Thomas Burdekin was born in Sheffield, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Burdekin, on 28 December 1801.
In 1833, Thomas Burdekin married his English fiancée, Mary Ann Bossley (1806-89) in Sydney. She was daughter of Thomas and Helen Bossley of Derbyshire and had arrived to the Colony in 1832 with her brother John Brown Bossley (1810-72).
Thomas Burdekin built a mansion called Burdekin House on Macquarie Street in 1841. The family lived in it until 1922, and it was demolished in 1933 to make way for St Stephens Presbyterian Church. There is a brass plaque laid in the pavement outside the church that commemorates this house.
Thomas Burdekin died on 18 August 1844. He was buried at the old Church of England Cemetery at Rookwood.
Following Thomas’s death, Mary Ann Bossley became the matriarch of the Burdekin family, leaving an inheritance of £366,493 when she died. She is the namesake of the Sydney suburb of Bossley Park.
Occupation & interests
Thomas Burdekin immigrated to Sydney to set up a branch of his father’s ironmonger business. Thomas’s father Joseph was from Bridghouses in Sheffield. He was an ironmonger and cutler and was in partnership with a Mr Hawley in the well-known ironmongery firm of Burdekin and Hawley, which had premises in London and Sheffield. Joseph Burdekin married Elizabeth Hancock at St Peters Cathedral Sheffield in 1791. They had eight children including an earlier Thomas who died as an infant.
Thomas Burdekin arrived in Sydney in 1828 on the Australia to establish a branch of Burdekin and Hawley, well-known ironmongers and general merchants of Sheffield, in George Street. He made a fortune lending money to people in return for security on property and when they couldn’t pay him back he took over the property. There was a major legal case over land at Singleton north of Sydney around 1841.
In 1830, he bought a William Street lot from John Brown and by 1842 owned property in Macquarie, College and York streets.
In 1841, Thomas Burdekin commissioned James Hume to build Burdekin House in Macquarie Street, opposite the Legislative Council. Occupied by the Burdekin family until 1922, it was demolished in 1933 and replaced by St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. At his death Thomas Burdekin left a vast amount of real estate in Sydney and other parts of the colony to his family.
After Thomas Burdekin died, his wife, Mary Ann became the matriarch of the family. She contributed towards the costs of exploration of Northern Queensland by explorer Dr Ludwig Leichhardt which led to the discovery of the major river he named as the Burdekin River in honour of Thomas and Mary. This in turn led to a whole area in Queensland known as Burdekin Shire, and much later to the Burdekin Dam and associated irrigation schemes in the area.
In 1831, Thomas Burdekin was elected to the Council of the Australian College. His support for Dr Ludwig Leichhardt’s northern explorations was rewarded by having the Burdekin River named after him.
Local government service
Thomas Burdekin was a Councillor for Cook Ward from 3 October 1843 to 9 February 1844.
Information on Thomas Burdekin and the Burdekin family courtesy Michael Burdekin.
Shirley Humphries, ‘Burdekin, Sydney (1839–1899)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/burdekin-sydney-3331/text4627, accessed 24 January 2013.
City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files
Hughes, Joy (ed) 1999, Demolished Houses of Sydney, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Glebe
Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: Burdekin Papers ML MSS 147; manuscripts catalogue
Society of Australian Genealogists: Rookwood Index
State Records of NSW: Colonial Secretary’s papers re Land