Henry John Tancred (1816 – 1884)

Henry John Tancred had a career that would make anyone’s head spin!!!

Born in the Isle of Wight in 1814, Henry became an officer in the Austrian Army. In 1848, he had a nasty fall from his horse which left him mildly handicapped. He took his sick leave in England and it was there that he took an interest in New Zealand. He resigned his army commission and became a member of The Canterbury Association. He arrived in Wellington in 1850 and met up with Christchurch’s founder, John Robert Godley.

On arriving in Canterbury, John and his brother Thomas took up 10,000 acres in the Malvern Hills, opposite to Homebush. Naming their station after the area, it soon proved to be a bad choice land wise. Henry was to spend little time there, leaving the station in the hands of numerous managers. One of his cadets was J.B.A. Acland who always remembered Henry’s advise to him when looking to buy land: Firstly, there must be an easy access to a supply of water. Secondly, have a good supply of firewood and thirdly, have your garden near Cabbage Trees. He told the young Acland that Cabbage Trees only grew in good strong ground.

In 1853, Henry faced off with James Edward Fitzgerald for the role of Superintendent. Unable to give a speech, due to his aforementioned injuries, his brother Thomas delivered the address to the crowds. Thomas – seeing his window of opportunity – added a few of his own comments that weren’t well received and cost his brother many votes. James Edward Fitzgerald won.

The next 10 years of his life in the Provincial Council and local government were enough to make your head spin. He was present during in the biggest changes and arguments that faced Canterbury. His soft nature and his trouble with clear speech proved to empower him more as an administrator. His main interest proved to be education and alongside William Rolleston, the pair formed the guidelines for education in New Zealand. Both teachers, Henry took an active role at Christ’s College, teaching Modern History. He was also a big part of the opening of Otago and Canterbury Universities. Some of the guidelines placed by Rolleston and Tancred were still being used up until the 1940’s.

I’m sure his workload was a huge part of the reason Henry sold his shares of the Malvern Hill Station to Bishop Harper in 1858. The station stayed in the Harper family until 1866 when it was sold completely to John Hamilton Ward – the owner of Bangor; a grand property which still stands almost opposite Homebush today. Wards Road in western Canterbury is named after him.

In 1857, Henry married Georgeanna Richmond in Nelson. They had no children. Henry died in Christchurch in 1884. He is buried in Barbadoes Street Cemetery.

The brothers are remembered in the naming of Tancred Street in Linwood.

*Photo of Henry John Tancred’s grave taken by Annette Bulovic*

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