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Hunter Valley Settler

Edward Charles Close

Green Hills - Illalaung

Edward Charles Close was born on 12 March 1790 at Ramgamati in Bengal where his father Edward Close held the position of an agent for the East India Company. His father died prior to his birth. 

Marianne Collinson Close returned to England in 1798 with her child where she took up residence at 'The Chantry' in Ipswich, Suffolk, the home of her brother Charles Streynsham Collinson, High Sheriff of that county. Edward Charles was educated for the ministry of the Church of England but preferred to enter the army and on February 8, 1808 was gazetted Ensign in the 48th Regiment.


ARRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA

Edward Charles Close arrived on the Matilda on 3rd August 1817. He held the rank of Lieutenant in the 48th (Northamptonshire Regiment which provided the garrison force in Australian between 1817 and 1824. When the Regiment was ordered to sail to India, Close elected to remain in Australia.


NEWCASTLE

He was employed as Engineer of Public Works in Newcastle where he worked on the harbour and lead light beacon.


MARRIAGE

In 1821 Edward Close married Sophia Susannah Palmer, daughter of Commissary John Palmer and sister of Lieutenant John Palmer of Richmond Vale.


LAND GRANT

He was granted 2560 acres at Morpeth and assigned 10 convicts soon after. He built a stone house which was named Closebourne. This was sold to Rev. William Tyrrell in 1848. 

Fulfilling a vow he made at the battle of Albuera, Edward Close built a Church as a thanksgiving for survival. St. James Church at Morpeth was consecrated by Bishop Broughton in 1840 and cost almost £1,500. A rectory was built in 1843.  


LAND SALE

In 1834 nine town allotments were advertised for sale by auction. They were part of Close's Estate (formerly known as Illulaung) and were said to be the only high land on Hunter's River suitable for a town. They afforded an excellent situation for wharfs or stores, being at the head of the navigable part of the Hunter, immediately below the quay at which the steam boats stopped, and possessing the advantage of frontage to the water, which was of sufficient depth to allow any vessel to be moored alongside. There were two excellent schools in the neighbourhood. Stone was easily procurable on the estate and there was sufficient quantity for any buildings required. The allotments were purchased by T. Nowlan, J.H. Grose, J. Mudie, J. Tawell and R. Brownlow


MARRIAGE OF EDWARD CLOSE JUNIOR

In 1847 his son Edward junior married Louisa the daughter of John Laurio Platt at Morpeth. Edward C. Close had adopted the children of John L. Platt who died in 1836. There were great festivities on the occasion with firing of guns and ringing of bells. That evening a huge bonfire was set alight and a procession with tar barrels made round the town.


COMMUNITY LIFE

He was active in community projects - In 1844 he was committee member of the Maitland District Pastoral Association, 1847 saw him raising funds for the Irish Relief Fund and in 1849 he became the first president of the Maitland Hospital Committee. In 1847 he opened a coal mine about 1/2 mile from Morpeth.


DEATH

Edward Close died 7 May 1866........ Sudden Death of Mr. E.C. Close Senior - It is with deep regret that we have to chronicle the unexpected death of one of the oldest colonists, and perhaps the most respected resident, of the district – Mr. Edward Charles Close of Morpeth. The deceased gentleman on Sunday last was in his usual health, and though for some time past his advanced years, and partial palsy of the right side, arising from his having met with several accidents, had made him feeble, he attended Divine service on Sunday morning at St. James’s church, Morpeth. He retired to rest on Sunday evening, and made no complaint of any illness or weakness. Early yesterday morning Mr. George Close entered his room, and beheld his father lying on the floor near the bed and on approaching him, to his grief, he found life had departed.  

It would appear that the deceased gentleman had during the night got out of bed, and was returning to it when he fell, and died in an attack of apoplexy. His features were placed, and no signs of a struggle with death were visible. Mr. Close was quite cold when discovered, and apparently had been dead several hours.

Mr. Close was born at Rangamatti, in India, in the year 1789, and was brought up and educated at a place called Chantrey in Ipswich, Suffolk, the residence of his uncle Charles Strencham Collinson, high sheriff of the county. Mr. Close’s early education was imparted with a view to fit him for the ministry of the Church but as he advanced to manhood the warlike spirit of the period gained possession of him and won him to the profession of arms. He entered the British army under the Duke of Wellington and during the peninsula War he saw much service, and was present at seven engagements. His career in battle won for him the Peninsula medal; and this decoration with seven clasps bearing the names of the battles which he had shared the fortunes of, he occasionally wore. The fields named on these clasps are famous in history – Toulouse, Orthes, Nivelle, Vittoria, Albuera, Bussco, and Talavera.

In the year 1817 Mr. Close arrived in this colony with the 48th regiment of Foot in which he held a Lieutenant’s commission. Four years afterwards he received a grant of land, as was usual in those days, and he close the site of the present town of Morpeth, and the land adjoining it. He settled in Morpeth in the year 1821 and resided there from that time a period of forty five years. He was the first police magistrate of this district, and that office he held for a number of years. He was eight or nine years a member of the first Legislative Council of these colonies. Until a very late period he was Warden of the Maitland District and in that capacity as in all others he fulfilled his duties with honour to himself and benefit to his adopted country. To his credit it can also be said that he filled all these offices without emolument – he never received a shilling from the revenue of the colony Of the Maitland hospital he has long been the honoured president and has always been a liberal supporter of that excellent institution. In recognition of his efforts on its behalf a number of the friends of the institution some time ago had a fine portrait of him taken in oil colours and the painting now adorns the committee room.

Throughout life Mr. Close maintained the character of a sincere Christian. His Christianity was no mere outward show of sanctity He was always a liberal contributor to his own church, and to the churches of other denominations he presented valuable sites for the erection of places of worship. The poor and afflicted ever found ah helping hand extended with the kind words of comfort he would utter. As a landlord he was indulgent in the extreme especially in seasons of distress; his sympathetic heart was ever ready to respond to the appeal of the distressed. His tenants will ever gratefully venerate his memory. It is but rarely that a whole district is found uniting in deep and sincere regret for a gentleman, one of whose prominent characteristics was a very modest estimate of his own ability and influence. Mr. Close never was a fluent or ready speaker at public meetings, and he used always laughingly to remark that he never was a speaker nor would he when appealed to ever attempt even to repeat the expressions he had used, so strong was this conviction with him. Yet we have repeatedly seen Mr. Close turn the current of feeling at a meeting where people had got warm and angry.

He was a man of singularly genial and cordial manner, equally pleasant in demeanour to the rich and poor, and influential and the retiring, and never himself arousing any angry feeling by his words or acts, and being a man of strong common sense and clearness of thought, hi hesitating short speech would be listened to with the deepest respect, and would often still the clamour and anger that more ready speakers had tried in vain to allay. But though not a public speaker, Mr. Close was eminent for conversational power, and charged the most intelligent men by his quite humour and genial enjoyment of the passing joke, These qualities united with readiness to take part in nearly all public movements made Mr. Close, in the days of his strength the favourite chairman of this part of the hunter. We have had among us and we happily can still number among our leading residents some true specimens of the fine old English gentleman but we have never known any one who was a finer or truer example than Mr. Close
...Sydney Morning Herald 9 May 1866  


NOTES AND LINKS

1). Australian Dictionary of Biography Online

2) Edward Charles Close - Sketch of his life by Rev. Langley, Bishop of Bendigo - Sydney Morning Herald 6 May 1916