Royal Reels: Gambling


Four stampless entires recently appeared at a single Australian auction site, all of postal history significance, but the first seen was of the greatest interest as it linked this early immigrant, John Leake to the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, William Denison. It is addressed to John Leake Esq, Rosedale, Perth, the latter being crossed out and Campbell Town substituted. In the top left hand corner there is a Postmaster’s handstamp, a black boxed ‘CAMP TOWN/ 2. NOV 51.’, the ‘CAMP’ being an abbreviation for Campbell Town. All examples of this postal mark dated November 1851 show the month as all capitals, whereas in the usual examples only the first letter of the month is capitalized.. At the lower left is signature ‘W. Denison’ and at the top right vertically written is ‘W.D. 30 Oct 51’ in blue ink. The indistinct red postmark is a Hobart [Crown] Free November 1 1851 mark (Figure 1).

Sir William Denison was the Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania from 1847-1855 and he then became the Governor of New South Wales from 1855-1861. John Leake was born 5 December 1780 at Ellington Kent, England the son of Robert Leake and his wife Sarah. His family were partners in the mercantile firm of Travis and Leake of Hull. John served as an ensign in the Hull Volunteers and saw active service in the Napoleonic War before 1805, when he married Elizabeth (1786-1852), the daughter of William Bell, a Hull merchant. At the end of the war he took his family of 6 sons to Hamburg, where he was representative for many Yorkshire business houses, as well as a member of the committee for managing the affairs of the Church of England.

He decided to emigrate in 1822 and with letters from the Colonial Office and the British consul at Hamburg, he arrived in Hobart Town with most of his family and 2 servants in the Andromeda in May 1823. For importing merchandise of £3000 he was granted 2000 acres of land which he chose in the area of the Elizabeth and Macquarie Rivers, near Campbell Town. He established his family on his property, Rosedale, and left its management to his eldest son William, whilst he acted as accountant in the Derwent Bank in Hobart. By May 1828, he had large flocks of sheep, a nine-roomed stone and brick house with barns and other improvements.

The government was pleased with his industry and profit from sales of wool and wheat, and he was granted an additional 2,000 acres of land, adjoining to Rosedale. In 1830 he took over management of the farm, and William replaced him at the bank. Later he returned to banking, conducting a local branch of the Commercial Bank at its opening in 1838. John Leake was made a justice of the peace in 1832, acting as police magistrate at Campbell Town in the absence of the regular officer in 1834. In this capacity he was well liked, his decisions were acknowledged to be good and kindly, and he was admired for his sagacity and industry.

He was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1846, then lost his seat but recovered it in 1848, being a government nominee on the Council until 1856. He became a personal friend of Governor William Denison, and one of his chief supporters for the continuance of convict transportation. He successfully employed convicts with encouragement and kindliness, advocating the rehabilitation of the prisoners. In 1856 he retired to ‘Rosedale’ which had been restyled in the 1840’s by James Blackburn into a stately Italian villa (Figure 2).

His wife Elizabeth died there in 1852, and the estate management was passed on to his son Arthur, leaving Leake to spend his last years fostering local projects, which included Hobart Town Auxiliary Bible Society; churchwarden of the Campbell Town Church of England (of which he was a generous subscriber), and he endowed a local hospital. In 1851-65 he was the local commissioner of the Supreme Court of Van Diemens’s Land. He died on January 6, 1865, and his headstone is found in St. Lukes Anglican Cemetery, Campbell Town, as well as many of his family.

Two of his sons settled in South Australia, another became a successful doctor, and the youngest Charles Henry was instrumental in organizing the Campbell Town water supply from Lake Leake, named after him.

Once again I am greatly indebted to Margaret Harman, Heritage Collections, State Library of Tasmania, Hobart for supplying the data derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (November 2007);  An additional cover was found addressed to John Leake Esqr MLC, Rosedale, and it was signed by rhe sender, the Governor Sir William Denison.  The orange 4d ‘Van Diemens Land octagonal stamp  was postmarked with an illegible barred numeral (Figure 3).

Addendum (August 2009):  Another item, a stampless entire with a postmark of great rarity has been  found addressed to John Leake, Rosedale, Campbell Town, Van Diemans Land.  It was sent from Adelaide (indistinct red cancel) on June 2, 1851) and there is a boxed SHIP LETTER/ 18 JU 18/ 1851, as well as a 2-line C’TOWN/ 20 JU 1851, of which there are only 3 recorded postmarks dated between 21 June 1851-20 July 1851 (Figures 4 – 6).

Categories: Political