seeds from England and was an early cultivator of wheat, oats, vegetables and fruit. As the population grew Knopwood's work increased, his salary was raised to £260 per annum in April 1817; but his health was not good and about this time Governor Lachlan Macquarie was complaining of his dissipation and inability to carry out his duties. In 1821 Knopwood wrote to Macquarie asking that he might retire on full pay on account of his failing eyesight. His resignation was accepted on 7 September 1822, a pension of £100 per annurn was granted, and Sir Thomas Brisbane, who had succeeded Macquarie, was authorized to make Knopwood "such a grant of land as may be considered fair and reasonable". He removed to the east side of the Derwent and died on 18 September 1838.

Many years before he had adopted a little orphan girl about a year old of whom he became very fond. Her daughter erected a tombstone in Rokeby churchyard to the memory of Knopwood which describes him as "a steady and affectionate friend, a man of strict integrity and active benevolence, ever ready to relieve the distress and ameliorate the conditions of the afflicted".


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=Robert|Last=Knoppwood|Link=

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