John Lees

John Lees was born in Glodwick, Oldham in 1822 to parents Joseph and Sally (Jackson) Lees, in the early part of the 1850's the papers were full of the Australia Gold Rush and in 1852 John went to Australia to find his fortune.

In Australia, he wrote home and in detail give his family a taste of life at the diggings, the diggers moved around the district in large groups for protection against bushrangers, camping at night and sleeping under the stars,  he met up with two others from Oldham, Daniel Evans and his cousin John, one of the Evans lent John ten shillings because he did not have enough money to buy a licence to dig, the licence cost thirty shilling and he only had twenty-five shillings, they went to Bendigo and were moderately successful digging up at least six pounds of gold, but the lads felt it was not enough and moved on to Melbourne where the town was full of the success of the Ballarat diggings.

The Evans' were coal miners in Oldham and determined to try the Ballarat diggings, so the three set off and met William Poulton Green, formerly a rail clerk in Wolverhampton Railway Station, after finding no position in Melbourne as a clerk, decided to try his hand at gold mining.  The four started on foot, finally pitching their tent in a gully and beginning to dig a shaft next to the stream.  It took five weeks to dig down sixty-six feet with last twenty feet encountering foul air and water and difficulty in keeping the loose soil out of the shaft, what they thought was the base of the creek, found a large nugget and a smaller nugget, total weight of both nuggets was 178lb worth at least 11,500.

The four sold the mine for 300 to a group of Lancashire miners and with the nugget under guard, the gold commissioners arranged for the transport of the gold to Melbourne and on to England aboard the 'Sarah Sands' , once in Plymouth the gold was taken to the Bank of England for safe keeping.

The nugget was called 'Canadian or Canadian Gully' because of the name of gully where it was found, or the 'leg of mutton' because of its shape.

The four were received by the Queen and Prince Albert, and the nugget was placed on display in London, in the end the nugget was sold to the Bank of England and melted down into gold bars.

Of the four John Lees was the only one to return to Australia in August 1856, this visit was not as successful as his first visit and after persistent hardships he returned to England in July 1863.

John used his wealth to build houses in Glodwick and Greenacres, the Glodwick were known as Ballarat building until the street was named Nugget.

In 1854, May 25th John married Jane Ogden from Oldham, at Greenacres Congregational Church they had three sons.

John Frederick was born in 1855 and became an Accountant and Borough Treasurer, he married Mary Ann Wood and they had eight children.

Charles Herbert was born in 1864 became a physicist, he married Evelyn May Savidge and had four children.

Edward Oscar was born in 1867 became a Bank Manager of Manchester and County Bank, he married Minnie Esther Newark and had three children.

In 1976, his great, grandson found the letters John Lees had written to his father and his wife, in his grandmother's loft.  They were auctioned at Sotheby's, in London and brought by La Trobe Museum in Melbourne. John Lee's letter to his father in November 1852


family chart

Last updated 26th August 2017