Letter 2

James Meadows Rendel to Captain William Hobson. Plymouth, 28 October 1840

Plymouth, 28 October 1840

My dear Sir,
I rejoice to hear of your restored health and the success that has attended your efforts as Governor of a country which promises to be a happy home for thousands who would have to live here in poverty and helplessness.

The kind promises which you made before leaving England, and the encouragement given by Mrs Hobson in her letter to Miss Smith, have induced me to recommend Mrs Rendel’s brother (Mr Edwin Harris) to try his fortunes in New Zealand. This letter will I expect be delivered to you by him.

That you may be able to form some idea of his qualifications thus to say that he was in my office for six years, that during the time he was actively employed as an Engineering and Land Surveyor and in looking after some work, and that he is a skilful surveyor, and neat draughtsman, a very fair artist, and has had a good education. I am quite sure that if you can employ him in any situation in which the qualifications above named are a recommendation, that you will be well and faithfully served.

As Mrs Rendel will write Mrs Hobson, all the Plymouth news will be better together, therefore I will only add that I earnestly hope you will have your health, to see the great work of your own hands prosper, and your comforts may be made complete by the blessing of health and happiness in your family.

With kindest regards to Mrs Hobson, believe me my dear Sir
Yours most truly
J M Rendel

Capt Hobson died before my father could deliver this letter. Mary Weyergang

MS letter to Captain William Hobson (RN), Lieutenant-Governor, NZ. Written in Plymouth England, 28 October 1840. Undated MS annotation by Edwin Harris’s daughter Mary Weyergang. Puke Ariki. ARC2003-781.


James Meadows Rendel (1799-1856) FRS, was an eminent civil engineer who married Catherine Jane Harris in Plymouth in 1828. They had 5 sons and 5 daughters. Rendel moved his practice to London in 1838, leaving his partner Nathaniel Beardmore in charge in Plymouth. The Rendels’ eldest son Alexander Meadows Rendel married Eliza Hobson, eldest daughter of Captain William Hobson and his wife Eliza in 1853. The marriage linked the Rendel, Hobson and Harris families for almost a century. JM Rendel’s 1840 letter to Hobson remained in the Harris family until 1961 when it was given to the Taranaki Museum by Philip and Godfrey Briant, grandsons of Mary Weyergang, nee Harris.

As Mrs Rendel will write Mrs Hobson, all the Plymouth news will be better together
Eliza Hobson’s letters to her friend Emma Hamilton Smith in Plymouth mention the Rendels: ‘How I long to hear from you. I wish you and Mrs. Rendal were better correspondents. A letter from either of you would be so acceptable. Say all that is kind for me to the Whitefords and Rendals’ (22 Jan 1841). A letter six months later carries the postscript: ‘Tell Mrs. Rendall that we have not yet seen or heard anything of her brother and sister, but when they do arrive, we will do all we can for them. I was very sorry to hear of her sister’s death, only a day or two before we received the news we were saying how much we should like to have her here to take Miss Short’s place’ (4 Aug 1841). Emily Theodosia Harris (1813-1840) was a younger sister of Edwin Harris and is perhaps the family member for whom Emily Cumming Harris was named. Miss Short, the Hobsons’ governess, was about to be married (Porter and MacDonald 237).