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Henry Woolliscroft 1836-1905
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Henry Woolliscroft 1836-1905

of Rusholme, Lancashire, Australia and New Zealand.

Henry was born on the 13 July 1836 while his parents John and Mary Ann Woolliscroft were living in Prestbury, Cheshire. At the time his father was a labourer. Later records in England give his place of birth as Rusholme, Lancashire. In 1841, Henry was 5 years old and lived in Holfords Row, Rusholme, Lancashire, England with his parents, sister Sarah and two brothers. The family were living in the same street then years later. Holford Row had been renamed John Street by the time of the 1851 census. I have been unable to locate Henry on 1861 census returns. However, Henry set sail with his brother Edward aboard the “Thomas McKay” from Liverpool on the 8th May 1863 arriving in Melbourne 29th July.Soon after their arrival they enlisted as privates in the 3rd Waikato Regiment to serve as Military Settlers in Auckland, New Zealand. The young men were offered 50 acres of farm land and an acre of town for three years service in the Militia and free passage to Auckland. The young men must have thought it too good an offer to miss. They arrived in New Zealand towards the end of 1863.

Cambridge, New Zealand 1860

Looking across paddocks showing
 the settlement of Cambridge. 1860’s
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The men who enlisted in the 3rd Waikato Regiment were attached to the “Imperial Commissariat Transport Corps”. Henry was awarded the New Zealand Medal 1861-1866. His brother Edward died in 1864.Henry was awarded his land grant in the Cambridge area of North Island. From contemporaneous newspaper articles the land was poor, there was a lack of firewood and residents were virtually cut off during the wet winter months. In February 1865 the military establishment was reduced. This caused discontent amongst the Military Settlers and many walked away or sold their allotments by 1866. (The Waikato War of 1863-64, Neville Ritchie).

Henry was no exception and he became a ‘digger’ and in later life a hawker. In the December of 1866 Henry was living in Hokitika, the West Coast when he appeared in the local magistrates court for being “drunk and incapable” with Esther Stanfield. At the time Hokitika was the most populous settlement in New Zealand. I had wondered why he had decided to move to South Island then realised that his move coincided with the Gold Rush in the West Coast when hundreds of miners descended on the area. By 1866 Henry would have served his three years in the Militia. I don't think he sold his land as I have a later reference to him living in Cambridge. In 1867 the rush began to decline, though gold mining continued on the Coast for some years. 

In August 1867 a major discovery of gold had been found at Thames. By 1869 Henry had joined the gold rush. He registered his claim at the Warders Office at the courthouse in Shortland which cost a pound sterling. He gained Miners Rights on the 8th September 1869 for his claim at Karaka, Thames. This would be his land for the period of one year. After that, his Miner's Right was renewable on payment of a further £1 fee. Miners were expected to work their claim everyday except Sundays (Goldrush online).

Woolliscroft Karaka Creek

Looking north-east across Karaka Creek (foreground) the boundary between Shortland and Grahamstown (Thames)
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-8716

British citizens who were miners were allowed to vote even if they did not have a ‘fixed’ abode. Henry is not listed on the 1876 Electoral Roll for Thames. I think he may have moved to Australia by this time. In September 1875 he is listed in the Dead Letter notices as having a letter waiting for him in Marlborough, Queensland. However, I have not found another record for him in Australia at this time.

In February 1885 Henry was in in the Wallon Creek area of north New South Wales when he placed an advertisement in the “Australian Town and Country Journal” asking his brother Peter to contact him. In October the same year Henry was in Armidale, New South Wales when he spoke to a reporter about the new discovery of alluvial gold at Filibuster Creek, six miles from Armidale. (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), Tuesday 27 October 1885, page 6). I do not know if Henry managed to contact Peter.

Henry was still in Australia in 1891. On the census returns that year he is recorded as living in Grey Street, Glenn Innes, NSW. The New Zealand Electoral Rolls show that Henry had returned to live in Cambridge, Waikato, New Zealand by 1893.  He was most likely the “Mr Woolliscroft” who travelled steerage from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand aboard the SS Monawai arriving on 2 Sep 1891.

On his return to New Zealand Henry was a licensed Hawker.  In 1896 he s listed on three Electoral Rolls at different addresses: Hobson Street, Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Ohinemuri, Waikato. However, he gives his residence as Cambridge on each. So I assume he travelled around the North Island selling his wares.

Cambridge, Waikato, NZ

Town Hall at Cambridge, Waikato, NZ c.1911
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand


It appears that Henry had left Cambridge by 1900 as on this Electoral Roll he is listed as living in Stanley Street, Archhill, Auckland, NZ. On the 12 June 1901 Henry was amongst 370 veterans who attended a luncheon given by the Government to celebrate the royal visit of  HRH Prince George, Duke of Cornwall & York and HRH Princess Mary, Duchess of Cornwall & York (later King George V and Queen Mary) at the Choral Hall, Auckland (Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 138, 12 June 1901, Page 5). In 1905, the year of his death, he was living in Manukau, Auckland, New Zealand.

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