Hutt Settlers – William & Ann Read Welch

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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, including a daughter Hannah who died when a baby. 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 familysearch.org.

William and Ann (Read) Bond were both born in 1804 in Kent where they married in 1827, at Hougham. The groom and witnesses 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 Findmypast.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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