AND MARGARET ASPIN
John Aspin was born at Cranwich, Norfolk, England, in 1840.
Cranwich is just a few miles N.W. of Mundford, and Mundford
is some distance N.W. of Thetford. Cranwich today, is described
as "a hamlet with farm house, Church with Saxon tower,
and white brick Regency rectory which form a pretty group
amongst meadows and hazel-nut trees". Back in 1840
it was more a "tiny cluster of houses and cottages".
As far as we are aware, he had one sister, Louisa, who was
10 years older than him, and they were the children of John
and Sarah Aspin (nee Dines). This John Aspin had one brother
and two sisters, and they lived with their parents in Cranwich.
I will set these out below - this information being taken
from the Census of Cranwich, taken in 1841.
John Aspin, born 1768, Labourer
m Elizabeth Cooper born 1773
Louis Aspin, born 1803
John Aspin, born 1806, Labourer
m Sarah Dines, born 1801
Louisa Aspin, born 1830
John Aspin, born 1840
Mary Aspin, born 1808
Christopher Aspin, born 1811
think John Aspin and Elizabeth Cooper were married in Lancaster.
She is Elizabeth, it is the Cooper that we are not
100% sure of.)
Census of the village of Cranwich taken in 1841, shows that
John and Sarah Aspin lived in the Keepers' cottage, while
all the other members lived in another cottage. We understand
it was quite common for the grandparents to bring up the
grandchildren in these situations, and this is presumed
to be the case here. (A note of thanks here goes to Sheryl
and Peter Cawley - grandaughter of Charlie and Maggie Short
- for finding this information out for us while living in
Nothing more is known of the other people mentioned above,
but records show that the third John Aspin joined the Defence
Force on the 16th October 1854 at the age of 14 years. He
joined the 40th Foot Regiment, in England we assume, and
made his way with them to New Zealand via Australia.
has it that his detachment saw service in India on their
way to New Zealand, but we had no proof of this. Well, we
do now. A further search in army archives has given us some
more information. A publication titled "Discharged
in New Zealand" and compiled by Hugh and Lyn Hughes,
1988, gives a research history of the soldiers of the Imperial
Foot Regiments who took their discharge in NZ from 1840
- 1870. It states -
"This regiment had previously served in Van Diemen's
Land and India. In 1852 they returned to Australia, stationed
at Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide and with the 1/12th were
involved in the Eureka Stockade incident.
In April 1860 detachments were hurriedly sent over to New
Plymouth, followed three months later by the main part of
and they were in action at Puketakauere, Huirangi and Te
Arae. Detachments were maintained in Melbourne, Hobart and
Adelaide but in 1863 these too came to join the others in
New Zealand who were then heavily committed in the Waikato
campaign, suffering casualties at Rangiriri, Paterangi and
Orakau. The regiment finally left for the United Kingdon
(Portsmouth) in May and June 1866."
John Aspin joined the regiment in England on 16th October
1854, thus he did not see service in India and he was discharged
on the 4th May 1866 (in NZ) and upon completion of engagement
as the regiment was returning to the U.K.
records show that from 1853 to 1859 the 40th regiment was
stationed in "the Australian Colonies being much divided
and furnished detachments to various places too numerous
to mention during which time no occurrence of particular
for your general interest and information and as something
of an aside, the text also noted that the regiment had a
military mounted company engaged on gold escort service
in Victoria and during that five year period the amount
of treasure it escorted was fifty-three million, five hundred
and twenty-nine pounds sterling !!! That's a bit of treasure.
would seem that John was employed with the regiment in Australia,
maintaining law and order throughout the Colony up until
1860. (I would also make the assumption that, because he
later returned to live and work in Queensland, it could
be possible that he also served with the Regiment in Queensland.
But that is just an assumption.) On 17th April 1860 the
two flank companies of the regiment were dispatched to do
battle in NZ and encamped at the mouth of the Waitara River.
They suffered huge losses and on the news of this reaching
Melbourne, the head quarters of the regiment were ordered
to NZ. They embarked on the 18th July from Melbourne aboard
the ship City of Hobart and disembarked at New Plymouth
on the 24th July 1860. John Aspin, Reg. No. 3443, is listed
on that ship. He was 20 years of age then. (A note of thanks
to our daughter Penny who found this information when searching
army achives in Wellington.)
a private, Regimental No. 3443 and the commemorative medal
he had is now in safe keeping with the John Aspin family,
being the eldest son of the eldest son of the eldest son
excerpt taken from the Taranaki Herald it lists the City
of Hobart arriving from Melbourne on 24th July 1860 with
207 rank and file of HM 40th Regt., as well as 16 sergeants,
10 drummers, etc. It states that the "ship was chartered
by the Government on Saturday last to convey the remaining
portion of HM 40th Regiment with stores and baggage, to
New Zealand." Then the article describes how well the
boat performed, etc.
The 40th Regiment was engaged in all the subsequent actions
in the first Taranaki war.
The next information we have is that he was discharged from
H.M. 40th Regiment at Otahuhu on 26th April 1866, having
gained a good conduct badge and noted as a 'good character',
and having served 12 years in the Force, six of these being
in the Colony, i.e. New Zealand. (Note: Our latest source
gives his discharge date as 4th May 1866, the reason given
as "completion of engagement".)
secured a passage to Queensland with other members of the
regiment, but he missed the steamer, and so had to make
his own way there, which he did at the end of June 1866.
Records obtained from Brisbane show that he was married
to Jane Fisher at the District Registrar Office, Court House,
Roma, Queensland, on 26th April 1869. Their marriage certificate
states that Jane was employed as a domestic, born at Maybole,
Ayreshire, Scotland, that she was 15 years old, her usual
place of residence being Roma, and that she was the daughter
of John and Margaret Fisher (nee Blyth), her father being
a Labourer. John is described as a Labourer, born at Cranwich,
Norfolk, England, 28 years old, his usual place of residence
being Roma, the son of John and Sarah Aspin (nee Dennis!)
and that his father was a Labourer. The marriage was witnessed
by George Felix Davies and John Fisher. However, as you
will realise, this marriage was not to last, and records
show that tragically, Jane Aspin died instantly when she
fell from a horse on 20th March 1870 at Roma. She was just
16 years and 6 months of age, having been married for 11
months, and she was buried according to the rites of the
Church of England, at Roma, on 21st March 1870.
records show that the same John Aspin was married to Margaret
Berry at St. John's Church, Brisbane, according to the rites
of the Church of England, on 13th May 1872. Their Marriage
Certificate states that Margaret was a spinster, born at
Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland, that she was 23 years
old, her usual place of residence being Brisbane, and that
she was the daughter of Michael and Margaret Berry (nee
Ahern), her father being a farmer. It is noted that John
signed his marriage certificate, while Margaret made her
mark with an X. The marriage was witnessed by Lawrence and
Margaret Gallagher. John is described as a Labourer, born
at Cranwich, Norfolk, 32 years old, his usual place of residence
being Brisbane, and that he was the son of John and Sarah
Aspin (nee Dines).
View John and Margaret's Marriage Certificate here.
as the Barrys are concerned, we ascertain that Queenstown
is also known as 'Cobh', and this is a settlement on an
island in the middle of Cork Harbour. It is thought that
the Barry family emigrated from Ireland to Australia, settling
in Brisbane, and that they were a large family, numbering
perhaps 10, and that the youngest was called Ernest. We
have been unable to certify any of this. Apparently one
of her sisters also travelled to New Zealand, and she married
a Mr Nixon.
their marriage John and Margaret made their home on the
Knive Downs Station, North Warrego, Queensland. We understand
that he was employed as a musterer/stationhand there. A
study of a map of Queensland shows that one of the principal
rivers there is the Barcoo. We are told that William Graham,
who was a farmer come storekeeper-of-kind at Grahams Beach
during the 1880's, noted some of John Aspin's pet sayings,
and they were "we'll send you up the Barcoo",
presumably if someone got out of hand, or "you'd never
get away with that up the Barcoo".
first four children were all born while they were employed
at Knive Downs, and we believe that the native Aborigine
were intrigued with the white children, and in Mary's case
wanted to steel "little white Mary", and Margaret
had to keep them indoors in order to keep a watch on them.
We understand that this was a natural curiosity, and no
difficulties were ever experienced other than the inconvenience.
Another story we have been told, which was remembered by
Mary (Polly), was when Margaret found a snake in the sugar
barrel, and apparently she had to cut it up with the fire
and Alma Aspin made a visit to Nive Downs Station in 1989
and spent some time with the owners who were intrigued with
our story of John and Margaret. The original station was
370,000 acres and the homestead was a Cobh and Co. coach
stop-over place. It was like a wee village in itself. The
owner at that time was a John Perryman Clinch and it sported
one of the biggest woolsheds in Queensland with 55 stands
on the board!! It is a tragedy that it was burnt down in
1968 because on a huge wall above the stands were all the
names of everyone who had lived and worked on that station.
Was John's name etched on that board? Yes, we found the
Barcoo river and it was in flow too!!
next chapter of their lives, i.e. their arrival in New Zealand,
remains clouded with uncertainty. The New Zealand Herald,
dated 23rd March 1881, lists the ships arriving the previous
day, and part of this reads:
barque, Captain Millar, from London. Passengers -
Saloon: Jane Dunstan. Thomas, William and
George Whitelaw. William and Henry L. Murray. William, Sarah
J, Frederick W, Frank, Charles, Herbert, Percy, Edith, Harry,
Alfred, Ernest and Gertrude Hunt. Emily O'Brien, nurse.
Joseph, Agnes, Katie, Percy, Milly, Nina, George 0, and
Constance Berry. Kate Anderson, nurse. Emma and Margaret
Second Cabin: (And these passengers are
Steerage: (Again these passengers are
There is no mention of any other Aspins.
The same paper gives an account of the voyage, and this
"The barque Sydenham, 1063 tons register, arrived from
London yesterday afternoon, bringing 118 passengers. The
trip was a somewhat protracted one, owing to the total absence
of N.E. trade winds, and the weather being very light throughout,
and occupied 118 days from port to port, or 104 days from
land to land. The passengers all arrived in excellent health,
and happily there were no deaths, but on the contrary, the
small community received an accession of three members,
Mesdames Heron, Gordon and Berry having given birth to children
on the voyage. The time passed very pleasantly, concerts,
theatricals, charades and numerous kinds of amusements causing
the trip to pass merrily enough". It then goes on to
describe the entertainments in some detail, then continues
- "The Master furnishes the following report of the
voyage: Left London Dock on the 23rd and Gravesend on the
27th November 1880. Took her departure from the Lizard on
4th December, with light S.W. winds. Experienced light S.
winds to 260 North afterwards light E. and variable airs,
there being no N.E. trades at all. The Equator was crossed
on 13th January 1881. Had moderate S.E. trades with extremely
fine weather. Passed the Island of Trinidad at midday on
the 19th. Passed Tristan d'Acunha on the 31st. From thence
running the casting down had light and moderate winds and
as a rule foggy weather. During this period had nine days
E. wind, during which no progress was made. Made the south
of Tasmania on the afternoon of 12th March. Thence across
had light westerly winds. Made the Three Kings at midnight
on the 19th, and down the coast had light S.W. and S. winds.
Were abreast the Poor Knights on 20th March. Dropped anchor
yesterday afternoon in harbour at 5.30 p.m.".
It does not appear to have stopped anywhere, let alone Australia!
Where did Margaret and Emma board the ship?
information tells us that immigration records related to
the same journey of the Sydenham list Emma and Margaret
as Emma and Margaret Aslin
. with a note saying the
NZ Herald has spelt the name as Aspin. Now that opens a
can of worms
Which entry is correct?
fact is that we just do not know.
been told by a fair number of John and Margaret's grandchildren
when doing my initial research in the early 1980's that
they always understood the family came to NZ aboard the
ship the Sydenham. Enough of the Aspins, McPikes and two
Short families have told me this for me to take it as gospel.
I have run with that as being a fact. Is it?
The Sydenham only made one other voyage to these shores
and that was to Lyttleton on January 30th 1882. She arrived
from England with Captain Millar still being in command.
died in 1954 aged 72 years. While we often cannot rely on
dates as recorded, it is generally accepted that most people
knew how many birthdays they had and yes, 72 years back
from 1954 is 1882.
However, she was married in March 1898 aged 17 years and
that would put her birth year as 1881. It is confusing.
Awhitu school records show her passing exams on 19th October
1896 aged 14 years and 8 months, which would put her birth
date at February 1882. I understand that at times birth
records were used for exam purposes and yes, her recorded
birth year is 1882 and that would show up in exam records.
goes to print now we remain with a very unanswered set of
questions. Anybody who is so inclined can do some more research
work and let us know any results. I will continue to do
a bit myself and see what we come up with. But we need to
be warned on placing too much emphasis on recorded dates
and we need to take some heed of what has been verbally
passed down from generations.
one more unanswered query here.
If you look at the marriage certificate of John and Margaret
you will see that she is named as Margaret Berry!! This
posed some more questions. In 1982 I sought clarification
of that and I have enclosed the reply to my letter.
Click here for the letter from the Registrar-General
deepened the confusion. There always remains the possibility
that Margaret Barry was in fact Margaret Berry. If you look
back at the passenger list I gave you for the Sydenham you
will see that travelling in the same saloon as Margaret
and Emma Aspin were a family of Berrys, along with a nurse.
Yes, there are questions here. Remember, she never wrote
her maiden name down and for someone speaking with an Irish
brogue as she must have it would be very easy to confuse
Barry with Berry. We have taken the option that in fact
Barry is correct, even though all evidence actually points
to Berry, but the case remains open !!!
records show that John Aspin took up residence at Awhitu
in October 1880. We have been told that the eldest children
can remember landing, and that apparently it was very late
in the afternoon and that their father had to cut ti-tree
to make a shelter over the children to sleep under on the
beach, and that they had with them potatoes and a few seeds.
We understand that this was up the Wade River, at Silverdale,
north of Auckland. We do not know when. We are led to believe
that their mother Margaret was not with them either. I do
not know if that is fact. We also understand that when they
first arrived they lived at Waitakere for some period of
time before crossing the Manukau Harbour to the Peninsula.
It was on this crossing that Maggie and Lucy threw their
china dolls overboard to the fishes.
know, John Aspin took up residence at Awhitu in October
1880 and Herald records show that Margaret and Emma arrived
on 23rd March 1881. If that is fact, we simply have to assume
that John had the other four children in his care for some
time before Margaret and Emma arrived and that if he took
up residence in October 1880, perhaps the children were
being cared for by someone in Waitakere. There just remains
many unanswered questions here. Eileen Exeter, daughter
of Maggie and Charlie, told me that she always understood
that John wanted his arrival back in NZ to be undocumented
as he wished for the authorities to believe that he had
never left the country. It was assumed that this was so
he would remain eligible for a government land grant as
a soldier settler. In affidavits he later signed when applying
for a land grant, he stated that he had remained living
in the colony, etc. etc. But documentation proves that he
had settled in Queensland, Australia. And, as we know, he
was never successful in any application for land grants.
possible that John and the eldest four children travelled
to New Zealand sometime in 1880, disembarking from the ship
before it docked, John then leaving his family in Waitakere
while he came to Grahams Beach to establish a home? Is it
also possible that Margaret travelled back to the United
Kingdom for a short time, then boarded the Sydenham in London
to join her family in New Zealand? Emma's official Birth
Certificate states she was born at Awhitu on 30th January
1882. We doubt this, but suggest that it could be the date
or year on which her birth was actually registered. Her
marriage certificate, dated 18th March 1898, states that
she was 17 years of age. If we go back 17 years from March
1898, it will put us at January 1881. Due to the ships records,
even that actual date may not be correct - we do not know.
But I have often wandered if the 'Berry" baby born
enroute was in fact Emma!!! Those dates then could make
sense. It may be appropriate to assume that Margaret travelled
back to the United Kingdom and that John and the eldest
children travelled to New Zealand alone. To date no records
have proved this.
search of the land title shows that under Conveyance No.
70744 John Aspin of Waitakere purchased 80 acres from Thomas
McCarthy for thirteen pounds ten shillings on 18th July
1881, being Lot NE 8. William Graham's records at Grahams
Beach show that on 1st October 1881 Mrs Aspin placed an
order for one and a half pounds of butter. This order was
repeated in November, December, January 1882, September
and October. Also on 4th February 1882 we see the entry,
related to Aspins, "sold Blossom for five pounds".
William Graham was a farmer who sold/bartered surplus products
to others in the district. (As a note, his grand-daughter
Gwen Marshall has now retired to that land and she is the
sister-in-law of Kath and Dan Aspin. It is Gwen who has
provided us with these wee gems of information.)
lives would have followed that of any other pioneering family
in the district at the time, and we are told that John had
a fishing net and used to fish down at Benny's Bay, and
what fish was not kept for eating was dug into the garden
for fertiliser. He used bullocks and we are told of how
Polly had to lead these while her father ploughed, and how
the bullocks' horns used to bruise her arms and shoulders,
but she just had to keep on. She also told the story of
going down with her father to the beach to get goods from
the boat from Onehunga. They had a bullock trolley with
home-made wooden wheels and wooden axle. They always carried
dripping to grease the wheels and axle with, but on this
occasion Polly had forgotten to bring it with her and the
axle caught on fire.
cows that they had wore bells around their necks, as they
had the free roam of the district, and it was the job of
the children to collect the cows from wherever they were
for the milkings. Dan Aspin remembers his father talking
of this "I recall Dad talking about having to go and
get the cows to milk. They had two or three cows, and they
would roam anywhere between here and Awhitu Central. They
used to have ways of finding which way they went. When they
used to bring them home at night, if they were anywhere
up the track they used to brush the track with ti-tree brush
so that they would see which way the cattle tracks were
going next morning". Dan also recalls his father talking
of when they first started down here, John used to grow
a fair number of potatoes over in the gully, and Jack's
job was to keep the pheasants away, and he would have to
run around all day chasing these birds away to prevent them
burrowing after the spuds. Bill Short, son of Jim and Emma,
remembers the two bullocks his Grandfather had when he was
a lad. They were called 'Spanka' and 'Lively', and he remembers
John ploughed the vegetable plot with these two.
planted fruit trees too, and established quite a productive
orchard, as well as planting trees for shelter. When not
helping on the farm, the girls were full-time gumdiggers,
and their Mum used to send them off each Monday morning
in clean white stockings. But the gumfields where everything
that would burn was set fire to, was a blackened mess, so
imagine four young ladies in their whites after working
in burnt scrub! At times they would be given the strap by
their father and sent to bed hungry if they came home without
Gardner, daughter of Maggie and Charlie Short, remembers
her Grandparents and the many times she and others of her
family walked down from the Heads to visit them. I quote
from her letter "When I was a youngster, I used to
spend a lot of time with our darling Grannie Aspin in that
dear old cottage at the foot of the hill. One thing I will
never forget during those early days, Grandad was there
at this time, and was sitting in the shed outside the back
door, and I followed Grannie and he spoke to me as he sat
on a box with a little cask and this had a top on it. He
was helping himself to a drink, and said would I like some.
I did, and that was the sweetest beer I ever tasted, and
I think it could have been hop beer. Then I caught up with
Grannie up the back path to the dairy across the yard, and
she gave me some raisins. The picture I have in my mind
is still very clear and I could tell you just where the
stove was in the kitchen, and about six steps up into the
lounge, with front door on right, bedroom to the left and
then down two more steps to the left and two small bedrooms,
one on either side of the hall. With the cow bails, and
I won't say 'shed' as it wasn't one, further back at the
top of the hill. The bail was all red clay, sometimes I
would get eggs at the head of the bails. I often think about
the old orchard under the hill, could show you where the
fruit trees were, even to the damson plum which I found
so bitter. And I can visualise dear Grannie now with her
big hat and veil on and this puff-puff in her hand with
smoke oozing out of it that for sure she was going to rob
the bees in the old orchard". Of course, it was not
thought much to walk a number of miles then to visit friends,
and Margaret used to walk over to visit Mrs Brookes quite
regularly, staying often for several days. This was at the
old Brookes homestead, now included in the A.R.A. Awhitu
Park. A further 40 acre block, which included the land on
which their home was built, was purchased in December 1899
(or 1901), giving them a total of 120 acres.
Kathleen Gardner recalls more - "I hadn't seen a photo
of Grandad Aspin, but he was medium height, grey hair and
long white beard, well down on his chest. He was not a very
talkative man. The last I saw Grandad was as we were coming
home from school. I would have been about eight years old
I think, and he was riding a strawberry horse near the Central
School, and had biscuit tins in his haversack. These were
filled with strawberries, and he stopped to give us all
some. This was some few months before he died". Others
too recall that John used to grow a very good crop of strawberries.
John and Margaret's son Michael John (Jack) was married
in 1906, and he and his wife Kate lived with his parents
for a time after their marriage. We note a transfer of the
two titles of land to Michael John Aspin on 26th February
1907 and a new home was built, using some of the timber
from the old home. This house was built up on top of the
hill, beside the road, and about this time John went to
live up beside Jim and Emma's home in Boiler Gully, and
Margaret remained living with Jack and Kate. Several years
later, on 16th April 1909 John Aspin passed away, aged 74
years, and was buried two days later at Awhitu Central.
View John Aspin's Death Certificate here.
became very well known for her services as the local mid-wife.
She delivered perhaps the vast majority of her own grandchildren,
as well as many others, including the Garlands, Kemps and
Millets. She would walk many miles to assist on these
occasions, often stopping overnight or longer at the homes
of the families. She was a women greatly respected for this
service, and for the affection and humanity she showed at
all times. She continued on living with Jack and Kate until
about 1925, when she went to live at the Home of the Little
Sisters of the Poor in Shelly Beach Road, Ponsonby, and
this is where she passed away on 30th July 1927 at the age
of 82, and she was buried on the 2nd August 1927 at Hillsborough.
View Margaret Aspin's Death Certificate here.