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William Crane (1826-1914)

William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist

William Crane was born on October 5, 1826, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney. He was the son of William Christopher Crane (1799-1876)[1] a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street[2] and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape[3] and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood).[4] In his youth William was a keen sportsman. He was a cricketer and active member of the Newtown Cricket Club from its formation in 1858,[5] a boxer,[6] and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.[7]

In the 1850s, Crane and a number of companions went to the Ophir and Turon goldfields where he appears to have been unsuccessful in his gold prospecting unlike his younger brother, Christopher, who struck it rich at Gulgong.[8]  He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson [9] after which, in 1853[10], he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police.[11] He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861,[12] a magistrate of the colony in 1869,[13] and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court.[14] In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates[15] and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885.[16] He was highly regarded and an able magistrate as illustrated by, for the time, an unusual occurrence in his court when a young man stepped into the witness box, and when the Bible was tendered, shut the book. Said Mr Crane to him: “Why did you shut the book?” He said: “I am a Liberal or Freethinker.” He further stated he had no belief in the Bible, and there was nothing binding on his conscience, and he objected to take an oath. This at first seemed rather puzzling and brought the proceedings to a sudden standstill.[17]

Crane then consulted The Acts of Parliament to as to evidence … and the witness repeated after his Worship these words: “In the case in which I am called as witness. I promise to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth.”[18]

In 1850,[19] William married Margaret Fairweather (1828-1870) and they had nine children: William (1851-1920), Jane Ann (1853-1941), Rowland (1856-1857), Harriet (1858-1859), John (1862-?), Arthur (1864-1914), Emily (1865-1866), Margaret (1867-1867) and Florence (1868-1950). They were only married for twenty years when Margaret died in 1870. In 1877[20] William married Hannah Martha Hogg (1841-1930)[21] and they had three children: Annie (1877-1879), Ernest (1880-1846) and Hubert (1881-1971).

The Cranes set up house in Missenden Road, Newtown, where they lived until sometime after 1881 when William purchased ‘Marellan’ in Cavendish Road, Stanmore. While he was to live there until his death in 1914, a few years after the purchase of the property in 1884 he was seeking to dispose of it.[22] This attempt was unsuccessful as were two other attempts to sell or lease it in 1892 and 1897.[23] The latter sale attempts were during the economic depression that was gripping the colony and surely Crane would have only contemplated such a sale in these conditions if he were under some financial pressure.  Perhaps these latter attempts were related to servicing the debt of another purchase, a property of 100 acres at Hazelbrook, upon which stood ‘Hazelbrook House’ which he had acquired in 1889.[24] While Crane was to spend time at Hazelbrook during his retirement years, ‘Marellan’ at Stanmore was to remain the family home. It was a large house in an elevated position and was some 5 minutes’ walk to the railway station. It had 8 large rooms, wide verandahs and balconies, a servant’s room, bathroom, kitchen and wash-house and considerable grounds.[25] The Cranes used this home for Christian ministry with the Stanmore and Petersham Branch of the Girls Prayer Union, for example, meeting there on a Thursday at 4pm.[26]

Crane was deeply involved with the Anglican Church, being remembered by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, John Charles Wright,[27] as ‘a most loyal and earnest son of the Church, who, to the very end of his long life, did his utmost to serve her and the Great Master’. His long service in this field of philanthropy as spiritual engagement included being a member of the meeting in 1858 to inaugurate the Anglican Synod.[28] In the Synod he represented the parish of Narellan for more than twenty-five years and was also on the committee of the Church Society (later Home Mission Society) for fifty-seven years, the Australian Board of Missions for fifteen years[29] and an active member of the Church of England Association.[30] Crane was a low churchman and was concerned at what he and others perceived as ‘a wave of Ritualism which has begun to inundate the churches’ and so he was a presenter to the Anglican Synod of a petition, on behalf of 6000 members of the Church of England in NSW, to have the reredos removed from St Andrew’s Cathedral.[31]

The is no known photo of Crane but he is probably present in the front row of this photo. Fifth from the left is Sir Arthur Renwick

Benevolent Society Members 1897

For over twenty- three years,[32] Crane was superintendent of the Sunday School at St Stephen’s, Newtown, severing his connection in 1880.[33] For periods of 10 years he was connected with a number of ministries: the Bible Class at All Saints Petersham, the Bible Class at Christ Church Enmore, the Young Men’s Institutes at both Petersham and Enmore,[34] as well as the Mission Zone Fund. [35] He was also involved with various charities and community services. He was a member of the Camperdown Cemetery Trust for over forty years,[36] a member of the Sydney Female Refuge Society for fifty years (1864-1914)[37] and its Secretary from 1868-1914[38] with his wife Hannah serving for forty years on its Ladies Visiting Committee (1878-1918).[39] Crane was forty-three years on the board of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1871-1914),[40] a director of the Benevolent Asylum (1877-1914), becoming a life director in 1898. [41]    (See Picture [42]) For forty-nine years (1865- 1914)[43]  he was a member of the Sydney City Mission [44] and gave his support to the Religious Tract and Book Society from 1862 at least until 1874, and being a secretary of the committee from 1867.[45]

Crane died at his home ‘Marellan’ in Stanmore on May 26, 1914, at the age of 87 years and 7 months. After a service at St Stephen’s Church Newtown he was buried in the family grave in the Camperdown Cemetery of which he had been a Trustee. As a magistrate he saw paraded through his court drunks, prostitutes, thieves, wife abusers, forgers and many poor and destitute people and he sought to deal with these cases in accord with the law. Through this exposure he was well aware of great needs in colonial society and in his own time as a philanthropist he sought to provide for some of these needs. He was primarily involved in philanthropy as relief and in accord with his strong Christian commitment to philanthropy as spiritual engagement. While giving annually to various charities,[46] Crane was not a significant financial philanthropist, but a governance philanthropist who gave enormous amounts of his time over decades in the service of both his church and various charitable organisations.

Crane was not just interested in charitable administration for he was concerned also for those that the charities sought to assist. As was said of him by an old friend, he was ‘a worthy citizen, an utterly unselfish Christian gentleman, and a man the worse off you were the more he tried to help you’.[47] The Rev Thomas Heffernan, Rural Dean of the Blue Mountains, said of Crane that he was ‘held in high esteem by all who knew him for his Christian character and his devotion to his church. He has left an example that it will be an inspiration to follow’.[48] That Christian character and example made itself evident through his deep commitment to the humanity he sought to serve through his work as a Christian who was a magistrate and a philanthropist.

Dr Paul F Cooper, Research Fellow, Christ College, Sydney.


The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist. Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History, November 5, 2014.  Available at https://phinaucohi.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/william-crane-1826-1914-magistrate-and-philanthropist/


[1] Evening News, July 3, 1876.

[2] The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral Agricultural and Mining Advocate, June 10, 1914. The Theatre Royal was built close to the site of the hotel.

[3] V. W. E. Goodin, ‘Cape, William Timothy (1806–1863)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cape-william-timothy-2234/text2207, published in hardcopy 1966, [accessed online 8 October 2014].

[4] SMH, May 27, 1914.

[5] He was vice president in 1862 and maintained his interest for many years. Empire, May 30, 1862. It would appear that the Newtown side initially was all enthusiasm and little skill. Crane in 1867 top scored for Newtown, with 12 runs out of Newtown’s total of 26 runs, in a match against the Albert Club. Albert scored 258. Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, February 23, 1867.

[6] The Truth (Melbourne, Vic), June 13, 1914.

[7] SMH, May 27, 1914.

[8] Evening News, July 20, 1927, SMH, July 26, 1927. Christopher was quite a different man to his older brother being a miner, bookmaker and habitually and brutally assaulted his wife. They were divorced in 1878. Evening News, April 3, 1878.

[9] This was sometime after 1844 when JF Josephson was admitted as a Solicitor. H. T. E. Holt, ‘Josephson, Joshua Frey (1815–1892)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/josephson-joshua-frey-3873/text6167, published in hardcopy 1972, [accessed online 14 October 2014]. It would appear that there was a business connection between the Crane and Josephson families as William’s father acted as an Agent collecting rents for Joshua’s father. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, July 17, 1832.

[10] The World’s News, June 6, 1914.

[11] Sands Directory 1858, p226

[12] SMH, April 13, 1861.

[13] SMH, September 11, 1869.

[14] The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser, September 4, 1875.

[15] The Executive Council on January 5, 1882 appointed as Stipendiary Magistrates; John Dillon, James Buchanan, George O’Malley Clarke, John Milbourne Marsh, William Crane and Glentworth Walsh Fraser Addison. Northern Star, January 21, 1882; Goulburn Evening Penny Post, January 7, 1882.

[16] The Burrowa News, June 19, 1885.

[17] Evening News, January 14, 1884.

[18] Evening News, January 14, 1884.

[19] June 12, 1850 at St Johns Church of England Parramatta.

[20] January 4, 1877 St Barnabas Broadway Sydney.

[21] SMH, May 21, 1930. She was born in Madras, India the daughter of Dr Thomas Alexander Hogg of the Indian Army.

[22] SMH, January 5, 1884.

[23] SMH, June 8, 1892; November 16, 1892; April 21, 1897.

[24] The Blue Mountain Echo, June 5, 1914. http://www.midmountainshistory.org/hazelbrook.html [accessed November 2, 2014]

[25] SMH, January 5, 1884; April 21, 1897.

[26] SMH, December 1, 1888

[27] Stephen E. Judd, ‘Wright, John Charles (1861–1933)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-john-charles-9202/text16255, published in hardcopy 1990, [accessed  October 16, 2014.]

[28] SMH, November 24, 1858; December 10, 1858.

[29] The World’s News, June 6, 1914.

[30] Stephen Judd “William Crane 1824-1914) http://webjournals.ac.edu.au/journals/adeb/c/crane-william-1824-1914/ [accessed  October 16, 2014.]

[31] Freeman’s Journal, September 3, 1887.

[32] SMH, June 8, 1880, Evening News, May 26, 1914 gave the figure as 25.

[33] SMH, June 8, 1880.

[34] The World’s News, June 6, 1914.

[35] The World’s News, June 6, 1914.

[36] The Camperdown Cemetery Trust was created by an Act of the NSW Parliament in 1871 when William became a member of the Trust. Empire, March 23, 1871. He presumably kept this position until his death in 1914.

[37] Empire, March 8, 1864, SMH, May 13, 1914.

[38] SMH, July 22, 1869; May 13, 1914.

[39] SMH, May 21, 1878; March 20, 1918.

[40] SMH, March 7, 1871; February 24, 1914.

[41] SMH, January 26, 1877, Evening News, January 29, 1898.

[42] The picture is of the Benevolent Society Directors in 1897- Dr Arthur Renwick centre. I am uncertain as to which Director is Crane but he is probably in the front row and was by this stage the most senior director.

[43] SMH, June 13, 1865; June 20, 1914.

[44] SMH, May 27, 1914.

[45] Empire, October 29, 1862, SMH, May 27, 1874.

[46] For instance he gave £1-1-0 annually to the Sydney Female Refuge Society from 1866 until his death. Any year he missed he doubled his donation in the following year.

[47] The World’s News, June 6, 1914.

[48] The Blue Mountains Echo, June 5, 1914

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