William Thurlow


Terms served on Council

Title Council From To
Alderman City of Sydney 1843 1853
Alderman City of Sydney 1857 1859
Mayor City of Sydney 1851 1852

Family background

William Thurlow Jnr was born in the West Indies in 1815. His parents were William Thurlow Snr (1788-1865) and Maria Donovan (c1790-c1825), the daughter of an Antiguan sugar plantation owner. They had five children: John William (1810-73), Edward Alston (1812-22), William Jnr (1815-73), Louisa Maria (c1815-66), and Henry James (1816-81).

The marriage of William Thurlow Snr and Maria broke down in 1816 following Maria’s adultery.

In 1824 William Thurlow Snr was charged in the ‘Old Bailey’, with theft from a ‘French actress’ but the charges did not proceed. Shortly after, he ‘voluntarily’ transported to Australia. He arrived in Sydney from London with his three sons on the Shand on 4 August 1825. The family soon moved to Wallis Plains (today’s Maitland) to take up a substantial land grant. There they were pioneering free settlers.

In 1830, as a 15 year old, William Thurlow Jnr moved back to Sydney. On 3 May 1837, he married Ann Jane James (1820-1854) at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Sydney, and they had two daughters: Louisa (1835-57) and Frances (1837-?). Following the death of Ann in 1854 during childbirth, he married Elizabeth Dowling (c1830 -1904) in 1869. There were no children of that union.

After qualifying as an Attorney (Solicitor), his brother John William Thurlow moved with his wife and family to Port Phillip (Melbourne) in 1839. He was the second lawyer to arrive in that colony.

William Thurlow Snr died in Sydney in 1864, aged 75 years old.

Occupation & interests

When William Thurlow Jnr moved to Sydney in 1830, he worked as a clerk for William Charles Wentworth. In 1837 he was admitted as an Attorney and almost immediately formed a partnership with Charles Henry Chambers, who in 1842 became the first Town Clerk. . The partnership was dissolved in July 1842 and William Thurlow Jnr formed a partnership with James McPherson Grant in Pitt Street north.

In October 1844, WilliamThurlow Jnr had accumulated property that became known as Thurlow’s Terrace, Bourke Street in Surry Hills and was advertising for rent, two offices in Pitt Street. He had been an early purchaser of East Balmain land, acquiring two lots in Paul Street.

In the 1850s, his partner Grant left for California and Victoria where he acted as solicitor for the Eureka stockade rioters. Thurlow then went into partnership with Stephen Campbell Brown and Alexander Dick with offices at 308 Pitt Street. In 1863, healso had an office in Elizabeth Street. Thurlow lived in Bligh Street before moving to 203 Bourke Street, Redfern.

Parliamentary service

William Thurlow Jnr was elected as a member of the Legislative Council for the City of Sydney, defeating Henry Parkes at a by-election in March 1853. He retained the seat until he vacated it in December 1854 in order to return ‘home’ to England for a visit. He died in 1873.

Local government service

William Thurlow Jnr was elected Councillor for Bourke Ward of Sydney Council on 7 October 1843. He was active in council affairs and was a strong advocate for a better sewerage system for Sydney. He was rather sensationally elected Mayor in 1851 when he challenged the electoral bona fides of the winning candidate. The Supreme Court upheld his claim, as the second place getter, to be appointed to the mayoralty. The newspapers dubbed him the ‘Mandamus Made Mayor of Sydney’. Surprisingly, he was elected mayor again the following year.

While on council he led investigations into council workings, and partly as a result of one of his reports, the Corporation was abolished in October 1853 and replaced, for the first time, by Commissioners. Just before this occurred, Thurlow had resigned his seat.

He was re-elected for Gipps Ward from 1 December 1857 to 30 November 1859.


Information on William Thurlow and the Thurlow family courtesy Simon Smith.

City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files

Golder, Hilary 2004, Sacked: removing and remaking the Sydney City Council 1853-1988, City of Sydney.

McCormack, Terri, ‘Thurlow, William’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2010, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/entry/thurlow_william, viewed 05 December 2012

Leichhardt Historical Journal Volume 11

Parliament of New South Wales, Former Member Mr William Edward Thurlow

Smith, Simon 2014, ‘William Thurlow (1815-1873): The Mandamus Made Mayor of Sydney’, in Barristers, Solicitors, Pettifoggers: profiles in Australian colonial legal history, Victoria Maverick Publications, Elwood.

State Records of NSW:  Bounty Index; Col Sec Index


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