Ship’s Officer RN, Settler Farmer, Magistrate, Justice of the Peace and Churchman.
On the 10 April 1826, George Briscoe Skardon, at the age of 40 years, received a location of 2,000 acres at Norfolk Plains about five miles west from Longford, Tasmania and three miles east from the later township of Bishopsbourne, with the area being known as the Seven Lagoons. He named the property “Little Hampton Villa” after his home area in England. It was here that George, his wife Sophie and family of one son and three daughters, took up residence in a new home that was soon built. Other accommodation was also built to house his assigned servants. It was the start of a new life in a new country, leaving behind the roving life of a seafarer for a more anchored life on the land.
George was born on 6 July 1786 at Fatehgarth, India the youngest son of 14 children born to Lieutenant Samuel George Skardon (1732-1788) and Mary (nee Woodson) – (1740-1819). His parents both died in India with an inscription for Samuel being recorded at the Farrukhabad Districts Fort cemetery, giving date of death as 30 October 1788.
Soon after his father’s death, on 30 June 1789 George was admitted into the Bengal Military Orphan’s establishment and later enrolled in Rev. Mr. Dean’s school at Shifnal, Shropshire, England. From there he joined the Royal Navy on 26 March 1805 as a Midshipman.
Royal Navy Service
He saw service in various capacities at a number of localities, including in the North Sea, the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, twice sailing to the East Indies and also visiting China. In 1807 he was wounded while in action. While in the Persian Gulf, aboard the Chiffone of 36 guns, he was involved in the destruction of the strong town of Khas-al-Khyma and more than 80 pirate vessels. His last navel appointment, made on 14 September 1818, was for three years in the “Severn” a coast guard blockade ship and then on 13 November 1821 was placed in charge of a station in the coast guards.
George firstly married Sophia Wroughton (1784-1834) on 20 July 1812 at Hothborn, England. Sophie is reported as being an “Indian Princess”. They had a family of five children, Mary Sophia (1813-1896), Frances Jemima (1817-1818), Laura Pauline (1819-1894), George Deans (1820-1914) and Geraldine Eliza Anne (1826-1855). Sophia died at Little Hampton on 23 February 1834 and was buried at the Longford Christ Church cemetery. A remembrance plaque is in place on a wall inside the Church.
George secondly married Mary Hearne (1814-1864) at Launceston on 16 November 1835 and they had two children, Virginia Harriet (1836-1903) and Mary Jessie (1842-1876). In 1851 Mary sold her home and possessions at Westbury, Tasmania and moved to England, dying there in an institution at Bow, Middlesex, England on 23 February 1864.
At Little Hampton Villa
On taking control of his Little Hampton grant he soon built a partly brick and timber home for his family, quarters for his assigned servants and farm buildings and commenced clearing and fencing the property. The farm operations centred around cropping and the raising of cattle and sheep. The 1842 census records 28 people generally residing at Little Hampton of whom 14 were either convicts or former convicts.
A glimpse of the farm operation is had from the time of the sale of the property, the advertisement in the Launceston Examiner on 16 October 1844 for the 406 acre lot, advising “The whole farm is of the richest soil, divided into various paddocks, and 307 acres are cleared and grubbed, and sown with wheat”.
Also advertised for sale on the same day was a second property of 520 acres with both to be auctioned on 22 October 1844.
A further auction was advertised on 10 May 1845 advising “All that valuable Agricultural and Grazing FARM comprising 631 acres with the dwelling house, homestead and appurtenances as now in the occupation of G.B. Skardon. The title is a grant from the Crown, free of quit rent ….”
All sales were instigated by the mortgagees.
Skardon was a strongly religious person, so much so that he made available two rooms at his “Little Hampton Villa” home for regular church services conducted by the Rector of Longford, but when that clergyman could not get across, the Lieutenant himself would read “Divine Service”. The congregation were summoned by a bell that he had erected.
This ship’s bell, inscribed with the date 1836, in 1844 was presented to the new church at Bishopsbourne and which till closing of the Church rang out for more than 160 years, calling people to worship. At the same time he also donated to the new church the wrought iron pulpit used at his home and which continued to be used at Bishopsbourne for more than 100 years until replaced.
During his time at “Little Hampton Villa” Skardon also took a keen interest in education and also operated as a magistrate as well as being a Justice of the Peace.
After sale of the Little Hampton property in 1845, Skardon went to live at Westbury where he died on 15 September 1850 at the age of 64 years. While living at Westbury he continued his church activities, regularly holding services in the Old Post Office in the town.
Reminders of Skardon continue not only by his bell at the Bishopsbourne Anglican Church, but also by the Government Land division for the area being named Parish of Little Hampton. The property, now much reduced in size, still bears the name of “Little Hampton”. Other reminders in the past were the Railway Station and Post Office, also known as Little Hampton, and when the Methodists relocated their church from Maitland in 1875 to a corner of the Little Hampton farm, gave it the name of the Little Hampton Wesleyan Methodist Church. The original Ploughing Association of the area also operated under the name of Little Hampton before being changed to the Bishopsbourne Ploughing Association.
George is buried in the Church of England cemetery at Westbury, his first wife Sophia at the Longford Christ Church cemetery, and his second wife in England.
TO THE MEMORY
LIEUT. G. B. SKARDON. R. N.
Who Departed This Life
Sept. 15. 1850
He That Endures To The End
Will Be Saved. Matthew 10.22
Written by Ivan Badcock, 14 November 2004 – Updated November 2021.