Henry Reeves

Henry Reeves

Clerk of the Course

In an era when developing rural Australia was ruled by the self-appointed cadre of privileged and wealthy white ‘Bunyip Aristocracy’ there was one major exception in the thoroughbred breeding stakes. Henry Reeves was an ‘Emancipist’ as opposed to the self-titled ‘Exclusives’.

Henry Reeves (1804-1852) was transported to Sydney on the “Hercules” arriving May 7th. 1825. He’d been transported when found guilty at the Surrey Assizes of robbery. He was however an experienced horse groom as well as being literate or semi-literate, unusual among convicts. Henry Reeves was immediately assigned as a servant to Peter Macintyre and in due course became a bullock driver at Segenhoe, then owned by Thomas Potter Macqueen. Henry Reeves remained loyal to Macqueen’s successor Henry Collins Sempill who persuaded Henry to marry on of his servant girls Mary Grenville. In 1933 both Henry and Mary obtained their “tickets of leave” while following Sempill to Belltrees. In 1941 Henry Reeves secured a conditional pardon which enabled him to strike out in business on his own.

He established a coaching business and livery stable in West Maitland. In 1841 he took over the license of the Albion Inn in High Street, West Maitland, and leased an adjoining 10 acre grazing paddock. Reeves sold and raffled horses, provided stud services, and in 1846 established the Maitland Jockey Club. In 1847, he transferred his license to the Fitzroy Inn, West Maitland. In the same year the journal Heads of the People describes Reeves as the “proprietor of the Fitzroy Hotel at West Maitland and Clerk of the Course…a breeder of horses and genuine Turfite”. He sold the hotel and his studhorses in 1849 due to failing health. He became an auctioneer and retained an interest in racehorses and breeding. Henry Reeves died aged 47 years on April 19, 1852, at his residence in Church Street, West Maitland, an outstanding example of a highly successful emancipist. His wife Mary predeceased him by barely three months dying on January 25th, 1852.

During his sojourn in Maitland Henry Reeves ran coaching services to Patrick Plains (Singleton). He was able to access superior bloodlines from the foundation stock of the Scott Brothers of ‘Glendon’. Many were sired by ‘Toss’ or ‘Dover’ both of whom were exceptional sires. Their daughters also made highly productive broodmares. Henry crossbred Arabs and Clevelands to produce the best carriage horses. He also enjoyed enormous success at Maitland Races where he was the driving force.


Horsemen of the first frontier (1788-1900) and the Serpent’s legacy / by Keith R. Binney. Neutral Bay, N.S.W.: Volcanic Productions , [2005].
Heads of the people: an illustrated journal of literature, whims, and oddities. [Sydney : W. Baker], 1847-1848, Vol. 1, no. 25, October 2, 1847
The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, April 21, 1852, p. 3 on Trove. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ (accessed July 16, 2010)