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J. Newton

Signed family name
Signed given name
Given address
Sheet number

Biography contributed by Kate Jordan.

Little is known about Jane’s early life. She was born about 1827 in England and her maiden name may have been ‘Aevs’; more than that, however, is difficult to know.

In the summer of 1851, Jane married John Henry Newton in Eastry, Kent. Four children followed the marriage and were baptised in Eastry: John Henry Isaac in March 1852; Rachel Atkin (Aitken) in September 1853; Isaac Samuel in June 1855; and William Richard in September 1857.

Jane’s husband was a boatman, as were many in the small town of Deal on England’s south coast. In the days of sailing ships, vessels would wait in the relatively safe anchorage off the coast of Deal for ideal weather conditions to move either up the English Channel or out into the Atlantic. Boatmen from Deal serviced these waiting boats, taking out supplies and salvaging wrecked ships. These services peaked during the Napoleonic wars and steadily declined afterwards, particularly with the introduction of steam vessels. The population at Deal went into a strong decline. By 1858, a historian has commented, ‘the boatmen’s situation was thought to be so serious by the local gentry that they established a scheme to assist those who wished to emigrate to New Zealand. Thirteen boat men, with their families, took advantage of this opportunity.’[1]

Jane, her husband and children were one of those families. Originally, they were to travel on the Mystery early in 1859. An illness in the family, however, delayed their departure and instead they came out on the Victory later in 1859.

The Newton family were among 171 other government immigrants and travelled in steerage class. People in steerage did not have cabins, but long open rooms with bunks below decks. The local newspaper reported that passage was a 'rapid and reasonably agreeable one', taking 104 days from England to New Zealand. Like most ships coming into Canterbury, the Victory travelled around the south of Stewart Island where an iceberg was spotted. The paper also said: 'The passengers speak in high terms of the kindness and attention received from Captain Stephens and his officers, as well as of the skill and obliging disposition of the surgeon, Dr. Murphy.'[2]

Upon arriving in New Zealand, the family travelled to Hakatere cattle station in the Ashburton Gorge, where they stayed for about a year. After that, they returned to Lyttelton and Jane had four more children: Thomas Alfred in 1861, Harriet Jane in 1864; Samuel Francis in 1870; Joseph George in 1872; and. Samuel Francis died aged just four months old.

From at least 1892 the family lived at Exeter Street, between Canterbury and Dublin Streets. Jane’s husband John worked as a fisherman.

Jane and John Newton

At about 8 o’clock on 22 June 1900, when she and John were visiting the Canterbury Hotel in Lyttelton, Jane appeared to have a ‘fainting fit’. A doctor was called, but when he arrived, she had already passed away. Jane had been receiving treatment for heart disease.

The funeral took place two days later, with a service at the Holy Trinity Church followed by burial at the Church of England Cemetery. Reverend C Coates conducted the service and also performed the last rites at the grave. The local newspaper reported that ‘Many flags in Port were half-mast during the day.’[3] Mrs Newton was a very early settler and, apart from her twelve months at Hakatere, had resided in Lyttelton where she ‘gained the respect of all who knew her’.[4]

In response to the support received from the local community after Jane’s death, the family placed a notice in the newspaper thanking people for their kindness in their recent bereavement.[5]


[1] Jacqueline Bower, ‘A Traditional Community in Decline’.

[2] ‘Shipping News’, Lyttelton Times, 18 May 1859, p. 4.

[3] ‘Obituary’, Lyttelton Times, 25 June 1900, p. 2.

[4] ‘Obituary’, Lyttelton Times, 25 June 1900, p. 2.

[5] ‘Late Advertisements’, Lyttelton Times, 26 June 1900, p. 3.


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Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.