Challis Bequest - Administrative History

John Henry Challis was born on 6 August, 1806, in England. He died on the 28th February 1880 in Mentone, France. He arrived in New South Wales in 1829, and was employed as a clerk with the firm of Marsden and Flower. He subsequently joined the firm of Phillip William Flower and Severin Kanute Salting as a junior partner. This firm was dissolved in 1885, and Challis left with his share of approximately £100,000. Apart from a brief visit in 1859, Challis lived in Europe from 1855 until his death. It was this unusual life style that later led to difficulties with the English Inland Revenue, who claimed that legacy duties were payable in England.

Under his will, the whole of his residuary estate was left to the University of Sydney, subject to a tenure until death or re-marriage of his widow, and a provision that the estate should accumulate for five year after such death or re-marriage. In 1890, the sum of about ?200,000 was handed over to the University. There was a legal dispute arising from the claim of the British Taxation Commissioners who claimed legacy duty in respect of Challis’ colonial property, holding that he was domiciled in England. But the Chancellor of the University, Sir William Montagu Manning, negotiated the University’s case between the NSW Government and the British Taxation Commissioners, and was able to reach a compromise where by the Australian assets were exempted from Duty.

The bequest enabled the establishment of Chairs of Anatomy, Biology, Law, Modern Literature, Logic and Mental Philosophy, Engineering and History.