About the name Barrington
The region’s European name was in honour of an English businessman and politician with an Irish Peerage title: the 6th Viscount Barrington of Ardglass in County Down.
Although the Viscountcy no longer exists, the name lives on in Australia with the Barrington River, named in 1826 by Robert Dawson from the Australian Agricultural Company, which is born high in the plateau called Barrington Tops.
The pristine waters of the Barrington River still tumble off this high volcanic plateau, making their way to the Pacific Ocean on the newly-named Barrington Coast of New South Wales.
The Australian Agricultural Company
The name of the Barrington Coast has its origins in the explorations of Robert Dawson, the inaugural Chief Agent of the Australian Agricultural Company (AA Co.). In 1824 this newly-formed rural investment company had been granted one million acres as part of the British government’s plans to drive development of the New South Wales colony. However when Dawson arrived in Sydney in November 1825 accompanied by company employees, their families plus sheep, cattle and horses for the new settlement, their grant land had not even been selected.
It was Dawson’s role to select the land and the deciding factor was a good harbour. On the advice of John Oxley, who had walked in 1818 from Port Macquarie to Sydney via the beaches and headlands of the mid north coast, the land between Port Stephens and the Manning River was chosen and named the Port Stephens Estate.
In February 1826 Dawson created the settlement of Carrington on the northern shores of Port Stephens as the AA Co’s first headquarters. He described this waterway as “very capacious and beautiful, there is water enough to admit ships of the largest tonnage, with as fine views of wood and water as can be imagined: the scenery is quite Italian.” In November 1826 he went exploring the estate lands, looking for better sheep country than was to be found around the infant settlement after hearing reports of good land to be found around the Manning. With Dawson were 5 local aboriginal men, 3 convict servants, 5 pack-horses, 4 hunting dogs and provisions for 3 weeks.
He was enormously impressed by the country his party traversed – the grassy flats along the Karuah River, the “fine sheep hills” around what later became called Stroud, the open country of the Vale of Gloucester “like a gentleman’s park”, and the rivers that he encountered.
Robert Dawson held the local aborigines in extremely high regard, especially Wool Bill who he described variously as a companion, a friend and a faithful squire. About 4pm on the hot afternoon of 17 November 1826 he stood with Wool Bill near a river and “approached it with eager curiosity and found a noble and rapid stream”. Dawson named it the Barrington River and its source was high in the plateau that later became called Barrington Tops.
The name was in honour of Robert Dawson’s previous employer: Sir William Keppel Barrington, the 6th Viscount Barrington (6 Oct 1793 to 9 Feb 1867). Sir William was a politician (being Conservative Member of Parliament for Berkshire 1837-57) and a businessman (Chairman of the Great Western Railway 1856-57).
About the 6th Viscount Barrington
Born in London, William Keppel Barrington was the eldest son of Reverend George Barrington, 5th Viscount Barrington, by his wife Elizabeth, second daughter of Robert Adair and Lady Caroline Keppel.
William Keppel became the 6th Viscount on the death of his father in 1829. However, as this was a title in the Peerage of Ireland, it did not entitle him to a seat in the House of Lords. In 1837 he was instead elected to the British House of Commons as one of three representatives for Berkshire, a seat he held until 1857. He was also Chairman of the Great Western Railway between 1856 and 1857, the railway line passes just 1km south of the family estate at Beckett House in Shrivenham.
He married Jane Elizabeth Liddell, fourth daughter of Thomas Liddell, 1st Baron Ravensworth, in 1823. They had five sons and five daughters.
William Keppel Barrington died at Shrivenham, Berkshire in February 1867, aged 73. At his death he was succeeded by his first-born son George William (7th Viscount) who died without male heirs so then his brother Percy (ie. William Keppel’s second-born son) became the 8th Viscount (1886). Percy’s son William Bulkeley Barrington became the 9th Viscount (1901) who was then succeeded by his son William Reginald Shute Barrington as 10th Viscount (1933). William Reginald was a bachelor without heirs so he was succeeded by his nephew Patrick William Daines Barrington as the 11th Viscount (1960). Patrick was also a bachelor without heirs so when he died on 6 April 1990, the Viscountcy of Barrington became extinct.
About the 1st Viscount Barrington
John Barrington, 1st Viscount Barrington of Ardglass (County Down, Ireland) was born in 1678 at Theobalds, Hertfordshire, England. He was the son of Benjamin Shute and Elizabeth Caryl. He married Anne Daines, daughter of Sir William Daines and Elizabeth Harris, on 23 June 1713 at St. Benet’s, London, England.
He was given the name of John Shute at birth. He was educated at Utrecht, The Netherlands and was admitted to Inner Temple entitled to practise as a Barrister-at-Law. He held the office of Commissioner of Customs between 1708 and 1711.
In 1710 he inherited the estate of Tofts in Little Baddow, Essex, from Francis Barrington, who was married to his cousin. Also in 1710 he inherited the estate of Beckett House, a considerable property in Berkshire, from a John Wildman (no relation whatsoever).
He held the office of Member of Parliament (Whig party) for Berwick-upon-Tweed between 1715 and 1723.
In 1716 his name was legally changed to John Barrington by Act of Parliament.
On 1 July 1720 he was rewarded by the King George 1st with a titles in the Peerage of Ireland: he was created 1st Viscount Barrington of Ardglass (County Down, Ireland). (NB. The German-born Georg Ludwig of Hanover had become the British King George 1st after the death of his second cousin Anne, Queen of Great Britain in August 1714. He succeeded to the throne because he was the closest living Protestant relative of Queen Anne. At the time Viscount Barrington was a leading Protestant Dissenter.) The family motto on their newly-minted coat of arms was: Honesta Quam Splendida (“Honorable rather than showy”)
However on 15 February 1723 he was expelled from Parliament for promoting “an infamous fraudulent project”, the lottery of Harburg, created to increase trade between Britain and Hanover.
It is not known if he ever visited Arglass in Ireland, his official seat. He died on 14 December 1734 at Beckett Hall, Berkshire and is buried at St Andrews parish church, Shrivenham, now in Oxfordshire.