People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

George Leake (1786–1849)

by Georgina Arnott, Jane Lydon, Zoë Laidlaw and Xavier Reader

This article was published:

Early landscape of Fremantle, showing George Leake's house (number 13)

Early landscape of Fremantle, showing George Leake's house (number 13)

Wallace Bickley, ‘View of Fremantle, Western Australia (from the Canning Road),’ 1832, State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1961/0Q27

George Leake (1786-1849) was a merchant and banker who emigrated to the early Swan River colony in 1829. Born and raised in Buckinghamshire, he was the son of Luke Leake (1756-1799) and Ann Heading (1758-1836).[1] George had several siblings: an elder brother Luke, who was born in 1784 (d.1838), and two younger brothers, William and John, both born November 1789 (presumably twins). [2] George Leake may have been related to George Leake (b.1796), a large-scale plantation owner in Jamaica. This George Leake was awarded compensation for the ownership of enslaved people on the ‘Saint Thomas in the East’ plantation.[3]

In 1813 George married Anne Growse (no dates) in Bildeston, Suffolk, aged twenty-seven.[4] The couple had one child, Anne-Elizabeth, born on 16 August 1815.[5] At the time, they were residing at Stoke Newington, an affluent area of greater London which housed many large estates.[6] The record of Anne-Elizabeth’s birth lists George’s occupation as a stock broker.[7] In 1815, just two short years after their marriage, Anne died of an unknown cause.[8] George continued to live in Stoke Newington until at least November 1821, as he took out two insurance policies, one in 1817 and one in 1821, from the ‘Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group’.[9]

In 1829, Leake decided to emigrate to the fledgling Swan River colony (Western Australia). One newspaper article attributes this decision as stemming from “a chance meeting in a London street early in 1829,” where George met with Captain James Stirling, who had recently been appointed lieutenant-governor of the colony. Stirling suggested to Leake, along with his close friend Lionel Samson, “why don’t you come too?”[10] Leake emigrated to the Swan River in 1829 aboard the Calista, which left from London and travelled via Rio de Janeiro.[11] Whilst at the port and during a brief visit to the city, he wrote a detailed account based on his personal observations of the slave market, which was still in operation at the time. He considered the slavery as “mild and humane, if such a word can be applied, as its horrid nature permits.”[12]

The Calista arrived in Fremantle on 5 August 1829.[13] He was accompanied by several servants he had brought to the Swan River: Robert Bell, James Cockman and his wife Mary Ann Roper, Robert Payne and his wife Mary Reading, Robert Maydwell and his wife Susannah, and an unnamed child. The early records of land for the Swan River indicate that Leake arrived with an investment valued at £2216, 13s, 2.5d (£1116, 10s, 4.5d being considered applicable to the cultivation of land). According to the method of granting land according to the value of assets they introduced (set at 40 acres for every 3 pounds of investment), Leake was entitled to 15,000 acres of land.[14] He, however, was granted 20,907 acres.[15] He claimed the majority of this land in the Upper Swan region.[16] His grant was described in a newspaper sketch as “a beautiful spot” with “good land.”[17] The grant also housed one of the colony’s earliest flour mills.[18] His town lot at Fremantle was depicted in equally complimentary terms, as “the best in town” at the time.[19]

Most of Leake’s immediate family followed him to the Swan River colony. Beginning in October 1829, his mother Ann, his brother Luke, and his daughter Anne-Elizabeth emigrated to the colony aboard the Atwick.[20] In January 1833, Luke’s wife Mary Ann (1800-1872) arrived aboard the Cygnet, accompanied by their three children George Walpole (1825-1895), John Thomas (b.1827), and Luke Samuel (1828-1886).[21] Finally, in December 1837, George’s remaining nephew John (1795-1872) arrived aboard the Eleanor.[22] In October 1840, Leake remarried, to Georgiana Mary (neé Kingsford).[23] The couple do not appear to have had any children.[24]

Leake quickly established himself in the Swan River as a merchant and ran a successful general store in Fremantle.[25] His family was instrumental in ensuring the continued success of the business, with one newspaper report noting that his merchant enterprise relied “entirely on arrangements made by family members in England and on excess supplies introduced by incoming ships.”[26] Leake ran the business with his brother Luke following his arrival in the Swan River. However, following Luke’s death in 1818, Leake continued the business with the assistance of his sister-in-law Mary Ann and nephew John Leake.[27]

Leake made many significant investments in the colony. In 1829, he purchased the wreck of the vessel Marquis of Anglesea as an investment, which he leased and reaped substantial profits.[28] The substantial amount of capital he brought to the colony, combined with the success of his business enterprises, enabled him to underwrite the mortgages of many other settlers and contribute to the financial health of the colony.[29] In 1834 he was also appointed the Government Resident of Fremantle, which supplemented his income with an annual salary of £100. He later petitioned for his salary to be increased.[30] By 1836 he was considered one of the richest men in the colony, also due in part to his monopoly, along with Brockman, over providing the colony with wheat products from his flour mill.[31] His wealth also enabled him to become one of the founding members (and the original director) of the Bank of Western Australia, the colony’s first banking institution, in 1837.[32]

In addition to his appointment as Government Resident, Leake held numerous other civil positions. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1839 and was later in the same year appointed as a Magistrate, becoming the first individual to hold the position in the Colony.[33] Other residents of the Swan River expressed their dissatisfaction at his appointment to the Legislative Council, using the Swan River Guardian as a mouthpiece to express “we consider Mr George Leake an unfit person to sit in the Legislative Council, because his temper is so irritable and his disposition of mind so vindictive against those who have opposed him his pride and assumption, that the interests of the Mercantile body would not be advanced by him in any desirable way.”[34] Despite these remarks against his character, Leake retained the position until his death, and was later appointed the Chairman of the Perth Town Trust, and became a committee member and Chairman of the Roads board.[35] Following his offer to use his influence in England to secure the labour of “orphan and Destitute Children, by means of Apprenticeship in the Colonies” to address the colony’s acute labour shortage, Leake was also appointed as ‘guardian to juveniles’ who were sent by the Children’s Friend Society to perform labour in the colony. [36] Later, he acted as an agent to Charles Prinsep, another wealthy emigrant, who intended to secure a Bengalese labour force for the colony in 1838.[37] Later in life, he became the original member to the Central Board of Works in 1847.[38]

George Leake died in Perth on the 31 May 1849, aged sixty-four, following a period of ill health. [39] Whilst newspaper reports attribute his death to a “short illness,” evidence of his deteriorating health is evident in the fact he missed several council meetings throughout 1848 due to his condition.[40] He was regarded by one newspaper article as a “universally respected gentleman” whose passing was considered a “great loss,” and that the “community has sustained by this melancholy event, which has deprived the colony of the services of one of the most faithful supporters of its interests.”[41] His funeral was attended by the Governor Captain Charles Fitzgerald, and a further “one hundred and thirty of the most respectable colonists.”[42] His lifelong friend Lionel Samson served as a pall bearer.[43] George was buried in the East Perth Cemetery.[44] His obituary noted that he was “beloved both as a husband and a friend, esteemed as a kind and liberal landlord, respected as a legislator. His loss, both in the social and political capacity is justly mourned by the majority of the inhabitants of W.A.”[45]

George was succeeded by his wife Georgiana (d.1869)[46] and his only child Anne-Elizabeth Broun (d.1855).[47]

Endnotes
[1] George Leake, The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, pre-1829–1988, ed. Rica Erickson (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1987); Luke Leake, Find a Grave Online Database, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/216960379/luke-leake; ‘Luke Leake,’ Church of England Burials, St Botolph, Aldersgate, London Metropolitan Archives, P69/BOT1/A/008/MS03858, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/imageviewer/collections/1624/images/31281_a101138-00021?pId=5467245; ‘Luke Leake,’ Church of England Baptisms, St Margaret, Lothbury, 1756, film no. 374471, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/imageviewer/collections/1624/images/31281_a101832-00038?pId=7356263; ‘George Leake 1786-1849,’ Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/111716785/person/370090372062/facts?_phsrc=Gnd121&_phstart=successSource; Anne Heading Leake, Find a Grave Online Database, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152890973/anne-leake

[2] Luke Leake, WABD; ‘William Leake and John Leake,’ Church of England Baptisms, 1538-1812, St Martin Vintry, 1789, London Metropolitan Archives, P69/MTN5/A/003/MS05154, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/307632400:1624

[3] ‘George Leake,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/43520; Georgina Arnott, Zoë Laidlaw and Jane Lydon, “Introduction,” Australian Journal of Biographical History (Special Issue) 6, no. 1 (2022): 11. This George Leake was also possibly awarded compensation for claim 111, Portland, Jamaica. See ‘Jamaica Portland 111,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/23899

[4] ‘George Leake,’ Church of England Select Marriages 1538-1973, Bildeston, Suffolk, 1813, film no. 951459, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/37821471:9852

[5] ‘Anne-Elizabeth Leake,’ Church of England Baptisms, St Mary, Stoke Newington, 1815, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/154118192:1558

[6] ‘Anne-Elizabeth Leake,’ Church of England Baptisms, St Mary, Stoke Newington, 1815, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/154118192:1558; A.P Baggs, Diane Bolton and Patricia Croot, 'Stoke Newington: Other estates', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, (London: 1985), 178-184. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol8/pp178-184.

[7] ‘Anne-Elizabeth Leake,’ Church of England Baptisms, St Mary, Stoke Newington, 1815, Ancestry.com Online Database, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/154118192:1558

[8] ‘George Leake,’ WABD.

[9] ‘Insured: George Leake Near the Old Manor House Stoke Newington Gent,’ dated 6 October 1817, London Metropolitan Archives Online Catalogue, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/472/934419, https://search.lma.gov.uk/SCRIPTS/MWIMAIN.DLL/282874055/2/9/2934630?RECORD&UNION=Y&URLMARKER=STARTREQUEST; ‘Insured: George Leake Near the Old Manor House Stoke Newington Gent,’ dated 29 November 1821, London Metropolitan Archives Online Catalogue, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/487/985849, https://search.lma.gov.uk/SCRIPTS/MWIMAIN.DLL/282874055/2/10/3008111?RECORD&UNION=Y&URLMARKER=STARTREQUEST

[10] ‘Romantic History of Samson Family,’ Western Australian, 16 March 1949, 14.

[11] Calista passenger list, State Records Office of Western Australia, Consignment 5000/567,

Passengers WA arrivals and departures, produced by Graham Brown for the Swan River Pioneers Special Interest Group of the Western Australian Genealogical Society, Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/component/content/article/72-members/358-swan-river-colony-arrivals-and-departures-1829-1838

[12] Canon Burton, “George Leake at Sea, 1829,” Journal and Proceedings of the Western Australian Historical Society 1, no. 10 (1931): 32-34; Jane Lydon, Anti-Slavery and Australia: No Slavery in a Free Land? (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021): 10; Arnott, Laidlaw and Lydon, “Introduction,” 12; ‘George Leake at Sea,’ Journal and Proceedings Western Australian Historical Society, 1 no.10 (1931): 25-34.

[13] Calista passenger list, State Records Office of Western Australia, Consignment 5000/567, accession 36/2/25, Passengers WA arrivals and departures, Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/component/content/article/72-members/358-swan-river-colony-arrivals-and-departures-1829-1838

[14] Calista passenger list, SROWA, cons 5000/567, acc. 36/2/25, Passengers WA arrivals and departures, Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/component/content/article/72-members/358-swan-river-colony-arrivals-and-departures-1829-1838; ‘Return of property on which land has been claimed from 01/06/1829-30/06/1830’, State Records Office of Western Australia, Consignment 5000, 683/02; ‘Return of Lands in Western Australia assigned up to the 20th day of July 1832’, SROWA Cons5000, 683/03.

[15] ‘Return of Lands in Western Australia assigned up to the 20th day of July 1832’, SROWA Cons5000, 683/03.

[16] ‘Further Returns Relative to the Settlement on the Swan River. Ordered to be printed 30 March 1831’, Schedule: Extract of a Dispatch from Lieutenant Governor Stirling to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies; dated Perth, Western Australia, 18th October 1830, State Library of Western Australia Online Catalogue, Q994.1 RET, https://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b1225657_1

[17] ‘Narrative Account of the Colony of Western Australia,’ Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 1 August 1835, 4.

[18] Jenny Chapman, Perseverando: The Leake family in the Political, Economic and Social Life of W.A 1829-1902 (Research Paper: Claremont Teachers College, 1965): 6.

[19] Jane Roberts, Two Years at Sea (London: Richard Bentley Publishing, 1834): 86.

[20] Atwick passenger list, State Records Office of Western Australia, Consignment 5000/567,

Passengers WA arrivals and departures, Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/component/content/article/72-members/358-swan-river-colony-arrivals-and-departures-1829-1838

[21] Cygnet passenger list, SROWA, cons 5000/567, acc. 36/29/208, Passengers WA arrivals and departures, Family History WA Online Database, http://data.fhwa.org.au/component/content/article/72-members/358-swan-river-colony-arrivals-and-departures-1829-1838; Luke Leake, WABD; George Walpole Leake, WABD, John Thomas Leake, WABD; Mary Ann departed in February 1839 “with 2 children.”

[22] Departed July 1838 but returned September 1838 from Mauritius. ‘Shipping Intelligence,’ Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 30 December 1837, 2.

[23] Perth Gazette, 10 October 1840, 2.

[24] George Leake, WABD.

[25] Chapman, Perseverando, 6. For instance, George imported 300 pairs of shoes, transported per the Egyptian, and sold every paid in one day. See Hal Colebatch, A Story of a Hundred Years (Perth: Government Printer, 1929): 51.

[26] Pamela Statham, The Economic Development of the Swan River Colony 1829-1850 (PhD thesis: University of Western Australia, 1980): 86n17.

[27] Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 19 January 1839, 11-12; Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 18 May 1839, 80.

[28] Chapman, Perseverando, 6.

[29] Chapman, Perseverando, 6.

[30] Council Office Perth, Minutes of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 4 May 1840, Parliamentary Library Online Database, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament%5Clibrary%5Cminutes1832to1870.nsf/vwMainBackground/1840/$File/LCMINUTE.y40amdr.pdf, 30.

[31] Chapman, Perseverando, 6; William Bunbury and W.P Morrell (eds.), Early days in Western Australia: Being the letters and journal of Lieutenant H.W Bunbury, 21st fusiliers (London: Oxford University Pres, 1930), 111.

[32] George Leake, WABD; J.S Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System 1788-1851 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1953): 386.

[33] Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 30 March 1839, p.49; Chapman, Perseverando, 7.

[34] ‘Answers to Correspondents,’ Swan River Guardian, 16 November 1837, 249.

[35] Chapman, Perserverando, 7.

[36] ‘Western Australian Agricultural Society,’ Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 28 September 1833, 154; Arnott, Laidlaw and Lydon, “Introduction,” 12; Pamela Statham-Drew, Admiral and Founding Governor of Western Australia (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 2003), 348.

[37] Arnott, Laidlaw and Lydon, “Introduction,” 12; Pamela Statham-Drew, Admiral and Founding Governor of Western Australia (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 2003), 348.

[38] Margaret Medcalf, ‘Leake, George (1786–1849)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, The Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leake-george-2343/text3055

[39] Perth Gazette, 1 June 1849, 2; ‘Death of George Leake, Esq. M.C,’ Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 1 June 1849, 2.

[40] Perth Gazette, 1 June 1849, p.2; Statham, The Economic Development of the Swan River Colony, 421n61.

[41] ‘Death of George Leake, Esq. M.C,’ Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 1 June 1849, 2.

[42] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 October 1849, 2.

[43] The Inquirer, 6 June 1849, 2.

[44] ‘George Leake,’ Find a Grave Online Database, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/152890974/george-leake

[45] The Inquirer, 6 June 1849, 2.

[46] ‘Georgiana Mary Kingsford Leake,’ Find a Grave Online Database, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/221971736/georgiana-mary-leake

[47] Ann Elizabeth Leake, WABD.

Original Publication

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2. [View Article]

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Georgina Arnott, Jane Lydon, Zoë Laidlaw and Xavier Reader, 'Leake, George (1786–1849)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/leake-george-2343/text40986, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Early landscape of Fremantle, showing George Leake's house (number 13)

Early landscape of Fremantle, showing George Leake's house (number 13)

Wallace Bickley, ‘View of Fremantle, Western Australia (from the Canning Road),’ 1832, State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1961/0Q27

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1786
England

Death

31 May, 1849 (aged ~ 63)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Occupation
Key Organisations
Workplaces