Savage, John

John Savage (1770-1838)

In 1804 John Savage was granted 290 acres roughly from modern day Hull and Copeland Roads to its northern boundary just beyond Verney Drive West Pennant Hills.

Savage was born on 20 October 1770 and received his competence as a surgeon when he was 26 and served on the Melville Castle. He became an assistant surgeon in the 1st West York Militia under the command of Lord Fitzwilliam who secured his appointment as an assistant surgeon in New South Wales. He arrived with his wife in March 1803.

Despite being appointed to Norfolk Island and Port Dalrymple, Savage lived in Parramatta and was occupied in the role of assistant surgeon from that base.

Prior to his departure from England, Savage became a member of the Royal Jennerian Society and in May 1804 (with assistance from surgeons Thomas Jamison and John Harris) successfully vaccinated a child in Parramatta against smallpox. Savage claimed that this was his initiative in its entirety. It was Jamison who published an article in the Sydney Gazette of 14 October 1804 called “General observations on the smallpox … [and how to vaccinate for this] loathsome, disgusting and too often fatal disease.” It was Savage however who then commenced a public health campaign successfully vaccinating most identifiable white children with cow pox. How the vaccine was manufactured, by being brought on glass slides or from adolescent boys who were inoculated in England, is presently unclear. Jenner wrote of Savage’s “zeal in introducing and establishing vaccine inoculation in some of the British settlements abroad, especially in New South Wales.” [1]

The principal surgeon (Thomas Jamison) was not as successful as Savage in his on-going attempts to vaccinate and in June 1805 brought charges against Savage for neglect of duty in refusing to attend a settler’s wife in child-birth. The Governor sought to overcome Savage being cashiered by sending him back to England with dispatches where the sentence was set aside as not being a military matter justifying court action. Edward Jenner then sought a post for Savage and he was eventually appointed to the East India Co and sailed to India where he arrived in Bengal in March 1808. He was promoted to surgeon in 1823. In 1835 he retired to England in ill-health to find that his agents had lost most of his money and so sent instructions to Marsden to arrange for the sale of his NSW properties. In this letter dated 20 July 1835 he still recalled “with the liveliest remembrance of the happy hours I have passed in your society.” In August 1835 he retired from the Indian Medical Service.    

Savage therefore never lived on his grant in Beecroft but initially leased the land to some ex-convicts until 1805 when he left the Colony to take up an appointment in India. He then leased the entire property to John and Hannibal Macarthur who continued to honour the leases of part to the small land owners.

It was the Macarthur’s who then leased part of the land for the Pennant Hills Timbergetting Establishment. For this establishment see Early Settlement – Timber.

At the same time as leasing to the Macarthur’s he put the management of his affairs in NSW into the hands of the Rev Samuel Marsden. He met with Marsden in London in 1808 where he gave initial instructions. Following his instructions in 1835 Marsden immediately proceeded to sell the most lucrative land. This land however was not placed for auction until 1855 when it was advised for sale as subdivided into 10 lots [2] however this sale did not proceed as it was unclear as to who owned the land following the death of Savage.

Savage died in Surrey on 27 April 1838 and Marsden died in Windsor, NSW on 12 May 1838. Marsden’s executors were John Campbell and William and Hannibal Macarthur.

The land continued to be leased until August 1872 when the surviving executor of Savage hand to Savage’s daughters (Ann and Elizabeth) the deeds to the land in their name. They proceeded to sell it and in 1880 the land was sold to Isaac Doust of Newtown. The land was then subdivided and parcels sold from 1885. 

[1]        Jenner to Windham 14 November 1806 HRNSW Vol 6 pp 202-3

[2]        The Empire, 10 September 1855