Given names: 
Given address: 
Sheet No: 253

Biography and image contributed by Wendy Crane.

Sarah Judson nee George.

Sarah George, my great great grandmother, was born in 1827 at Eaton, a village south-east of Nottingham. In 1847, at Waltham-on-the-Wolds, the nearest town, she married William Judson, a farm labourer of Eastwell, a nearby village.

Life was hard for agricultural workers in England, who had no prospect of things getting better for them. In 1858 William’s younger brother Mark and wife Ann took the big step of an assisted passage to New Zealand on the Maori, settling in Gibbstown, North Canterbury. The story goes that some of the extended family back in Eastwell gathered on a seat around a large tree in the village to share a letter which had arrived from Mark. It must have made good reading as it helped William and Sarah to make up their minds to also leave and start a new life in New Zealand.

In 1859 they left with their five children: James 12, Elizabeth 10, Mary Sybil 7, Sarah Ann 2, and Martha 4 months. From Leicester railway station they travelled to London where they obtained lodgings until the date of departure. The expense of this accommodation was something they could ill afford, and caused some concern. They finally sailed from Gravesend on 29 November, 1859 on the ship Clontarf.

Sarah Judson

It was a terrible journey of 4 months of violent storms, a fire, diphtheria and measles - 5 adults and 28 children died, including Martha. Sarah Ann was nearly thrown overboard as dead, but the captain gave in to her mother’s pleas that she was still alive – there was movement in the material she was wrapped in. She was the youngest child to survive, and recovered though she was never robust, living with only one lung. A shortage of supplies and money added to their hardships, and at one stage in the voyage William found it necessary to give a Promissory Note for £9.10.0. for credit to enable them to carry on. It was not until November 1864 that they were able to repay this.

The Clontarf at last arrived at Lyttelton. Another passenger wrote in his diary:

‘Friday 16 March 1860 Very fine morning. The sun very powerful, we ran along the land about ½ a mile, all day, and sailed into Port Lyttelton or Cooper, at 3 in the afternoon, and cast anchor about ½ a mile from the town. This is a very picturesque spot, the town is on the side of a large mountain with mountains to the right and left of it. The doctor came on board and passed all the emigrants, they will all be sent on shore early in the morning.’

After leaving Lyttelton on its return voyage, the Clontarf was not heard of again.

The family walked over the Bridle Path to be met by Edward Patemen, a friend who had emigrated earlier. With his horse and cart he brought the family and their possessions north to Gibbstown where he and Mark Judson and their families lived. In their boxes was a dinner-set, a gift to Sarah from an aunt. In later years, what was left of this set was pided among her children. Pieces have been handed down the generations.

For a time William and his family stayed with his brother Mark but things were rather overcrowded. Shortly after their arrival William obtained work in Christchurch as a clerk in a lawyer’s office. He would leave home about 4am on a Monday morning and walk to work, carrying his gun and shooting any game he saw on the way. This was given to his employer, who in return overlooked the occasional slight lateness. He boarded in town for the week, and walk home again for the weekend. No doubt any game shot on the way home helped with the weekend meals. Also William would carry a four-bushel sack of grain to Archers’ Flour Mill on the Main North Road north of Woodend for grinding, then return with it on his back. He would make two stops at the White Crane Hotel for a glass of ale, one on his way there and one on his return journey.

In 1861 William did what would have been impossible in Eastwell – he bought a four-acre block of land adjacent to the Patemans’. While he was in Christchurch Sarah would mix and make clay blocks and in the weekend William would carry on building their cob cottage. They would no doubt be helped in this by their children. A receipt for £3.14.0, dated 1862, is still held for the fitting of a window and a partition in the cob cottage.

Later a wooden building was added to the north wall of the cottage. At a later date other wooden rooms were added and the cob cottage demolished.

When alterations were carried out for son Henry Judson in 1906 the big kitchen, with exposed rafters from which hung hams and bacon rolls became the front room. And later became the main bedroom. Over a period of two or three years from 1959 onwards, the home was ‘modernised’ by grandson John Judson. During this work, when scrim and wallpaper were removed, underneath was found the filled-in doorway of the back door of the old building. Also, during of the removal of the veranda and shingle path, was revealed the outline of clay walls, fireplace, and doorway of the cob cottage.

There were family traditions for Christmas. One was the making and distribution of frumenty, to be eaten for breakfast on Christmas morning. This was an old English recipe made of wheat with milk which had been soaked over a long period and boiled with dried fruit and spices. Bringing their billies along for their frumenty was something the family members looked forward to.

Also for many years the large extended family gathered at the homestead to have dinner together in what is known as the “Chaff House”, the shed close to the front of the house. Sacks of chaff were used as seating and any overflow sat on the grass outside. One of Florence’s specials was wild cherry pie. The refreshing summer drink she made was horehound and ginger beer.

In the afternoon there were always enough men and boys for a family cricket match – sometimes Judsons v Smiths, or Judsons v the rest.

Sarah had a strong, even stern influence within her family, as did many of the early pioneer women. It is told that, on one hot Sunday morning when the harvest was ripe and a warm nor-west wind was blowing, the men decided to start harvesting. When Sarah heard them, she went out to where they were working and told them she would not prepare any meals that day if they carried on working on the Sunday. However, all the family grew up fond of a bit of fun.

Sarah was 66 when she signed the Suffrage Petition.

She died in 1907 aged 80. William had died in 1885.

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

'Sarah Judson', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 16-Jan-2018

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about Sarah Judson

What do you know?