DAVENPORT, Sir Samuel (1818-1906)


DAVENPORT, Sir Samuel (1818-1906)
pioneer and man of business
belonged to a well-known and ancient English family whose seat was at Great Wigston, Leicestershire. He was the fourth son of George Davenport, banker, and his wife Jane Devereux Davies and was born at Sherburn, England, on 5 March 1818. Threatened with consumption when a young man, he travelled much for his health in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, and thus developed an interest in olive and vine-growing. A brother visited Australia about 1840, and returning to England reported that the climate of South Australia was admirably suited to invalids. On 8 September 1842 Samuel Davenport sailed to Tasmania and from there went to Adelaide. He arrived there in February 1843 and immediately went on the land at Macclesfield. The open-air life suited him and his health soon improved. He was nominated to the old legislative council in 1846, and opposed state aid to religion and an attempt to impose royalties on mineral products. He worked for responsible government, and was a non-official member of the legislative council when the constitution act was passed. He was commissioner of public works in the Finniss (q.v.) ministry from March to August 1857, and on 1 September 1857 was given the same position in the Torrens (q.v.) ministry, which, however, lasted for only four weeks. He remained in the legislative council until 1866 but did not hold office again. He extended his land holdings, planted peach, apple and olive trees and vines, and took great interest in the spread of their culture. In 1864 he published a pamphlet of 94 pages on Some New Industries for South Australia. This dealt with the manufacture of olive oil and silk, flower-farming and tobacco culture. In 1870 he published another pamphlet on The Cultivation of the Olive, and 34 years later the agricultural bureau of South Australia published his Notes on the Olive and its Values to Country suitable for its Growth. His great interest in these subjects led to his being elected president of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society, a position he held for several years.
Davenport's interests, however, were not confined to the land. He was a trustee of the savings bank and for 20 years was president of the chamber of manufactures. As far back as 1851 he represented South Australia as executive commissioner at the great exhibition held in London, and he held similar positions at the exhibitions held at Philadelphia in 1876, Sydney in 1879, Melbourne in 1880, the Colonial and Indian exhibition in 1886, and the Centennial exhibition at Melbourne in 1888. In his later years he was on the board of directors of several companies and kept his interest in everything that was for the good of the state. He died on 3 September 1906. He married in 1842 Margaret Fraser, only daughter of William Lennox Cleland, who died in 1902. They had no children. Davenport was knighted in 1884 and created K.C.M.G. in 1886. In the same year Cambridge gave him the honorary degree of LL.D. His natural charm and perfect integrity made him an ideal representative of his country in other lands, and in South Australia during his long life he was an important influence in its municipal, political, business, social, philanthropic and religious organizations.
Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891, vol. I; The Register, Adelaide, 4 September 1906; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 4 September 1906.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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