WILSON, Thomas 1787-1863. Lawyer and art collector. Probably better known in Australia than in Dulwich, Thomas Wilson was important in the early history of Adelaide. He was its second Mayor and one who did much to establish its reputation as a city of culture. Before emigrating in 1838, he and his large family had lived, 1812-1834, at Dulwich Place, Half Moon Lane, a two-storey mansion with extensive grounds on the present site of King’s College Botanical Department. An eminent London lawyer, Wilson was also a great collector of works of art and interested too in literature and music. A detailed catalogue of the sale of Dulwich Place and its elegant furniture gives some idea of the style in which he lived. The house had fourteen bedrooms, a library, drawing room and dining room.
Within three years of emigrating, Wilson was an alderman of Adelaide and was described in the South Australian Magazine as a general favourite. ‘He has long been favourably known in the literary world and is an acknowledged connoisseur in the fine arts. He is a respected naturalist and has his attention much directed to the entomology of this province. Mr Wilson is now engaged as a solicitor in a very extensive practice’. By 1843 he was the city’s mayor and was also lecturing on art. In 1830, due to financial difficulties, he had been obliged to sell a great part of his own large collection, some items of which went to the British Museum. However, the Wilson Collection in Adelaide still has portraits of Thomas and his wife Martha, a drawing and sale catalogue of Dulwich Place, a copy of his Descriptive catalogue of the prints of Rembrandt, his special subject of research, and also some of the Dresden and Spode china from his Dulwich home.
By Mary Boast