Bob Anderson's Family History Website

BobAnderson.co.uk is my Family History website, detailing genealogical research into my ancestors, with a particular emphasis on the Anderson, McCauley and Britton parts of my family. The site includes family trees of my genealogy, many photos, and video materials, including footage of the 1911 Eltham Axemen's Carnival in New Zealand, at which my grandfather George McCauley competed successfully.

The Anderson Family: Full Research

Cockplay and Wester Biggs Farms, Blackford (Ordnance Survey 1862)

My great-great-great grandfather, Robert Snr. Anderson, was a sheep farmer in the Blackford area of Perthshire, Scotland; his date of birth and parentage are uncertain but his parents may have been John (christened 18 November 1759) and Jane Anderson (nee Aitkin), married on 17 July 1781, who had a son named Robert born at Biggs and christened on 11 August 1782. Wester Biggs farm is sited close to Cockpl(e)ay farm where Robert Snr. subsequently lived. The Andersons have been traced two further generations back to John's father, Robert (born 1739), and Robert's father, William. They all lived in the Blackford area. Robert Snr. married Helen Gray in Blackford on 4 November 1805, the month after the battle of Trafalgar. She may have been the Helen born to John Gray and his wife Louisa (nee Eadie) and baptised in Blackford on 1 October 1783 but this is unproven. A member of the Eadie family, William Eadie, set up a small brewery in Blackford in the early 1800s and one of his fourteen children, James Eadie, subsequently founded a brewery in Cross St., Burton-on-Trent, in 1854. This is interesting because I worked in the brewing industry in Burton-on-Trent and still live in the town.

The ruins of Cockplay Farm, Blackford

Robert Snr. and Helen lived at Cockplay farm, south-west of Blackford, and had seven children, the youngest of whom was my great-great grandfather, Peter Anderson, born at Cockplay, Blackford, and baptised on 13 August, 1820. Helen, the fifth child of Robert Snr. and Helen, married Charles Warburton, a dyer from Edinburgh; she died of dementia in Edinburgh, just after the census in 1881. William Warburton, a son of Helen and Charles, moved to Norfolk in England and then, with a number of other Warburton family members, on to Woolwich where many of them worked in the arsenal. Caroline Bagshaw, a great-great granddaughter of Helen and Charles Warburton, provided this information.

No records have been found of the deaths of Robert Snr. and Helen but they were not living in the Blackford area at the time of the 1841 census, suggesting they were either dead by then or had perhaps moved elsewhere.



Peter Anderson and his Family

My great-great grandfather, Peter Anderson, a baker, moved to Edinburgh some time before 1846. He married Jane Veitch on 23 November 1846 in the parish church of St. Cuthberts in Edinburgh; the minister officiating at the ceremony was Rev. Thomas Guthrie, a well known minister and social reformer, who still has a statue at the West End of Princes Street, Edinburgh. Jane was born in 1826/7 in the parish of St. Giles, Edinburgh, the daughter of James Veitch, whose occupation was variously described as “wright” or “joiner”, and his wife Elizabeth Veitch, nee Jamieson. Peter and Jane had nine children, the second of whom, and eldest son, was my great-grandfather Robert Jnr. Anderson, born on 31 October 1849; it appears from the census returns of 1851 and 1861 that some of their children died in infancy. Over the next 40 years or so, Peter and Jane are recorded as living at different addresses in Edinburgh, with Peter’s occupation variously described as baker or journeyman baker but not master baker, suggesting that he did not have his own business. Interestingly, in the 1871 census, Peter’s occupation is described as printer/compositor; this appears to have been a temporary job as in subsequent census returns his occupation is again given as baker. Jane Anderson died on 13 March 1893, aged 68, of heart disease and bronchitis, and Peter Anderson died on 23 April 1903, aged 83, of cancer of the rectum and bronchitis.

The informant of Peter’s death was his son-in-law, John Bonthron Light, the husband of Jane Veitch Light, Peter and Jane’s third child; Peter had been living with John Bonthron Light and Jane Veitch Light since at least the time of the 1901 census. I acquired the above information from the Scots Ancestry Research Society, whom I had commissioned to research the Anderson family history. Further research by the Scots Ancestry Research Society revealed that John Bonthron Light, a Railway Wagon Inspector, and Jane Veitch Light (nee Anderson) were married in Edinburgh on 25 November, 1881. They had eight children, two of whom died in infancy. Their fifth child, Janet McEwan Light, a dressmaker, married David Marshall Glen Berry, a general labourer, in Edinburgh on 25 July 1925. Their son, also called David Marshall Glen Berry, who became a training and development manager, was born on 13 June 1926 and married Isabella Matheson Thomson on 14 June 1952; Isabella died on 20 June 1998. In October 2003, I rang David, having been provided with his phone number and address by the Scots Ancestry Research Society. After making my initial introductions, I was astounded when David suddenly asked whether I came from Wanganui. It emerged that my grandfather, Alfred Anderson, had visited David when he returned to the U.K. for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and had tried to persuade him to emigrate to New Zealand to join the family furniture business. This was all news to me! I subsequently wrote to David, enclosing details and a photograph of the Anderson family, and was pleasantly surprised and pleased when he wrote back, enclosing a number of original photos and other family documents for me to keep, presumably because he had no children. He remembered his grandmother, Jane Veitch Light, who died on 18 September 1941, as a “charming, kindly and wonderful woman”, and clearly recalled her lying in bed, about a year before she died, crooning “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, with him joining in. David Berry died in 2007.

Janet McEwan Anderson, the seventh of Peter and Jane's children, and her husband, Joseph Robinson Morgan, had seven children. Their two oldest children, John and Peter Anderson Morgan, travelled to North America in the early 1900s, as did their first cousins Alfred (my grandfather), Ernest Robert and Charles Edward Anderson, the sons of Robert Jnr. Anderson. Peter Anderson Morgan went to Canada in 1910, working on the Canadian Railways (like Alfred); after spending time in Edmonton, he returned 3 years later prior to WW1, marrying in 1919 and settling in the London area. In 1920, John Morgan sailed from Glasgow to Quebec on the SS Sicillian, meeting his wife-to-be Margaret Killburn on the voyage, and joined Ernest Anderson at the Ford car plant in Detroit before eventually returning to the UK on the Queen Elizabeth on his retirement in 1949; in 1933, he was visited in the USA by his mother, Janet McEwan Morgan, following the death of her husband. This information on the Morgans was provided by Sue Broadway, the granddaughter of Peter Anderson Morgan.

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Robert Jnr. Anderson and his Family

Marriage Certificate of Robert Jnr. Anderson and Martha Williams

My great-grandfather, Robert Jnr. Anderson, moved south to the London area some time between 1871 and 1878. He married my great-grandmother, Martha Williams, on 23 June 1878 in the parish church of St. James in Hampstead Rd., London. Prior to their marriage, at the time of the 1871 census, Robert was a lodger at 3 Downie Place at the house of Robert Grant, an upholster, in Edinburgh and Martha was a servant in the home of Aron De Sola in Prescott St., Whitechapel, London.

 

Martha was born in the White Lion Inn, Stowmarket, Suffolk, on 13 March 1852 to James Williams and his wife Eliza (nee Tricker); James was the innkeeper at the White Lion from 1839 to 1859 and Eliza was his second wife, whom he married on 16 November 1850. James died on about 1 December 1865 but the date of Eliza’s death is unknown. It may be that James’ first wife was Lydia Tricker, the aunt of Eliza Tricker; this Lydia, born in 1806, did marry a James Williams on 13 February 1826 and she subsequently died in 1830. Tricker is a well-known name in the Stowmarket area, and a member of the Suffolk Family History Society has traced the Tricker family tree back to 1535. It is of particular interest that Eliza Tricker’s father, my great-great-great grandfather Isaac Tricker, was a maltster. Both he and Eliza’s husband, my great-great grandfather, James Williams, were therefore associated, as I was, with beer and the pub and brewing industry. Isaac Tricker and his wife Mary (nee Markwell) died on 7 March 1882 and 29 December 1882 respectively.

Marriage Certficate of James Williams and Eliza Tricker

Martha Williams's Birth Certificate

 

Martha Williams Book Inscription

It is also of interest to read the history of the White Lion Inn in the Stowmarket History and Heritage website. This indicates that the inn was closed in 1892 and the last remnant of the building demolished in the 1990s to make way for a road development. A final point of interest, this time relating to Eliza Tricker, is that I have a book entitled Scripture History, with the following inscription obviously hand-written by her: “Martha Williams. A Birthday Present from Her Mother. March 13th 1857”.

Robert Jnr. and Martha Anderson and their 13 children (see Gallery for details)

Robert Jnr. and Martha Anderson had thirteen children, of whom my grandfather, Alfred, was the fifth. Robert, a journeyman cabinetmaker, is said to have worked for a time at Waddesdon Manor, the home of the Rothschild family, during its construction in the 1870s; it is believed he built the wooden staircases there leading to the servants quarters, but this cannot be substantiated. My most prized possession is a balloon-backed and intricately carved occasional chair in maple wood that was made by Robert and left to me in the will of my great-aunt, Violet Anderson. The first eleven children of Robert Jnr. and Martha were all christened on 23 February 1894 at St. Pauls Church, Paddington.

 

Robert Jnr. Anderson's Death Certficate

Robert Jnr. and his wife lived at various addresses in the London area until his death, of cancer of the colon, on 12 July 1920 at the age of 70. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, Grave Number 46901, Square 186, Row 5 and his gravestone has the inscription:

“A light is from the household gone, a voice we loved is stilled, a place is vacant in our home, which never can be filled”.

The family of Robert Jnr. obviously had something of a wanderlust. My grandfather Alfred, an upholsterer, went first to Canada, arriving in Montreal on the vessel Lake Manitoba on 5 May 1906, and then on to the USA. Whilst in Canada he upholstered seats in Canadian Railway coaches before returning to England. He then sailed to New Zealand in the White Star Line steamer Ionic, leaving Tilbury in March 1908 bound for Wellington. On the voyage he met my grandmother, Florence Britton, the background of whom is described in the separate section of this website.

One of Alfred’s brothers, Ernest Robert, emigrated to Canada in 1907 and then travelled from there to Detroit in the USA.  Ernest subsequently married T(h)eresa/ Tracy Fuller Talbert in Detroit on 24 August 1912. Theresa was the widow of Edward H. Fuller, whom she had married on 27 April 1907, and the daughter of Mary Talbert, born in Germany, and William Talbert. At the time of the 1910 census, Theresa is described as being a widow and childless, living in the same household as her widowed mother, five siblings and a two-year-old girl by the name of Florence Makolski. One of these siblings was a sister named Agnes Makolski who, in the 1910 census, claimed she had been married for three years and had one child, although there was no record of a man named Makolski in the household. It can be speculated that Florence was possibly the illegitimate child of the then unmarried Agnes who gave her name as Makolski to match that of her daughter. When Agnes was married in 1910 to Harry B. Pingston she stated "no previous marriage". Florence, who was born on 15 February 1908, was later "adopted" by Ernest Robert and Theresa after their marriage and brought up as their daughter.

It seems that Ernest Robert was accompanied by John Henry Pingston and a number of the latter's siblings when  he crossed to Detroit from Canada in October 1909; John Henry was the brother of Harry B. Pingston. Ernest Robert subsequently became a naturalised American in 1915 and worked in Detroit, initially as a motorman for Street Railway and then as a labourer/machinist at an automobile factory. Records obtained by Sue Broadway from the Ford Motor Company reveal that he commenced employment with them on 28 October 1918, his previous employer being recorded as C T Pingston who, it seems, was Clarence, another brother of Harry B. Pingston. Ernest Robert is recorded as working for Ford until 12 January 1929, with his successive occupations described as assembler, mechanical handler, bench hand, stripping machinist and B & L operator. His wage gradually increased during that time  from 50 cents to 95 cents, presumably hourly rates. On 11 June 1920, he made a passport application to enable him to return temporarily to the UK to visit his parents. Robert Jnr. was obviously seriously ill at the time, dying soon afterwards on the 12 July 1920.

In 1929, Florence married Raymond F. (Frederick?) Noble, a book-keeper in a bank. Raymond is recorded in 1910, aged 8 months, living with his 59 year old widowed father, Frederick, whose occupation is described as "Produce and Fruit".  In 1930, Florence and her husband Raymond R. Noble were living with Ernest and Theresa, still in Detroit. Ernest Robert and Theresa Anderson died in Detroit on 21 December 1930  and 17 July 1931 respectively. In 1940, Raymond Noble, now a salesman at the Detroit Coca Cola Bottling Company, and Florence were living in Detroit with their two daughters, Patricia A. aged 8 and Celeste A. aged 5.  In 1953 and 1958, Raymond was a salesman with Metropolitan Life Insurance, Detroit. Florence and Raymond Noble died in May 1987 and November 1987 respectively in Plant City, Hillsborough, Florida.

Another of Robert Jnr.'s sons, Charles Edward, also spent time in North America. He arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 31 March 1910 on the SS Grampian and then travelled on to Detroit to join Ernest Robert there on 29 April 1910.  Whilst in Detroit it is possible he worked with Ernest Robert in a car factory. After Ernest Robert's marriage, Charles Edward returned to Canada in 1912, eventually working as a dairy driver in Edmonton, Winnipeg, before crossing back to the USA at the port of Pembina in North Dakota on 9 November 1914. Soon afterwards, he returned to the UK and married Laura Honey in London on 4 April 1915; his marriage certificate records his occupation as "carman". My cousins, John Anderson and Sue Broadway, have done the detailed research on these Anderson family members in North America.

Two of Robert Jnr.'s other children, Helen (Nell) and Arthur Harold , sailed separately to New Zealand in 1921, Helen on the Shaw Savill ship Pakeha (leaving Southampton on 16 June 1921) and Arthur Harold on the Ionic (leaving Southampton on 20 October 1921). Helen stayed in New Zealand, initially running a shop in Wanganui selling porcelain, and then marrying Harrison Walter Handley, a school teacher, in 1932; she was then 53 years old and her husband only 35 and according to family lore she had to be persuaded, with some reluctance, to join her husband on her wedding night! Helen and Harrison settled in New Plymouth and my mother, sister and I used to visit them during our regular trips to New Plymouth. I remember "Aunt Nell" as a dour but kindly lady who was never to be seen without wearing a hat, even when relaxing in her own house. It was she who gave me a book of common prayer that had belonged to her mother, Martha. Helen died in New Plymouth in 1960 and Harrison in 1970. Helen's brother, Arthur Harold ran a motor engineering business in Wanganui before returning to live permanently in England in about 1924. Another brother, William Walter went with his family to New Zealand in about 1930 but sadly he took his own life in Riccarton in 1931, having suffered from shell shock as a result of first world war service, and his wife and daughter then returned to the U.K.

Martha Anderson's Death Certificate

After the death of Robert Jnr., his wife, Martha, also emigrated to New Zealand, in 1926, accompanied by her daughter Margaret Eliza. They sailed on the New Zealand Shipping Company ship Rimutaka (leaving Southampton on 17 July 1926). Martha died of stomach cancer  soon after her arrival in New Zealand, on 17 April 1927, in the Porirua mental hospital, at the age of 75. Her death certificate gives her maiden name incorrectly as Hitchcock. Martha was buried in the Aramoho cemetery in Wanganui. She was not remembered with much fondness by her grandchild, my aunt Jean, who found her something of “an old tartar”.

In 1930, Margaret Eliza gave birth to a son, Albert Leigh Christie, fathered by William Henry Christie. At the time she was employed in Wanganui as housekeeper to William and his disabled wife. The couple adopted Albert Leigh and Margaret Eliza had no further contact with him. She later moved to Palmerston North and for a long time was the companion/ housekeeper to a wealthy spinster, Miss Russell. The large house where they resided had huge gardens, including a tarmac tennis court that I remember playing on. Aunt Mag or Peggy, as we called her, used to come and stay with my family from time to time, including a period of six months when she shared a bedroom with my sister, who recalls that she spent much of her time crocheting egg cup covers and other items. She was always very good natured and friendly, well liked by my sister and me, and my father always had a soft spot for her. In 1961, she came back to the UK for several months, staying with her brother Arthur Harold and his wife Violet in Stanmore. The last time I saw her was in December 1974 when Liz, myself and our baby Richard visited her in the flat where she lived alone in Palmerston North. Liz always laughs when she recalls us being offered a blackcurrant nip that Aunt Mag obviously thought was the height of decadence . Margaret Eliza left an estate of about $1500 when she died intestate in 1979 and her solicitor then spent about $1000 of this identifying and contacting all her living nieces and nephews in NZ and the UK. Over 30 of us were beneficiaries of her estate and I well remember receiving a cheque for my share, a handsome sum of around £3. I wanted to frame the cheque but Liz persuaded me that this would be in poor taste!! My cousin, John Anderson, has, in recent years, traced and made contact with Albert Leigh Christie (or Leigh as he is called) and met him and his wife, Phillipa, and their family. Sadly, Leigh knew nothing about Margaret Eliza being his mother until his middle sixties and, of course, never met her. He has now visited Kelvin Grove Cemetery in Palmerston North, where Margaret Eliza's ashes were scattered, to pay homage to her and is very pleased to have finally met his previously unknown Anderson cousins.

Margaret Cameron and Leslie William Anderson at the Exmouth memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire

Most of Robert Jnr. Anderson’s family either stayed or settled finally in the U.K., and a number of his descendants still live in the south of England. When I first came to the U.K. in 1967, I stayed briefly with his son, Arthur Harold, and daughter-in-law, Violet, who lived in Stanmore, Middlesex. I remained in regular contact with Robert’s grandson, Leslie William, the son of Charles Edward, who lived in Garston, Watford, until shortly before his death in 2011. Leslie and his brother and sister were orphaned at a young age when both their parents, Charles Edward and his wife Laura (nee Honey), died in 1921; Charles Edward is buried in the same grave as his father in Kensal Green Cemetery, together with his sisters Janet and Alice. Charles Edward’s three children were brought up in various orphanages in North London and had no memory of their parents; however, Leslie did remember his grandmother, Martha, visiting him in the orphanage, just prior to her leaving for New Zealand, and offering him any present of his choosing, which was a cricket bat, ball and stumps. In 1931, at the age of 11, Leslie moved to the boys' training ship, Exmouth, anchored off Grays, Essex, where he was based for four years. He was awarded a bronze medal for "special good conduct and ability". At the age of 15, Leslie joined the Royal Navy and, after a year's training at Gosport, Portsmouth, sailed on HMS York to Bermuda, where he was based for 2 ½ years. In April 1939, he received training in photography at Chatham Barracks. At the outbreak of the second world war, Leslie joined the destroyer HMS Intrepid; this ship was soon in action, sinking the German submarine U45 off Ireland on 10 October 1939 and assisting with the Dunkirk evacuation. He once told me that, at one stage, his flotilla commander was Lord Mountbatten, who was said to be aboard HMS Icarus. Leslie also remembered that HMS Intrepid escorted the aircraft carrier Ark Royal off Murmansk and, later in the war, he was aboard one of the ships supporting the D-Day landings. During his time on Intrepid, Leslie attended an anti-submarine course at Greenock, Glasgow. He left the Royal Navy in 1946.

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Alfred Anderson and his Family

Following his return to England from Canada, my grandfather, Alfred Anderson, emigrated from England to New Zealand in 1908 on the steamer Ionic meeting my grandmother, Florence Britton, on the voyage. They were married in Wanganui on 1 August 1908 and apparently spent their honeymoon canoeing on the Wanganui River. My investigation into the interesting background and early life of Florence Britton are described in detail in the separate section of this website.

The 7 children of Alfred and Florence Anderson (see Gallery for details)

Following his marriage, Alfred Anderson settled in Wanganui and set up an upholstering and house furnishing business in Mackay St., Wanganui East. In the Wanganui Chronicle of 22 March 1913, it was reported that Mr. Alf Anderson was the latest addition to the Telephone Exchange, with the number 913. In 1916, Alfred's firm was amalgamated with that of Ginn and Wilson; the new business, known as the Wanganui Furniture Manufacturing Co. Ltd., and registered in mid-June 1916, was sited in Duncan St., Wanganui East. The capital of £1600 for the new concern was provided by Dan Wilson, Percy Ginn, Henry Townsend and my grandfather, each contributing £400. Alfred and Florence had seven children of whom my father, Eric Robert, was the eldest, born on 19 July 1909. In 1950, Alfred returned to the UK for the Festival of Britain in 1951; he arrived at the port of Hull on the 28 July 1950 on the ship MV Defoe, having left New Zealand from the port of Napier. Alfred died in Wanganui on 13 January 1954 at the age of 69, and Florence died there on 29 March 1963 at the age of 82.

Eric Robert Anderson attended school at Wanganui East Primary School and then Wanganui Technical College, where he won an essay competition, the prize for which was a framed print of a WW1 battleship. He then moved to Wellington in 1928 where he commenced a pharmacy apprenticeship with Joseph George Gallagher and In 1931 helped to dispense drugs to those injured in the Napier earthquake that killed and injured many people. On completing his apprenticeship in 1932, Eric went to work for another pharmacist, R. H. B. Good, and in 1937 joined Boots the Chemists at its first overseas branch where he qualified as a fully-fledged pharmacist in 1938. It was in Wellington that he met my mother, Hazel Emily McCauley, who was working at the time in the Reserve Bank, and they married in New Plymouth on 22 January 1938. Eric Robert received a letter from the General Manager of Boots (N.Z.) Ltd., dated 16 November 1940, telling him that, "As a mark of appreciation of the way in which you have been doing your work we propose increasing your salary to £6/12/6 commencing week ending 23 November 1940". In May 1941, my father returned to Wanganui with his wife and joined the family firm as managing director at the request of his father, Alfred. My sister, Patricia Rae, and I were born in Wanganui on 17 December 1943 and 20 February 1942 respectively. At 10 a.m. on the day of my birth at the Cairnbrae maternity home, my mother wrote to her sister, Olive Rae McCauley, as follows:

“My Darling Ginger, Well, can you believe it! Woke Eric at 12.30 a.m.—came here at 1.30 a.m. and produced a wee son at 4.30 a. m.(according to Sister the quickest on record for a 1st). I’m so thrilled Ginger, I could cry and cry—I gave orders under the anaesthetic that you and Mrs. A (Anderson?) were to be rung immediately. Eric didn’t know till 8.30 a. m. Robert John has had his first feed—yells lustily, weighs 7 lbs 13 ozs—has lots of black hair—a fat face—yawned 4 times and sneezed 5 times—he is a pet—I think he is not very handsome but Dr. and nurses say he is a perfect specimen. I must have some sleep, darling, but had to drop you a line. Eric has been here for an hour—is thrilled”.

Like his father before him, Eric Robert was a dedicated freemason, joining Lodge Aroha No. 293 in Wellington in 1937 and transferring later to Lodge Moutoa No. 195 in Wanganui. He was a Master of Lodge Moutoa and eventually rose to the rank of Grand Director of Ceremonies in the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. He was keen on all sports, particularly cricket, and enjoyed playing lawn bowls. In 1960, he became the second President of Wanganui North Rotary Club , succeeding a local vicar and rugby player, Ian Botting, who had the almost unique distinction of playing on the wing for both the All Blacks and England. I well recall attending one of the meetings of Wanganui North in the early 1960s to hear Arthur Gilligan, a former England cricket captain and radio commentator, speak to Members. Arthur's brother, Frank Gilligan, had been the Headmaster at Wanganui Collegiate School, which I had attended.

My father was struck down with rheumatoid arthritis in March 1965 and died of pneumonia in Wanganui on 5 September 1967 at the age of 58. In his Rotary Club's tribute to him on his death it was said he "believed in, lived and loved Rotary for what it stood for". My mother subsequently remarried in 1969; her second husband, Keith Armstrong Atkinson, died in July 1988 and she herself died in Auckland on 29 January 1990, of cancer, at the age of 79. My sister, now Patricia Rae Bowden, lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

Jean, the fourth of the seven children of Alfred and Florence, was the last to die, on 13 September 2009, at the age of 95. The family business stopped manufacturing furniture in the 1970s and is now run as a furniture retailer by two of my cousins, John and Geoffry Anderson, the sons of Ian Charles. I do, however, have two mahogany armchairs and a mahogany music cabinet made in the factory in the 1950s, as well as a German chiming mantle clock owned by Alfred and Florence.

Appendix 1: Memories of the Wanganui Furniture Manufacturing Co. Ltd. 1940s-1960s

Our family firm was founded in 1916 by my grandfather Alfred Anderson, an upholster, and Dan Wilson and Percy Ginn, both cabinet-makers, who set up their factory and shop in Duncan Street, Wanganui East. The main showroom and offices were at the front of the two-story premises, separated from the factory and polish shop behind them on the ground floor by a thick brick wall and a heavy metal fire-proof door. Carpets were displayed and cut upstairs above the main showroom with upholstering work done at the rear of the second floor. Outside to the right, and running the length of the premises, was a drive-way with racks to one side for storing wood, bicycle racks for staff and a garage for the delivery vans. 

My first memories relate to the late 1940s and early 1950s, by which time Dan Wilson had died, in 1939, and Percy Ginn had retired, in 1942. Percy still visited the factory from time to time and I remember him as a quiet, dignified and dapper figure who always wore a hat. Dan Wilson’s sons, Jack and Keith, were now working for the company, Jack serving customers and dealing with the accounts and Keith working in the factory itself.

The Andersons were also well represented. My grandfather, Alfred, was semi-retired by then although, up until his death in 1954, he too used to come to the office occasionally in his pre-war Ford V8 and then in the new Austin A40 he bought during his visit to the UK in 1950/51. All four of his sons worked for the company. My father, Eric, was managing director, Ian was responsible for measuring, cutting and laying carpets as well as serving in the shop, Bunt too worked in the shop and Jack drove the delivery vans. Jack seemed to work flexi-hours and always had a long lunch-break so he could enjoy his mother’s lunch and relax afterwards on a deck-chair in the sun. I suspect that he thought he was the only brother doing proper work! During the 1950s the old delivery van was replaced with a newer model, both of these vehicles being painted red. As children, we enjoyed nothing more than joining Jack in the cab of his van while he delivered furniture to customers. There was also a smaller van that my father and I used if necessary to deliver rubbish to the dump and to transport items that were too large for our car. Mary Anderson also worked occasionally upstairs in the upholstery department of the factory, sewing curtains and other fabric items on a sewing machine. All these Andersons, along with the two Wilson brothers, were directors of the company.

50th Anniversary of Hec Corney joining Wanganui Furniture (ca. 1966); from left Allan (Bunt) A., Jack W., Hec C., Mrs. C., Eric A. and Ian A.

 

Among the employees, mention must be made particularly of Hec Corney. I think he had spent all his working life with the company as an upholsterer, probably from when it was founded. I can still see him diligently working away, rhythmically taking tacks from a row of them held between his lips and hammering fabric to an item of furniture with great speed and precision. Every Christmas Eve, without fail, my family were invited to visit Hec and his wife at their home for refreshments. I recall at least one occasion when the Corneys visited our house as well. This was to test out and admire the new three-piece suite and two mahogany armchairs that had just been made for my father in the factory and upholstered by Hec. I still have those armchairs, along with a mahogany music cabinet made in the factory. Hec Corney’s son, Kevin, also worked for the company for many years, firstly in the factory and later serving in the shop. Hec died in 1977 and Kevin in 2010.

The factory foreman in those days was Frank Green who sadly died in the mid-1950s after contracting cancer. I’m not sure of the exact number of men employed in the factory, but it was probably about 20 to 25. During tea and lunch breaks, they used to sit on the pavement outside the shop. One of the young men employed was an expert at building radios and I remember he kindly agreed to sort out a crystal set I had been trying unsuccessfully to construct and make operational. He was a devout Christian and happened to mention to my mother that his work colleagues were always teasing him about this. My father had to ask Frank Green to have a quiet word with the men. The cheaper furniture in those days was made of rimu, a New Zealand native wood, the slightly more expensive of oak and the most expensive of imported mahogany. Virtually all the furniture on sale was made in the factory but most of the carpets were imported. My grandfather visited the Axminster carpet factory during his trip to the UK in 1950/51. A cheaper carpeting material called Feltex was, however, made in New Zealand, as was, I think, all the linoleum on sale.

The office assistant in the early 1950s was a lady called Shirley who was always very friendly to us children and allowed us to try out her typewriter and the mechanical calculator used for pound, shilling and pence calculations. When Shirley left, a very pretty young lady, appropriately called Miss Sweet, joined the company but I seem to recall that, regrettably, she didn’t stay long!

Advertising of the company’s wares was done almost exclusively in the two local newspapers, the Wanganui Herald and Wanganui Chronicle. The annual “stocktaking sale” was always a big event and the only time discounted goods were available to customers. I remember also the occasion in 1954 when the company furnished one of a number of houses built for a "Homes Show" opposite the old Anderson family home in Smithfield Road. These were open for public viewing for a week or two. In 1956, a major trade show for local companies was held in the Wool Stores in Nixon Street, Wanganui East, and Wanganui Furniture was able to display its wares there. One of my memories was of the radio quiz shows recorded during this show, compered by well-known personalities such as Selwyn Toogood. An internal TV system was also set up, with screens around the site, and it was a particular thrill for many of us to see for the first time what was then new technology in New Zealand.

The risk of fire in the factory, generally caused by wood dust, and sometimes fuelled by solvents, was an ever-present hazard. The first of these had apparently occurred in 1921, when the original factory was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt, and I can recall two other major fires. One of these happened on a day in 1961 when my father had just been admitted to hospital to be prepared for an operation the following morning on the varicose veins in his legs. When he was passed a note about the fire, he immediately got out of bed, dressed and discharged himself from hospital to deal with its consequences. Two burglaries also occurred. During the second of these, a young lady called Olwyn Hay, who lived with her family opposite the factory, saw carpets being removed from the shop in the middle of the night and decided to warn my father. In those days we didn’t have a telephone so, having dressed quickly, she climbed pluckily over fences to the rear of her property and found her way to our house in the dark. My father, armed with a hammer, walked round to the factory, ran across the road and smashed the windscreen of the vehicle used by the burglars. They tackled him, knocked off his glasses, without which he could see very little, and escaped. The burglars, who had come from Wellington, were eventually caught and there were no more burglaries.

Customers too could sometimes cause unwanted problems for Wanganui Furniture. I occasionally accompanied my father when he visited those who had fallen behind with their payments. I recall several visits being made to one particular Maori gentleman who lived at Putiki Pa. He would relax unconcernedly in an armchair on his veranda while my father tried to persuade him to pay up, always to no avail. The last murderer to be hanged in New Zealand, Walter Bolton, had also been a customer. My father was on the list of potential jurors at Walter’s trial in Wanganui in 1956 for murdering his wife with arsenic but managed to ensure he was challenged because of the information he had been asked to provide about the purchases made in the shop by Walter and his mistress.

In 1959, Wanganui Furniture bought out the furniture business of Cuthbertson and Lee in Victoria Avenue, Wanganui. This became the main shop and, after my father died in 1967, first the factory and later the showroom in Wanganui East were closed, with Bunt and Ian Anderson taking over the management of the firm. The Victoria Avenue shop still exists and is now  run by Ian's sons, my cousins John and Geoffry Anderson.

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