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Biographical entry Leak, Jonathon (1779 - 1838?)

Burslem?, England
Manufacturer and Potter


Jonathon Leak arrived in Australia as a convict in 1819. After getting a ticket-of-leave he started a business as a pot maker and by 1828 was employing over 20 free men. Jonathan Leak was the most successful potter of the early developing period of Australia.


Excerpts from Leak: colonial potter (1994) Hardy & Cross

Jonathan Leak's fall and subsequent rise to fame came as a result of he and two friends burgling the home of Mrs Chatterley of Shelton on the night of Sunday 20th December 1818.......The three convicted men were reprieved but to be deported to Australia for life.......On the 31st July 1819 the three sailed in the brig Recovery for Sydney, Australia. Upon arrival they were put into Carters Barracks, a brick and stone building specifically built to house convicts at Brickfield Hill, one mile from Sydney Cove.

All the prisoners had to do useful work, and Leaks talents as a potter were quickly realised by Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, who immediately put him to paid work in the adjacent Government Pottery. This had been built in about 1790 on the site of a large deposit of high quality pipe and potters clay. He made many improvements to the pottery making processes and in consequence of this and his good conduct, he was granted a ticket of leave in September 1822 and permitted to do the best he could for himself. He no longer had to work as an assigned man for a master and he was able to spend the rest of his sentence working for himself wherever he pleased provided he stayed within the colony. He still had restrictions placed on him and had to ensure good behavior and the ticket of leave could be revoked at any time.

While working in the Government Pottery, Leak realised the potential for setting up his own business and this was soon granted. He wrote to his wife Mary suggesting that she and the children come to join him. She and four of the children, Stephen aged 14, Ann aged 11, Elijah aged 6 and Kitty aged 3 were given free passages and they arrived on the ship Mary Ann early in 1822. In April of that year, Leak wrote to the new Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, for permission for his other two sons to join them. It was not until July 1826 that Lewis, then aged 22, arrived on the ship Fairfield, the other son remained in England. Lewis brought with him a considerable quantity of moulds for the purpose of carrying on the Wedgwood manufacturing in the Colony.

In July 1823 Leak successfully obtained two land grants, close to the Government Pottery, which enabled him to establish his own pottery. By 1828, Leak's pottery was employing over twenty free men. He was the only potter operating in the colony and two short articles in 1828 in 'The Australian' newspaper reported the production of 40,000 bricks weekly. Several advertisements in the newspaper appeared offering the sale of malt kiln tiles, oven tiles, common bricks, ginger beer and other bottles, stone jars for pickling and preserving, and earthenware of all sorts.
Unfortunately, by February 1828, his health had deteriorated and in a letter to the Governor, he wrote that he was in a very weakly state; furthermore, his wife had been for some time confined to a bed of sickness. His two sons, Lewis and Stephen, took over the day-to-day running of the pottery. That same year, Jonathan petitioned the Governor for a conditional pardon, which will enable him to support his family with credit and educate them in the paths of rectitude. The conditional pardon was granted and it gave him citizenship of the colony but no right to return to England.


Life event - Married Mary Wood, the niece of pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood

Published resources


  • Hardy, Debbie and Cross, Steve, Leak: colonial potter (Sydney: S.Cross, 1994), 43 pp. Details


See also

Rosanne Walker