The Highs and Lows of Local History
or: when the story seems to be everything that you could wish for but you end up with more questions than answers and a hint of disappointment …
Sometimes an enquiry comes through to the local history group and it is immediately exciting; so when I opened up an email from a lady in New Zealand explaining that her ancestor had once owned The Plough but had sold it in 1848 to buy passage to New Zealand for himself and his family I was immediately interested. Then she wrote that when Sam Woolley (a good, familiar local name) arrived in New Zealand he built a new hotel near Dunedin in NZ which he also called The Plough Inn and that he wrote a journal of his emigration—well, now I am positively excited.
We don’t know very much about the early years of the Plough (although we do have the Hives family listed there at this time), we know the Woolley family are local in those years, we know that many from this area did emigrate to the New World at this time, too. Can we find the Deeds to The Plough? Can we trace this part of the Woolley family? What does his Journal say about his life in England? Is the Plough in Dunedin still open—could we twin our Ploughs?!
These are the highs!
Then come the lows …
We have no trace of a Sam Woolley in Hickling at the time but there is mention of one witnessing a Will in Stathern and Stathern also has a Plough Inn. Then a copy of the journal is found in the Hocken Library in New Zealand and there is no mention of any village (in fact nothing from before the voyage at all), just mention of the general area of Melton Mowbray. There’s no Plough Inn in Melton now and after some extensive research by a kind gentleman at the Leicestershire Archive Office, it seems that there wasn’t at the time that we are looking at, either.
It’s a really great story but sadly, unless we can positively link the family (Woolley and/or de Lacey) to Hickling before 1848, it looks as if the links are local but not Hickling-local. We are still working with this lovely lady and, at the moment, we are waiting for more names and dates from New Zealand or new finds at this end.
Even if the links don’t turn out for us, it is fascinating to be involved in a family’s search and it all helps in a broader sense, after all.
I’m including some bits taken from Sam Woolley’s story—just because it is interesting and just in case it jogs someone’s memory of an old family story!!
(JF September 2020)
The Ajax 1848:
AJAX, 767 tons, sailed from London, 8/9/1848; arrived at Otago on 8/1/1849. Captain John Young; Dr Robert Stewart, surgeon, who remained two years in the settlement, then returned to India. The Ajax was wrecked at Anjer on her voyage from Manila to London, 12/3/1850.
Woolley, Samuel [ag., innkeeper; Waikouaiti; d. 21/7/1890]; Maria née DeLacy, wife (30) [d. 13/10/1886]; Samuel (11) [unm. d. 4/5/1909]; Clarissa (8) [m. Charles Richard Nelmes; Waikouaiti; d. 9/1935]; Eliza (6) [m. Thomas Alcock, Waikouaiti; d. 13/2/1922]; Maria (3) [d. Hampden 13/11/1928]; Sarah Lucy (2 months) [m. Charles Haynes; d. 16/10/1928].
(the website link, above, gives detailed notes about how these lists were compiled and possible errors)
Further Research as it emerges:
At present, we are searching for any evidence of Samuel Woolley in the Melton Mowbray/Vale of Belvoir area and we are also trying to track any evidence of Inns named The Plough in 1848. We are particularly looking for evidence that link the two.
Possible Plough Inns (Melton area):
What we know about Samuel Woolley before his emigration.
What we know about Samuel Woolley in New Zealand.
(thank you to the ‘Friends of Memories of Melton Mowbray’ for help and suggestions on these sections)
Locating the Plough Inn, Dunedin:
We appear to have the same problem in New Zealand as we do in England; there is more than one Plough Inn which complicates linking people to places and people to people. There are clear records of at least one Plough Inn in the town of Dunedin itself and of a second Plough Inn further out and west of Dunedin in the Waipori/West Taieri/Maungatua area.
- Samuel Woolley is not directly recorded in association with either of these.
- The newspaper account of the Woolley family’s story gives an account of the Plough Inn being on the Dunstan Rd – Dunstan is west of Waikouaiti and north west of Dunedin; is it possible that this is the West Taieri Plough Inn associated with Mark Starbuck (see below)?
- There are newspaper records linking Samuel Woolley to the ownership of The Railway Hotel and the Beach Hotel (both in Waikouaiti) but nothing to confirm his building of a hotel called the Plough Inn – the only reference to this is from a book and then a news article; both based on his journal.
- (There is an extensive trail of newspaper reports of Plough Inns in the area; none of which refer directly to Samuel Woolley. These are explored in more detail separately.)
- His activities/timeline make it possible for him to be linked with each/any of these.
- Names of places in Dunedin town make the locations difficult to pin down (see maps).
Newspaper References to Samuel Woolley:
- 1852: An S Woolley is recorded doing jury service – occupation, labourer.
- 1862: multiple job adverts to hire staff – Plough Inn, Stafford Street, Dunedin (is this too early to be the Samuel Woolley Plough? Or could this be the first opening up?)
- (Samuel Woolley’s Beach Hotel built by 1863)
- 1863: S Woolley reported to be chairing a meeting to arrange an international cricket tour.
- Samuel Woolley seems to have had problems with debts in 1863 and is recorded as being discharged from bankruptcy in 1884 (assuming this is the same Samuel Woolley).
- 5th Feb 1868; “for sale – Country Hotel; Plough Inn plus farm, West Taieri – apply Thomas Gordon”. This Plough Inn is described as being ’25 miles from town’ which indicates that there were at least two Plough Inns in the area at the relevant time. Note: Samuel Woolley refers to his Plough Inn as a hotel.
- (see attachments, below) – a number of newspaper reports relating to the electoral roll and electoral petitions.
- S Woolley (?) discharged from bankruptcy, 3rd March 1884.
- 1890: in an advert for the sale of The Railway Station Hotel, Samuel Woolley (son) referred to as a ‘builder’.
Did the Otago Gold Rush bring two Melton/Hickling families (back?) together?!
This is another area which takes us in to the very dangerous waters of speculation. However, there is a significant coincidence which we have been looking into.
- In 1848/9 the Woolley family emigrated from the Melton area and are said to have built The Plough Inn in the Dunedin/Otago area of New Zealand (because of memories of a Plough Inn from home).
- In 1848 Mark Starbuck (born in Hickling) emigrates with his cousin’s family to Port Phillip in Australia. In 1863, Mark Starbuck moves to Dunedin and, in 1870, he takes over as licensee of The Plough Inn, West Waipori in the Dunedin/Otago area.
- The newspaper account of the Woolley family’s story gives an account of the Plough Inn being on the Dunstan Rd – Dunstan is west of Waikouaiti and north west of Dunedin; is it possible that this is the West Taieri Plough Inn associated with Mark Starbuck?
Central Otago Gold Rush (1860s):
- Gold Fields – manual of the Otago gold fields 10th March 1863 (attachment).
- Gold wasn’t particularly prized by the Maori communities but European settlers prized it highly.
- When gold was discovered in the Otago/Dunedin area the small colony expanded hugely; the economy, transport and townships grew quickly.
- In 1862 the gold rush expanded inland, replacing the sheep farms and bringing hotels and an influx of people. New finds were made in the Taieri River area in 1863 and the gold rush peaked with an influx of 22,000 people and bringing revenue of about £10 million in the 1860s.
- Water sluicing extended the life of the diggings but brought soil erosion and had a destructive effect on the landscape.
Gallery and Attachments:
- 50th jubilee early settlers – Woolley names & details – 27th March 1899.
- Samuel Woolley – Otago Settlement Jubilee document 1898 p16 & first page only.
- Samuel Woolley – Otago Settlement Jubilee document 1898 p41.
- Samuel Woolley – Otago Settlement Jubilee document 1898 p45.
- Samuel Woolley jury service 1852 – labourer.
- Samuel Woolley electoral roll Hawksbury 1862 – occupation not recorded.
- Gold Fields – manual of the Otago gold fields 10th March 1863.
- Samuel Woolley freeholder electoral roll 1863.
- Samuel Woolley electoral roll Hawksbury Waikouaiti 1865.
- S Woolley Waikouaiti electors petition 1875.
- Samuel Woolley electoral roll Hawksbury Waikouaiti 1881 – hotel keeper.
- Samuel Woolley death record 1890 (born 1808).