Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, 16/12/1869 - 12/12/1871
Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 01/10/1876 - 31/10/1886
Surrogate Judge, Vice-Admiralty Court, 01/01/1882 - 31/12/1884
Puisne Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 19/05/1887 - 25/02/1904
Acting Chief Justice, Supreme Court of NSW, 16/06/1902 - 25/02/1904
Sir Matthew Henry Stephen (known as Henry) was born on 5 December 1828 at Hobart, Tasmania, the son of Alfred Stephen and his first wife Virginia nee Consett. His father was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 30 April 1839 and was a Puisne Judge from 27 March 1841. The family came to Sydney on the 'Medway' on 7 May 1839. Matthew Henry was educated at W T Cape's Sydney College. He was employed as an Associate, first to Sir James Dowling and afterwards to his father, Alfred Stephen. Admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 20 December 1850, he studied in England in 1852, returning to Sydney on 2 January 1853 per the 'Waterloo'. (1)
Stephen built up a busy law practice. He was offered the position of Solicitor-General for New South Wales three times, but refused it. From 16 December 1869 to 12 December 1871, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales representing the electorate of Mudgee. He was an honorary Examiner in Law at the University of Sydney from 1869 to at least 1891. (2)
Stephen acted as a Supreme Court Judge at a number of circuit courts from October 1876 to October 1886, although in July 1879 he refused a permanent appointment. Made a Queens Counsel on 8 April 1879, he was a surrogate of the Vice-Admiralty Court from at least 1882 to 1884. (3) He was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 19 May 1887. During the absence on leave of the Chief Justice Sir Frederick Matthew Darley, Stephen was Acting Chief Justice from 16 June 1902 till his retirement on 25 February 1904. He was knighted on 19 December 1904 and preferred to be addressed as Sir Henry. (4)
Stephen took a prominent part in philanthropic and charitable movements, many of which were connected with his father. He was on the committees of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, Home Visiting and Relief Society in Sydney, Female Refuge Society, Sydney City Mission, and National Shipwreck Relief Society of New South Wales. He was Director of Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary from 1857 to 1875 and 1908 to 1910, and Honorary Secretary from 1859 to 1866 and 1868 to 1873. He was Chancellor of the Diocese of Sydney for 1886 and 1887, and in the 1880s Chairman of Trustees of Sydney Grammar School, President of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Anglican, and a member of Sydney Diocesan Synods. He was also Vice-president of the NSW Cricket Association c.1906 and from 1895 was a Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute. (5)
Stephen died on 1 April 1920 at his home in Bellevue Hill, Sydney. He was survived by his second wife Florence nee Huthwaite and a daughter from his first marriage to Caroline nee Shadforth. (6)
1. Fred Johns, Johns's Notable Australian, various, the author, 1906, p.163; 1908, p.290; Fred Johns, Fred Johns's Annual, various, the author, 1912, p.26; 1913, p.121; 1914, p.195; Martha Rutledge, 'Stephen, Sir Matthew Henry (1828-1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online edition, http://www.abd.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A060205b.htm (cited 11 January 2008); Supreme Court; NRS 13664, Roll of Barristers and Solicitors, 1824-1876, SR Fiche 852, p.5A.
2. ADB, op.cit.; Sir Matthew Henry Stephen [Former Member], New South Wales Parliament website http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/V3ListFormerMembers (cited 19 February 2008); NSW Public Service Lists (Blue Books) 1869, p.91; 1870, p.95; 1871, p.93; 1878, p.136; 1883, p.188; 1888, p.203; 1891, p.228;
3. Supreme Court of New South Wales: NRS 7710 Notebooks: Circuit Courts [Justice M. H. Stephen], 1876-1903; New South Wales Government Gazette No.88, 26 March 1878, p.1247; No.116, 1 April 1879, p.1481, No.127, 8 April 1879, p.1628; No.131, 10 April 1879, pp. 1681, 1692; No.131, 16 April 1880, p.1790; New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Govt Printer, 1882, p.22; 1883, p.22; 1884, p.22, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1882-1884.
4. New South Wales Government Gazette No.297, 20 May 1887, p.3473; No.388, 20 June 1902, p.4422; New South Wales Law Almanac, op.cit., 1906, p. 21; William Arthur Shaw, The Knights of England, orig pub 1906, p. 419, at Google Books http://books.google.com/books?id=TOM3GNgwNdkC (cited 28 February 2008); It's an honour website http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au (cited 23 January 2008).
5. ADB, op.cit., Fred Johns, op.cit.; Sir Matthew Henry Stephen [Former Member], New South Wales Parliament website, op.cit.