Given names: 
Given address: 
Sheet No: 259

Biography contributed by Allan Hawkes

Lizzy (Elizabeth) Gibbs (my great grandmother) was born 20 May 1854 in St Albans, Christchurch, the daughter of William (a brickmaker) and Sarah (nee Ayres/Ayers) Garlick. Her parents had emigrated from Turvey, Bedfordshire and arrived at Lyttelton 23 December 1850 aboard the Sir George Seymour, one of the first four ships carrying 782 immigrants, known as the 'Canterbury Pilgrims', to arrive in the Canterbury settlement. They are commemorated on marble plaques in Pilgrims' Corner in Cathedral Square, Christchurch. Lizzy had two older brothers, Thomas Ayres who emigrated with his parents and James Henry, born in Riccarton, Christchurch.

Lizzy was baptised at St Bartholomew’s Anglian Church, Kaiapoi (built 1855, now Canterbury’s oldest church) on 8 February 1857 when her father was recorded as a sawyer of Kaiapoi. It seems the family moved to Rangiora in 1858 and then settled at Woodend, north of Kaiapoi about 1864. They lived in a cob cottage with a thatched roof (there were a number of these in Woodend) near a pa (Kaiapohia Pa was nearby) and when Lizzy played with her wooden doll and bathed it in a nearby stream the Māori children would come to watch her. The family had beautiful gardens, grew wheat and apples and raised Clydesdale horses. Lizzy attended a private school, possibly the Woodend Church of England School. Her home life was not always a happy one because of her father’s drinking habits.

At the age of 19 she married her second cousin, Henry (Harry) Gibbs (1852-1929) at the Registrar’s Office, Rangiora on 8 January 1874. He had been born in Bermondsey, Surrey, now in the London Borough of Southwark, between London and Tower Bridges. He had emigrated with his parents George and Mary Gibbs (nee Powell) and six of his eight siblings. They had arrived on 23 December 1856 at Lyttelton aboard the Egmont when Henry was four years old. The Gibbs family had originally come from Turvey, Bedfordshire where the Garlicks hailed from and had settled at Woodend, then known as Gibbs Town. Henry was a farmer, chaff cutter and later a traction engine driver and agricultural contractor. Lizzy taught her husband to read and helped with the running of the business. A family story tells how, in 1910, the family imported a new McLaren traction engine and 'Granny' Gibbs went to town (Christchurch) with £850 in cash to pay for it. Lizzy and Harry lived at Woodend and were to have 13 children, six sons and seven daughters (12 of whom lived to adulthood) between 1875 and 1901:

  1. Alice Maude (1874-1961), married George Arnold Eder (1874-1918), 1898, 10 children.

  2. Charles Henry (1876-1930), married Grace King (1887-1971), 1910, no children.

  3. Minnie Elizabeth (1878-1961), married William Henry Wright (1878-1967), 1903, 8 children.

  4. Rosetta Sarah 'Hettie' (1880-1969), married Samuel Hayes (1883-1957), 1913, no children.

  5. Frank George (1882-1955), married Mary Ann Matilda Mullins (1886-1969), 1910, 6 children.

  6. Benjamin William Harold 'Ben' (1884-1968), married Isabella Gray, nee Campbell (c1882-1937), 1923, no children.

  7. Frances May 'May' (1886-1952), married Felix William Edward Brightwell (c1874-1940), 1929, no children.

  8. Elsie May (1887-1965), married Arthur Martindale Ross (c1888-1971), 1921, two children.

  9. Harley Thomas James 'Harl' (1889-1958), married 1st Eliza Schaffer (1890-1917), 1916, no children; married 2nd Mary Elizabeth 'Molly' Ballagh (1881-1942), 1919, 2 children; married 3rd Jane Lammie Ellis (1903-1959), 1944, no children.

  10. Nellie Evelyn 'Nell' (1892-1960), married Otto von Wogen (c1884-88-1929), 1924, 1 child.

  11. Harry Herbert (1894-1894).

  12. Arthur Roland 'Art' (1896-1978), married Ethel Mary Hann (1901-1948), 1930, 2 children.

  13. Myrtle Henrietta Victoria 'Myrt' (1901-1986).

In the evenings the couple would sit with their children and Lizzy would read to them all by lamp light. Lizzy was a short lady with dark brown eyes and hair, which retained that colour for all her life. Her youngest child, Mrytle, recalled that 'Mother was a very dominant person and she ruled us all with a very firm hand, her word was law I can tell you.' 

The family had moved to Hoon Hay Road, Spreydon, Christchurch about 1898 and were in Lincoln in 1904. In 1906 they moved to a two-storey house in Prebbleton Junction Road (now Halswell Junction Road) in Halswell. Gibbs Place in Halswell is named after the family. Henry died in 1929 and Lizzy on 18 July 1936, aged 81 at Spreydon. Her funeral took place at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Halswell. Archbishop Churchill Julius, although retired, conducted the service because Lizzy was the daughter of Canterbury pioneers. She is buried in the churchyard with her husband and some of her children.

Lizzy signed both the 1892 and 1893 Suffrage Petitions (the latter when she was 39) and was enrolled for the 1893 and 1896 elections.

Lizzie Gibbs and family

Lizzy Gibbs with her husband and 12 children at daughter Minnie’s wedding, Christchurch, 1903. Source: Hawkes family collection.


  • Birth, marriage and death records
  • Passenger list
  • Family oral history
  • Steam at Southbrook: The first 50 years of the Southbrook Traction Engine Club. Compiled by M C Bradstock, published by the Southbrook Traction Engine Club, 2010.
  • Obituary: Press, 14 August 1936, p.2.
  • New Zealand Combined Electoral Rolls 1881, 1893 & 1896, version 2.3 CD. Diane Wilson, New Zealand Society of Genealogists, 2010.

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

Community contributions

1 comment has been posted about Lizzy Gibbs

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Lynette Geange (nee Fischer) daughter of Betty (nee Ross).

Posted: 27 Oct 2019

Elsie was my Grandmother, Betty daughter of Elsie and Arthur Ross. My mother spent much time at Henrietta and Myrtles homes as Elsie didn't have good health. She, husband and children eventually moved to the West Coast to a so called better climate for her health. Sunday when visiting Christchurch we would go to the Homestead in Halswall where Aunty Myrt or Aunty Hett would cook a roast dinner as Uncle Ben still lived in the homestead.