Cornelius Prout

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Grave of Cornelius Prout, Ca 1980.
Born in 1793, Cornelius Prout joined the British Navy and was promoted to the rank of purser. He visited New South Wales in 1826, as a member of the crew of the Warspite. Dissatisfied with his career in the navy, he obtained his discharge and two years later he was appointed under-sheriff, responsible for the issue of writs from the Supreme Court.[1]

For some ten years after his discharge from the navy, Prout tenaciously requested the colonial government for a land grant to which he considered he was entitled because of his service in the armed forces. A grant of sixty acres in the Parish of St. Luke, promised by Macquarie to William Hawkins was finally given to Prout in 1835 under an act passed in 1833 which empowered Commissioners to determine claims on government land. Prout married in 1829, and the following year he purchased Hawkin’s 90 acre farm near Liverpool, from Abraham Polack, but preferred to live in Canterbury because of its proximity to his employment at the Supreme Court.

Prout appears to have settled there shortly after the birth of his first child, a daughter, in September, 1832. He occupied the 35-acre grant given to John Burke in 1823 and subsequently acquired by Abraham Polack. Apparently Prout rented the farm for a short period before finally purchasing it for £250 in July, 1834. He gave the property the name, Belle-Ombre, meaning ‘beautiful shade’, stemming, no doubt, from the family’s creative background. Prout’s uncle, Samuel, and his brother John, were noted artists.

Two boys standing near the waterfall, Cup and Saucer Creek, Canterbury, 1901.
Simultaneously with Belle-Ombre, Prout purchased the adjoining McCabe farm of fifty acres from James Morisset for £80, and three years later the 80-acre Bentley grant from the Stephen estate for £130. He finally acquired Polack’s 100-acre grant which lay between Canterbury Road and Cup and Saucer Creek. Prout thus became on paper a substantial owner of some 265 acres in the heart of Canterbury, but his actual financial state was not very strong.[2]

He built a punt to give him access to his property, Belle Ombre (along the river from today's Canterbury Road to Clissold Parade, Campsie); a punt also operated somewhere about the same time at Undercliffe, known as Thorpe's Punt. This was a link on one of the roads to the Illawarra district. Fords existed at Tempe and further up the river, but with the spread of settlement and eventually industry, permanent bridges were needed.

Prout's Bridge, Canterbury (suburb), ca 1883.
A detailed article on the The Prout's Bridge Incident is available at the Dictionary of Sydney

Cornelius Prout is buried in the Victorian Graveyard at St Peters Church [3]


  1. LARCOMBE, Frederick A. Change and challenge: a history of the municipality of Canterbury. [Canterbury, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1979. p. 75-77
  2. LARCOMBE, Frederick A. Change and challenge: a history of the municipality of Canterbury. [Canterbury, NSW]: Canterbury Municipal Council, 1979. p. 80