Letter of John Alsop to Gawler

John Alsop

John Alsop left Falmouth, England on the barque Sir Charles Forbes with his wife and seven children on 20 December 1848 and arrived at Port Adelaide on 8 April 1849. He had migrated to Adelaide on the recommendation of a near neighbour in Derbyshire, recently retired Colonel George Gawler. John was an experienced lead miner and lead smelter owner in Derbyshire. Within a couple of months he wrote an article in the South Australian Gazette and Mining Journal giving his opinion about the possibility of coal occurring in South Australia. In concluding his article he stated that he had 'not as yet seen any proof that it may not be found here, but on many accounts I consider it very probable that it may'.

In September he submitted a lengthy report in the same paper about the Glen Osmond mine, which he was managing. In October 1850 he became a member of the Provisional Committee which hoped to float the Cornish Equitable Union Mining Association 'to prove to the colonists of South Australia and the world how the South Australian mines can be worked with success, and yield large and lasting profits to the adventurers; and also with a view to check the nefarious system which has so long been a bane to this province, viz., that of forming Companies professedly for mining operations, many of which have ended in mere bubbles ingeniously contrived for gambling in the share market'. It expected to sell £20.000 worth of shares.

During 1852 he was involved in the search for gold in South Australia and was not afraid to speak his mind about the mineral leases and the way they were surveyed as can be seen from this letter.
Sir — In bringing before the public the subject of mineral leases at a time when gold is not only taking away all the miners, but everyone else, I am only desirous to let it be known how little is done to the mineral wealth of this colony, and how difficult it maybe to carry out the advice we give to our English friends, viz., that there is great reason to expect ample returns from mining, provided a moderate capital is sent out to us, and judiciously and honestly laid out. On the 22nd of December last I addressed a letter to the Colonial Secretary, stating the unsatisfactory nature of the Gazette notice upon mineral leases, and the necessity there was of a distinct understanding as to the manner in which the land applied for would be surveyed. I took the liberty of suggesting that the survey should be so arranged that any one making a discovery should be allowed to take as much land (within the prescribed limit) in the direction of his lode or lodes as he thought proper, and not to be subject to the will or fancy of a surveyor in carrying his boundary is a direction which might possibly benefit the next holder more than the discoverer. I received a reply from the Colonial Secretary yesterday — or just a month after the application — as follows;

Colonial Secretary's Office, January 19, 1852. Sir— In reply to your letter of the 22nd ultimo, containing suggestions as to the granting of Mineral Leases, I have the honour to inform you that the Surveyor-General has been instructed, in his surveys of land for mineral leases, to conform to the regulations under which all lands are now surveyed.
B T FINNISS, Colonial Secretary.
To Mr John Alsop, Glen Osmond.
How far this is satisfactory, I leave to the mining public to judge.
January 21, 1852, JOHN ALSOP

On 19 April of that year he was appointed assistant in the smelting department of the Government Assay Office.

Below is a letter written by John Alsop in 1849 to ex-Governor Gawler about his impressions of the
Glen Osmond and Burra mines. It was kindly supplied by his descendant Simon Alsop.


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