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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Spode, Josiah (1790–1858)

by F. C. Green

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Josiah Spode (1790-1858), landowner and public servant, was the grandson of Josiah Spode of Stoke Lodge, Stoke-on-Trent, England, founder of the famous Staffordshire pottery. He served in the navy, first as a midshipman and then in 1809-10 as an officer. He retired from the navy to manage the family pottery, but on the birth of a first cousin he was no longer the heir and decided to leave England. He married the daughter of the wealthy Garner family and sailed in the Brixton for Hobart Town, where he arrived in 1821. With declared assets of £821 16s. 9d. and credentials from the Colonial Office, he was given a grant of land near Hamilton, about thirty miles (48 km) from New Norfolk. He later exchanged it for land at Macquarie Plains which he leased after making sufficient improvements to earn an additional grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) at Shooter's Hill, eight miles (13 km) from New Norfolk.

His interest in farming was secondary to his aspirations in the colonial service. In 1827 he was appointed muster master with charge of convict records and assistant police magistrate for Hobart. In 1828 he also became coroner. In 1831 he was promoted principal superintendent of convicts, and in 1839 became chief police magistrate and also a member of the Legislative Council, where he upheld the existing convict system in the face of Alexander Maconochie's criticism. Two years later he resigned from the council when reappointed principal superintendent of convicts. In 1844 this office was abolished and next year he retired with an annual pension of £220 from the colonial service, in which he had for seventeen years been a most efficient officer. In the meantime he had built at New Town a town house known as Stoke Cottage. He continued to live there but still owned the Shooter's Hill property where in 1846 he had bought an additional 640 acres (259 ha). In 1851 he advertised his intention to lease this property, which included a new house with 2137 acres (865 ha) of land, 100 (40 ha) of them under cultivation. In 1854 he sailed for England with his wife and two youngest sons in the Antipodes. He died on 1 November 1858 at Grange Villa, Tring, aged 68. Of his many children the eldest son, Josiah, studied medicine in England and returned to practise in Melbourne.

Spode received his colonial appointment under Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur's administration, and the satisfaction he gave his demanding chief is comment on his efficiency. Scrupulously honest in a situation he could have used to his own advantage, his assignment of the available convict labour among grasping settlers was executed with great fairness. He prided himself on the accuracy of the extensive records he had to keep and during his long term of office became so familiar with the thousands of convicts under his charge that his advice to Arthur on the treatment of particular men was invaluable. Although thorough and conscientious, he lacked generosity; for all his dependability he appears as a humourless, slightly arrogant and colourless civil servant.

Select Bibliography

  • L. S. Bethell, The Valley of the Derwent (Hob, 1961)
  • correspondence file under Josiah Spode (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

F. C. Green, 'Spode, Josiah (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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