Given names: 
Given address: 
Campbell Street
Sheet No: 316
Palmerston North
Manawatu / Horowhenua

Image courtesy of Beverley Corry; biography contributed by Marie Hickey:

Martha Bayliss

Martha Elizabeth Baylis (neé Byfield) was born on 22 October 1848 in Lambeth, Surrey, [1] England (possibly at 8 Cottage Place, Francis Street – now called Crampton Street); on records later in life she calls herself Martha Sophia; she and her sister having swapped middle names. Martha was the fourth child of George and Martha (neé Bliss) Byfield and the first daughter born to the couple. The area was very “blue collar” so would have been quite a poor area and subject to all the illnesses that go hand in hand with that – cholera was not an unknown foe in the area.

When Martha was merely 10 years old her father died on 16 May 1858. [2] The following year, 1860, the family is supposed to be living in York Road, Lambeth, as this is the address that Martha’s mother gives when she marries Henry Coe on 28 February 1860 at St John the Evangelist, Walworth. [3]

On 23 December 1866 Martha married William John Baylis at St John the Evangelist, Waterloo Road, Walworth. [4] At the time both Martha and William claimed to be living at William Street, Lambeth and William said that he was a potter but was actually only working in a pottery – possibly Doulton’s as their premises were nearby.

William and Martha’s first two children were born in the Lambeth area [5]; however, their third child was born in 1875 in Kent. [6]

The family emigrated to New Zealand aboard the Howrah which left England on 29 July and arrived in Wellington on 18 November 1876. [7]  William brought his family to New Zealand as part of the assisted passage scheme being run by the Vogel government; they travelled free and their fare cost the government £50.0.7½d. While travelling to New Zealand William kept a diary and assisted with publishing a newsletter for the passengers; both he and Martha began work on a tapestry of the ship which was completed by later generations.

The family disembarked in Wellington and lived there for about 15 years with a brief stay in Christchurch around 1878. [8] By 1880 they had returned to Wellington where their last two children were born [9] (they fostered another girl in 1896) and William became a roading contractor, often tendering for jobs with Wellington Council.

William and Martha first appear in Palmerston North on the electoral roll of 1905-1906 at Featherston Street. William quickly began an asphalting business and, according to his obituary, his was the first in the area. William’s business must have flourished as he is listed on the 1896 electoral roll as owning 22 and 23 Campbell Street, Palmerston North. Thereby indicating that the family lived quite comfortably due to William’s efforts.

Martha first appears on electoral rolls in 1893, the same year she signed the petition for women’s suffrage. Between 1913-1936 Martha gives her occupation as nurse on electoral rolls but was not a qualified nurse. William died in 1916 so Martha either had to work or simply chose to do so.

Martha had reached the grand old age of 92 when she died on 21 September 1940 and was buried with William in Terrace End Cemetery, Palmerston North. While her husband had not left a will Martha did. [10] A fulsome obituary [11] was published on her demise. She and William had certainly added to the population with six children, twenty eight grandchildren, sixty nine great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren a grand total of one hundred and five descendants!


[1] Birth certificate - Martha Elizabeth Byfield
[2] Death certificate - George Byfield
[3] Marriage certificate – Martha Byfield (nee Bliss) to Henry Coe
[4] Marriage certificate Martha Sophia Byfield to William John Baylis
[5] Birth index England and Wales – Elizabeth Mary and William George Baylis
[6] Birth index England and Wales – Richard Marsh Baylis
[7] Passenger list - digitised image on and accounts published in newspapers
[8] NZ Birth index – John Thomas Baylis
[9] NZ Birth index – Martha Sophia and Amelia Ann Baylis
[10] Archives NZ, Wellington – digitised image on
[11] Evening Post 12 October 1940

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

'Mrs Baylis', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-Aug-2018

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