Guide to the Papers of John Lee (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Lee, John
Correspondence of John Lee (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1840 - 1865
Collection Number
1 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

The material filmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project includes correspondence from Charles Lee Smith and his brother John Lee Smith, Charles Rumker, John S. Roberts, Phillip P. King, George Witt, Bessie N. Parkes and William Stratford Lee.

Topics covered include: domestic and financial matters; dispatch of natural history specimens, events and conditions in the colony of Victoria; the business activities of A.B. Sparke of Sydney; cost of erecting an observatory and residence at Parramatta and the emigration of young ladies to Australia

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1954 (AJCP Reel: M678). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Buckinghamshire Record office, Aylesbury, England. Collection Reference: D-LE/H

In 1997 the Buckinghamshire Record Office merged with the Local Studies Library to form the Buckinghamshire Records and Local Studies Service. Its name was later changed to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies. Its current (2017) address is County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury HP20 1UU.

For more information see Papers of John Lee at the buckinghamshire Record Office (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Astronomy; Australia; Barker, Frederick, Bishop; Victoria: economic conditions; England; Victoria: flora and fauna; Fremantle, Western Australia; Hartwell, England; Australia: immigration to; King, Phillip P., Capt.; Lee, John; Lee, William S.; London, England; Mason and Smith, of Melbourne; Melbourne, Victoria; Land: New South Wales; Parkes, Bessie N.; Parramatta Observatory; Roberts, John S.; Royal Astronomical Society; Rumker, Charles; Smith, Charles L.; Smith, John L.; Spark, Alexander B.; Strikes; Sydney, New South Wales ; Wages; Convicts: Western Australia; Witt, George, Dr; Women: emigration; Wool and woolgrowing: Australia


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 271, p101.

Biographical / Historical

John Lee (1783-1866) was born John Fiott, the son of John Fiott, a London merchant. In 1816 he changed his name to Lee on the death of his maternal uncle, William Lee, at the same time inheriting extensive estates in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. In 1827, on the death of his cousin Sir George Lee, 6th Baronet, he succeeded to the estate of Hartwell near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.,

Lee was educated at St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated as a Doctor of Law and was admitted to the College of Advocates in 1816. He practised at the courts of Doctors' Commons (the College of Civil Law) until they were abolished 1865. In addition to his legal activities and duties as a landlord, Lee had wide scientific and scholarly interests. He was a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society (1824) and the Royal Geographical Society (1830), a fellow of the Royal Society, and a member of the Geological Society, Society of Arts, Society of Antiquaries of London and the Numismatic Society. In 1831 he erected an observatory at Hartwell House and he communicated with astronomers throughout Europe. In his young days, he had travelled widely in Europe and the Middle East and he built up an outstanding collection of books, manuscripts, coins, medals, rocks and fossils which was housed at Hartwell.

Charles and John Smith, who both emigrated to Melbourne, were the sons of Benjamin Smith, a colleague of John Lee at Doctors' Commons and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Carl Rumker (1788-1862) left Germany in 1809 and for ten years served in the navy of the East India Company and later the British Merchant Navy. He came to New South Wales in 1821 with Sir Thomas Brisbane and, under Brisbane's supervision, established the astronomical observatory at Parramatta. Governor Darling appointed him government astronomer in 1827. In 1830 he returned to Germany where he became director of the school of navigation and the observatory at Hamburg.

Item Descriptions

Fonds D-LE. Estate deeds and papers of the Lee Family of Hartwell House

Series D-LE/H. Papers of Dr John Lee, 1783 - 1866

Correspondence on Australian matters, 1840 - 1865 (File 6)
Charles Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 19 April 1842 (Item 1)

Voyage to Australia; climate of Melbourne; opportunities for farmers; poor class of emigrants; strike of 300 workers employed at government works; wages.

Receipt for £3 on account of C. Smith, signed by W.H. and Margaret Smith, 5 June 1843 (Item 2)
Charles Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 28 March 1844 (Item 3)

No information about property of C. Rumker; death of Smith's father; business failures; arrival of immigrants; wages of shepherds; prices; sends Port Phillip Gazette.

Charles Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 18 December 1845 (Item 4)

Acknowledges letter and Peace Society tracts; sends specimens of native birds; Mechanics Institute in Melbourne; Smith's employment with Capt. Cain; impending voyage to Adelaide and Batavia; labour shortages and need for more immigrants; bad influence of emancipated convicts from Van Diemen's Land; thanks for assistance to his mother and sisters.

John L. Smith (Walworth) to Lee, 22 June 1847 (Item 5)

Proposal to directors of Australasian Assurance Company; preparations for departure; subscription to Aylesbury News .

John L. Smith (Walworth) to Lee, 22 June 1847 (Item 6)

Application by Smith's mother for a position.

John L. Smith (Walworth) to Lee, 24 June 1847 (Item 7)

Policy with Australasian Assurance Company; membership of Peace Society; financial arrangements.

John L. Smith (Walworth) to Lee, 25 June 1847 (Item 8)

Sends insurance policies; delay in sailing of Cecilia .

John L. Smith (Walworth) to Lee, 29 June 1847 (Item 9)

Purchase of boots and shoes; imminent departure of Cecilia.

John L. Smith (off Deal) to Lee, c. 30 June 1847 (Item 10)


John Lee (Hartwell) to John L. Smith, 5 October 1847 (Item 11)

Business failures in England; report in Athenaeum of discovery of a large animal in interior of New South Wales. (copy)

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 23 January 1848 (Item 12)

Dissolution of firm of Mackenzie & Smith; partnership with his brother Charles; requests assistance to bring mother and sisters to Australia.

Charles Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 23 January 1848 (Item 13)

Favourable prospects of his business; requests Lee's assistance to bring his mother and sisters to Melbourne; suggests terms of repayment; price of cabin passages; donation to Mechanics Institute of Sir George Lee's Cases in the Ecclesiastical Court.

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 3 March 1848 (Item 14)

Remittances to Lee and Smith's mother; boots and shoes from Bilbao; presentation of books to Mechanics Institute; financial difficulties over passage money; sends Port Phillip Patriot .

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 9 March 1848 (Item 15)

Enclosed note to be opened by Lee only.

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 9 March 1848 (Item 16)

Requests that his mother and sisters remain in London and no money be advanced to them; Smith's prospects far less favourable than they were a week ago.

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 18 March 1848 (Item 17)

Improvement in his affairs; it would still be best if mother and sisters remained in England for time being.

John Lee (Hartwell) to John L. Smith, 21 April 1848 (Item 18)

Smith's arrival in Melbourne; departure of emigrants from Aylesbury for Adelaide; hopes of Smith's mother in joining him in Australia; purchase of ink and clothing; friends of Lee in Ceylon and Cape Colony; seeks news about observatory at Parramatta. (copy)

Account for supply of clothing by S.W. Silver & Co. (London) totalling £30.9.6 on account of W.H. Smith, paid by Dr Lee, 6 June 1848 (Item 19)
John L. Smith (Geelong) to Blake (London), 7 December 1849 (Item 20)

Mutual friends; health of his mother; his sister Isabella; floods in Melbourne; shipwreck and other accidents; Smith's move from Melbourne to Geelong; drunkenness.

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 8 January 1856 (Item 21)

Inquiries made by Marsh; his son is probably in the bush; death of Sir Charles Hotham; Smith's litigation with Mason.

Printed notice seeking information about whereabouts of Henry Marsh, 29 September 1855 (Item 22)
John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 23 May 1857 (Item 23)

Smith's victory in litigation against his partner Mason; Louisa's passage to Australia; requests insurance policy; no news of Marsh's son; marriage of his sister who is on a voyage to South Sea Islands.

Samuel Farley (London) to Lee, 20 May 1858 (Item 24)

Insurance policy of John Smith.

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Samuel Farley, 15 March 1858 (Item 24a)

Death of his sister Louisa; Smith's illness; insurance policy. (extracts)

John L. Smith (Melbourne) to Lee, 13 July 1858 (Item 25)

Smith's serious illness; long law suit; illness of his sister Isabella; fears that Henry Marsh is dead; mutual friends; insurance policy; wishes to leave his estate to his mother.

John Lee (Melbourne) to Lee, 15 December 1858 (Item 26)

Death of Heyward; insurance policy.

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, September 1840 (Item 27)

Seeks advice about 2200 acres of land granted to Rumker in New South Wales; interest of Harper in purchasing it.

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, 5 June 1841 (Item 28)

Resignation as teacher at Naval School; no news of his property in New South Wales; has received no advantage of it for ten years; George Harper has occupied land for eight years; Rumker's naval friends in England are all dead.

John Lee (London) to Carl Rumker, 23 August 1841 (Item 29)

Rumker's observations of the last comet; hopes Rumker will be able to devote his time exclusively to his observatory; property in New South Wales; will try to forward letters to Sir George Gipps. (copy)

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, 4 January 1842 (Item 30)

Thanks for assistance; Rumker's relations with Sir Thomas Brisbane; possibility of seeking Brisbane's help with Rumker's property.

S. Roberts (Sydney) to Edmund Westby, 25 June 1842 (Item 31)

Inquiries about Rumker's property in New South Wales; blunder of Government in cancelling a grant of 1000 acres; death of Harper. (extract)

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Benjamin Smith, 31 July 1842 (Item 32)

Thanks for assistance with affairs in New South Wales; arrival of Smith's son in New South Wales; the climate.

John Lee (London) to Carl Rumker, 27 December 1842 (Item 33)

Sends papers forwarded by Charles Smith in Melbourne; power of attorney; formation of Philological Society in London; sends publication of Peace Society. (copy)

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to A. Young (Sydney), 30 December 1842 (Item 34)

Sends power of attorney; Rumker's position and circumstances; hopes of converting his property to money. (copy)

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, 14 April 1843 (Item 35)

Sends 40 copies of his catalogue of fixed stars; hopes it can be distributed by a London bookseller; sends letter to Young; Rumker's pecuniary difficulties.

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, April 1843 (Item 36)

Letter from Sparke in New South Wales; arrangement with Harper concerning payment for Rumker's property.

I. Haggard (London) to Lee, 12 June 1843 (Item 37)

Summarises letter from his nephew Adolphus Young about Rumker's property; land is worth very little.

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, 18 August 1843 (Item 38)

Thanks for copies of Brisbane's observations; erroneous method adopted in reduction; distribution of Rumker's catalogue; observations of comet.

W.H. Smith (London) to Lee, 27 August 1843 (Item 39)

Sends copy of a letter from his brother Charles Smith about the need for Rumker to send a power of attorney to Sparke.

Carl Rumker (Hamburg) to Lee, 7 November 1843 (Item 40)

Thanks for letter from Lieut. Raper; news from New South Wales; Prof. Henderson.

Capt. Phillip P. King (Bridport) to Lee, 30 August 1849 (Item 41)

Probable cost of erecting a new observatory and residence at Parramatta; their conversation at Hartwell about the observatory; funding would have to come from British Government; magnetic observatory at Hobart; intention of King to establish observatory at his home if no observatory were set up in Sydney.

George Witt (Sydney) to Lee, 20 May 1853 (Item 42)

Thanks for book on history of Hartwell; Capt. P.P. King; Witt's plans to return to England.

Miss B.N. Parkes (London) to Lee, 7 August 1861 (Item 43)

Seeks subscription to society to send young female emigrants to Australia to work as governesses.

William Stratford Lee (Fremantle) to Lee, 26 September 1865 (Item 44)

Lee's kindness; William Lee's years of misery and degradation; as ticket-of-leave holder he has to remain in colony until 1868.