Hutt Settlers – William & Ann Read Welch

wm and ann welch
Ann and William Welch, 1860s. Hutt City Libraries Collection.

Ann and William Welch and their three boys and four girls arrived on the Oriental, the second settler ship to Port Nicholson, in January 1840. They had four more children in New Zealand.  Their eldest son George reportedly left for the goldfields in California, with later whereabouts unknown.

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Passenger list of the 1840 Oriental, available on

William Welch and Ann Read were both born in 1804 in Kent where they married in 1827, at Hougham. The groom and witnesses both signed with a cross indicating they couldn’t write.

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Marriage certificate of William Welch and Ann Read at Hougham, Kent, in 1827                  Available on in all Hutt City Libraries.

On arriving in Port Nicholson, William promptly opened a store on Petone Beach and added an accommodation hotel to the building. In 1845 he moved to the Hutt where he started the Rose of the Valley Hotel, also known as the “The Rose Inn, Mr. Welch’s”.

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The Rose Inn is marked near the centre, on the left of the river. From Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941).

He was involved in starting a Hutt branch of the philanthropic Lodge organisation, the Odd Fellows “Rose of the Valley” Lodge in Jan 1849, with meetings held in his Inn.  (Wellington Independent, 3 Jan 1849, Papers Past)

William Welch moved to Taita about 1850, and William Whitewood took over the lease of the Rose Inn, soon replacing it with his Whitewood’s Hotel in a new building. William Welch ran a carrier business and a farm where his activities included horse breeding.

Screenshot_2020-04-20 Papers Past Newspapers Wellington Independent 1 November 1861 Page 2 Advertisements Column 4
Wellington Independent, 1 Nov 1861, Papers Past

A letter his second son William Read Welch wrote in the 1860s describing the hardships of early pioneer life – “what we had to go through” – was published in the Wairarapa Daily Times in 1907.

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Wairarapa Daily Times 16 Feb 1907, Papers Past

William Welch (snr) began a carrier business and his obituary reports he ran a successful farm in Taita, but this letter from his son William Read Welch contradicts this.

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Wairarapa Daily Times 16 Feb 1907, Papers Past

William Read Welch goes on to talk about his education in the ‘lushing camp’ or pub.

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Wairarapa Daily Times 16 Feb 1907, Papers Past

William Read Welch left to work in the goldfields of Australia in 1848, returning several years later with a profit of 500 pounds. He married Sarah Arabella Hedley in Christ Church Taita in 1856. They lived in a small cottage before he built Laurel Hall in 1870. Laurel Hall stood on nearly 60 acres in Taita with 13 rooms, plus outbuildings on the property.

Laurel Hall, the Welch family home. From ‘A Living History : Welch family’ by Anna Kemble Welch.
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Lance Hall map showing early Hutt places. Welch’s place is centre opposite Christ Church Anglican Church, around where Deckston Grove is now. From Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941).

William (senior) gave up his carrier business after his wife Ann died in 1879, and went to live with his son William Read Welch and daughter in law Sarah at Laurel Hall.

William Read Welch sadly died suddenly in 1881, aged 51, at Opaki Station near Masterton. Witnesses noticed he seemed “queer in the head” after drinking. The coroner ruled suicide while William Read Welch was suffering from delirium tremens.  (Wairarapa Daily Times, 1 Feb 1888, Papers Past))

William Welch died in 1887, aged 82. His obituary describes him as having “a retiring disposition” but one who would “express his opinion freely”, an “honest, straightforward man”, “greatly respected”. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren totalled 106. (Evening Post, 2 July 1887, Papers Past)

After Sarah Arabella Welch died in 1904, aged 69, Laurel Hall estate went on the market in 1906 until its’ sale in about 1920, asking price 6150 pounds. It was one of the properties a Wellington firm considered buying “for the purpose of subdividing for suburban homes” in 1906, but wasn’t purchased then. (Wairarapa Daily Times, 5 July 1906, Papers Past)

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Evening Post 15 May 1920, Papers Past

Family of Ann Read and William Welch

[Click on photos to view full size.]

Family of William Read and Sarah Arabella Welch

William Read and Sarah Arabella Welch had 9 children.

[Click on photos to view full size.]

There were enough Welch men for them to have their own rugby football and cricket teams from about 1886.

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Welch family rugby team, about 1900, comprising the Welch family from Taita and Masterton. Wairarapa Archive Collection.
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Welch family cricket team 1905-6. Wairarapa Archive Collection.

Most of the children of the original generation of Ann and William Welch married into local Hutt settler families – such as the Wrigley, Percy, Poad, Harper families. William Read, Henry, James and Richard all bought land in the Wairarapa, but William Read remained at Taita.

Many of the original Welch family are buried at the Christ Church Taita Cemetery.

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Gravestone of William Read Welch, his wife Sarah Arabella Welch, daughter Arabella and son Ernest at Christ Church Cemetery, Taita, Lower Hutt.
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Gravestone of William Welch and his wife Ann Read Welch, Christ Church Cemetery, Taita, Lower Hutt.
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Christ Church and Cemetery, Taita, c1940. Hutt City Libraries Collection.


  1. Wow, this is amazing. William and Ann are my 5x great grandparents and I have been researching them for years.

    1. Hi Brooke

      Thanks for your comments, I really enjoyed researching this interesting family, and luckily we have lots of photos of people in the family at Hutt City Libraries. It is quite sobering to read the harsh conditions the early settlers survived, it is so outside our comfort zones! They were hardy to prosper in these condtions.

      Cheers, Tricia Meehan

      Regards, Tricia Meehan

      1. My great grandmother Harriet Welch married James Harvey Jr and became Mrs Harvey. You have the name reversed. My grandmother was Helen Harvey, one of their daughters.

      2. Thanks for your feedback Margaret – very valuable. We will be editing the names shortly. They are such an interesting family to write a blog post about, and it highlighted the hardships the very early settlers suffered.

      3. Hi Tricia,

        Thanks for your reply. I have been meaning to travel over and look through the library to see what new information I can find. Looking at more photos would be amazing too. I live in Palmerston North so don’t get over very often.
        I am wondering if the Frederick Welch diaries are in your library or if they are only at Masterton’s?
        I’d love to read them some time.

        Thanks, Brooke

  2. So interesting! William and Ann are my 4X great grandparents (I come from Eleanor Welch’s line). I love seeing all the photos and live the next suburb over from Taita so have been to the cemetery without knowing my ancestors were in there.

  3. Thank you for sharing – I believe I am probably related to this family too. My maiden name is Welch, and my father and his three brothers and parents came from New Zealand – and I think, from memory, this area too. So most likely. It’s funny, I think I see some resemblance in features too… but it’s difficult to tell given the old photographs and such distance in time… maybe it’s wishful thinking. lol I am in Australia with the whole family now.
    Again, thanks for sharing – it’s fascinating and really cool.

      1. HI – that would be fantastic, thank you. Their names were Kelvin and June Welch, their sons were Tony, Dean, Keir and Shane. I’d have to ask my Dad for the maiden name of his mother and their middle names and get back to you if needed, but maybe this might be enough. Thanks! 🙂

      2. Hi Rachel I have twice tried to reply to you but my comments have not appeared. I have found your family online and they are not descended from the Welchs. If you put your grandfather’s name into Google, the tree comes up.

  4. Message to Brooke. I have emailed you as to where to find more information about the Welch family. Please check you have received it.

    1. Hey there, I know it has been a while but i am also researching my family history and am descended from William & Ann Welch’s daughter Susanna, who married William Richard Keys. My grandmother has many old photo albums and information that i do not believe has been archived. I would like to work with her to make this information available to others who might be interested. I would like to explore any other links or information you may have on the Welch family if possible

      Thanks, Jolene

      1. Hi Jolene

        Thanks for your comments. We do have a book in Hutt City Libraries on “Charles William Keys 1818-1900 and his descendants” by Ellice Keys that has a lot of family history information on the Keys side of your family. The main repository for Welch family information in the Wellington area is the Wairarapa Archive. We don’t have much more on the Welch family at Hutt City Libraries.
        If you need any advice on scanning and preserving old photo albums and archives please contact us at Hutt City Libraries or the NZ National Library, or the Wairarapa Archive. It’s great to preserve these precious photos/documents and many libraries now are happy with a high quality scan of the original photo or document if the owner wants to keep these original items in the family.

        Cheers, nga mihi

      2. Hi Jolene,

        Jane “Susanna” was the fourth daughter of William Welch and his wife Ann Read. You can see her profile on Wikitree
        together with her siblings including my great grandmother Harriet Harvey.
        Her husband was Alfred Keys, see the marriage record on BDM Online.
        1857/1652 Jane Susannah Welch Alfred Keys
        William Richard was their son. He had four daughters. Are you descended from one of them?

        You can load photos on to profiles at WikiTree.

        My mother spent 50 years researching this family, and I am continuing that work putting information on WikiTree, the global collaborative tree. You can find me there if you want to ask questions.


  5. Just noticed that you have Ann’s incorrect maiden name. It is Ansley. This is an error that lots of people make but it is not incorrect. My mother and lots of her cousins have this as their middle name, sometimes spelt Annesley as my mother’s was.

    1. Hi Margaret

      I have replied to you via email for some more details; thanks for your comments.
      Regards, Tricia

  6. I am descended from William and Ann Welch. My line runs through William and Ann’s fifth child, Henry Welch. William Cleland Welch (from where the Cleland in my name originates) was one of the seven sons of Henry and Mary Anne Poad. Mary Anne was born in Callington, Cornwall and arrived in New Zealand in the Duke of Roxburgh, on the 7th February 1840, William Cleland was born in Taita on the 19th October 1870 and married Eileen Mary Ryan in 1890. Eileen was born in Masterton, Wairarapa and had three children; Muriel Eileen, Desmond Ryan, and Douglas William Henry. Desmond Ryan was my grandfather. I am interested to discover if the Welch family were of the Catholic faith before William Cleland and Eileen Mary Welch’s generation. From that point on, my branch of the Welch clan was staunchly Catholic, perhaps influenced by the maternal side of the family. On my grandmother’s side, my great grandfather was Joseph Jameson of Masterton who had three children by Bess Kelly; the oldest, Katherine, was my grandmother. We were were always told we came from a long line of Irish Catholics but research reveals that the family roots were almost exclusively in Kent, UK and most probably protestant in their faith. It is not a coincidence, I believe, that my great grandparents married (or possibly not right away on the Jameson side) a Ryan and a Kelly. Their children seem to have been brought up as Catholics. Any light you can throw on this would be gratefully received.

  7. William Read Welch had a brother Henry b 23/11 1832 d 6/12/1884, married Mary Ann Poad. Their son James b 16/7/ 1860 d 19/8/1909 married Elizabeth Sarah Chandler their son Kenneth Edward Welch b 28/10 1888 d 31/7/ 1951 married Lucy Catherine Wilton. Kenneth Edward Welch was my grandfather.

    Andrew Norman Welch 20/4/2020

    Thank you for the your information about Henry, he is pictured in the second photo of the children of William Read Welch. They are a great example of an enterprising early pioneer family.


  8. Thanks for sharing this! I am a descendent via Mary Ann who married Thomas Wrigley. You wrote “married into local Hutt settler families – such as the Wrigley”. I am just wondering if you know how I could find out if there were other Wrigley’s around or if it started with Thomas. I found the logs for the ship that the Welch’s came over on and it looks like Thomas Wrigley was also on that boat but as a lone passenger at the age of 15.
    The Welch’s oldest son is interesting too since he must have been born out of wedlock.

  9. Harriet Welch and James Harvey jnr were my 2x great grandparents. I understand that when they married, James became the publican/ licensed victualler at the Mulgrave Hotel owned by Harriet’s brothers William Read Welch and Henry Welch at the Scandinavian Camp at Opaki. When William Read died in 1881 it was sold and James became a rabbit/ stock inspector in the Wairarapa.

  10. Great to have this additional information about the Welch family. They played a big part of early European settlement in the wider area.

  11. Many thanks for this information and the photos. I am descended from Mary Ann Welch who married Thomas Wrigley. Are you able to tell me if there are any photos of Thomas Wrigley?

  12. Hi everyone, Im Rob from Tenby, Wales, UK and I am decended from John Welch (Williams brother), who lived in Caterbury, England. This is a fascinating read, and I hope to visit New Zealand one day to connect with my Welch ancestors and living relatives! All the best, Rob.

    1. Pleased someone from the UK branch of the Welch family enjoyed reading this blog – the family are such prominent early settlers in this region. Genealogy is great, enabling different branches of families to connect! Kind regards, Tricia.

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