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- 07/15/17--21:29: Yelven Oliver Sutton
- 08/07/17--16:28: Frederick Trolove
- 08/31/17--19:31: Dr Thomas Renwick
- 09/19/17--18:20: The Renwick family
Yelven's great grandparents parents, George and Hannah Sutton arrived in Nelson aboard the Bolton (1842). In 1853 George bought sections 68 and 90 and part of 66 in Richmond (see map Reservoir Creek) from John Nixon, Magistrate. They lived in a little two-story building (Nixon's) with their family of 6, while building the "Selbourne" homestead (1850s). “Selbourne” is named after the home near the village of East Meon, East Hampshire. Selbourne was located on Hill Street almost opposite Sutton Street. It was taken down in 1978 to make way for subdivision. George's eldest son, John, ran the family farm from the homestead block after father George moved to upper Queen Street in 1896.
George Sutton initially planted hops on the property that he had brought over from England. The hop mill was located behind present day 167 Hill Street. At Easby Park opposite the Griffin pigsty, the Sutton family had the largest herd of pedigree Jersey milking cows in the District.
Yelven’s father, Oliver Charles, was next to take over the running of the farm. Yelven (1918-2008) lived at Selbourne until 1954. In the late 1930s Oliver's other children, John and Rita grew two acres of tobacco at Easby Park. Yelvin and Phyllis [Griffin] were neighbours and he can remember the Saturday tennis parties at the Griffin's court near the boundary, not far from Sutton's disused hop mill. Just above the tennis court, on Sutton land, is the site of the rifle range. This range was used by the Richmond Corps volunteers from the mid 1800s and was no longer in use when Yelven was a boy. The volunteers were organised in 1845 in response to the Wairau Massacre and a incident at Happy Valley, Wakapuaka. The range was 500 yards and the volunteers would shoot from the bottom of the present day Selbourne Street to targets just below "the butt" (Cropp Place). Jean Sutton's book indicates that the Nelson City Cadets combined with Richmond Corps and held camps on the Sutton's paddock in August 1875 and Easter 1879. In 1881 many of these participants were the first outside troops to arrive at the North Island uprising at Parihaka. As a boy, Yelven and his mates used to dig out lead from the site to melt down and use for sinkers for sea fishing.
Below the targets, tennis court, Griffins pigpen and cow shed the Sutton’s also had dug a large swimming hole in Reservoir Creek. This was located at the playground area of Easby Park.1 As a boy Yelven can recall catching eels, kokopu (“native trout”, bullies (“cockabullies”) and koura (“yabbies” or freshwater crayfish) near the swimming hole but the creek often went dry for approximately 6 weeks every year,2 as a result of the demand on water in the reservoir from a Richmond population of 700. Reservoir Creek is underground in pipes at this location. (Yelven thinks this occurred 1970). Yelven tells us that his father found two adzes on the bank above Selbourne and these went to Isel Park some 55 years ago. Yelven remembers large populations of native pigeons (kereru) on the farm in his younger years.
Oliver’s sister, Mary, married William Higgs who had the neighbouring Barrington Farm approximately 500 metres uphill of the Selbourne homestead (this was to be the Griffin Dellside farm in 1918).
Yelven’s uncle, Herbert Sutton, ran the farm on sections 66 and 68 below Hill Street. Reservoir Creek flows through this area, now called Welsh Place and Alexandra Park. This was primarily a sheep farm that was sold to Putty Hurst who in turn sold the property to the Nelson Hospital Board in 1957. This area includes the present day location of the Alexandra Home for the elderly.3 Herbert Sutton’s home still stands today at 151 Hill Street.
Yelven’s brother’s John and Victor4 (Sutton Bros.) farmed part section 79 below Salisbury Road where Reservoir Creek flows into the Waimea Estuary. This land (41 acres) was purchased from the Allport family in 1931.5 The Sutton farm was called “Mayroyd” and in addition to a few pigs there was a large milking herd of pedigree Jersey cows. In 1960 John observed Reservoir Creek “turning black” and with one swipe of large milk can filled it with whitebait.6 At the time of writing this story, John Sutton’s home still stood on Tasman District Council land across the road from Raeward Fresh. The new ASB Aquatic Centre now occupies part of the Mayroyd farm site
The research for this story was originally done for Tasman District Council, October 2006
Trolove of the Clarence
Frederick Trolove (1831-1880) was an early European settler who established Woodbank Run, located south of the Clarence River. Most of what is known about Trolove, comes from his letters (which can be found at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington). These give us a fascinating window into the life and experiences of an early Marlborough pioneer.
Trolove was one of four brothers who had a wealthy uncle, Dr John Shaw, of Boston, England. He was keen for one of his nephews to help him develop a sheep farming venture in the new colony of New Zealand. Frederick and his uncle arrived in Nelson in 1850 and took up a 42,000 acre run in the upper Awatere Valley. Dr Shaw returned to England, satisfied at the thought of a half share in a large sheep run. Lonely and isolated, Frederick was able to swap the run for land on the East Coast north of the Clarence River. He moved to the place he named Woodbank in about 1852 and was joined by his brother Edwin the next year.1
The terms of the contract signed in 1851, were that Trolove was to send his uncle in England a set amount of wool per year, and his uncle would supply start-up funds and cover up to half of any potential loss of income.2
In the summer of 1855, an 8.1 earthquake tore through Marlborough. Trolove described it thus: ‘a most awful shock the imagination could conceive forced us once more out of the house in the greatest confusion and alarm’. His cottage was ruined and at some point in the following decade, he returned to England.3
Trolove stayed there until 1866, when he wrote to his friend Nathaniel Levin, of Wellington expressing concern about an outbreak of Rinderpest and the rumblings of a potential Fenian uprising in Ireland. His wife Mary was very ill, but seemed to be recovering – he planned to return to New Zealand as soon as she was well enough to travel: “I am glad to say that Mrs. Trolove is much improved in health since my last communication and should she continue to keep well, we intend making a start for New Zealand this summer.”4
He arrived in Wellington with his family in December,1866 and returned to Woodbank Run. His experience at sea was deeply unpleasant, and his wife and sons became ill. On arrival in New Zealand, he wrote “I hope never to put my foot on board an emigrant ship again, the miseries of the past 5 months have been unexampled.” 5
Trolove met with Levin and Joseph Tetley– a well-regarded landowner who was also in business with Levin. Trolove warmed to Tetley immediately, and took advice from him on the business of farming: it seemed the price of wool was dropping rapidly. Trolove wrote to his uncle and suggested selling all their sheep, and renting out the land. His uncle disagreed – their contract was for wool, and it would remain for wool. Despite the market slump, Trolove did good business for two more years, with the help of Messrs Levin and Tetley.
Tetley’s wife died in 1868, and he returned to England for the funeral. While he was away, Levin and others realised that Tetley was a conman, who had absconded with over £40,000. As the scandal unfolded over the next two years, Trolove discovered that he had lost £1,800 and 1,900 sheep. He wrote to his uncle and asked him to fulfil his side of the contract, and cover half the loss. His uncle refused. 6
Indeed, the uncle wrote back to Trolove in early 1870 and apparently accused him of “subterfuge [...] wicked evasion of the terms of agreement”. He didn’t believe the news of Tetley’s con, and still wanted the 9,000lbs of wool he was owed for that year.7 Trolove struck back in September 1871, saying in no uncertain terms that he could not send his uncle the wool and still service his new debts sustained in the deception.8
Although many of the victims of Tetley’s con turned on Nathaniel Levin, Trolove did not. He remained a loyal client of Levin’s for the rest of his life.9
Using the wool intended for his uncle and with some help from the bank, Trolove managed to right his accounts. When Trolove announced his intention to sell Woodbank Run to square the rest of the debt, his uncle responded tersely but positively, and Trolove wrote back “for more than 20 years I have been trying to do my duty to you, and never before have I received any token of your appreciation. I need not say how grateful I am to you for having at length written me these lines.”10
As he was developing the potential of his land, on May 29th 1872 he wrote to Marlborough’s superintendent, possibly Arthur Seymour, to save the job of a Clarence River ferryman, and to secure more funds to replace the dilapidated ferry. His letter read “The boat is old & rotten & cannot be repaired […] I fully see the almost necessity of keeping Tyford as Ferryman inasmuch as he has hitherto proved himself quite competent & moreover he has the confidence of the public.”11
By 1876, the flow of letters between uncle and nephew had slowed. Trolove was in the black again, making good money selling wool. His wife Mary had established a trust under her will, to fund the Picton choral society. Trolove wrote to the trustees, asking them to buy a new harmonium for the church.12 He had earlier written to them “I have a strong repugnance for any instrument save the harmonium or organ.”13
Although his life was difficult, Frederick Trolove remained a hard-working and devout man. He twice pulled himself back from nothing, and left a lasting legacy. Trolove descendants live in the area to this day
A busy settler in early Marlborough and Nelson
Dr Thomas Renwick was born in Dumfries, Scotland in 1818, trained as a doctor and quickly rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy as a ships’ doctor. On May 26, 1842, he set sail for Nelson on the New Zealand Company ship Thomas Harrison. Under his steady and methodical hand, there were only two casualties during the long and hard voyage. The Thomas Harrison arrived in Nelson in October of the same year.1
Later in 1842, it is believed that Renwick helped a young Chinese ship’s steward, Appo Hocton , who was charged with desertion from the Thomas Harrison and sentenced to 30 days in the ‘house of correction’ on Church Hill. Family stories persist that he was freed without serving his sentence, possibly assisted by Renwick. In any case, in 1843 Hocton began working for Renwick as a housekeeper, saving enough money to buy a bullock and cart and setting up his own business.2
Dr Renwick set up a medical practice in Nelson and used his modest profits to buy livestock: cattle, pigs, ducks and merino sheep. He also supplied money to George Hooper, a passenger from Thomas Harrison, to establish the region’s first brewery.1 Despite several changes of name and ownership, Hooper and Co. was a stalwart Nelson institution until it was finally bought out by DB Breweries in 1969.3
In the four years that followed, Renwick became an influential Nelsonian, and a member of the Nelson Provincial Council. He married Adeline Absolom on August 11th 1846. In 1849 he was appointed a trustee of the Kirk (Church of Scotland) in Nelson after helping to build the first Presbyterian Church in the region.4
Adeline Renwick was a wealthy woman, and her money allowed Thomas to first lease, then purchase, a large amount of land in the Awatere in 1848. He named this 8500 hectare parcel of land Dumgree after his home in Scotland. He went on to buy the Delta Dairy (originally owned by the Honourable Constantine Dillon), a 4800 hectare run at Waihopai in 1855. While Renwick lived in Nelson, he spent much of his time travelling around to survey his Marlborough properties.
Dr Renwick was noted for his meticulous scientific mind, which he applied to all things, including farming; he left detailed notes for his staff on how to complete specific activities on the farm.5
In the years that followed, it became apparent that Renwick wanted a self-sufficient and self-governing region of the Wairau - separate from Nelson. In 1853, while a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, he, along with other Wairau settlers, pushed hard for the establishment of a separate province of Marlborough, which they achieved in 1859.
After visiting Europe with his family, Renwick returned to New Zealand some time in 1862-1863, and was summoned to the Legislative Council in Wellington in October 1863.6 He was a senator in the Upper House of the New Zealand Parliament until his death in 1879.7
Adeline Renwick’s health was failing and she did not enjoy New Zealand, which she found unstimulating and devoid of culture. She returned to London, divorced Thomas in 1869 and died8 a year later. He married the young Anne Smith9 just after New Year’s Day 1872.10
They bought Newstead House in 1877 and renamed it Renwick House. It was Thomas' home for just two years, but Anne lived on to 1939, at which time, the Government bought the two-acre property comprising Renwick House and surrounding grounds to support the growth of Nelson Central School. The house is still a part of the school.
Thomas Renwick died on May 29th 1879 and is buried in the old Presbyterian section of Nelson’s historic Wakapuaka Cemetery. Renwicktown would later be renamed Renwick and sits on the banks of the Wairau to this day.
Mrs Anne Renwick owned Dumgree until her death in Aberdeen in 1937. It was later farmed by a nephew, until it was sold out of the family in 1977.11
The Marlborough Museum holds photographs, clothes and about 700 letters relating to the Renwick family.12
A slice of early colonial life
The Marlborough Museum Archives collection has digitised hundreds of letters donated by Annie Ball, which relate to the life of Dr Thomas Renwick’s family.
In 1846, Dr Renwick married Adeline Absolom. Her money enabled them to buy land in Marlborough’s Awatere and Waihopai Valleys and, while their home was in Nelson, Thomas spent a lot of time travelling to their properties in the Wairau. By the late 1860s, Adeline’s health was poor and she returned to London. On 5 November 1868, Thomas wrote to her expressing concern about her health:
“My dearest Adeline……It would be unkind of me in your present weak state of health to ask you to undertake the fatigue of the voyage out, although I should be glad to see you out here. Unless your health is improved by your trip to the Isle of Wight, I feel that I cannot expect you to undertake the voyage.” He continued: “Nelson is very dull at present, and everyone is complaining of the badness of the times, but the same is the case all over New Zealand both politically and commercially, and now to add to our troubles, the Natives are becoming troublesome in the Northern Island, which means more money to be borrowed and more taxes to be imposed on a colony already suffering from too heavy taxation – all this tends to lessen the value of property.”1
Adeline divorced Renwick in 1869 and died a year later. In the mid-19th century, all of a wife’s money and property, whether acquired before or after marriage, was her husband’s. It is unclear how the divorce (which was almost unheard of at that time) affected Renwick’s rights over his wife’s property, except that it all seems to have remained in his hands after Adeline Renwick’s death. The Married Women’s Property Act came into effect in 1884 and gave married women a legal existence and the right to own property for the first time. However, by this time, Renwick had also died and all of the properties came to his second wife.2
On 3 March 1871, Renwick wrote to a Mr Sclauders expressing great disappointment about bequests from his ex-wife to Mrs Sclauders. “(You are) well acquainted with all the peculiar circumstances under which I have been unfortunately placed.” He notes that his ex-wife has left him entirely in the hands of the executors of the Will. “My late wife in making her Will, believed that she was dealing fairly with my equitable claims on her estate, as has always been her intention, but not being able to realise the great depreciation that has taken place in the value of her property, she has unintentionally done me a wrong, by leaving the most valuable part of her personal effects to Mrs Sclauders, who has no claim of any kind upon her.”3
Whether or not Renwick got any satisfaction from Mr and Mrs Sclauders, his life was to take a happier turn and, at the beginning of 1872, he married Anne Smith.4 It is clear he found love with Anne, as his letters show a different side to the reserved Scotsman who wrote business-like letters to his first wife.
In a letter dated just ‘Blenheim, Thursday morning’, he wrote: “My own dear Annie, How glad darling I should be if I could return on Saturday, but I have to go to Delta (a farm they owned in the Waihopai Valley) again and it will take me two or three days to finish there……no end of love to my own dear wife, I am your own hubby. Thomas”5
And on 22 December 1873 he began a letter from the Delta Dairy: “My own darling Annie, mine you observe and no other bodies…”6
The couple bought Newstead House in central Nelson in 1877 and on February 28, 1878, Renwick received a letter from John Scott, builder and contractor of Nelson with a quote of three shillings sixpence for ‘executing Plaster Cornice in the hall at Newstead in accordance with the plan supplied by John Scotland…..An early answer will oblige as the plasterer will finish by midday tomorrow.”7
Renwick died on May 29 1879 aged 61. Mrs Anne Renwick did not remarry and seems to have capably taken up the reins of the life Renwick and she had been making together. On 6 April 1887, she hosted the wedding of her niece Phyllis Renwick to Mr A. Hamilton at Newstead House.
Several letters from 1902 show her to have been fully involved in the life of Dumgree in the Awatere Valley. On 23 January 1902, she received a letter from the manager of Dumgree (also her nephew) R. Young. He wrote: “Therefore I do not expect high prices for stock this year even with the price of frozen meat advancing in London.”8
Mr Young wrote again on 10 May 1902. “I have just received a letter from the Seddon Sports committee asking if you would be willing to dispose of 60-70 acres near the Dumgree Railway Station….and if you are not prepared to sell, would you let or lease. This I take to be a formal request such as was made to me unofficially last year when I obtained your permission to allow them to hold Boxing Day races and sports in the Manuka paddock.”9
In 1902 (date unknown) Mrs Renwick wrote from Newstead House to a Miss Inglis who had responded to an advertisement for a nursery governess: “The advertisement which you replied to was for a nursery governess for the three children of my niece Mrs Young who resides at Dumgree in the Awatere. Since the insertion, the circumstances have changed. Owing to Mrs Young’s health, the children have come to stay with me for six months. For that time the duties required will be those of a nurse.” She explained that the oldest child, a boy, would go to school and the two younger girls would not require teaching. She added: “I should wish the nurse to take complete charge of the children with the exception that I shall have the baby at night.”10
Anne Renwick died in 1939 and Dumgree was farmed by a nephew until it was sold out of the family in 1977.