Just a few minutes’ walk from Kensington Palace gardens is 44 Lancaster Gate, an elegant four-storey terrace in Bayswater. For many years this was the home of Stuart Rendel’s older brother Alexander Meadows Rendel (1829-1918), who was a prominent civil engineer and the driving force of the Rendel business after the death of his father James in 1856. Alexander, known in the family as Meadows, married Eliza Hobson, eldest daughter of new Zealand Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson. Probably because her mother’s name was also Eliza, the daughter was known throughout her life as Lila.
Lila Hobson appears with her mother and siblings in the album presented to Eliza Hobson in 1843 on her departure from New Zealand after the death of William Hobson. Lila is about 13 in the family portrait, which was painted by artist Edward Ashworth at Government House in Auckland on the present site of Old Government House.
Mrs Eliza Hobson, facing widowhood and straitened circumstances on her return to England, had invested in property in Auckland before her departure. When Lila Married Meadows in Stoke Damerel, Devonport in 1853, the joining of the two families meant continuing interest in New Zealand and the eventual passing on of Mrs Hobson’s album to a younger generation who presented it to the New Zealand Government. Meadows and Lila had eight children. Daughter-in-law Elinor Rendel, writing to Gretchen Briant in New Zealand in 1933, gives us a glimpse of the album in its family setting:
My husband’s aunt, (Miss Hobson, a daughter of Governor Hobson) Aunt Polly as we called her, was very fond of my children and we used to go and stay with her at Plymouth every summer. There we heard a great deal about her father and many stories of her mother and her experiences when she first went out and her return home as a widow with her five children. Aunt Polly had a wonderful album full of pictures of the country as it then was and many portraits of Maori chiefs and girls beautifully painted. This book has now been sent to Lord Bledisloe to be put in the museum at Waitangi. We have also sent a diary of Capt. Hobson’s and photographs of some oil paintings my husband has, portraits of the Governor and his family.
Polly Hobson is the youngest child in Edward Ashworth’s painting of Mrs Hobson and her children. She was born in Auckland in 1841. Her sister Lila Rendel lived until 1916, first at Lancaster Gate and later at 23 Russell Square in London. Emily Harris received the following note from her:
44 Lancaster Gate, W.
London, December 1st 1891.
Dear Miss Harris
I am very deeply obliged to you for sending me the New Zealand Ferns Flowers & Berries which have been published from your drawings.
It was most kind of you to think of giving me the pleasure of this remembrance of a country that even now is to me full of pleasant associations which have been revived always, since my young days by continued intercourse, and by having still interests in the place. I have often thought I should greatly like to revisit New Zealand although it has never been at all likely that I should do so. Again I must thank you for your kindness in sending me this welcome remembrance which I have just received.
And I am yours very sincerely, Lila Rendel.
Lead writer: Michele Leggott
Research support: Makyla Curtis, Betty Davis