Sir John Morphett

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Sir John Morphett

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: London, England
Death: November 7, 1892 (83)
Cummins, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Place of Burial: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Immediate Family:

Son of Nathaniel Morphett and Mary Morphett
Husband of Elizabeth (Bessey) Morphett
Father of Mary Morphett; Amy Gawler Morphett; Ada Fisher Morphett; John Cummins Morphett; Adelaide Sturt Henderson and 6 others
Brother of Nathaniel Morphett; George Morphett and Mary Morphett

Occupation: Pioneer, politician, landowner, explorer, immigration promoter, company director, benefactor
Managed by: Jim Henderson
Last Updated:

About Sir John Morphett

Sir John Morphett (1809-1892), landowner and politician

Sir John Morphett was born on 4 May 1809 in London, he was the second son of Nathaniel Morphett and Mary, née Gliddon, of Cummins, Ide, Devon. His father came from a Kentish family and was a London solicitor. After leaving school at 16 Morphett joined a London commercial office and at 21 entered the counting-house of Harris & Co., in Alexandria, Egypt.

On 20 March 1836, Morphett sailed for South Australia in the Cygnet, which arrived at Kangaroo Island on 11 September 1836. On 5 November 1836, the Cygnet arrived at Holdfast Bay. Next day, with Lieutenant Field and George Strickland Kingston, he "discovered" the River Torrens. With others on the Cygnet, he also identified the mouth of the Port River, identified the suitability of Port Adelaide, and visited Port Lincoln with Light. At the crucial meeting on 10 February 1837, he played a decisive role in confirming the choice of Adelaide for a settlement.

On 15 August 1838 he married Elizabeth Hurtle Fisher, the eldest daughter of James Hurtle Fisher (later Sir James), whom he had first met at the meetings of the South Australian Literary Association in London. They were married at Trinity Church, South Australia's first Anglican Church.

Morphett was appointed treasurer to the town corporation on 5 December 1840, and on 15 June 1843 was nominated as one of four non-official members of the expanded South Australian Legislative Council. In January 1845 he chaired the meeting called to protest the British government's proposal to send Parkhurst prison boys to South Australia. In September 1846, as a protest against the mining royalty bill being passed by the casting vote of Governor Robe, Morphett and the three other non-official council members left the chamber – in consequence the council was left without a quorum. In August 1851 Morphett became Speaker of the enlarged Legislative Council, and on 9 March 1857 he was elected a member of the legislative council at the first election under responsible government. He was chief secretary in the Thomas Reynolds ministry from February to October 1861, and on 31 March 1865 was elected President of the South Australian Legislative Council, a position he held until his retirement. He was knighted on 16 February 1870 for his services to South Australia. In February 1873 he retired from politics and public life. His sons Hurtle and John Cummins took over the running of his properties along the Murray


He died at his house, Cummins, Morphettville, on 7 November 1892, survived by six daughters and four sons. Portraits include a crayon drawing by Samuel Laurence in the possession of H. C. Morphett, Adelaide. As a prominent founder, his name figures large in South Australia's toponymy.

Cummins House is a historic house in Adelaide, situated at 19-23 Sheoak Avenue, Novar Gardens. It was listed on the South Australian Heritage Register on 24 July 1980.[1]

On 15 May 1838, John Morphett used his preliminary land order to buy 134 acres of land bounded by Pine Avenue, Anzac Highway and Morphett Road, near the present Morphettville race course. On 13 January 1840, he was granted title to the land which he named "Cummins Estate" after his mother's Devonshire farm. He kept sheep and cows, planted fruit trees, vines and olive groves, and cultivated a variety of local and imported trees. A horse lover, he also kept a stud and was involved in racing. (He was one of the original directors of the Morphettville Racing Club, founded in 1847)


John Morphett Grave Stone, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Photo by Pdfpdf Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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Sir John Morphett's Timeline

May 4, 1809
London, England
April 15, 1840
Age 30
Morphettville, SA, Australia
August 13, 1841
Age 32
Morphettville, SA, Australia
May 5, 1843
Age 34
Morphett Vale, SA, Australia
September 16, 1844
Age 35
Morphettville, SA, Australia
May 23, 1846
Age 37
Morphettville, SA, Australia
October 22, 1848
Age 39
Morphettville, SA, Australia