There is something extra special about a man who could hold a subdued conservation with the likes of William Sefton Moorhouse about the Railway coming to Christchurch (with a cigar in hand I’m sure) whereas on the flipside he could also fit in at a local tavern full of the rough and tumbles from the sea and drink them all under the table. This is the likes of a man named William Charlesworth.
I had the same kind of affection when learning about Richard Seddon – New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister. He was another historic soul more at home among the common man – he loved to dance the night away in the taverns of the West Coast amongst those seeking their fortunes and chasing their dreams in the South Island’s goldfields.
William Charlesworth was born in Yorkshire, England in 1814. From an early age, William took to the sea and worked as first mate on a boat named ‘The Brothers’ which traded around the Pacific and the Orient. His title of Captain came when he was in charge of a vessel called the ‘Royal Saxon’ and where he saw the more of the world, traveling as far south as Australia and even seeing the shores of Russia.
In the mid 1850’s William found himself at Lyttelton in his retirement. He began to buy land left, right and centre and also purchased local businesses such as ‘The Mitre’ at Lyttelton – a tavern that had been around even before the arrival of the First Four Ships!
William’s main piece of land sat alongside Ferry Road and was known as Saxon Farm. The beautiful 14 roomed homestead that was accompanied by stables, a coal house and 6 acres of English grass was known as the Saxon Villa. Charlesworth Street in Linwood is an acknowledgement of this history.
Once settled and well established, William returned to England to collect the rest of his family. All but his parents returned with him. He also met his future wife who was the daughter of the Inn Keeper where he was staying. Admiring her fine housekeeping skills, he asked Hannah Jane to marry him, in spite of him being 20 years her senior. It seems the marriage would only produce one son to the pair. Upon returning to Christchurch, they married in a registry office.
William did seem to live a very quiet life, not even getting involved in the city’s politics as most the others did but his huge land ownership made him known well to all. He was most at home with those on shore-leave; I’m sure enjoying their stories of the sea, a place he missed very much.
On the 10th June 1875, William was having some tree felling done and not one to shy away from rolling up his sleeves, he was helping out. Due to an accident, William ended up being wounded in the foot by an axe. Succumbing to blood poisoning very quickly, William was buried just 5 days later at the Woolston Cemetery. On his grave stone, which he shares with his wife and son, it states:
“One of a Few”.
*all photos taken by Annette Bulovic*