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Sir William F. Jervois

1821 – 1897

Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois (1821-1897), governor, attended the Royal Military Academy before being commissioned to the Royal Engineers in 1839. After two years’ study at the School of Military Engineering he was posted to the Cape of Good Hope, where he undertook surveying of ‘Kaffraria’. Having returned to England, where he married Lucy Norsworthy in 1850, he occupied increasingly responsible positions until by 1862, he was lieutenant-general and director of works for fortifications. After tours of US harbour defences and British defences of colonised islands, and a series of lectures on iron fortifications, he was made KCMG in 1874. In early 1875 Jervois (pronounced ‘Jarvis’) was appointed governor of the Straits Settlements, in which capacity he developed respect for Chinese people. Early in 1877, Jervois was directed to survey the defences of Australia and New Zealand. Having completed his work in New South Wales, in Melbourne in June of 1877 he was notified of ‘promotion’ to governor of South Australia (in fact, the change is said to have been a means to get him out of the way on the Malay mainland). Sworn in in October 1877, he was soon able to report on the colony’s defences. He turned the sod of South Australia’s first tramway, opened new rail lines and laid the foundation stones of the University of Adelaide and of the new institute and art gallery; he chaired meetings of the Bible Society, the City Mission and other philanthropic institutions and lectured to raise funds for the Young Men's Christian Association. In time he was credited with having ‘done much to modify unreasonable prejudice against Chinese labour’. He oversaw the construction of the new Houses of Parliament and a vice-regal summer residence at Marble Hill, and promoted both horse-racing and Turkish bathing in Adelaide. His wife Lucy founded a Young Women's Institute and was active in charity work. Their daughter Caroline, one of four children, married the Rev Arthur Purey-Cust in Adelaide in 1882. In January 1883 Jervois left South Australia to take up the post of governor of New Zealand, where he was to remain for six years. The Adelaide Register judged that he was ‘not only one of the ablest and most judicious but also one of the most deservedly popular of our Governors’. Upon his departure he gave £100 toward the Anglican Cathedral. Jervois’s published papers and lectures include Defences of Great Britain and her Dependencies (1880) and Colonisation (1882).

Updated 2018