Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover was sent from Sydney ‘per Steamer’ and franked with the yellow-green 3d ‘Sydney Views’ stamp postmarked with an obliterator, addressed to the Reverend John A. Manton, New Norfolk, Van Diemen’s Land, plus a red unframed PAID SHIP LETTER/ Crown/ JU (rosette) 5/ 1851/ SYDNEY and a manuscript ‘5″. A Launceston reception datestamp was seen on the reverse (Figure 1).

I have seen several letters sent to the Reverend Manton but multiple internet searches have been relatively unrewarding. It was not until Margaret Harman of Heritage Collections, State Library of Tasmania supplied his biography in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1788-1850, Volume 2, page 205, that a coherent story of his life became available.

John Allen Manton (1807-1864), Wesleyan minister, was born on 17 August 1807 at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Thomas and Jane Manton. At 15, he preached the gospel and in 1823 was admitted into the Methodist Society, on trial. He became a local preacher and in April 1830 entered the Christian ministry. In January 1831, he entered missionary service, and sailed in February for N.S.W. in the Surry. His first appointment was at Parramatta N.S.W. At Sydney in April 1833 he married Anne Green (from Spilsby, Lincolnshire). Six months later he replaced Rev. William Schofield in the penal station at Macquarie Harbour, V.D.L., whence he sailed in January 1833 for the new penal settlement at Port Arthur, where he became its first chaplain.

He organized and conducted schools for adult convicts, and instructed some 70 convict boys at Point Puer, later receiving special thanks from the Lieutenant-Governor Arthur for his faithful services. The small Island off Point Puer, originally called Opossum Island, was selected as a burial place by Manton in 1833. (By 1877, the renamed Dead Island, was the burial site for some 1,000 convicts). In 1834 he was transferred to Launceston, where for 3 years he conducted a most successful ministry. In 1841 he was reappointed to Port Arthur, where he remained until the government, unsettled by the influence of Bishop Nixon, decided to withdraw Wesleyan chaplains from penal stations despite their long ministry of 14 years. He then became superintendent minister at Hobart Town.

At Campbell Town, with the financial aid of Captain Horton, Manton opened a Wesleyan school for boys in Tasmania, and he became its first principal. After 2 years he moved back to New South Wales, where he suggested a second Wesleyan Collegiate institution should be established. He was supported by the Wesleyan Conference members in Sydney and in July 1863, Newington College was opened with Manton as principal. He was never robust, his health failed after 15 months and he died at the College on 9 September 1864, survived by his widow and several children.

An obituary in the Tasmanian Messenger said of him: “He was a man of sound judgment and enlightened mind, a good preacher, a strict disciplinarian, a perfect gentleman, a thorough Wesleyan…..Faultless he was not, but about him there was a combination of tenderness and firmness, of sympathy and manliness, of Christian liberality and consistency, that his enemies were few and his friends were many” (Figure 2).