New Zealand Mewburn
There were five occasions in the early history of New Zealand when Mewburns turned up perhaps hoping for a new life. Twice this led to settled lines but only one has persisted to the present day.
Joshua Mewburn 1817-1855
The first Mewburn to come to New Zealand seems to have been Joshua (1817-1854). We know something of his exploits through court records and newspaper queries. Joshua was one of the London silversmithing line but chose not to enter that profession and became instead a mariner. He lived at Matson’s Cottage, Kingsland Road, Middlesex from where he is said to have emigrated to New Zealand in January 1833. He was captured and lived with the Maoris for eight years then returned to England on the 3rd April 1841. He appeared in playhouses for a while as a Maori chief.
In September of that year married Frances Ellen McDonald at Bermondsey. The marriage too may not have been a success. Joshua returned to New Zealand on the barque Jane Gifford leaving Glasgow on the 18th June 1842 and arriving at Auckland on the 9th October that year. He travelled with Frances but she evidently returned without him and her death is recorded in London six years later, in 1848, at Shoreditch. They had no children.
After his mother’s death in London in 1856 Joshua’s absence caused difficulties for the family in gaining probate. Letters were sent to various people in New Zealand (all recorded in court papers at The National Archives, Kew) and adverts were placed in local newspapers asking for any information about him. He had been seen last in 1854 when he was living with Maori people, possibly at Waipar near Waicataio about 150 miles from Auckland. He was then known as Moko or Jemmy Moko and had had his face tattooed. Nothing more is known about him. An 1855 death date was assumed for court purposes in resolving his father’s estate.
George Fox Bruce Mewburn 1817-1882
The next to arrive was George Fox Bruce Mewburn (1817-1882), a grandson of Dr Henry Mewburn of the Acomb line. His arrival is not recorded but his presence in New Zealand is confirmed since in 1841 he married Marjorie Atkinson Aitken there (indexed as Newburn). It was a short stay, though, as on the 18th September 1842 they headed off to Hobart, Tasmania where they settled permanently.
Armstrong Mewburn V 1835-1898
The first of the Mewburns to establish a dynasty in New Zealand was Armstrong (1835-1898) a great great-grandson of the first Armstrong. He moved from Sunderland to practice his boat building skills in Auckland bringing his wife Mary Swan. Armstrong arrived on the 4th November 1858 aboard the Harwood from London. The Harwood was quite a small vessel at 462 tons. It was a 100-day voyage with 88 people on board so it is hard to imagine that it would have been anything other than a fairly wretched journey.
Mary set out a year later with their two sons Thomas and Anthony on Spray of the Ocean (a much larger ship) out of London, arriving on the 1st September 1859. Anthony, however, died on the voyage.
Piecing together various records suggests that Armstrong and Mary had a further 10 children in New Zealand.
Armstrong settled in Cook Street, Auckland and established a successful boat-building firm. One record suggests that he had a foray into gold mining at Karaka around 1867. However, there is nothing to suggest that much wealth came his way from that.
Armstrong Mewburn (1835) tree
Three of Armstrong’s sons married.
James was also a shipwright and carpenter. He had two sons: Royce Armstrong, who died at 14, and Millard James (1903), an electrician who emigrated to Australia. Electoral rolls in Australia suggest that Millard married a Winifred Mildred but whether they had any family has not been established.
Armstrong VI 1869-1921
Armstrong, the sixth to carry that name, married Sarah Ann Gerrie in 1918. He chose not to follow the family tradition of working in wood and instead became a bootmaker. He later established a business as a boot importer and moved to 24 River Bank, Wanganui some time before 1914. Armstrong and Sarah Ann are not known to have had children.
Joseph trained first as a bootmaker but then joined the railway. He married Rosaline Simpson, but also had no children. His younger brother Philip, another railwayman, did not marry so this Mewburn line died out in the first half of the 20th century.
William (1824) and Elizabeth Poulton in New Zealand
Another line of Mewburns came into view at Dunedin with the death in 1874 of a 13-year old daughter, Sarah Ann, of a William and Elizabeth. No trace of their arrival has been found and there is no sign of a suitable William and Elizabeth couple in the English records for a marriage in the (late) 1850s. Other South Island oddities include a record for the death of a 32-year old Edward Mewburn at Timaru in 1859; the marriage of a Mary Mewburn in 1868 and of an Elizabeth in 1874 at Dunedin. There are no immediate clues as to who these people’s parents might have been or when they might have arrived in the country.
Electoral rolls add something to the picture. William, a brickmaker, appears in 1871 and 1881 at Dunedin but then vanishes. There is though a record for the death of an Elizabeth Newburn aged 69 in 1893 – might that have been for his wife? If so she was born around 1824, somewhat earlier than originally assumed.
English records have a William Mewburn born at Leeds in 1824 who was married in 1848 at Manchester Cathedral to Elizabeth Poulton (probably born in 1823 at Wigan). This William was the son of Thomas Mewburn and Mary Ann Buck originally of Hurworth in County Durham. About 60% of the Mewburns in Australia today are descended from the children of Thomas and Mary Ann (the first having been John, a transportee in 1830).
William and Elizabeth arrived at Port Philip on the Maitland on the 7th January 1849. They settled at Toorak and then Prahran in Victoria where they had Emily (an infant death) and Mary Ann in 1850, Elizabeth in 1851 (died 1853), Emily 1853, Edward 1855 and Sarah Ann 1862. Three of these names and dates match exactly the ‘oddities’ noted in New Zealand. It seems certain then that they came to New Zealand around 1863 after which they had another three children – Thomas William in 1864, William in 1865 and Henrietta in 1867. Sometime much later old William returned to Australia where he died at Hotham, Victoria in 1900. His wife, Elizabeth Poulton, died in New Zealand in 1893.
William Mewburn (1824) tree
Of the children born in New Zealand:
Thomas William Mewburn 1864-1866
Thomas William’s was a young death.
William Mewburn 1865-1930
William’s son William became a blacksmith at Waihao Downs. He married Elizabeth Barnes at Dunedin in 1894 and carried on the Mewburn line in New Zealand. They had five daughters and one son – Horace Edward. Horace, a motor mechanic at Waimate, married Doris Stephens in 1924 and had at least three children – Charles John (1925-2000), Jean Grenville, and William Noel (1928-2007).
William Mewburn (1865) tree
William had five daughters who all reached adulthood and married, as did his only son Horace Edward.
Henrietta Mewburn 1867-1933
Henrietta was the last of William and Elizabeth Poulton’s children. She was born at Dunedin in 1867 and married William Horsburgh Halley in 1888. He died in 1927 and she in 1933. They had seven children:
Elizabeth Rose, 1888
Catherine Henrietta, 1889-1908
May Mewburn, 1892
Harrison David Horsburgh, 1894-1894
Russell Mewburn, 1896
Victor Edward, 1897.
John Mewburn c1837-1921
One other Mewburn settled in New Zealand – John Mewburn (c1837-1921). A solitary figure, he appeared first in the electoral roll of 1871 at Welshman’s Terrace, Brighton in West Coast. John was a gold miner eventually living at No Town, Westland where he appeared in the electoral roll until 1919. He did not marry and had no recorded children. It seems likely that he was the son of Thomas Mewburn and Jane Hurst and born in Bolton. If so he was a nephew to William in Dunedin and would have been brought to Australia in 1854 with his parents (who settled at Ballarat) before later moving to New Zealand.
Today Mewburns persist in New Zealand. However, despite the several historic incursions all are seemingly descended from William the brickmaker of Dunedin. He belonged to the family that has dominated the Mewburn settlement of Australia, so both countries have close blood links.