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John Lakeland (1791–1828)

by L. L. Robson

This article was published:

John Lakeland (d.1828), public servant, arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1814 or 1815, 'with a view of establishing himself in the colony'. In 1816 he acted as provost-marshal when Martin Tims was suspended and in July 1818 Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell appointed him assistant to Major Thomas Bell, engineer and inspector of public works in Hobart Town, at a salary of £75 with rations and three servants. In this post Lakeland became familiar with the general management of the convicts and with the procedure relating to their disposal and coercion. In 1820 he succeeded Thomas Crowder as principal superintendent of convicts and in 1825 resigned as assistant inspector of public works because the duties were too arduous to enable him to give full attention to his other office. As principal superintendent Lakeland was responsible for all matters concerning convict discipline and, after the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, for putting into effect the policy of tightening up the control of the prisoners. During Lakeland's tenure office hours of work were lengthened, task work abolished, barracks opened, the payment of wages ceased, and the penal establishments of Macquarie Harbour and Maria Island were founded. In 1826, when the department was reorganized and the system of punishment by labour in chain-gangs was begun, the position of some convicts was made more humiliating by the superintendent's recommendation that they be dressed in suitably conspicuous yellow clothing; the distillery at the Cascades was bought for use as a factory for the female convicts. On 26 November 1828, after a short illness brought on by assiduous application to his duties and the grievous effect on him of the death of a favourite daughter, he died at his residence at Pittwater.

Lakeland held land at Pittwater in 1818; he received 300 acres (121 ha) from Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1820 and 300 (121 ha) from Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane in 1825. In 1830 his trustees received an additional 1960 acres (793 ha) near the River Styx. On 17 August 1818 Lakeland had married Mary Louisa, a daughter of Surgeon Thomas Arndell and sister-in-law of James Gordon. She survived him with two sons, James Gordon and John Thomas, and two daughters, Emily Elizabeth and Louisa. In 1831 Lakeland's widow married Thomas H. White; she died at her home, Macquarie Street, Hobart, in May 1835.

Lieutenant-Governor Arthur held Lakeland in high regard and in 1827 had supported his application for a further salary increase—it had been raised to £150 in 1825—to £400. He attended Lakeland's funeral, and in reporting his death declared that the government had 'been deprived of an intelligent and extremely indefatigable and zealous officer'. His office was the keystone in Arthur's administration and was exposed to temptation, but Lakeland filled it 'with great benefit to the Public Service'. The Hobart Town Courier declared that the convicts themselves lamented his loss 'with little less regret than those in the higher walks of life'.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 2-6
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 25 July, 29 Aug 1818, 1 July 1820
  • Hobart Town Courier, 29 Nov, 6 Dec 1828
  • Tasmanian, 28 Nov 1828, 8 May 1835
  • Australian, 18 Mar 1831
  • GO 33/24/837 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • CSO 1/301/7311, 1/354/8076, 1/558/12298 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

L. L. Robson, 'Lakeland, John (1791–1828)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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