The historically significant John McDouall Stuart Explorer's pocket watch, circa 1859  by James Brock, London and presented from The Royal Geographical Society on 9th May 1859
Lot 118
The historically significant John McDouall Stuart Explorer's pocket watch, circa 1859 by James Brock, London and presented from The Royal Geographical Society on 9th May 1859
Sold for AU$ 85,400 (US$ 79,798) inc. premium
Lot Details
The historically significant John McDouall Stuart Explorer's pocket watch, circa 1859 by James Brock, London and presented from The Royal Geographical Society on 9th May 1859
the circular white enamel dial with black Roman numerals, outer minute scale and subsidiary seconds dial, to an 18ct gold case hallmarked for London 1857, numbered 9921, and engraved 'J.M.STUART/FROM THE/Royal Geographical Society/OF LONDON/9th May. 1859', together with a series of contemporary hand written letters from 1862-1864, watch case diameter 4.5cm.


  • List of documents:
    1. Twelve testimonies to the magnitude and value of John McDouall Stuarts' Exploration services in South Australia from Adelaide to the North West Coast, including the following two examples; 'I shall have great pleasure in transmitting to Mr J.McDouall Stuart, the Society's Medal by the mail which would leave England that day, conscious as I am of the eminent services that Gentleman had rendered to Geographical science, to this Country and the World at large', Duke of Newcastle, Colonial Secretary, R.G.S. May 1861, Anniversary Meeting and 'The Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard McDonell has already anticipated the establishment of a Telegraphic communication across the Continent, when this is opened out from South to North, may the first message transmitted be, "Honour to McDouall Stuart"', Sir Richard Murchison, President, R.G.S, May 1861, Anniversary Meeting.
    2. A letter addressed to John McDouall Stuart, 21 Cambridge Terrace, Hyde Park ,no signature, however the address is Lat 12 13S, Long 131E, Adelaide River, Adam Bay on board "Henry Ellis", July 7th 1864; 'I wrote to you from Adelaide in April, Just as I was starting on the Northern Territory Expedition, so you will see from the above date..........................I think a great mistake has been made already in taking our horses, bullocks and sheep up the Adelaide River, which at present is not navigable for ships of any size...........and if the principal town is founded there, the place cannot thrive, free communication with the colonies being essential to success. We are all enrolled as volunteers and have to wear a rough kind of uniform.............................I have landed several times for shooting and am becoming an expert shot. I always carry a pair of Colt revolvers, as it is not safe to go unarmed for fear of surprise from the natives'. The notepaper has an address on it; 2 Fenchurch Buildings EC London.
    3. A letter from the inhabitants of Kooringa; 'Hearing the probability of your passing through our township this evening, we, the undersigned, have hurriedly assembled to congratulate you, on behalf of the inhabitants of Kooringa' (25 signatures at bottom).
    4. A parchment document dated December 17th 1862; 'We the mayor and Corporation of the town of Gawler on behalf of its' inhabitants most cordially welcome you on your return from your late gallant and successful expedition', signed James Martin, Mayor and 5 Councillors.
    5. A second letter also from the Mayor of Gawler, inviting Stuart to spend the night at his house after meeting him at Gawler Station, dated January 14th 1863.
    6. A letter from the inhabitants of the Burra, undated.
    7. A letter from the inhabitants of Kapunda.
    8. A letter dated 26th July 1864 from John Chambers to; 'Dear Stuart, I writing to you I enclose a summary of the register newspaper where in you will see a letter signed by W. D. Keckivick purporting to convey an impression that he never thought there was gold in the north. I cannot think what could induce him to contradict the reports he wrote you from the Freeling Spring'.
    9. A Freemason invitation to attend a meeting in Adelaide on February 29th 1864.
    10. A printed map showing the 'Northern Sheet of the Plan of Discoveries by John McDouall Stuart showing his route across the centre of the Continent of Australia, with alterations and additions, to December, 1862'. Sent to Mrs Turnbull (his sister) in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, sent by a Mr Finke from Adelaide on Jan 27th 1863, hand written; Stuarts Journal/Printed Paper only/From Mr Finke)/Adelaide/via Southampton/Mrs Turnbull/Johnstone/Renfrewshire and stamped C.P.O.ADELAIDE/JA 27/63/S.A., and B6/GLASGOW/MR 23/63.

    Presented to John McDouall Stuart by The Royal Geographical Society, 9th May 1859
    John McDouall Stuart's sister, Margaret Arthur née Stuart, who married John Arthur, thence by decent to Mary Hay Arthur (Stuart's great niece), thence by decent to the present owner,
    Private Collection, Scotland

    John McDouall Stuart (1815–1866)
    John McDouall Stuart, explorer, was born on 7 September 1815 at Dysart, Fife, Scotland, fifth son of William Stuart, army captain, and his wife Mary, née McDouall. Educated at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy, Edinburgh, in 1838 he decided to migrate to South Australia. He arrived in the Indus in January 1839 and joined a surveying party. Having had a taste of the outback, in 1844 he accepted Charles Sturt's offer to join a party exploring the centre of the continent. The seventeen-month journey revealed only desolation, but Stuart now knew the problems of exploring waterless regions with a large expedition: he had seen fatal scurvy at close hand, had observed the Aboriginals and, having drawn many of the maps, had become familiar with the topography of the centre.
    In 1846-58 Stuart practised as a surveyor, had an estate agency and spent some time at Port Lincoln. With financial help from William Finke, Stuart set out on 14 May 1858 with an assistant, an Aboriginal tracker and provisions for four weeks to explore beyond Lake Torrens and Lake Gairdner and to look for grazing land. He travelled as far as Coober Pedy before turning south and then west. The Aboriginal left them on 3 August, and with supplies and water almost exhausted and the horses lame they struggled into T. M. Gibson's outstation at Streaky Bay on 22 August. After ten days rest Stuart returned to Adelaide to an enthusiastic welcome. He had discovered 40,000 sq. miles (103,600 km²) of possible sheep country at minimal cost. He gave his diary and maps to the South Australian Government and was granted a lease of 1000 sq. miles (2590 km²) of the new country.
    In 1859 Finke and James Chambers financed another expedition. Leaving in April with four others, Stuart travelled 500 miles (805 km) blazing a trail with sufficient water for a permanent route north. On 4 November he set out on his third expedition and spent six weeks surveying new runs. In the Davenport Range he found signs of gold; after three weeks fruitless prospecting his men rebelled and the party returned to Chambers Creek where all but William Kekwick were paid off. He set off again on 2 March 1860 with two men and thirteen horses. Most of their provisions were soon spoilt by floods, and when the party reached the freshwater creek that Stuart named after Finke on 4 April, they were suffering from scurvy and he had lost the sight of his right eye. They followed the Finke to the mountains that Stuart named after Governor Sir Richard Macdonnell and headed north again, naming Anna's Reservoir after Chambers' youngest daughter; on 22 April he camped where he calculated the centre of the continent to be. Two miles (3.2 km) away he named Central Mount Sturt (later changed to Stuart) and planted a flag as 'a sign to the natives that the dawn of liberty, civilization and Christianity was about to break on them'.
    For the next month the party tried in vain to find a route with sufficient water to take them to the north-west. When rain fell late in May they travelled 200 miles (322 km) north to Tennant's Creek where they made a depot. Pressing on to Kekwick Ponds Stuart tried to penetrate the near-by scrub but on 25 June was forced back. Two months later the party staggered into Chambers Creek. On his return to Adelaide Stuart was fêted at a public banquet at Government House; one newspaper urged that he be given the government reward for crossing the continent because Attack Creek, his furthest point, was only 200 miles (322 km) from explored country in the north.
    At the end of 1860 the South Australian government voted £2500 to equip a large expedition to be led by Stuart. Burke and Wills had already set out to cross the continent so there was no time to lose if a South Australian party was to arrive first. On 1 January 1861 he left Chambers Creek with eleven men and reached Attack Creek late in April; with two others he discovered a way through the scrub that had defeated him before, and found Sturt's Plain. After exhausting failures to pass the plains, with their provisions low and their clothes in shreds, Stuart gave in and on 12 July turned south to reach Adelaide on 23 September. He received the 1861 gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society from the governor.
    Stuart was still convinced he could cross the continent. Shopkeepers gave him supplies for a fresh party, Chambers provided the horses and saddlery, and the government gave him £200 and instructions to take a botanist Frederick Waterhouse with him. They left Adelaide at the end of October 1861 but Stuart was delayed for five weeks by an accident; he joined the party at Moolooloo station where one of the men left after a quarrel. The party reached the centre on 12 March 1862, Attack Creek on the 28th and Sturt's Plain on 15 April where they were blocked and Stuart turned to the scrub. Although they only made a mile (1.6 km) an hour and the water-bags were badly torn they arrived at Daly Waters, named after the new governor, on 28 May and made camp for two weeks. His endurance was beginning to falter, but on 24 July they forced their way through a thick belt of scrub and came upon the Indian Ocean. Many of the horses were so weak they had to be abandoned on the way back. Ill with scurvy and nearly blind, Stuart had to be carried on a stretcher slung between two horses; recovering sufficiently to ride by the time they reached Mount Margaret on 26 November, he pushed on with three of the party and arrived in Adelaide on 17 December. On a public holiday on 21 January 1863, crowds lined the streets amid banners strung from buildings. He was awarded £2000, though allowed only the interest from it, and his party received £1500 between them.
    White-haired, exhausted and nearly blind, Stuart decided to visit his sister in Scotland and sailed in April 1864. He later went to London. His claims for a greater reward from the South Australian government led to another £1000, again with only the interest. His Explorations in Australia. The Journals of John McDouall Stuart was edited by W. Hardman and published in 1864. He died of ramolissement and cerebral effusion on 5 June 1866 in London and was buried in the Kensal Green cemetery. He has remained a controversial figure, lonely and independent, with a fierce pride. His reputation as a heavy drinker has led detractors to minimize his achievements, even to the extent of doubting that he reached the Indian Ocean in 1862, though the tree he had marked with JMDS was positively identified in 1883 and photographed in 1885.
    It is important to note that Stuart's experience and the care he showed for his team ensured he never lost a man, despite the harshness of the country he encountered. His explorations eventually resulted in the Adelaide-Darwin Overland Telegraph being built and the main route from Port Augusta to Darwin being established, which is now known as the Stuart Highway in his honour.

    James Brock (British 1826 – 1893)
    He started work as a foreman in Edward John Dent's workshop overseeing the building of the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben) before setting up his own business as a watch and chronometer maker at George Street, Portman Square, London.

    Deirdre Morris, 'Stuart, John McDouall (1815–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
    The Royal Geographical Society, London
    The National Archives, London
    The John McDouall Stuart Society, Adelaide
    The State Library of South Australia, Adelaide

Saleroom notices

  • Please note: Both the watch and the documents reach the thresholds of a Class B Australian Protected Object (APO) under Parts 6, 9 and 5 of the Nation Cultural Heritage List. This means that, if purchased by an overseas collector, an application to export the objects under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act, 1986 (PMCH Act) must be sought.
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