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Portrait of John Pascoe Fawkner, founder of Melbourne, by William Strutt, 1856: oil on canvas; 61.3 x 51.2 cm. National Library of Australia.
Statue of John Pascoe Fawkner at the site of Melbourne former National Mutual Plaza off Collins Street in Melbourne. Unveiled 26 January 1979
The Enterprize, Fawkner's ship
John Fawkner's bluestone grave at Melbourne General Cemetery.

John Pascoe Fawkner (20 October 1792 – 4 September 1869) was an early pioneer, businessman and politician of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In 1835 he financed a party of free settlers from Van Diemen's Land (now called Tasmania), to sail to the mainland in his ship, Enterprize. Fawkner's party sailed to Port Phillip Bay and up the Yarra River to found a settlement which became the city of Melbourne.


Early years

John Pascoe Fawkner was born in Cripplegate[1] London in 1792 to John Fawkner (a metal refiner[1])and his wife Hannah née Pascoe. As an 11 year old, he accompanied his convict father, who had been sentenced to fourteen years gaol (jail) for receiving stolen goods, being transported as part of a two ship fleet to establish a new British colony in Bass Strait in 1803. The colony landed at Sullivan Bay, near modern day Sorrento. For several months the colony struggled to survive. There were some 27 convict escape attempts, including that of William Buckley. Lack of wood and fresh water eventually persuaded Lieutenant-Governor David Collins to abandon the colony in 1804 with the settlers and convicts departing for the new town of Hobart in Van Dieman's Land.

In Hobart the young Fawkner assisted his father (who had obtained a conditional pardon) in his bakery, timber business and brewery and soon afterwards fell into trouble. A letter dated 19 October 1814 from Lieut.-governor Davey to Lieutenant Jeffreys instructs him that he is to receive on board John Fawkner, "one of those persons who lately absconded from the settlements after committing some most atrocious robberys and depredations, and is under sentence of transportation for five years; he proceeds to Sydney for the purpose of being sent to the Coal river during the period of his sentence, and also to break the chain of a very dangerous connexion he has formed in this settlement". This gives a misleading account of what had occurred. Fawkner's account of this incident, which appears to have been true, was that "a party of prisoners, determined to escape, sought his assistance and that in a moment of foolish sympathy he undertook to help them". (J. Bonwick, Port Phillip Settlement, pp. 281–2).

In December 1819 transported convict, Eliza Cobb, and John Pascoe Fawkner loaded up a cart and moved to Launceston. They were married on 5 December 1822, with a permit from Governor George Arthur. They established a bakery, timber business, bookshop, a newspaper The Launceston Advertiser in 1829, nursery and orchard. Soon after Eliza had received a pardon, Fawkner obtained a licence to run the Cornwall Hotel.

Settlement of Melbourne

In April 1835, John Pascoe Fawkner purchased the tops’l schooner, Enterprize, to search for a suitable settlement site in the Port Phillip District.

John Batman led an exploring party to Port Phillip District in May 1835, on board the sloop Rebecca. He explored a large area in what is now the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as far north as Keilor, and saw it as ideal country for a sheep run, before returning to Launceston.

When the Enterprize was ready to leave in August 1835, at the last moment creditors prevented Fawkner from joining the voyage. On board the Enterprize as it departed George Town, were Captain John Lancey, Master Mariner (Fawkner’s representative); George Evans, builder; William Jackson and Robert Marr, carpenters; Evan Evans, servant to George Evans; and Fawkner’s servants, Charles Wyse, ploughman, Thomas Morgan, general servant, James Gilbert, blacksmith and his pregnant wife, Mary, under Captain Peter Hunter.

On 15 August 1835, Enterprize entered the Yarra River. After being hauled upstream, she moored at the foot of the present day William Street. On 30 August 1835 the settlers disembarked to build their store and clear land to grow vegetables. The Fawkners arrived in the Port Phillip District, on Friday, 16 October 1835, on the second trip of the Enterprize. Fawkner's diary reads: 'Warped up to the Basin, landed 2 cows, 2 calves and the 2 horses.'

Melbourne businessman and politician

Fawkner was keen to secure his place in history. He opened Melbourne's first hotel on the corner of William St and Flinders Lane. He published the Melbourne Advertiser on 1 January 1838 which was the district's first newspaper. The Advertiser's first nine or ten weekly editions were handwritten in ink. An old wood press and some type were eventually obtained from Launceston and the first printed edition appeared on 5 March 1838. It was to last for a further 17 editions when it was closed down on 23 April 1838 for want of a newspaper license from Sydney. The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser was commenced on 6 February 1839 by newly licensed John Pascoe Fawkner. It was first published daily on the 15 May 1845. The printing press still exists and is stored at the Scienceworks Museum in Melbourne.

Fawkner acquired a property in 1839 as one of eleven lots in the subdivision of the Coburg district by the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle. The property was called Pascoeville, and was bounded approximately by the Moonee Ponds Creek, Gaffney Street, Northumberland Road and the western prolongation of Boundary Road. He lived at his farmhouse and at his townhouse in Collingwood between 1840 and 1855.

In 1851 Fawkner was elected to the first Legislative Council of the Port Phillip District (Talbot electorate), and in 1856 he was elected to the first Parliament of the self-governing colony of Victoria, as MLC for Central Province.

In Melbourne as in Launceston, he made many enemies, before dying as the grand old man of the colony on 4 September 1869 in Smith Street, Collingwood at the age of 77. At his funeral over 200 carriages were present, and 15,000 persons were reported to have lined the streets on his burial day, 8 September 1869.

In Memory

Many sites in Melbourne have been named in honour of John Fawkner including the suburbs of Fawkner,Pascoe Vale and Fawkner Park and the Fawkner Beacon weather station in Port Phillip bay.


  1. ^ a b Hugh Anderson (1966). "Fawkner, John Pascoe (1792 - 1869)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. pp. 368–370. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  

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