Captain Joseph Moore (1774-1857)

An Early Sydney Maritime Figure

Joseph Moore was a master mariner, ship-owner, whaler and merchant.  He and his family have left their mark on Sydney but he is less well known than his colleagues, Robert Campbell and Robert Towns.

—Moore’s Wharf and warehouses in 1847 with Millers Point villas above – from State Library of NSW

Joseph Moore was the son of Ralph Moore of Bywell, County of Durham.  He married Ann Bailey, daughter of Anthony Bailey, of Whickham, in the same county, in the year 1812.  Their first child, Henry Moore, born on 26 September 1815 was christened in Whitechapel.

Moore first appears in the records as chief mate of a whaler in Lima.  He was later master of the Mary Ann, then the Cretan, a ship of 356 tons, the Coquette and the brig, Woodlark of 239 tons.  These vessels plied between England and Port Jackson bringing supplies to Sydney.  Return cargo would not be guaranteed and it was customary for many of these ships to go whaling.

Moore bought the Woodlark to Sydney in 1820 with his wife and, by now, two sons, in order to settle in Australia.  He continued in command of the Woodlark for Messrs. Jones, Riley and Walker until 1825, whaling in the South Seas.  Captain Moore then became a partner in the firm, replacing Edward Riley. In 1833, Moore lived in “Cumberland House”, Cumberland Street, between Essex Street and Argyle Cut, Sydney.  He was probably the owner when the house was built. In 1835, he purchased “Clyde Bank”, which still stands in The Rocks [Lower Fort Street, Dawes Point], Sydney. In 1834, he received a land grant at Mosman, overlooking the whaling station. In 1840, he sold the forty acres for £100 to Oswald Bloxsome. It became the site of Mosman’s most famous early home, now sadly gone – “The Rangers”.

Henry, Joseph Moore’s eldest son, also entered the firm.  The firm must have flourished for, around 1838, Joseph and Henry bought the magnificent old stone building originally built by Robert Towns on the northern extremity of the Millers Point shoreline at a site known as Jones’ Wharf (on the corner of Towns Place and Dalgety Road). The building is thought to be the second oldest remaining quayside warehouse on the mainland of Australia.  The simple colonial building, now occupied by the Maritime Services Union, was moved to its present site when the No. 3 wharf was re-developed.  The original site was known as Moore’s Wharf for the next sixty years and was the scene of much activity in the sailing ship days.  According to Wheeler, most of the gold won during the gold rush in New South Wales was shipped from this wharf.

In addition to being merchants, the Moores were shipowners, owning the whale ships, Lynx, Lady Leith, Wolf and Woodlark. Henry Moore held the agency of the P & O Steam Navigation Company till 1880.  Joseph Moore died of “paralysis” (presumably due to a stroke one month earlier) on 25 September, 1857 at the age of 74 years. He was attended by Dr Bland.

Nine of Joseph Moore’s eleven children were alive at his death. The most illustrious of these was probably Henry, who was obviously successful in the early commercial activities of Sydney.  He married Miss Elizabeth Scholes Johnson and had a large family. His early residence was Victoria Cottage, Miller’s Point. Henry later built Moorecliff and lived in it until he sold it to Captain Towns. It seems that Joseph Moore may have moved into Victoria Cottage after Henry took up residence in Moorecliff.  Moorecliff eventually became the first Sydney Eye Hospital but was demolished to make way for the Maritime Services Board Tower.

Henry later purchased Barncleuth, Elizabeth Bay and finally Carrera, Rose Bay.  He was appointed to the Legislative Council of NSW in 1868, in which he sat until his death in June 1888.

David Moore was born in 1824.  He entered the family business but moved to Melbourne in 1851 and was elected to the first Legislative Assembly in that state.  He was also a founding member of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and its President for three separate terms.

He held large areas of property in Victoria and Southern New South Wales.  He was a local director of the Bank of New South Wales for forty-two years.  He was also chairman of the Southern Insurance Company and had been a director of the Victoria Sugar Company, which later merged with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in which he held large interests.  He died in 1894.

Anthony Bailey Moore, the first of the family to be born in Australia, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a master mariner as did other family members.

—Robert Ouvrier AC, MD, FRACP


Watson, J.H. Australian Mariners of the Past. An old-time whaler_ Captain Joseph Moore. The Scottish Australasian March 1918: 6184-6194.

Wheeler J.S.N. Old Miller’s Point, Sydney. Royal Australasian Historical Society 1962; 48: 301-320.

Footnote: Much of the information provided for this biography was taken from JH Watson’s article.
Robert Ouvrier is a great-great-grandson of Captain Moore