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Septimus Harwood (1854–1889)

by Les Hetherington

Septimus Harwood (1854-1889), medical practitioner, was born on 17 May 1854 and baptised on 11 June 1854, at Habergham Eaves, on the southern edge of Burnley, Lancashire, the son of Titus Harwood, a grocer, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Holt.  Titus Harwood had been born in Todmorden, to the southeast of Burnley, around 1813, and Elizabeth Holt in Padiham, on the northwestern edge of the city, around the same year.  The Padiham-Todmorden road runs near the northern boundary of the Habergham Eaves civil parish.

Septimus was the sixth of Titus and Elizabeth Harwood’s sons, and spent his early years in Habergham Eaves. Listed in the 1861 England Census as a scholar, in the 1871 Census his occupation was given as pupil teacher. In this latter capacity he may have been working with his cousin, Jane Heywood. Five years his senior, and in 1871 listed as a school mistress, Jane and her older sister, Hannah, had lived with the Harwood family since at least 1861.

By 1881 Septimus was studying to become a doctor. The 1881 Scotland Census lists him as a medical student, aged 26 years, and a lodger at 19 Pitt Street, St Mary’s Parish, Edinburgh. The same census return lists his younger brother, Titus Holden, also a medical student, as a visitor to the same address.  Another brother, Alfred John Harwood, also received his medical qualification at Edinburgh, before migrating to Australia in 1887 and practising in Newcastle, NSW, and neighbouring towns.

After graduating a Bachelor of Medicine and Master in Surgery (MB, CM) in 1881, Septimus moved to Bristol where he was living at 3 Portland Square when he married Marian Fleming Reid at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, just south of Belfast in northern Ireland. Marian, the daughter of merchant Henry Reid and his wife Catherine, née Barnett, had been born on 9 March 1846 in Greenock, Scotland but grew up in Belfast.

In 1886 Septimus and Marian sailed to Australia because of Septimus’s health. Marian F. Harwood is listed as a passenger arriving in Sydney on the barque, the Duke of Athol, on 3 December 1886, but Septimus does not appear on the ship’s manifest.  Septimus may have been suffering the symptoms of the onset of phthisis, or pulmonary tuberculosis, as his death certificate indicates its onset around the middle of 1886.

Septimus was ‘declared by the New South Wales Medical Board to be a legally qualified medical practitioner’ on 17 September 1887. A Dr Harwood of Wellington had advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 August 1887 for a ‘light saddle and bridle’.  This may have been Septimus as an annotation to his probate record dated 5 September 1889 indicates his ‘furniture was all sold in Wellington’. The same annotation stated he ‘gave up practice about two years ago’ – that is, about the time his recognition was published.

Septimus Harwood died on 9 July 1889 at his residence, Selborne Road, Burwood, aged 35 years  and was buried at St Thomas’s Church of England cemetery in the Sydney suburb of Enfield. His brother, A.J. (Alfred John) Harwood, was the informant named on the death certificate and a witness at the burial. Harwood’s Australian estate was valued at only £90 10s, but on 14 January 1890 his personal estate was valued in England at £778 5s. His brother, Titus Holden Harwood, was an executor.

Prior to her husband’s death, Marian Harwood may have turned to teaching to support them, advertising on 1 October 1887 that ‘Mrs Harwood’ of 169 Macquarie Street, ‘for a long time resident on the Continent – who holds Royal University certificates with first honours in French, German and Italian – visits and receives pupils, and attends schools’. As Mrs S. Harwood she advertised on 1 August 1889 from ‘Porchester’, Wentworth Road, Strathfield, that she could teach ‘German and French languages and literature. Pupils received and visited. Schools attended.’ However, on 3 March 1890 she sailed for London on the Royal Mail Steamer Oceana and remained in the United Kingdom for some years before returning to Sydney and establishing a long career in education, peace activism and philanthropy.

Original Publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Les Hetherington, 'Harwood, Septimus (1854–1889)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


17 May, 1854
Burnley, Lancashire, England


9 July, 1889 (aged 35)
Burwood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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