Sydney cove medallion

Sydney Cove Medallion – Wedgewood

Clay from Sydney Cove.

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”.

SKU SF001116 Category


Soon after the First Fleet disembarked at Sydney Cove in January 1788, Arthur Phillip, the Governor of the new convict settlement, learned that white clay had been “found in great plenty, a few feet below the surface”.

Samples were dispatched to England aboard Fishburn, which returned home in May 1789. Phillip intended the samples for Sir Joseph Banks, botanist aboard James Cook’s 1st voyage, which named Botany Bay in 1770. As the President of the Royal Society, Banks knew Josiah Wedgwood, who had been elected a Fellow of the Society in 1783.

Wedgwood received the samples from his friend, undertaking trials and experiments that confirmed the clay to be “an excellent material for pottery”. As a result, Wedgwood decided to create a limited number of Medallions commemorating the settlement at Sydney Cove. 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 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.

Source: NMA

Additional information



Josiah Wedgwood