Letter 31

Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. Woodville, New Plymouth, [1853]

Woodville New Zealand

My dear Emma

The Cashmere is at length arrived I think it was nine months from the time she left London she was detained many weeks in old Plymouth and after she arrived in Auckland the crew ran away so that it was two months before she arrived here, however better late than never. We received the parcel in good condition it had not been opened. When we receive a box we have to pay a duty. Edwin goes in and opens the box and gives a rough value, books do not pay a duty so it is very well to pack a few on the top. The parcel came free to us, the shawl and dress are beautiful, how shall I thank the Streets for so much generosity? I feel I ought to write to them but how to express myself sufficiently pleased I cannot tell so you must say all you can my dear sister. The flannel was a prize, I feel very grateful to them. The doll is pretty, the bags much admired, each claimed one, even baby strutted about with one on her arm. The cotton and boxes very pretty and useful. I must not forget the beautiful collar, mats and bread cloths. I have been making some in crochet work but not so handsome. Everything is very dear still, the shopkeepers get 25 per cent on their goods, money 10 per cent. This will give you some idea how much it will cost to clothe a large family, so that presents are very valuable but I am not selfish.

I trust our worst days are past. Corbyn is our deliverer, we cannot hope to keep him always. I do feel grieved we cannot educate our children. I am glad Henry Harris and his wife are doing well, it is better to work while young. So Mary is altered, twelve years make a great change in our [appearance] so you would say if you could see us. But I do not approve of her neglecting her appearance, though the improvement of the mind is of greater importance she might do both.

I am quite myself again in this beautiful silk dress and shawl. Emily feels quite astonished that I never saw your friends the Streets. She says what a strong friendship must exist between you, to extend it to a sister sixteen thousand miles away. There is no such thing here, there is a selfishness about all the people, I must except our Clergyman who is so good. Your black likeness as you call it brings you very often to our remembrances. We have not yet seen Mr Simmonds, I still hope we shall. I am glad you have been to London, what a traveller you [have] been of late years. I think you should go to France since William wishes it so much. We hope one day when you have retired you will come and see us. The last ship was only three months from the time she left England, you could end your days very happily and live genteelly on a small income as you get 10 per cent for your money.

I find I must hasten from one subject to another to make room for Corbyn’s note to his cousin. Your account of him interest me much in his favour. If he will be a sailor the regular line of ships that came here are very pleasant, the passage a safe one. How singular you should meet with Mr McLeod. Edwin begs to be remembered to him and I to his sister. Is Miss Vicory his aunt alive? I like to hear of old friends.

I wrote Miss Good some time since. Perhaps you have seen the letter, if not I will just repeat that on New Year’s day 1853 there was a great shock of an Earthquake which alarmed us very much, many chimneys fell but nothing serious happened. About the same time I was ill for two months. Emily and Corbyn were concerned. The Bishop came to see me, he sat and chatted for half [an] hour. He made me laugh several times. He is very agreeable, to one thing I said (remember I did not laugh then) I regretted our being so far from Church. He said church was every where. Edwin was not at home but he saw him afterwards at a meeting in the Town when he shook hands with him and told him how much he liked our place.

Corbyn is now driving four bullocks once a day during the winter when the weather permits. In the summer we got a young man to help him at 8 shillings per week and his board, mechanics get very good wages. Corbyn is so unused to writing that I fear he will not get on very well with his first letter. I believe I must conclude by telling 5o’clock p.m. Corbyn’s driving in at the gate, Emily at crochet work, Kate looking to see what is in the cart for the house, Frances feeding the calf, Mary the pet lamb, Augusta and Ellen making a garland of daisies and roses for the lamb’s neck, Papa reading Sharp’s Magazine, Mamma writing.

Now my dear sister accept our united thanks for the parcel and with kind love to all friends I remain your affectionate sister


Handwritten transcript of MS letter to sister Emma Jane Hill, [Liskeard, Cornwall], England. Written at Woodville, New Plymouth, NZ, [1853]. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2019-112. Letter 8.


Woodville New Zealand
Perhaps the name Edwin and Sarah Harris gave their Frankley Rd farm. No other reference to the name has been recovered.

The Cashmere is at length arrived
Newland 6 July 1853: ‘The Ship “Cashmere” arrived here from Auckland. 11th. The “Cashmere” left N.P. for Batavia.’ Sarah refers to the voyage that began 22 Oct 1852 when the Cashmere (640 tons) left Gravesend. She was badly damaged by storms in the English Channel and had to put back to Plymouth for repairs in late Nov. The voyage resumed in Jan 1853 and the ship arrived in Auckland 9 May (Brett 1:343).

Corbyn is our deliverer, we cannot hope to keep him always
Corbyn was 18 in 1853 and working full time on the farm. Sarah anticipates his marriage and the blow to the family economy it might entail. Corbyn’s death in July 1860 at Waitara during the first Taranaki war meant financial as well as emotional disaster for the Harrises.

I do feel grieved we cannot educate our children
Sarah revives a constant worry and does not speak of the schools she started at Frankley Rd and Hurdon for her own children and those of her neighbours who (like the Harrises) were distant from schools in town and could not afford to send their children there. See note for #25 and Emily’s comments about self-education. From Emily’s letter to Frances of 29 Mar 1863 it is evident that Emma Hill acted as a long-distance mentor to her New Zealand nieces: ‘I received a letter from Aunt Emma by the last mail with a pretty neck ribbon enclosed in it. She says she has received a very well expressed letter from you and wishes to include you in her list of pupils if you have no objection. She begs me to ask you, I am sure you will be very glad. Aunt Emma always criticizes my letters and points out the faults which I consider a great advantage.’

I am glad Henry Harris and his wife are doing well
Henry Marmaduke Harris (1815-1895), painter and decorator, married Elizabeth Corker Budd (c1817-1892), ladies and children’s outfitter, in Plymouth in 1848.
They had three sons and seven daughters. In 1896, Emily Harris described a letter from her cousin Elizabeth Harris: ‘Last week I received a letter & newspaper from Bessie Harris, uncle Henry’s second daughter. She began “My dear unknown cousin.” Then thanked me for the messages of sympathy I sent them through Katie Court. Uncle Henry died Sept. 21st 1895 in his 81st year. He had a very long illness & when he became deaf & blind he lost his reason. She says ‘You would have been deeply interested to hear father calling your father when he first lost his reason, he immediately thought he was home again.’

So Mary is altered, twelve years make a great change
Perhaps Mrs Mary Tickel, widowed sister of Miss Lovejoy Adams and co-proprietor of the school for young ladies in Liskeard, Cornwall. See note for #11. Mrs Tickel and Miss Adams were named as the executrixes of Emma Jane Hill’s Will after her death in 1866 (England Probate Calendar).

I must except our Clergyman who is so good
Reverend Henry Govett (1819-1903), who took over as vicar of St Mary’s Church after the death of his cousin William Bolland in 1847. Govett became Archdeacon of Taranaki in 1860 and was principal Anglican minister for the district until 1898. A vignette of Bolland and Govett occurs in a description by Jane Bolland of the weekday routine at Selwyn’s Tamaki, settlement in 1843: ‘The first thing that I hear in the morning is Mr. Govett pattering across the room with bare feet & shouting in a vehement voice to Reuben who being a fast sleeper requires the summons repeated half a dozen times. The mornings now are terribly cold, at least the thermometer is about 35 or 36, and it requires some exertion to turn out of bed especially as you know there is this difference in N.Z. from England that the world here gets well warmed after the sun has been up some time. However eight o’clock is our breakfast time at which we aim strongly, but there is a great deal to be done. First, Mr. Govett & Philip go out and William and I are in the house, W. frying, grinding and making cocoa, I skimming the milk & portioning it out to the parlour, kitchen and cottages, scolding Nancy Cooper our maid and Phipps the house boy for things done and undone & frequently sweeping out the parlour. Bye the way my hands are very nearly double the size they were in England.’ (Bolland Family Papers).

Your account of him interests me much in his favour
Sarah and Emma are referring to their nephew Francis William Paddon (c1838-1871), son of Ann Mountjoy Paddon and brother of Mary Mountjoy Paddon. See #32 Coda and note.

I wrote Miss Good some time since
Edwin’s aunt Maria Good (1794-1875). See #7 and #13. The 1871 England Census shows Maria Good living with her widowed niece Emma Court and family in Barton, Lincolnshire. Maria Good died aged 82 in Glanford Brigg, Lincolnshire in 1875.

I will just repeat that on New Year’s day 1853 there was a great shock of an Earthquake
Newland 1 Jan 1853: ‘The severe shock of an Earthquake took place at N.P. about half past eight this evening. Several chimneys were thrown down, ours among the number in Courtney Street were deemed advisable to be taken down. No lives were lost.’

The Bishop came to see me
Newland 23 Jan 1853: ‘Sunday. The Bishop arrived at N.P. overland from Auckland. The Bishop held a Confirmation at St. Mary’s Church N.P. this afternoon at 3 o’clock. His Lordship gave an admirable address to the Children. John was one of the number confirmed. […] The Bishop took his departure for Wellington last Monday 24th. Inst.’

I believe I must conclude by telling 5o’clock p.m
Sarah’s representation of the family is designed to show the health and prosperity her English relatives were anxious to hear about. Her description is a perfect accompaniment to Edwin’s watercolour of the house and farm.