Given names: 
Given address: 
Sheet No: 282

Biography contributed by Peter Clayworth (great-great-grandson of Mary Harding)

M. Harding of Willowby, South Canterbury, was Mary Harding (1846-1927), known to her family as “Pollie”. She was born Mary Benjafield on 3 November 1846 at Motcombe, Dorset, to Susanah Benjafield née Pond (1815-1896) and Uriah Benjafield (1813 - 1892).

On 5 September 1871, Mary Benjafield married William Harding (1846-1928), of Marksbury, Somerset, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Shaftesbury, Dorset. Mary and William Harding lived at East Chase Farm, near Bowerchalke in Wiltshire.

Mary, or Pollie, had five children; a son, Winboult (1873-1958), followed by four daughters, Ellen  (1874-1939), Susannah (1876-1950), Julia (1878-1901) and Ruth (1879-1960).

In 1882 William Harding, a skilled cheesemaker, accepted a job managing the cheese factory at Flemington, South Canterbury, New Zealand. Mary, William and their five children sailed from London on 1 July 1882, travelling steerage on the Wairoa. They did not touch land again until reaching Lyttelton on 3 October 1882, after an often rough voyage.

From 1882 through to 1888, the Hardings lived at Flemington. Mary Harding was a keen player of the harmonium and piano, even playing the harmonium while sailing on the Wairoa. She provided music for singing classes at Flemington. She played at meetings of the Flemington Blue Ribbon Gospel Temperance Society, sometimes accompanying William Harding’s singing. The Hardings were Methodists, but at Flemington attended the Presbyterian Church, where Mary provided music for services and social events. Mary may also have been the “Mrs Harding” who was appointed sewing mistress for the Longbeach District School in December 1883.

In 1888 the Hardings moved to Willowby to go farming. There Mary and her family attended the Methodist Church. She was involved with the Wesleyan Temperance Society and Band of Hope, later joining the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Mary Harding died in Ashburton on 6 March 1927.


Mary and William Harding, c. 1910s-1920s (Roberts family)


Harding/Benjafield/Roberts family information from Julia Roberts (granddaughter of Mary Harding) c.1988 and Leslie Roberts (great grandson of Mary Harding) 2007 & 2017.

Mary Harding Death Certificate.

W. Harding, Diary of a Journey made by William Harding to Port Lyttelton, New Zealand, on board ship “Wairoa” belonging to the New Zealand Shipping Company, Ridout & Son, Machine Printers, Gillingham, undated.

Ashburton Guardian, 6 October 1883, 22 November 1883, 7 December 1883, 18 December 1883, 24 December 1883, 14 June 1884, 2 May 1885, 27 July 1885, 22 May 1886, 6 May 1887, 22 November 1887, 24 June 1888, 6 September 1888, 21 November 1888.

Globe, 4 October 1882, 30 October 1882.

Lyttelton Times, 5 October 1882, 30 October 1882, 9 May 1887.

Press, 30 October 1882, 14 December 1882, 7 December 1883, 7 September 1888, 7 September 1921 accessed 13 October 2018 accessed 13 October 2018

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

How to cite this page

'M. Harding', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 24-Jan-2019

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