Drawing the Downs: Thomas Domville Taylor
Timothy Roberts, HGRC Visiting Fellow, 2019 to 2021

Please note: some content in this text may be distressing for some readers.

Portrait of Thomas Domville Taylor, ca. 1862 (National Library of Australia, call number PIC Volume 1126 #PIC/14394/16)

On coming to a gully which seemed to go thro’ an opening between the scrub, we followed it down which brought us to a creek in a beautiful valley on which we camped; at finding a small water hole with tea trees lining it near which one solitary cockatoo was perched on a high gum tree, from this circumstance we called the creek Cockatoo Creek. The creek was bounded by beautiful sound flats, skirted by open undulating ridges and well adapted for a sheep. It was quite a relief to our eyes after the sandy scrubby country we had travelled over.
Thomas John Domville Taylor, 6 September 1845

Thomas John Domville Taylor’s relationship with Queensland’s formative pastoral landscape is unique. Born into a landed family in England and travelling to Australia in his early 20’s, Taylor assumed the roles of pastoralist and later explorer in the six years that he spent living and working on the Darling Downs. While in Australia, Taylor sketched his surrounds, and kept a pragmatic account of his participation in Christopher Pemberton Hodgson’s search expedition for Ludwig Leichhardt in August-September 1845. Six sketches by Taylor were collected by the National Library of Australia in 2010; this was later augmented by the Library’s acquisition of more sketches, a scrapbook and a journal by Taylor in 2017.

Taylor was the third child of Mascie Domvile Taylor and his wife Diana née Houghton. He was baptised on 10 April 1817 in Chester Cathedral. Taylor’s father had matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford in 1802 and attained a Master of Arts in 1809. He was appointed Rector of Langton, Yorkshire in 1818 and Moreton Corbett, Shropshire the following year, a post he held until his death on 9 October 1845. [1] Macsie Domville Taylor held the Manorial seat of Lymm Hall; is it likely that Thomas and his siblings grew up there. The Taylors were socially connected; Thomas John Domville Taylor’s godfather was Lord Amesbury. [2]

Taylor arrived in Sydney aboard the Euphrates on 20 December 1839. [3] Little is known of his early time in Australia, however Taylor’s sketchbooks reveal that he travelled south to Omeo Plains and the Snowy Mountains before moving northward passing Liverpool Plains and Byron Plains, eventually reaching Queensland in 1841, accompanied by John Howell and Charles Markham. [4] By 1842 Taylor had established himself on a pastoral lease bordering the Condamine River known as the Broadwater. Taylor was partnered with Dr John Rolland, who had travelled to the Downs with his wife Fanny and their two children in 1842. [5] The lease for Broadwater had initially been taken up by James Wingate in 1841, but was renamed Tummaville by Rolland and Taylor by 1843. [6] Stations neighbouring Tummaville included Yandilla, licensed to St George Richard Gore, and Ellangowan, licensed to John Thane, with Cecil Plains and Eton Vale stations nearby.

  1. Joseph Foster, ed., Alumni Oronienses: the members of the University of Oxford 1715-1886: their parentage, birthplace and year of birth, with a record of their degrees, vol. 4, Oxford: Parker & Co., (c.1891), p. 1395.
  2. Flintshire Observer, Mining Journal and General Advertiser for the Counties of Flint and Denbigh, 21 September 1889, p. 6.
  3. The Australian, 21 December 1839, p. 2.
  4. Letter from Domville Taylor to the Colonial Secretary, 4 January 1841, requesting access to Moreton Bay settlement.
  5. Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 1842, p. 2.
  6. New South Wales Government Gazette, 27 October 1843 (no. 90), p. 1395.