Captain Christopher Gwatkin (1796-1859)

Captain Christopher Gwatkin  (1797-1859)

 After the barque Stirlingshire was sold at Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land in 1849, it was prepared by its new owners for voyaging between that port and London. From its first departure to London in January, 1850, until it was again sold in 1855 in London, Captain Gwatkin was its only master, and he completed a total of 11 voyages.
- Don Armitage, © 2008.


Significant events-

Born                Abt 1797  

Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales 

Christened       21 Oct 1797    Walford, Herefordshire, England

Parents             William Gwatkin(born abt 1760, died 23 Dec 1806 Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales) and Elizabeth Maria Harris who were married in Walford, Herefordshire, England 31 May 1784

Died                26 Jul 1859     Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia 

Buried             Warrnambool Cemetery, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia 

Spouse            Mary Ann Pounds | F1791  b. 22 Oct 1805 d. 26 Sep 1844

Married           13 Aug 1829   St John, Horsleydown, Surrey, England 


William Henry Gwatkin  b. 28 Dec 1832

                        Christopher Thomas Gwatkin  b. 21 Sep 1835 d. Bef 1840

                        Henry Gwatkin  b. 1837 d. 31 Jul 1855 Walter Gwatkin  c. 17 Oct 1841 d. 1842

 Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales


                        Walter Gwatkin  c. 17 Oct 1841 d. 1842

                        Alfred Frederick Gwatkin  b. Abt 1843 m  Agnes Elizabeth Dunbar b. Abt 1844 d. 06 Nov 1902

Spouse(2)        Charlotte Elizabeth Peer (Married as Charlotte Elizabeth Courtney, widow)

Married            26 Dec 1854    Launceston, Tasmania, Australia 

1849 takes shareholding in 400 ton barque ‘Stirlingshire’ becomes its master.

1850-55 master of ‘Stirlingshire’ between Launceston and London and Liverpool. [11 voyages -dja]

1857 becomes harbour master at Warrnambool, Victoria. 

1859, July 26th, dies of tetanus aged about 63 at Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia..

         Buried Warrnambool Cemetery, Episcopalian Section, Grave No. 18, Row 7. Victoria.

 Friday 4th December, 1857

Warrnambool Examiner newspaper,.

NEW APPOINTMENT - Capt. C. Gwatkin, who many years ago commanded the “Scout”, between Melbourne and Tasmania, has been appointed Harbour Master for Warrnambool.


July 26th, 1859

Epitaph on his tombstone.

The epitaph on his tombstone at the Warrnambool Cemetery, which has an anchor on it in memory of his occupation as first Harbour Master.


            “Sacred to the memory of Capt Christopher Gwatkin

            For many years engaged in the Mercantile Marine

            of Australia,

            who died July 26th, 1859. Aged 56 years.”


Around the bottom of the tombstone is a text taken from Job verses 25 and 26 -


            “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall

            Stand at the latter day upon the earth

            And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet

            In my flesh I see God.”


Photo Les O'Callaghan of Warrnambool, Victoria.
On the east side top is the following-

            “What hope (have I) of Life (except in Christ)….”

The words in brackets are impossible to read but they follow the words of a text found in 1 Corinthians 15-19. He is buried in the Warrnambool Cemetery, Episcopalian Section, Grave Number 18, Row 7.


Friday, July 29th 1859

‘Warrnambool Examiner’ newspaper

MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY - A magisterial inquiry was held by the Police Magistrate on Wednesday and Thursday last, at the Police Office, touching the approximate cause of death, and the medical treatment of the late Capt. Gwatkin. The Police Magistrate said he was holding the inquiry in obedience to a telegram he received from the Attorney-General, who had been applied to by the widow of the deceased gentleman. A post mortem examination was performed by Dr. Bainbridge. The only witnesses examined were medical men, including Drs. O’Hara, Boyd, and Bainbridge. Dr.Clarke, the Coroner, partly gave evidence, but afterwards protested, as Coroner, against the whole proceedings. At the close of the evidence yesterday, the Police Magistrate observed that it would be necessary to take the deposition of the widow, but her convenience would have to be consulted as to the time. When the evidence on this singular case is completed, we intend publishing the whole of it.


OBITUARY. - It is our painful duty this day to notice the death of our respected Harbour Master, Capt. Gwatkin. The deceased gentleman about a month ago received a splinter in the fore-finger of his right hand. After several ineffectual attempts to extract it, Capt. Gwatkin became so ill as to be confined to his bed, where his case became so alarming, through being unable to open his jaws, that a consultation was held by Drs. Clarke and O’Hara, and the splinter was at last removed. Dr. Boyd (of Belfast) was also consulted, and both he and Dr. Clarke had a most favourable opinion of the recovery of the patient up to the very day of his death. At about 2 o’clock, however, on Tuesday morning last, the deceased suddenly expired, it is supposed whilst in a spasm. It has seldom been our lot to record the final departure of one so universally respected as Capt. Gwatkin. He was about one of the oldest colonists in Victoria, and during the infancy of Melbourne, was long and honourably known to the trading community as captain and owner of the brig “Scout”. He was the beau ideal of not only an “Old English Gentleman”, but of an “Old Colonist” also. His generous heart and general deportment endeared him to all who knew him, whilst to those who were fortunate enough to enjoy his private friendship, his death leaves a blank which will long remain. As Harbour Master he always took the utmost interest in his office, and was always at his post, whether in fair or foul weather. To a young and rising community such as this, we regard his loss as a public one, and fervently hope his successor, whoever he may be, will be worthy of taking his place. Capt.Gwatkin leaves a widow in Warrnambool, and two sons, one in India in the army, and one at school in England. His remains were interred yesterday, in the Cemetery, followed by a large concourse of people.



Friday, August 5th, 1859

‘Warrnambool Examiner’ newspaper


                                    MAGESTERIAL ENQUIRY  (sic)

 A magisterial enquiry was held at the Police Office, Wednesday, the 27th July.


Source- Les O’Callaghan, of the Warrnambool & District Historical Society Inc. Victoria, Australia.

Les also very kindly went and photographed Capt. Gwatkin’s grave, and that is much appreciated. -Don Armitage 2008.