Fellows of Senate

Sir John Beverley Peden

An early graduate of the University of Sydney (BA 1892, LLB 1898), Sir John Beverley Peden was a Fellow of Senate from 1910 to 1941.


(1871 - 1946)
BA LLB Sydney
Fellow of Senate 1910 - 1941

His early years

John Beverley Peden was born on 26 April 1871, second son and sixth child of Magnus Jackson Peden, merchant and farmer, and mayor of Randwick and of Bega, and his wife Elizabeth Neathway, née Brown. The Browns had migrated to Australia in the 1820s and the Pedens in the 1830s.

He was educated at Bega Public School and Sydney Grammar School where he secured the Windeyer Essay Prize, Senior Knox Prize, and the Boyd Morehead Scholarship tenable at the University of Sydney.

His student days at the University of Sydney

In 1889 Peden matriculated at the University of Sydney with first-class honours in classics, and graduated BA in 1892 with first-class honours in Latin and in logic and mental philosophy.

While studying law, he was vice-warden of St Paul's College (1892-98), assistant lecturer in Latin (1896), president of the Sydney University Union (1893-94 and again in 1910-11) and of the Undergraduates' Association, and editor of Hermes (1895).

In 1898 he graduated LLB with first-class honours and the University medal.


John Beverley Peden (seated, second from left) in 1899 with St Paul's College students - he was Vice-Warden while studying Law, photo from 'Hermes'.

His career

Peden was admitted to the Bar on 4 August 1898 and read in the chambers of R M Sly.

Although he established a successful practice, Peden directed his legal expertise towards the University of Sydney. In 1902 he was appointed part-time Challis lecturer in the law of property at the University. He continued to practise until he succeeded Pitt Cobbett as Challis professor of law and dean of the faculty in 1910. Under Peden the law school grew steadily in reputation and influence. He was president of the Sydney University Law Society, examiner for the Barristers' Admission Board and ex officio chairman of the Solicitors' Admission Board. He was known to his students as 'Jacko', welcomed women law students and in World War I maintained a large correspondence with ex-students fighting overseas.

He became a member of the Legislative Council in 1917. and in 1929 was elected President of the Chamber, a position he held until his retirement in 1946.

He took silk in December 1922, and in 1930 he was appointed KCMG.

He would have preferred all law students to have taken an arts degree first to gain a cultivated awareness of law in society. In 1936 he persuaded the university that no student under 17 should be admitted to law.

Due to retire in April 1941, Peden offered to carry on without emolument as a gesture to war service. Despite ill health, he continued to administer although not to teach.

In late 1941, together with the chancellor, Justice Sir Percival Halse Rogers, Justice (Sir) Colin Davidson and Sir Henry Manning, he resigned from the Senate in protest at the appointment of two professors of law to replace himself and A H Charteris: the Senate had not consulted the judges and ignored a proposal that the positions should not be filled until after the war. He was immediately made emeritus professor.

In addition, he was a trustee of the Mutual Life & Citizens' Assurance Co Ltd (chairman of directors from 1939), a director of the New South Wales Land & Agency Co Ltd and associated companies, a fellow of St Paul's College (1901-28), chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School (1932-46), secretary of the Sydney Round Table group (1918-35), president of the Japan-Australia Society and of the Boys' Brigade, and a practical farmer at Cobargo, near Bega. He was chancellor of the Anglican dioceses of Bathurst and, later, Newcastle. Peden devoted years to framing successive versions of a new constitution for the Church of England in Australia.

He died on 31 May 1946, one month after retiring, following an accident.

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography and Sydney Morning Herald articles


Professor the Hon J B Peden MLC (seated, second from right) in a photo of the Sydney University Union Board of Directors in 1917 - he was Senate representative, photo from 'Hermes'.

Professor Peden and Professor Mungo McCallum in 1926

Professor Peden (left) and Professor Mungo McCallum (centre) from the University of Sydney at a conference for University Professors held in Melbourne in 1926, photo from 'The Argus', 1 June 1926, NLA Newspapers.


Professor Sir John Peden in 1930, President of the Legislative Council and recipient of the New Year's Honours, photo from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 1 January 1930, NLA Newspapers.


The Governor, Lord Wakehurst, entering the Legislative Council chamber followed by Sir John Peden, President of the Council, for the opening of Parliament on 4 August 1937, photo from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 5 August 1937, NLA Newspapers.

Sir John Peden

Sir John Peden, silver gelatin photoprint, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Digital order number: a1334003

His membership of Senate

Peden was a Fellow of the Senate (and active on many of its committees) from 1910 to 1941 when he resigned in protest, and chairman of the professorial board in 1925-33.

Senate's tribute

The 1946 Senate Report records the following: "At the regular meeting of the Senate held on the 1st December, 1941, resignations from the office of Fellow were received from the Honourable Sir Percival Halse Rogers, the Honourable Mr Justice C G W Davidson and the Honourable Sir John Peden. The resignations were received with regret, and, at an adjourned meeting in December, the Senate decided to express its gratitude for the valuable services each had rendered the University during the-tenure of his Fellowship. To fill the vacancies so caused, the Senate fixed Tuesday, the 24th February, 1942, as the day for the holding of a by-election."