Blackmore’s in New Zealand

Out of England

Edwin Gordon Blackmore (1837-1909), public servant and author, was born on 21 September 1837 at Bath, Somerset, England, fifth child of Dr. Edward Blackmore, M.D., of Bath, and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née Gairdner. His grandfather was Hugh Blackmore of Cornwall, a Surveyor.

Lansdown Crescent
Landsdown Crescent, Bath, where Dr Edward Blackmore lived before emigrating to New Zealand with his children.

Edwin was educated at King Edward V1 Grammar School by Rev. J. Richards, M.A., fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and at King Edward VI Grammar School, Bath.

Edwin’s mother, Jane Elizabeth Gairdner was the daughter of Edwin Gairdner and Jane Drummond Gordon, who was the daughter of John Gordon and Catherine Smith of South Carolina. Two of John Gordon’s daughters married brothers – Jane married Edwin Gairdner and Mary married James Gairdner.

To New Zealand

Edwin Gordon Blackmore emigrated to New Zealand in 1854 with his father (It is believed that his mother Jane died in 1853 and is buried at Kensal Green, UK) and brothers and sisters on the advice of the eldest brother Edward Hugh Ennis Blackmore who had arrived in Auckland from England in 1848 and become secretary to Governor Sir George Grey. Edwin became engaged in “pastoral pursuits” in his early years in New Zealand.

His siblings were:-

Edward Hugh Enes (1826-1906) married Jessie Mary MacDonald (1833-1866) Jane Laura Harriette (1830- ) Rev. William Gordon (1834-1913) James Newnham (1836-1875) Mary Anne (1849- ) married Frederick Williams ( -1869), a NZ farmer. Harry “Henry”? (1844-1919)

Edwin’s older brother, Edward, went on to gain some notoriety in New Zealand.

Edward married Jessie Mary MacDonald (daughter of Captain Alexander and Mary MacDonald of Howick) in a double wedding with Jessie’s sister Agnes (m Bacot) at the Howick Roman Catholic Church on the 13th September 1851.

Captain MacDonald was with the 30th Regt and had come to NZ with his wife Mary and six children on the Sir Robert Sale. He had several plots of land in Howick. 

The following notices appeared in the paper:-

On the 13th inst., at the Roman Catholic Church, Howick, by the Rev L Raynaud RCP, John Thomas Watson Bacot Esq., Staff Assistant Surgeon, to Anne Agnes, eldest daughter of Capt Alexander Macdonald, Staff Officer of Pensioners (and formerly of the 30th Regt). [NZ’er 17 Sept 1851] Double wedding.

On the 13th inst. At the Roman Catholic Church, Howick, by the Rev L Raynaud, RCP, Edward Hugh Eanes Blackmore Esq., to Jessie Macdonald, 2nd daughter of Capt Alexander Macdonald, Staff Officer of Pensioners (and formerly of the 30th Regt) Double wedding. [NZ/er 17 Sept 1851]

Edward had moved on to Nelson on 22 October 1853 with his wife Jessie and son to take up the post of Collector of Customs. When he applied for the post he is said to have claimed to have a BA from Oxford University, when, in fact he did not. (Edward said that he had one, but, although he had qualified, he never got one. Information from Oxford University) .He bought a section in Russell Street from Nelson’s first magistrate, John Poynter and proceeded to build a 4 room hip roof single story cottage that still exists today.

8 Russell Street, Nelson

Adele and Fisherman Islands, on the other side of the Bay, near today’s Abel Tasman National Park and the tourist town of Kaiteriteri, were auctioned in 1855 and Edward Hugh Enes Blackmore, Collector of Customs, paid £210 for Adele and £3/8/9 for Fisherman.

Adele and the smaller Fisherman Islands

Things seem to have gone wrong for Edward quite quickly as in early 1856 he was “suspended” from office and eventually asked to leave Nelson after failing to account for almost £2000 of customs duties collected during his tenure. The family was dispatched to Australia with only 10 shillings for their fare, relinquishing to the Crown ownership of the cottage, livestock, household possessions and other properties.

The two islands were also to become Crown property, however, at that time, Mathew Richmond of “The Cliffs,” Nelson, was Commissioner of Crown Lands and John Poynter, a pioneer solicitor, was Resident Magistrate. These two men, after conferring with Blackmore, drew up a Deed which stated that, as Blackmore owed the Government of N.Z. a “considerable sum of money,” he wished to sell all his properties to Richmond and Poynter for the total sum of 10/-. Proceeds for the later sale of these properties by Richmond and Poynter were to assist in liquidating his debt to the Crown.

Abel Tasman National Park with Adele and Fisherman Islands shown in south east.

Richmond and Poynter apparently forgot about the islands and forty years later when both were dead, it was realised that the islands had not been registered as Crown property. When this was done the forgotten islands were declared a scenic reserve. Stone from Adele Island was used as fill for the sea-wall at Port Nelson.

There was no record of the scandal in the press of the time but a letter to the governor from local landowner, John Tinline, records his dismay that Edward was allowed to leave the country with a large rent debt to Tinline. Perhaps the story was kept under wraps to avoid embarrassing the Customs Office.

Edward went on to teach in Sydney, setting up his own private school and taught Australia’s first two Prime Ministers. The school later went bankrupt. They had 8 children. His wife died in 1866 and he died in 1905 with less than £200 to his name.

Edwin Gordon Blackmore and the Maori Wars

In the Maori War 1863-64, Edwin Gordon Blackmore joined the Taranaki Rifle Volunteer Corps, was present in reserve at the action at Poutoko on 2 October 1863 and present at the storming and capture of the rebel Maori strongholds of Ahuahu and Kaitake in March 1864. For these services he received the New Zealand Medal.

Mount Taranaki

On to South Australia

Edwin Blackmore went to South Australia where, another brother, James Newnham Blackmore (1836-1875) was a founder and paid secretary of the Adelaide Club, and also assistant clerk and sergeant-at-arms of the House of Assembly in 1857-66, and under-treasurer for South Australia in 1870-75.

Edwin was appointed Parliamentary Librarian to the Legislative of South Australia in October 1864, Clerk Assistant and Sergeant at Arms in the House of Assembly in December 1869, Clerk of the House of Assembly in May 1886, Clerk of the Legislative Council and Clerk of Parliaments in May 1887.

In 1897-98, Edwin was Clerk to the Australian Federal Conventions which framed the Commonwealth Constitution at meetings in Adelaide and Sydney in 1897 and Melbourne in 1898 to agree to a Bill for the federation of Australia. He received the formal thanks of the convention and acted as clerk of the Constitutional Committee and the Special Committee which drafted the Commonwealth Bill.

As chief executive officer at the historic ceremony on 1 January 1901 at Centennial Park, Sydney, in honour of the foundation of the Commonwealth, he read the Queen’s proclamation and the Letters Patent of the new Commonwealth.

On that day he was created a Companion of St Michael and St George (C.M.G.) and on 3 April became first Clerk of the Commonwealth Senate and Clerk of first Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 1901.

The Federation of Australian States in January 1901

Edwin’s Family

At St Peter’s College Chapel on 3 January 1872 Blackmore had married Eleanora Elizabeth Farr (1848-1901), the eldest daughter of Archdeacon George Henry Farr and his wife Julia, née Ord. (Farr had six sons and two daughters)

George Farr had come to Adelaide South Australia in 1854 to be Headmaster of St Peters Collegiate School. Eleanora was born in Cornwall in 1848 and died in Adelaide in 1901.

Edwin and Eleanora had 6 sons and 2 daughters:- Gordon Patteson (1872 – 1941) m Ethel Mona Finlayson. George Edward (1874 – 1945/1952?) m Martha Fourie – went to South Africa
James “Jim” Gairdner (1876 – ) m Lillian Williams – went to South Africa
Edwin “Edd” Ord (1879 – 1956) m Ada Louise Wooding – went to South Africa Jane “Janie” Drummond Gordon (1881 – 1942) m Dr Granville Sharp
Eleanora Mary (1884 – 1891) died of Diptherea only 7 years old
Lewis “Loo” Gordon (1886 – 1916) saw service at Gallipoli, killed in action Pozieres, France
John “Jack” Coleridge (1888 – 1971 m Edith Alexa Kinleside – (grandparents of the writer)

Children of Edwin and Eleanora (nee Farr) Blackmore taken before their youngest child, John Coleridge was born.

In 1942, Jack and his brother George in Africa inherited a half share interest each in the estate of Percival Williams who farmed in New Zealand. George was noted as saying, “What the hell am I going to do with half a sheep farm in New Zealand in the middle of a war?” Jack and George decided to sell the farm and share the proceeds. Percy Williams was the last living descendant of Mary Anne Blackmore (married Fred Williams), the youngest child of Doctor Edward Blackmore (Jack’s Grandfather), who had migrated to Nelson. We believe that the New Zealand branch of the family died out when Percy died. Mary and Fred had 4 other children, Amy, Flora, Frederick and Reginald) who, it seems, predeceased Percy

Jean Verbeek, a great granddaughter of George Blackmore, later moved to New Zealand and lived in Auckland, until her death in 2019 at age 58. Jean’s children, Abigail (1993- ) and Simon (1991- ) Leach still live in New Zealand.

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