Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fosbrook, Leonard (?–?)

by R. L. Wettenhall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Leonard Fosbrook (flourished 1803-1814), public servant, was the deputy-commissary appointed at the last minute to David Collins's expedition in 1803. He left England before instructions or a formal commission for his office could be issued, but he took charge of all government stores and at the short-lived Port Phillip settlement was also a principal of the night watch. When the expedition moved to the Derwent, Fosbrook pitched his marquee on Hunter's Island, which thus became the site of the original commissariat store. Since the settlement depended almost completely on the marketing activities of the commissariat, the position of deputy-commissary carried great responsibilities and demanded a man whose conduct was above reproach. For some years Fosbrook carried out his duties to Collins's entire satisfaction, but about August 1809 he resigned his office after a disagreement with the lieutenant-governor, probably over the latter's handling of the situation caused by Governor William Bligh's unwelcome visit to the Derwent.

In April 1810 he took the news of Collins's death to Sydney and while there successfully sought reinstatement as deputy-commissary at Hobart Town. He was for a short time thereafter also magistrate and first treasurer of the new police fund. He had received a grant of 100 acres (40 ha) at Humphrey's Rivulet (Glenorchy) in 1804, and two years later another fourteen acres (5.7 ha) on a point overlooking Sullivan Cove, to which he gave his name, Fosbrook's Point. In 1811-12 the latter grant was resumed on Governor Lachlan Macquarie's instructions as 'the Scite for the intended Government House', and renamed Macquarie Point: by way of compensation Fosbrook took up another 500 acres (202 ha) near the Coal River.

Soon after his reappointment as deputy-commissary, rumours adversely reflecting on his integrity began to circulate. In 1811 his former convict-assistant, Francis Shipman, charged him with defrauding the revenue by issuing forged receipts between 1807 and 1809, and the Treasury ordered Macquarie to investigate this. Further evidence of impropriety was found in the accounts for 1812, and in due course Fosbrook was charged with fraudulent conduct, though it might be said that Commandant Andrew Geils was as unreliable an accuser as Shipman. Fosbrook could not at once be replaced, but in September 1813 he was ordered to Sydney to stand trial by general court martial. Shipman's charges were not proceeded with, owing to the lapse of time since the actions complained of had taken place, but on the other counts Fosbrook, though acquitted of embezzlement, was found guilty on 28 February 1814 of gross and criminal neglect of duty and fraudulent conduct; he was required to make good losses amounting to some £550, dismissed from his post and debarred from further service under the Crown.

A lonely figure in ill health, without close relatives in the colony and now disowned by the official society in which he had previously found companionship, Fosbrook arranged security in the colony and returned to England in the whaler Seringapatam, fresh from her heroic encounter with the American frigate Essex, late in 1814. He was last heard of in 1816, living in Vale Place, Hammersmith, Middlesex.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-9, series 3, vols 1-2.

Citation details

R. L. Wettenhall, 'Fosbrook, Leonard (?–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fosbrook-leonard-2059/text2561, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 2 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

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