Dictionary of Sydney

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Blaxcell, Garnham

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Blaxcell, Garnham

Garnham Blaxcell arrived in Sydney as acting purser on board HMS Buffalo in 1802. His colonial career showed early promise. He found favour with the newly appointed Governor, Philip Gidley King, who was keen to bring about administrative changes in the colony. In his first years in Sydney, Blaxcell held several official positions. He was appointed deputy commissary in 1803, acting provost marshal in 1804 and finally acting secretary to the colony, a position he held from 20 April 1804 until 12 August 1806. He also benefitted from King's policy of encouraging private farmers through land grants. The most significant of the grants to Blaxcell was 1125 acres (455 hectares) along the Dog Trap Road (now Woodville Road) at Granville, which was known as the Drainwell estate.

Blaxcell was a successful entrepreneur and became a close business associate of John Macarthur in a number of ventures. He accumulated extensive interests, including a farm at Petersham, a windmill at Pyrmont and warehouses and accommodation in Sydney. He also owned several trading vessels.

Ousted from his official positions on the arrival of Governor Bligh, inevitably Blaxcell, as a member of the colonial elite, felt threatened by the new governor's reforms, especially in relation to the occupation of land and the regulation of trading. He took an active part in the overthrow of Bligh, as both a signatory to the requisition for the governor's arrest and as a member of the committee which seized Bligh's papers. The military junta subsequently appointed Blaxcell a magistrate and the colony's sole auctioneer.

Notwithstanding his role in Bligh's demise, in 1810 Blaxcell was one of the contractors appointed by Macquarie to build the new hospital for Sydney, in exchange for the rights to the importation of rum for the next three years. However, by the time the hospital was completed in 1816, his ambition, years of juggling their business partnerships in Macarthur's absence, and other unsuccessful speculations had led him heavily into debt. Rather than face legal proceedings, Garnham Blaxcell made a clandestine departure from the colony in April 1817, only to die in Batavia on 3 October 1817.


EW Dunlop, 'Blaxcell, Garnham (1778–1817)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 1, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1966, p 115

A Charge of Mutiny: The Court Martial of Lieutenant George Johnston for deposing Governor William Bligh in the Rebellion of 26 January 1808, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1988.