• Full Name:
    John Bell Hickson
  • Role:
    Unregistered homœopathic practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Homœopathic practitioner
  • State:
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:

John Bell Hickson has intrigued me from the time I first started researching the history of homœopathy in Australia. Hickson has usually been given credit as being Victoria's first homœopath, and sometimes he has been given credit as being Australia's first homœopath. I knew that the second belief was untrue, but what about the first? And what else could I discover about his previously-unpublished background? I have spent the past 10 years researching his history. I am still discovering more about this fascinating person.

Although most people think that Hickson was an American, he was, in fact, born at Brigus, Newfoundland on Conception Bay (since 1949 a part of Canada, but until then, a colony of England). His father, Thomas [1790 - 1864], and his uncle, James, were both Wesleyan missionaries from England. Around 1815, they had been sent to Newfoundland to work with the local Methodist communities.


In July 1819 Rev. Thomas Hickson had married Jane, second daughter of Mr William Garland of Lower Island Cove, Conception Bay. John Bell Hickson was born the following year, in 1820. It is probable that he was named after Rev. John Bell, a Methodist missionary who was also in Newfoundland in 1819. Sadly, Jane Hickson died aged 21 and was buried on 23rd September 1823.


Rev. Hickson married twice more, in England. He married Lois Lockett (or Locket) in 1825, by whom he had three more children. John Hickson would have been raised by his step-mother, and he gave her maiden name (Locket) to two of his daughters. He also ensured that his mother was remembered by giving her maiden name (Garland) to three of his children. Lois died in December, 1840 at Daventry, Northamptonshire. Thomas remarried, and he and his wife Ann appeared in subsequent census records until Thomas died in 1864 and Ann died in 1866.


The 1841 English census lists John Hickson as a chemist at Tunbridge Wells in Kent, at the same location as surgeon Dr Robert Duncan. Reportedly, Hickson was Duncan's medical assistant, and Duncan provided practical experience and training to his student. Hickson attended literary and scientific soirees in Cheltenham, then pursued his medical studies in Paris. Later reports, in 1870, state that he had studied medicine in Paris "there being no schools for the study of homœopathy at that time in England".


J.B. Hickson travelled to Australia on the Santipore from London in 1850. Following stopovers at Adelaide and Melbourne, he continued on to Sydney, arriving there on 27th July 1850. At some time between August and November of 1850, Hickson left Sydney and returned to Melbourne. Although Templeton's book states that Hickson practised as a homœopath in the suburbs of Melbourne from 1850, records show that he actually took up residence in Geelong. There, his occupation for several years was owner of a school which he called 'The Classical and Scientific Institution'.



                            Pauline Hickson's grave site

          (John Bell Hickson's daughter - plot without a headstone)

                                         Old Ballarat Cemetery

                   Photograph:  Courtesy of Peter Torokfalvy

It was not until 1854 that Dr Hickson (as he preferred to be called) set up practice as a homœopath. Therefore I believe that, contrary to all previous accounts of his life, he was not the first person in Victoria to advertise his services as a homœopath, as others preceded him.


On 29 September 1852 Hickson married Isabel Mary Scott (also known as Mary Isabel Scott or Isabella Marie) in Geelong. She had also been born in Newfoundland, at St John's, where her father, Benjamin, was Sheriff and Spanish Consol. B. Scott, wife and family had also travelled to Australia with Hickson, aboard the Santipore.


The Hicksons had six children. Not all births were registered, so the following dates have been gathered via birth records, newspaper notices, and Hickson's death record which lists the ages of his surviving children at the time of his death.




The children were:


      Warwick Garland Hickson  [1853 - 1853]
      Josephine Mary (or Marie) Hickson [c.1854 or 1855 - 1924]
      Frank Warwick Hickson [1857 - 1858]
      Florentine Fannie Cornella Garland Locket Hickson [c. 1862 - 1933]
      Pauline Isabel Hickson [1859 - 1865]
      Marcella Clementine Augusta Garland Locket Hickson [c.1866 - 1945]









Note that only three survived past the age of six.


By February 1855 Hickson and his family had moved to Melbourne. From the time he arrived in Victoria, many residences and consultation rooms were used by him.



 Somerset Place, 53/55 Spring Street near the intersection with Collins Street

(pair of terraced houses owned by John Gill).

J B Hickson lived in the left side of building in 1855.

 Photograph:  Charles Nettleton 1861,  courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Using the evidence of postal directories, advertisements, and newspaper articles, those discovered to-date are:


      December 1850 St Helen's on Corio Bay, Geelong
      1854  Off Melbourne Road near Cowrie's Creek; chemist in Great Ryrie St, Geelong
      30 September, 1854  Headland's Buildings, Elizabeth St, Geelong; Latrobe Terrace, Geelong
      Move to Melbourne  
      February 1855 Jennings buildings, Punt Rd, Prahran; dispensary 130 Little Bourke St East
      February 1855 Gardiner's Creek Road, Prahran (now Toorak Road)
      March 1855 Dispensary at 92 Collins Street East, Melbourne
      March 1855 Somerset Place, 53 Spring Street, Melbourne
      November 1855 27 Gore Street, Collingwood
      January 1856 126 Collins Street East, Melbourne; also 26 Napier St, Fitzroy
      September 1856 5 Albert Street, East Melbourne
      October 1858 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda - opposite the railway terminus
      March 1859 Brighton Road, St Kilda; consulting rooms at 1 Collins Street East
      May 1859 20 Russell Street, Melbourne
      October 1859  149 Collins Street East, Melbourne
      1861 172 Collins Street East, Melbourne 
      Move to Ballarat  
      April 1861 Doveton Cottage, Doveton Street, Ballarat
      May 1861 Errard Street, Ballarat
      October 1861  Raglan Street, Ballarat
      June 1863 Peel Street, Ballarat
      April 1865 Ballarat East
      Move to Melbourne  
      1867 52 King William Street, Fitzroy (possibly also part of 1866)
      Move to Sandhurst (Bendigo)
      December 1867 Rowan Street, Sandhurst
      Move to Melbourne  
      July 1868 84 Stephen Street, Melbourne (now Exhibition Street)
      October 1868 147 Collins Street East, Melbourne
      February 1869 Gardiner's Creek Road, South Yarra (now Toorak Road)
      1870 Caroline Street, South Yarra
      February 1870 170 Collins Street East, Melbourne
      1871 Caroline Street, South Yarra
      February 1872 42 Russell Street, Melbourne
      August 1873 172 Collins Street East, Melbourne



J B Hickson's last residence.

172 Collins Street East, 2nd terraced house to right of Oriental Hotel.

 Photograph: Charles B Walker 1888(?),  courtesy of State Library of Victoria.


Hickson promoted homœopathy in The Argus – a Melbourne newspaper which has since ceased publication – and was the author of several vigorous pamphlets vindicating homœopathy and pointing out the deficiencies of allopathic medical practices. He wrote Medical Reform. Homœopathy vindicated, as a necessary and scientific reform in medical practice (1856). He also wrote He Will not Drink Wine: or Alchoholic Beverages Considered Socially and Physiologically (1869).



                            John Bell Hickson's grave site

                (Unmarked plot to the left of the collapsed slab)

                             Melbourne General Cemetery

                               Photograph:  Courtesy of Peter Torokfalvy

In 1869 he was listed as a graduate of the Western Homœopathic Medical College which was based in Cleveland, achieving his diploma via examinations (and possibly references regarding his previous training and experience), rather than by attendance. However, these qualifications were not accepted by the Medical Board of Victoria for the purpose of becoming a registered medical practitioner. His several applications to the Board were all rejected.



After Hickson's death, the family continued to live at 172 Collins Street East. Isabel rented out the front room to various people over time. One of these people was Edward Oliver Hutchison who ran private classes to 'teach the deaf and dumb to speak by his own system'. (Edward was deaf.) In April 1879, Josephine Marie married Edward. They did not have children. While Josephine remained in Australia, eventually Edward moved to England where he died.


Another person who rented rooms was George Milner Stephen, a famous public servant, geologist, barrister, and faith healer.


In October 1883 Isabel was granted the licence to the Athletic Club Hotel, Swanston Street, although in April 1884 she was charged and fined for having sold liquor on a Sunday. Later that same year the licence was transferred to another person.


By 1886 the family had moved to Sydney where Marcella and Florentine were married. In 1900 Isabel was a dressmaker at Edgecliffe Road, Woollahra. In 1902 she was living at "The White House", Edgecliffe Road, Woollahra. Isabel died in Woollahra on 8 December, 1903.



Hickson and his daughters often performed in recitals and concerts. Josephine and Florentine joined the St Kilda Amateur Dramatic Club, where they had positive reviews for their performances.  However, it was Marcella who made acting her career. She started her career with a theatrical company at age 12,  playing small parts throughout Victoria.  Later she appeared in drama, farce, opera and comedy playing in South Australia, New South Wales and New Zealand. She even formed her own repertory company called the Marcella Day Dramatic Company.  She married James Edward Day in 1886. After she divorced Day, she married Henry Houldsworth Grierson Alexander.


For further details of Hickson's career refer:

John Bell Hickson - Part 1
John Bell Hickson - Part 2


©  Barbara Armstrong

  • Created:
    Tuesday, 22 March 2011
  • Last modified:
    Monday, 20 November 2017