Francis Doveton

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Francis Crossman Doveton, First Gold Commissioner on the Victorian Goldfields,
Kind permission Wayne Doveton Comper.
Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England. The Manor of Marksbury was owned by Duke Athelm and then by Glastonbury Abbey, until the Conquest.


Detail of Chart of Van Diemen’s Land showing Bagdad, south of the Quoin Rivulet, Evans, January 29th 1822. State Library of Victoria
Chart of Van Diemen’s Land from the best authorities and from surveys George William Evans (1780-1852) dated January 29th 1822. State Library of Victoria

Francis Crossman Doveton is descended from William Dufton (1653-1707) who emigrated to the Isle of Saint Helena in the year 1674. According to Francis Doveton's obituary, his uncle, Sir William Doveton was in charge of the troops during the confinement of Napoleon in Saint Helena.

Francis was born on 18 October 1817 at Marksbury, Somerset, England and privately baptised by his father, Church of England clergyman John Frederick Doveton, on 23 October.[1] His mother was Elizabeth Crossman, so that he carried her surname as his middle name. His siblings were Frederick Brickdale Doveton, Elizabeth Jane Doveton, John Bazett Doveton, Louisa Doveton, Lucy Ducarel Doveton, Maria (Doveton) Adams, Catherine Doveton and William Blake Doveton. Elizabeth Doveton (Crossman) was born in 1785, in West Monkton, Somerset, England while John, her husband, was born on July 4 1774, in Chudleigh, Devon, England.

Francis Crossman Doveton came to Sydney, Australia, in 1838 as a Lieutenant in the 51st Regiment and then served for some time in Tasmania. He was known as the 'crack rider of his regiment'. His obituary states that "When at Sandhurst he was one of five specially selected to give an exhibition of horsemanship before King William 4th, his Queen Consort and the then Princess Victoria".

When he was stationed in Van Diemen's Land, he purchased 100 acres of land north of Bagdad near the Quoin Rivulet, in 1846.

After serving in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), he was promoted to Captain and then moved to Victoria.

He was married to Margaret Bostock, the second daughter of Robert Bostock of Vaucluse, on 3 September 1842 at St John's Church in Launceston, Tasmania, by the Rev. Dr. Browne. They had five children: Margaret Elizabeth, born on 17 November 1844 at Campbell Town (married her cousin John Doveton in 1873 at All Saints Church, St Kilda, Melbourne [2]; died on 13 December 1941; buried at the St Kilda Cemetery); Rachel Emily, born on 9 September 1846 at Campbell Town (married Octavius Frederick Palmer in 1867 in Victoria); Annie, born in 1848 at Belfast, Victoria (married William Boyle Boyd); Francis, born in 1850 at Belfast (educated at Melbourne Grammar School in 1864; died in 1887); and John Frederick, born in 1852 at the Merri River (died in 1854). He buried his first wife and child in the Forest Creek Cemetery in January 1853. Margaret died from dysentery. [3]

In 1855 Francis Doveton married Mary Anne Snell in the Church of England Church in Castlemaine, and they had eight children: Thomas Frederick, born in 1857 at Hepburn (married Amy Alison Ross in 1882); Honora Maria Mary, born in 1861 at St Kilda (married James Brown Hopkins in 1883); Florence Lucy, born in 1865 at Heidelberg (married Thomas Mansfield in 1888); Otto Guy William, born in 1868 at Collingwood; Henry Albert, born in 1870 (died in 1875); Charlotte Ella Alice, born in 1873 (died in 1875); Catherine Josephine, born in 1876 at Kew; and Bazette, born in 1880 at Prahran (died aged one day).

Mary Ann Snell was the daughter of Thomas Snell born 3 February 1801 at Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. Her mother was Honora Connelly, although on her marriage certificate to Francis Doveton the name Ann Snell was recorded as the name of Mary Ann Snell's mother. Mary Ann was born in 1838 in Tasmania. Her father Thomas Snell was transported in 1834 on the Moffatt. [4]

Francis Crossman Doveton died on 10 July 1905, and was buried on the following day at St Kilda Cemetery (RC A 681). Doveton Street in Ballarat and Doveton Street in Castlemaine are named after him.[5]

It has been reported that Margaret, the daughter of Francis Doveton was buried in an unmarked grave at St Kilda Cemetery. She was the daughter of Lieutenant Doveton of the 51st Regiment Queens Own, the first goldfields commissioner in Victoria who played a leading role in the conflict at Eureka Stockade.[6]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Appointment of Francis Crossman Doveton, Argus, August, 1851
Commissioner's Tent Ballarat, 1851. State Library of Victoria (H2919)

On 21 August 1851 he was appointed first Gold Commissioner in Victoria. William Lonsdale advertised from the Colonial Secretary's Office, Melbourne, that on 21st August, 1851 "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to appoint Francis Crossman Doveton, Esq., Commissioner of Crown Lands, to carry out the Regulations, dated the 18th instant; for the issue of Licenses [sic] to dig and search for Gold in the Buninyong and Loddon Districts. By His Excellency's command" signed W. Lonsdale.[7] Doveton was on the first staff at Mount Alexander (Castlemaine) Goldfields. Doveton arrived at Ballarat, along with Assistant Commissioner David Armstrong, on 19 September 1851 with a team of troopers and assisted by Captain Dana and his police troopers. They began to issue the first licences on 21 September 1851, with the first confrontation against the licence occurring the day before on 20 September 1851. The licence system caused much resentment, and Doveton is quoted as saying that he did not make the law but was sent to administer it.[8]

Post 1854 Experiences

By 4 February 1858 Francis Crossman Doveton was acting as a Police Magistrate in the district of Daylesford. There are many reports of inquests he held at Hepburn. He held the following inquest.

On the 21st instant a magisterial enquiry was held by F. C. Doveton, Esq., P.M., on the body of William Twyford, and infant of 3 or 4 months of age, the son of one Thomas Twyford, gold miner, living on the Old Race-course, Hepburn, who from the evidence adduced, arrived at the conclusion "That William Twyford came by his death from the effects of spasmodic convulsions." - 31 Janurary, 1858. [9]

On 18 December 1889 the Victoria Police Gazette reported that fees had been received by the Government for an Auctioneer's Licence for F. Doveton of Melbourne. [10]

Mr. Francis Crossman Doveton, whose portrait we give in our illustrations, was the first gold commissioner in Victoria. He was appointed to Ballarat in August, 1851, filling a similar office upon various gold fields for nine years. He arrived with his regiment, the 51st K.O.L.I., in Sydney, in 1838. Mr. Doveton was a son of the Rev. John Frederick Doveton, of Endon Hall, County Northampton. Before leaving Eng land, when at Sandhurst, in 1834, he was one of ten students chosen to give an exhibition of horsemanship before King William IV, his Queen Adelaide and the then Princess Victoria. This accomplishment he retained, and when with his regiment in the early forties in Tasmania won many races. The gift of horsemanship may be said to have been inherited by more than one of his grandchildren, who are constantly seen on the polo ground and as amateurs in the saddle. The veteran colonist is 86 years of age next October. He has all senses perfect, and is living in Prahran. He frequently walks to Brighton to see his old friend and comrade Colonel Mair.[11]


DEATHS: DOVETON - On the 10th July at "Copeland" 94 Lewisham-road, Prahran. Francis Crossman Doveton, late captain 51st Regiment Queen's Own, aged 87 years. A colonist of 67 years. (Suddenly.) No flowers, by request.[12]

See also

William Mair

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


Golden Point and the Alluvial Goldwashers
Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services.
  1. The small village of Marksbury lies about seven miles south-west of Bath, Somerset, England, and had always been an agricultural area. In 926 King Athelstan gave the manor of Marksbury to his son, Duke Athelm, after which it was owned by Glastonbury Abbey until the Conquest. The Domesday Book lists 40 acres of woodland and 19 of meadow, worked by 6 villagers and 5 smallholders who between them cared for 1 cow, 29 pigs, and 85 sheep. See Florence Chuk, The Somerset Years, Pennard Hill Publications, 1990.
  2. John Doveton was the eldest son of Rev. John Bassett Doveton, rector of Burnett, Somersetshire, England.
  3. A. R. McMillan, The Pennyweight Kids Self published, 1998; Records of Castlemaine Pioneers.
  4. Thomas Snell No. 1838, Plumber & Glazier, Height without shoes 4 feet 8 and a half inches, Age 16, Complexion fresh, Head large, Whiskers none, Visage brown, Forehead M.H., Eyebrows brown, Eyes grey, Nose small, Mouth M.W., Chin short, Remarks Woman on left arm; St Helena, CON-18-1-15
  5. Clare Gervasoni, Dorothy Wickham & Wayne Phillipson, Mt Alexander District Directory of Old Settlers and Residents 1837–1856, Ballarat 1999, pp. 35-36; H J Gibbney & Ann G Smith, A Biographical Register, Canberra 1987 (FCD); notes from Michael and Charlie Palmer.
  6. Eidleson, Meyer, Walks in Port Phillip, City of Port Phillip, 2001.
  7. Argus, August 1851
  8. Justin Corfield, Dorothy Wickham & Clare Gervasoni, The Eureka Encyclopaedia, 2004; Argus 28 August 1851, p. 1; 22 September 1851, p2; 16 October 1851, p. 2.
  9. Victoria Police Gazette February 4, 1855, page 55.
  10. Victoria Police Gazette, 18 December 1889, p. 408.
  11. Melbourne Leader, 23 May 1903.
  12. The Argus, Melbourne, Tuesday 11 July 1905.

External links