Sydney Cove Medallion collection
The Sydney Cove Medallion collection consists of a single original issue Wedgwood medallion made in 1789 from clay from Sydney Cove. It is a key object through which we can examine the links between Australia and England. The story of the making of the medallion connects to key figures in British and Australian history including Governor Arthur Phillip, Joseph Banks, Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin.
The medallion was designed by Henry Webber with the final finishing of the moulds done by William Hackwood, Josiah Wedgwood's principal modeller. The full title of the medallion is "Hope encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to an infant settlement", however it was sometimes referred to by the Wedgwood family by the more manageable title of 'the Botany Bay medal'. The design is highly symbolic. It depicts Hope as a female figure dressed in Grecian-style robes. The figure is depicted in front of an anchor, the symbol for hope. Peace holds an olive branch in her hand and has a horn of plenty spilling forth at her feet. Beside Peace, Art is shown as a female figure holding an artist's palette and lastly Labour (the only male figure on the medallion) wears a loin cloth and has a sledge-hammer across his shoulder. Behind the figures a ship sails into a bay and buildings rise on land in the background. The reverse has been stamped: MADE BY IOSIAH WEDGWOOD OF CLAY FROM SYDNEY COVE. [I is used rather than J in order to comply with 'classical' style - no J is used in Roman inscriptions.] Wedgwood asked his friend Erasmus Darwin to write a verse to accompany the medallion.
The medallion documents a number of significant themes from the Australian colonial period.
The colonisation of New South Wales was undertaken primarily in order to safeguard Britain's interests in the East. The Botany Bay site recommended itself for a variety of reasons. It presented a position offering promising looking natural resources and sheltered anchorage with a minimal existing population having been observed. It was also considered a strategic location close to the Indian subcontinent.
Copyright National Museum of Australia
Physical access to the collection by appointment only