Atkinson, Thomas

Date of Birth/Death:


Thomas Atkinson – J.P. farmer, land-owner, horse and cattle breeder, politician, Captain of the Willunga Rifle Volunteers.

Thomas Atkinson was born on 8 July 1822 at Waddingham, and baptized in St. Mary Church of England on 3 August, in Lincolnshire, England. He was the third surviving son of Robert Atkinson (1774-1832) and Susanna(h) Fish (1788-1832) of Hayes Farm, Smitherby, Lincolnshire. Thomas was 9 years old when his parents died in 1832 and his older brother William Atkinson (1814-1840) took over the farm. The four Atkinson brothers (William, Robert, Thomas and Joseph) and their sisters Martin (nee Atkinson, formerly Hall), Bridget and Holman (nee Atkinson), Susanna, some with their families, travelled to South Australia on board Singapore from London. They arrived at Holdfast Bay on 12 November 1839, Thomas was then aged 17 years.

Thomas, aged 25, married Jane Bastian Atkinson, aged 23, (1824-1910), the daughter of Sampson Bastian (senior), on 20 May 1847 in Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide. They had one daughter Ada Jane Ann, who was born in late 1865 and died on 11 March 1866, aged 9 weeks. Thomas and Jane later adopted Thomas Arthur Palmer (1869-1885) who died at South Terrace, aged 16 years, on 7 March 1885 and is buried in St. Stephen’s Anglican cemetery at Willunga. The Atkinson brothers built the first hotel Lincolnshire House, later Old Bush Inn on Lots 6 and 7 in the township of Willunga in Dec 1839. Thomas and his brother Joseph jointly purchased eighty acres (Lot 235) for 80 pounds and one shilling in the Government Land Sale in 1847. Thomas occupied land in the Willunga district, which he named Ashley Farm, from the early 1840s. Thomas purchased Lot 33 in St Luke Street in the township of Willunga from Henry Johnson on 25 August 1846. Council records in 1850 indicate that he was the owner or occupier of 240 acres of land comprising of sections 263, 264 and 701. Thomas also purchased 74 acres in section 746 south-west of the township of Willunga for 87 pounds on 23 May 1855 and he owned land at Glenelg. He sold some land to the Anglican Church for the new St Stephen’s Church (built in 1884).

In addition to his land holdings and his activities as a farmer and pastoralist, Thomas was also one of seven founding shareholders in the Willunga Flax Company in 1869. Thomas was very active in the community and in public life. He was a member of the Willunga Road Board, which subsequently became the Willunga District Council, for 28 consecutive years. In 1878 he was elected to Parliament serving two terms as the representative for Noarlunga (1878-1887) where he was nicknamed “the silent member” as he was not a public speaker and rarely contributed to debate. In 1860 Thomas was appointed by Governor MacDonnell as Captain of the Willunga Rifle Volunteers and later in 1893 he became honorary captain of the Mounted Volunteer Force. Thomas was an active member of the Willunga and District Agricultural and Horticultural Society and, as the president of that Society, he laid the foundation stone for the Agricultural Show Hall built in 1890. He was on the School Board of Advice.

Aged 84 years, Thomas died at Ashley Farm on 15 Oct 1906 and he is buried in St. Stephen’s Anglican cemetery at Willunga.


Australia Marriage Index 1788-1950 District Adelaide Vol. 2 page 52
Australia Death Index 1878-1985 District Willunga Vol. 320 page 496
Australia Death Index 1878-1985 District Willunga Vol. 23 page 138
1899 ‘About Men and Women’, Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954), 29 July, p. 4. , viewed 04 Feb 2024
1885Family Notices’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 10 March, p. 4. , viewed 04 Feb 2024
1906 ‘THE LATE MR. T. ATKINSON.‘, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 17 October, p. 5. , viewed 04 Feb 2024
1906 ‘DEATHS OF PIONEERS.’, The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), 16 October, p. 6. , viewed 04 Feb 2024

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