HOYLES, NEWMAN WRIGHT, ship’s captain, businessman, politician, office holder, and jp; b. 30 Aug. 1777 in Dartmouth, England, second son of William Hoyles, doctor, and Anne Wright; m. there in 1801 Lucretia Brown, and they had three sons and six daughters; d. 29 Feb. 1840 in St John’s.
Born in a south Devon seaport traditionally associated with the Newfoundland migratory fishery, Newman Wright Hoyles went to sea at 15. Captain of a brig at 21, he sailed the North Atlantic trading routes, calling at West Indian, European, and Newfoundland ports. By 1806 he had formed a mercantile partnership with Thomas Follett, member of a long-established Newfoundland firm of Devonshire origin. Hoyles’s marriage in 1801 to the daughter of the doctor attached to the military garrison at Placentia, Nfld, strengthened his ties to the island. He became a permanent resident of St John’s no later than 1810, when he was one of 36 merchants and planters who met to determine the price of fish and cod oil for the season. In 1812 he became the agent of the Marine Insurance Society, established by the merchants of St John’s; by 1815 he was conducting his own insurance brokerage and within a year was the appointed agent of Lloyd’s of London.
A new partnership, which had been formed in 1813 with Hugh William Brown, a London merchant, insurance broker, and probably a brother-in-law, enabled Hoyles to survive the post-1815 depression in the fish trade. With branches at Port de Grave and Trepassey and fishing stations on the Labrador coast, Brown, Hoyles and Company became a leading mercantile firm, owning sea-going vessels, importing goods, and exporting fish.
In 1813, and possibly earlier, Hoyles had been elected to the committee of the Society of Merchants, a body which, in the absence of any locally constituted authority, played a large part in town government. Hoyles became a member of the lighthouse, powder-magazine, and pilotage committees. As the prime mover in framing regulations for the employment of harbour pilots, Hoyles earned the disapproval of Governor John Thomas Duckworth* for not obtaining his prior sanction. In 1819 Hoyles, declaring his support for the incorporation of St John’s, referred to the disrepute into which pilotage had fallen because no municipal authority existed to enforce regulations. Indeed all other municipal concerns, including the police, the fire companies, and the hospital, had suffered the same fate, he said. At a town meeting which he chaired later in 1819, he presented the unanimous decision of the grand jury, of which he was foreman, that authority to establish a civil police, provide for the poor, and regulate fire companies, pilotage, and the hospital, lighthouse, and powder-magazine should be vested in a committee chosen at a town meeting and authorized to levy property taxes. Hoyles was on a committee elected to frame a bill of corporation, but contention over property assessments prevented its submission to the governor.
In 1823 Hoyles was elected vice-president of the St John’s Chamber of Commerce, the executive body of the newly established Commercial Society. Alongside William Carson and Patrick Morris, he also served as treasurer of the “Committee of Inhabitants” delegated to consider the bill recently introduced into the British parliament for the reorganization of Newfoundland’s courts. The committee, resolved to see the appointment of a local legislature to superintend expenditure of public revenue, prepared its own outline of a bill. In 1824 the British judicature act, which also provided a charter of incorporation for St John’s but fell far short of the committee’s expectations, was passed. Hoyles’s support of reform was undoubtedly given some credibility by his social prominence. At various times between 1819 and 1824 he served as treasurer of the St John’s Library Society, a steward of St John’s Charity School, an Anglican churchwarden, captain of the fire company he established in 1824, chairman of the committee for poor relief and of the Marine Insurance Association, and foreman of the grand jury. Recognizing his importance, Governor Thomas John Cochrane* appointed Hoyles in 1825 an aide-de-camp with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. At the same time, with reservations to cover the conflict of interest which could result from his business pursuits, the governor recommended him, without success, for a position on Council.
In 1827 Hoyles, as president of the Chamber of Commerce, forwarded a petition to London protesting the extension of import duties. The next year he was one of those who requested a public meeting for the purpose of petitioning parliament not to impose further import duties but to grant a local legislature. Speaking at the meeting and referring to Patrick Morris as “the O’Connell of Newfoundland” and to William Carson, who also spoke, as a “still greater patriot,” Hoyles foresaw no financial difficulties for a colonial legislature. When representative government was granted in 1832, Hoyles, who had divested himself of his mercantile interests, sat in the assembly for Fortune Bay and was appointed colonial treasurer in December of that year.
Hoyles, who had nominated Carson at the hustings in 1832, was a supporter of reform but reform concerned chiefly with local grievances and the enactment of municipal regulations. He introduced bills to regulate the storage of gunpowder, fire companies, pilotage, and the spread of infectious diseases; to open a fire-break; to provide relief for disabled seamen and fishermen; and to establish hospitals. His intention in 1833 to introduce a bill for the incorporation of St John’s was not realized. The financial difficulties of the assembly were manifold, aggravated by developing party strife. Hoyles as colonial treasurer incurred the wrath of the assembly, the reformers in particular, by the payment in November 1834 of £853 6s. 11d. on the unconstitutional warrant of Governor Cochrane, and he did not sit in the assembly after 1836. He continued as colonial treasurer until his death. Between 1838 and 1840 he served on the board of health, the board of commissioners for pilotage, and as a justice of the peace and cashier of the Savings Bank. His son Hugh William* was to serve as Newfoundland’s first native-born premier (1861–65) and as chief justice (1865–80).
Cathedral of St John the Baptist (Anglican) (St John’s), Reg. of baptisms and burials. Devon Record Office (Exeter, Eng.), 2537 A (St Petrox, Dartmouth), reg. of baptisms and marriages; 2992 A (St Saviour, Dartmouth), reg. of baptisms. MHA, Hoyles name file. PANL, GN 2/1/A, May, 9 Oct. 1822; 19 Oct. 1825. Private arch., N. J. S. Hoyles (Grand Bend, Ont.), “The house of Hoyles,” comp. H. L. and N. W. Hoyles (1913). PRO, BT 98/6–9. Nfld., House of Assembly, Journal, 1833–35. Newfoundland Mercantile Journal, 1819–20, 1824. Public Ledger, 1810, 1824, 1827–29. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, 1810–13, 1815–16, 1828, 1832–34, 1840. Gunn, Political hist. of Nfld. Leslie Harris, “The first nine years of representative government in Newfoundland” (ma thesis, Memorial Univ. of Nfld., St John’s, 1959). A. H. McLintock, The establishment of constitutional government in Newfoundland, 1783–1832: a study of retarded colonisation (London and Toronto, 1941). Prowse, Hist. of Nfld. (1895). Keith Matthews, “The class of ‘32: St. John’s reformers on the eve of representative government,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 6 (1976–77), no.2: 80–94. Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser, 10 Sept. 1907.