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Convicted Forger Has Portrait On Federal Banknote

forgery (ˈfɔːdʒərɪ)  n, pl -geries
1. the act of reproducing something for a deceitful or fraudulent purpose  2. something forged, such as a work of art or an antique  3. (Law) criminal law  a. the false making or altering of any document, such as a cheque or character reference (and including a postage stamp), or any tape or disc on which information is stored, intending that anyone shall accept it as genuine and so act to his or another’s prejudice  b. something forged 4. (Law) criminal law the counterfeiting of a seal or die with intention to defraud.

A portrait of  Francis Howard Greenway  the convicted forger.
A portrait of Francis Howard Greenway the convicted forger.

Australia has always been known for its larrikin element whether we look to people in the modern-day such as our ex Prime Minister Paul Keating or to the contemporaries of this man, such as Henry Lawson. To be the only convicted forger ever to grace a banknote anywhere in the world must truly rate as an achievement par excellence and quite extraordinary. It is what makes this man so truly unique in the history of our fledgling nation. His story is one worthy of note and his lifetime achievements in the architectural development of Australia are bountiful.

An early portrait sketch of Greenway
An early portrait sketch of Greenway

Francis Howard Greenway was born on 20 November 1777 and was a colonial architect in Australia. His beginnings like many of his day were in England where he originally worked in private practice as an architect in Bristol. His financial situation ran aground and he was declared a bankrupt. To remedy this he forged a document and was caught red-handed in this deceit. At the subsequent trial he was found guilty and sentenced to death. A very severe penalty for something which would be considered white-collar crime by today’s standards. The sentence was however commuted to transportation for 14 years. His arrival on the H.M.A.S. General Hewitt to Sydney in February 1814 was to mark the beginning of an illustrious career that would forever alter the face of Australia and give us some of our greatest landmark buildings.

Government House at Bennelong in Sydney designed by Greenway.
Government House at Bennelong in Sydney designed by Greenway.

It was not long after his arrival that he was summoned to appear before the then Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. He was asked to make a report on the Rum Hospital which was at that time under construction. Greenway reported that the architecture was flawed and after much criticism, leveled at the current project the builders, they were forced to make very costly alterations to the building. Greenway had made his mark but the cost was to prove dear as he had made the first of a long list of rivals and enemies that would plague his life thereafter.

Macquarie granted Greenway a ticket-of-leave and beginning in 815 he was an occasional advisor to the government on its public works program. In March 1816 he was appointed to the post of civil architect and assistant engineer at a salary of 3s. a day, quarters for himself and family, a horse and forage. His first task for the government was to design a lighthouse, known as the Macquarie Tower, on the south head of Port Jackson. The basic construction of the building was finished in December 1817 and Macquarie was so pleased with it that he presented Greenway with conditional emancipation.

His next portfolio was to construct a new Government House and he was given free rein on the project. Greenway did not lose any time and before long he had constructed massive stables on the site which many mistook to be the main house itself. Next came an exorbitant design for a castle in the true British style. Macquarie was at this time already under fire by the Colonial Office for his extravagant building program. When word of the this costly project made its way back to England the Secretary of State in London mothballed the project. The stables would later become Sydney’s Conservatory Of Music.

St Matthew’s Church in Windsor, was begun in 1817 and is regarded by many as his most endearing masterpiece. This was to be the first of many churches and others to follow were St Luke’s Church, Liverpool, St James’s, in King Street, Sydney. Shortly after the beginning of St. Lukes Greenway’s fortunes started to slide as he had not only made a long list of enemies in his rapid rise to power but his arrogance had finally peeved Macquarie and as a result many of his current projects were curtailed or canceled all together as being to expensive. To further damage his position he suddenly presented a bill for £11,000 for fees for buildings he had designed for the government. For a salaried architect to present a bill for fees calculated at the rate of 5 per cent of building costs was seen as nothing short of outrageous. His effrontery would not serve him well.

Sydney's Conservatorium of Music designed by Greenway
Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music designed by Greenway

He did however continue to design more and more buildings. The stores at Parramatta, a police headquarters and the Supreme Court in King Street, Sydney. The then new Governor who had succeeded Macquarie, Sir Thomas Brisbane, reconfirmed Greenway’s position but other rivals sought to undermine him by altering his designs. There could be no worse insult dealt to any architect. Commissioner John Thomas Bigge cancelled many of Greenway’s projects as being too extravagant and he persistently interfered with a host of other works. Greenway fast saw that his position was becoming untenable and no doubt he was not so surprised when he was summarily dismissed from government service on 15 November 1822. This of course meant that his government benefits which included his house were withdrawn but true to his ever aloof and determined pride he refused to give up the house. Numerous legal attempts to recover the property from him failed and he actually managed to produce a document that showed he had a clear title. This document is now long-held to have been a forgery. The property was finally recovered but not until after his death by direct action from Colonial Office.

In 1835 he advertised in a newspaper that, “Francis Howard Greenway, arising from circumstances of a singular nature is induced again to solicit the patronage of his friends and the public”. He was once again destitute. He never ceased to pester the government for the fees he had always sought but this was to no avail.

Greenway died at the age of 59 from typhoid in the Hunter River Valley near Newcastle in 1837. He was buried in a small cemetery in a paddock on the outskirts of East Maitland in an unmarked grave.

49 buildings in central Sydney are attributed to Greenway’s designs amongst which the following are listed on the Register of the National Estate.

Macquarie Lighthouse, Watsons Bay
Windsor Court House
Government House, Sydney (partly designed by Greenway)
St Matthew’s, Windsor
Supreme Court, Sydney
Judge’s House, Sydney
St James’s, Sydney
Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney
Obelisk, Macquarie Place (1818)
St Luke’s, Liverpool
Conservatorium of Music, Sydney
Liverpool College (formerly Liverpool Hospital)
Government House, Parramatta (timber portico only)
Cadmans Cottage

He certainly changed the face of our emerging nation and such a feat has given him the well-earned position on Australia’s first $10 decimal banknote.


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