William Henry Snr

William Henry Phillips Snr

William Henry Phillips SnrWilliam was born in Plymouth in 1820,the same year that Florence Nightingale was born, and King George II died. For context, modern policing did not exist, and public railway had yet to be created.

His father was John Phillips, a chair maker ( a joiner in today's parlance ) born around 1786 in Kenwyn Cornwall, and his mother was Mary George born around 1796. They were married in Stoke Damerel in Devon on the 7 April 1815. In 1851 there is a record of John still living in Pydar St at the St Marys Workhouse in Truro with his son's in-laws, Arthur and Betsey Callaway.

William had 3 sisters, Mary Ann, Jane, and Caroline. There are no records of their lives that we can ascertain. The 1841 Census has them living in Pydar Street, St Mary, Truro. ( see sidebar below)

William trained under his father as a chair maker, and from what we are told was very good at it, if annoyingly a little pedantic at times with anyone trying to help. Mary Ann was recorded as a millener. The other children too young to be in employment at that time.

William and Betsy around 1844

William & Betsy

On the 19 Aug 1844 William married Betsey Jane Callaway in East Stonehouse, Plymouth Devon. William may have moved from Truro to Plymouth in seach of work. Betsey's father Arthur Callaway was a carpenter, and his wife was Betsey Werry. They lived in Truro Cornwall, and they had four children, William Petherick, Nanny, Betsey and Jane. Nanny it appears married John Wills and emigrated to Australia.[reference]

Their first born was Betsy Jane Calloway Phillips (Bessie), who was born on the 24th November 1844, three months after the marriage.

Birth Certificate for Betsy Jane Calloway Phillips

Birth Certificate for Betsy Phillips, 1844

She married Jack Heron, an associate of her brother William in Wakefield, Nelson on the 27 February 1866. [ see Heron section elsewhere ]. Incidentally the Vicar at Wakefield who married them was a little tardy in the paperwork, and after his departure the new Vicar realised the implications, and it took an Act of Parliament to have the marriages conducted during that period officially recognised.[Ref: "Just Another Row of Spuds" by Marion Stringer]

Their second born was William Henry jnr, in 1845. Most references state his birthplace in Truro, Cornwall, however it may have been in Devon.  We will update this document when we have confirmation of his exact place of birth.

The third born was Mary Ann ( aka Ann or Annie ), who was born in Plymouth in 1848/1849. She travelled with the family to New Zealand and married Robert Donald in 1879. [ see Donald section later ], and after his death Joseph Lewis.

Death Certificate Annie Lewis ( nee Phillips )

Death Certificate Annie Lewis (nee Phillips )


1841 Census

Piece: HO107/148/8 Place: Powder -Cornwall Enumeration District: 3
Civil Parish: Truro St. Mary Ecclesiastical Parish: -
Folio: 41 Page: 8
Address: Pydar Street

Surname First name(s) Sex Age Occupation Where Born
PHILLIPS John M 55 Chair Maker Cornwall
PHILLIPS Mary Ann F 20 Millener Outside Census County (1841)
PHILLIPS William M 20 Chair Maker Outside Census County (1841)
Outside Census County (1841)
PHILLIPS Caroline F 14
Outside Census County (1841)
DAVIS William M 15
Outside Census County (1841)

Truro St Mary's Cathedral

Truro St Mary's

In 1849 the family emigrated to Australia, leaving William jnr in Cornwall to complete his education. He followed them later in 1858. At that stage there was a huge number of Cornish miners emigrating to Australia to work in the mines, and escape the downturn in fortunes in the UK.

As best we can ascertain, William Snr and family travelled on the sailing ship Stratheden that left London 6 November 1849 and arrived in Adelaide on the 22 February 1850. From there they moved to Castlemaine, Bendigo and Ballarat. Not much more has been learnt of their time until 1858 when young William completed his education aged 13, and travelled on the sailing ship the Wellfleet to Australia.


Empress of the SeasThe next record we have of their life is the move to New Zealand in 1861. At that time there was a huge influx of gold diggers to the various gold rushes in New Zealand. They travelled on the Empress of the seas with over 650 others, arriving at Port Chalmers in September 1861. That week over 3,000 others disembarked, so life must have been pretty tough upon arrival. The ship manifest showed them as:


They stayed in the area and worked in the Gabriels Gully region for a year before moving north to Nelson. In 1862 William Snr was listed on the Nelson Electoral Roll. living in Bridge Street.

Young William had been prospecting at Tadmor region with Thomas Sayle, a Manxman, and shortly thereafter the family took land on Tadmor Hill in the Motueka Valley, where they set up a store and pub and was granted a publican's licence in 1862 with Thomas Sayle. From 1864 the licence was only in William snr's name. In May 1864 an advertisement in the Nelson Examiner reads:

(About three quarters of a mile from Fawcetts Store)
parties proceeding to the above diggings will find good
accommodation and every want supplied at
Good English Ale, Wines, Spirits, &etc., at very moderate prices

Young William had joined up with the now famous George Moonlight, a pioneer in propecting in New Zealand, and was found in the West coast for some years.

In 1866 Bessie married Jack Heron, who had been an associate of young William's in his gold prospecting and also a venture to operate a tug called the "Despatch" on the Grey river.

In 1868 William snr was elected to the newly formed Motueka Valley Roads Board. Later that year his wife Betsey died. The circumstances and location of her death remain a mystery. The only mention is on the Marriage certificate of William snr's second marriage of his being widowed in 1868.

In 1869 young William was granted 200 acres of land at Sherry River. A second accommodation house and store was built that year, using pit-sawn timber at the foot of the hill in the Sherry Valley. This was built by a carpenter called Chips Boyer.

In December 1869 an advertisement appeared in the Examiner :

Parties proceeding to the reef at Wangapeka should call at
Two and a half miles from Fawcetts Store

Good accommodation for man and horse



William snr is listed on Electoral Roll Waimea District as a Householder, and in January 1870 he advertises the Tadmor Hill Store and Licensed House  "To Let for a term of years" as an agent for the Nelson Evening Mail. It took a couple of years to find someone, who we do not know, maybe the family took over the business, but around 1873 William snr sailed back to England.

John PhillipsHe only stayed a short while before heading back down-under. He stopped off in Australia, and there he met and married Elizabeth Phillipps ( note the 2 p's ) on the 10 February 1875. Her parents were John and Maria Phillipps.

John was a miner and Maria was born into the Rundel family. They were Quakers, and had many tales to tell about their time in England during the Monmouth rebellion, when anyone found with non-traditional beliefs was burnt at the stake, or despatched in other ways. It is also understood that Maria's brother John Phillipps was at some time the mayor of Ballarat.

William and Elizabeth travelled back to New Zealand on the sailling ship Tararua in March of that year.

In 1879 Mary Ann, William's eldest daughter, married Robert Donald. He was a farmer originally from Dalry, in Ayrshire, England. That line of the family has been quite prolific, and we have been in contact with living descendents.



In 1885 William snr is listed as living in Examiner Street in Nelson, and in 1889 his second wife Elizabeth died. She was buried at the Marawera cemetery in Tapawera.

Grave of Elizabeth Phillips




In 1890 William snr travelled back to England, where he surprised the family by getting married for a third time. At 71yrs he married Mary Blenkinsop (49 yrs). The 1891 Census records him living in Kenwyn (Truro)  with Mary and her 11yr old son Julian Blenkinsop.

The marriage did not last, and in 1895 he returned to New Zealand on the sailing ship Oroya and proceeded to live with son and his wife. From what we can ascertain, this was not a happy arrangement.

William snr died on 25 October 1899. His death certificate records his burial at the Motueka Valley Cemetery, along with other members of his family. However there is no headstone on the most likely location, an empty plot beside that of his second wife Elizabeth. Combined with the lack of any record of his first wife's burial, it is possible they are buried together somewhere entirely different.

A note from his grandson Jack Phillips indicate father and son did not get along, or see eye to eye. For example, there was "surprise" expressed by William jnr when he learnt of his fathers 3rd marriage, and it is possible that he was buried elsewhere due to the nature of that relationship.


William Henry Phillips Family