Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, 28/4/1876 - 17/10/1887
Sir William Montagu Manning was born on 20 June 1811 at Alphington, Devon, England. He attended University College London and practised law on the Western Circuit. (1)
Manning arrived in Australia in 1837 and became chairman of quarter sessions at Bathurst. In 1842 he was offered the position of resident judge at Port Phillip. In 1841-43 he was also Commissioner of the Courts of Requests. Two years later he became Solicitor-General of New South Wales. Manning was appointed acting judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1848 and resumed the position of Solicitor General in 1849, a position he held until responsible government was established in 1856 when he retired. (2)
After self-government was introduced, Manning was elected at the top of the poll for the South Riding of Cumberland as an 'independent liberal' conservative. (3)
He was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly in the first parliament and was Attorney General in the Donaldson Ministry. He was given the same position in the Parker Ministry in October 1856 and resigned in May 1857. He joined the Foster Ministry in February 1860 as Attorney General and in 1861 was appointed to the Legislative Council where he retained his seat for 15 years. Manning was nominated a member of the Legislative Council in 1851 and assisted in the preparation of Wentworth’s Constitution Bill. (4) Manning was appointed a Supreme Court judge on 28 April 1876 as primary judge in equity until his resignation on 17 October 1887. (5)
On 23 February 1858 Manning was knighted by the Queen. In November 1859 he returned to Australia and advised Denison on the arrangements for the separation of Queensland from the colony of New South Wales, for which he draughted the inaugural proclamation. (6)
Manning had been elected a fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney in 1861 and became Chancellor on 3 April 1878, holding this position until his death in 1895. During his Chancellorship, Manning fought for and succeeded in obtaining increased grants from the Government, and pleaded that women should have the same opportunity as men to study at university. This was granted in 1881, when the resent women’s union was opened in 1917 and was called Manning house in honour of him.
The university expanded rapidly under his guidance, and in the 1880s the faculties of law, medicine, science and engineering were established. He also acquired the organ for the Great Hall and hoped to endow a chair of music. (7)
In 1892 Manning was appointed K.C.M.G. He died at Wallaroy, Edgecliff Road on 27 February 1895. (8)
(1) The Australian Encyclopaedia, Angus & Robertson Sydney, 1958 Vol 5 p481.
(2) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Pike Douglas editor 1851-1890 K-Q Melbourne University Press, 1967 p207.
(3) Record: The University Archives, The University of Sydney 1998 p8.
(4) The Australian Encyclopaedia op cit. p481.
(5) The New South Wales Law Almanac Sydney Government Printer, 2000 p62.
(6) Australian Dictionary of Biography op cit. p208.
(8) Ibid. p209.