Collection RS12 - Knopwood Diary

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Knopwood Diary


  • 1805-1808 (Creation)

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1 folio volume, bound vellum

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Biographical history

Robert Knopwood (1763–1838), clergyman, was the son of a gentleman farmer in Norfolk. The family struggled against debts and Robert's only inheritance was the family silver. After gaining his MA at Oxford, he entered the Anglican ministry in 1788. One of his first sermons, the theme of which was repeated often during his life, demonstrated his belief that his duty was to make known the Christian Gospel which should be put into practice by his hearers. He joined the Navy as a chaplain in 1801, was appointed to Collins' expedition, and arrived at Port Phillip in 1803. From that time he acted not only as cleric but also as magistrate.

Knopwood kept a diary which gives a valuable record of colonial life in a new colony. He was a genial character who mixed with all classes of people; and despite later criticism by higher authority managed to give a relatively unbiased account of the early turbulent years of settlement. Governor Macquarie was not an admirer – criticising Knopwood's support of Collins against Bligh – and Knopwood has been criticised for his harshness as a magistrate, but his treatment of guilty persons was typical for the times. His adoption of a 'poor orphan child', Elizabeth Mack (later Morrisby) showed the sympathetic side of his nature, and he became a friend and supporter of Catholic chaplain Conolly. Despite recurrent attacks of illness, he continued to carry out his clerical duties, and died in 1838, his last sermon stating his view of humanity: 'it consists of supporting the Man, and maintaining the Christian'. For more information see

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Bequeathed by Miss Mabel Hookey to the Royal Society

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Scope and content

Diary of Rev. Robert Knopwood dated 1 January 1805 to 17 July 1808. The diary is headed 'Revd. Robert Knopwood, Chaplain, Hobart Town, Derwent River, Van Diemens Land'. It begins on Tuesday 1 January 1805, noting 'a general muster of all the prisoners in the colony it being New Years Day'. It is written in a neat hand, some words being abbreviated. Knopwood notes, for example, dining with the Governor and others , visiting the Government Farm, kangaroo shooting, fishing, the shortage of provisions in the colony, the weather, the arrival and departure of ships, occasionally christenings, etc. etc.
Some pages have been cut out leaving only the date (probably by R.K.)

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This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

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Publication note

A transcript of this diary (1805-1808) made by W.H. Hudspeth, was published in Papers & Proceedings of the Roy. Soc. of Tas., 1946 & 1947.
Pt 1 -
Pt 2 -

See also
• Bobby Knopwood in his times, Hobart . (Fuller) 1929, and The Chaplain, being some further account of the days of Bobby Knopwood, /M. Hookey, Hobart (Fuller's Book Shop 1970)
• The diary of the Reverend Robert Knopwood, 1803-1838 :First chaplain of Van Diemen's Land / edited by Mary Nicholls. Published by Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 1977.
Held at Roy Soc Rare DU 194.3 .K58 A3 1977

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HE Apr.2020




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