William John Turner Clarke

William John Turner Clarke, M.L.C. (20 April 1805 – 13 January 1874), was an Australian politician, member of the Victorian Legislative Council November 1856 to January 1861 and January 1863 to November 1870.[1]

An 1888 illustration of Clarke

Clarke was born in Somersetshire, England,[1] the second son of William Clarke, of St. Botolph, Aldgate, London, and Sarah nee Turner, of Weston Zoyland, in Somersetshire.[2] His father died, and he was raised by his uncle [3] Health issues (a weak chest and a malformed hip) forced him to immigrate, and he settled in Tasmania in 1840,[3] and subsequently acquired extensive pastoral property in that colony, and in Victoria, South Australia, and New Zealand. Clarke was member for the Southern Province in the Legislative Council.

Clarke married Eliza, daughter of the Reverend George Pyke Dowling, of Puckington, Somerset, and Anne Biggs his wife, of an old and wealthy family of Bristol merchants, and had issue three sons — William John Clarke; Thomas Biggs Clarke, who was endowed with his father's Quorn Hall and Brambletye properties in Tasmania; and Joseph Clarke, who inherited the paternal estates in South Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.[2]

Known generally as 'Big' Clarke and 'Moneyed' Clarke, he was widely known for his land hunger. He did not engage in agriculture but stuck to the 'raising of sheep' as a 'better paying game'. He introduced the Leicester breed of sheep into Australia. The gold rush further increased his prosperity and meat sales boomed. The money received from his wool clips was lent at high interest to Australian import houses. He made numerous generous large donations to various charities. In time he acquired the reputation of being the richest man in Australia, this being regarded as a consequence of what his obituaries term 'parsimonious habits'. He was such a large man that 8 people were needed to carry him around on a reinforced Eucalypt pine/oak litter.

Clarke died in Essendon, Victoria on 13 January 1874.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Clarke, William John Turner". Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b Mennell, Philip (1892). "Clarke, Hon. William John Turner" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ a b "Clarke, William John 1902" http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/clarke-william-john-1902
Victorian Legislative Council
New creation Member for
Southern Province

November 1856 – Jan 1861
With: John Bennett
Thomas Power
Thomas McCombie 1856–59
Gideon Rutherford 1859–60
William Degraves 1860–
Donald Kennedy
Succeeded by
Joseph Sutherland