Hartley, Robert (1817-1892)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1860
Copy provided by Steven Carter

Robert was born on 8 March 1817 at Trawden, Lancashire. He was the son of a schoolmaster.


After 25 years as a travelling preacher across the England and the Channel Islands, Robert and his family sailed to Australia on 25 February 1860, arriving on 20 June.

In January 1864 he preached the first sermon at the opening of the Rockhampton PM Church.

He was a founding member of the Rockhampton Benevolent Society (1866) and played a leading role during decades of non-government welfare for the socially deprived.

Hartley held office in several non-denominational organisations, but it was the Temperance Society which received his staunchest advocacy. Within two weeks of his death in 1892, a public meeting decided that a drinking fountain would be a most appropriate tribute. A century later this handsome memorial carved in local sandstone, and spouting pure water, still stands beside the Rockhampton GPO.

He was the first president of the Queensland  conference in 1890.


Robert married Jane Williamson (1814-1896) on 4 Jun 1840 at St Peter Port, Guernsey. They had six children

  • Anna Christiana (1840-1874) – married William Allen, a merchant grocer
  • Jane Elizabeth (1843-1843)
  • William James (1845-1898) – a police magistrate and land commissioner
  • Robert Taylor (1848-1918) – a civil servant
  • Stewart Williamson (1850-1909) – a newspaper proprietor
  • Jane Elizabeth (1853-1877) – married John Murray, a farmer and politician

Robert was an uncle of Sir William Hartley. He died on 25 May 1892 in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia.


  • 1836 Tadcaster (6 mths)
  • 1836 York (6 mths)
  • 1837 Scotter
  • 1842 Alderney
  • 1843 Isle of Wight
  • 1844 Southampton
  • 1848 Belfast
  • 1851 Chippenham
  • 1854 St Ives
  • 1857 Penzance
  • 1858 Bristol
  • 1860 Sydney
  • 1864 Rockhampton
  • 1869 Brisbane
  • 1870 Rockhampton
  • 1872 Rockhampton (S)


The Primitive Methodist 1892/472

Primitive Methodist World 1900/472

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1860/321; 1895/676 & P

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p120

Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism , 1909, p259

L MacDonald, Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • An anecdote is told about him in The Annals of Trawden Forest,  by Fred Bannister. ’The first foreign missionary from Trawden was a Primitive Methodist named William [should be Robert] Hartley, who went o Australia during the first great rush to the gold diggings. On one occasion during his travels he announced to a company of gold diggers that he was going to preach that evening in their camp, and gave them an invitation to attend. There was an immediate response by one of the diggers named John o’ Anns (John Bracewell), who claimed recognition as an old Trawden acquaintance.’  

    By Jill Barber (02/01/2017)

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