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Joseph and Mary Ann South in New Zealand 

Judith Cranefield, granddaughter of Joseph South(1), has written several articles on the emigration of Joseph South(1) to New Zealand and the subsequent history of the family, many of which appear in the Articles section of the website. This latest history consolidates and adds to the earlier material.

Joseph the English Brick Maker(1)                          

Joseph South was born in 1822.  He was the third son of Joseph South, an agricultural labourer, and Sarah Barnes of Barley in Hertfordshire. The South family had lived in the area for at least nine generations(2).  After his marriage to Emma Bright in 1844, Joseph started on his journey south from Barley,  travelling by way of Ware and Cheshunt to Edmonton. He later travelled 13,000 miles further south to New Zealand on the other side of the world.

Henry Bright, the father of Emma, was a brick maker, probably working at the brickfield at Morrice Green.  It is likely that Joseph learnt the skill of the clay worker there. He used this to support his families in the coming years. Indeed the foundation was laid for his direct English descendents who were engaged in the clay industry until 1960.

By 1850 Joseph and Emma were living in Ware and after the birth of their sons Joseph and Solomon the family moved to Cheshunt where Samuel was born.  Typically, itinerant brick makers plied their trade on the site of the building development. Bricks were moulded from the brick earth excavated for the foundations of the building and fired in makeshift kilns.  The pug mill, used to  break down and mix the clay, was a portable item of equipment comprising a cylinder and roller turned by a horse walking in a circular path around it.

Joseph and his family came to Edmonton on the northern outskirts of London some time after 1861 and took up residence at 26 Water Lane (later Angel Road) with the intention of setting up a more permanent home. In 1868 he started a small pottery nearby, adjacent to Dysons Road, and made flower pots to supply the burgeoning Lea Valley market garden industry. However Joseph continued to be named as a brick maker in the census of 1871.

The demand for flower pots was close at hand.  Pots are heavy, bulky and fragile. They are, therefore, best made as near to the customers as possible.  It is not certain what kind of clay was used at the Dyson's Road pottery. The pottery was down on the valley floor and so was away from the brick clay deposits, and Joseph would have needed to dig through gravel to reach the London clay which is particularly suitable for pot making

As with any mineral extraction, production results in a diminishing asset. The stock of clay was replenished by material excavated from building foundations and from burials. The last of Joseph and Emma's nine children were born at Water Lane(3).  By 1871 the young Joseph and his brother Samuel were in business with their father and it is believed Solomon had enlisted in the army. However, the family situation was soon to change.  Less than two years after the birth of her ninth child Moses in 1867, Emma died of pulmonary tuberculosis (October 1868). Ten months later, in August 1869, Joseph married for the second time. His young wife, Mary Ann Dutton, aged nineteen, was the daughter of a friend and fellow Primitive Methodist, Daniel Dutton. There has been speculation that she may have been sent to help look after the youngest South children after their mother's death, although we have not been able to produce any evidence to prove this.

It is believed that Joseph's second marriage caused problems between Joseph, and Emma's eldest sons Joseph, Solomon and Samuel. They were of a similar age to their new step-mother. The younger Joseph married, and Samuel moved out to lodge with the Barnards who were dealers in cattle. Later he was to marry Alice Barnard.

Joseph and Mary Ann decided to emigrate and go to New Zealand. Samuel bought the Dyson's Road pottery(4).


A month later, in March 1874, Joseph and Mary Ann embarked on the "Buckinghamshire" accompanied by the four youngest children from his first marriage and her own first surviving child, Florence, who had been born in September 1873. (A boy, Daniel, had died when only two months old.)  Mary Ann was expecting another baby in December. In order to qualify for assisted passages Joseph (52) took his brother Henry's name and age (44) and Mary Ann's age was recorded not as 24 but as 42. The children appear on the passenger list as Walter 14, Keziah 11, Arthur 9, and Moses 7. They were together in family quarters except for Walter, who at the age of fourteen had to go to the single men's accommodation. Leaving on 7th March, they arrived at Port Chalmers in the Otago Harbour on  19th May(5).

Joseph soon set about acquiring land for a brick works. Bricks were in great demand in the new colony, and all skilled tradesmen were very welcome.  A good future lay ahead of this immigrant family.

The early Brick and Tile Industry in Otago(6)

In 1875, the year after the arrival of the Souths on the "Buckinghamshire" the Otago provincial Geologist,  F.W.Hutton, reported on a "growing interest in the possibilities of brick manufacture in Otago" and on the suitability of local clays. In 1879   W.N.Blair, "Engineer in Chief of Middle Island, New Zealand" similarly reported material here to be very promising and "very close to the English product in its essential constituents." These reports were published in London newspapers. We have no idea how much Joseph knew of this suitability in the year before the first report, when he set sail for Otago.

The large scale making of bricks, tiles and drain pipes had begun in Dunedin in the 1860s.  Lambert in North East Valley and Hodgkinson in Anderson's Bay were well known brickmakers. William Hodgkinson had formerly owned a works in Melbourne and obtained a prize for his bricks at an exhibition there. By 1870 the number of brick and tile works in Otago far exceeded those in all the other provinces.

Very many of the early bricks made were of poor quality, especially before the 1860s. Many untrained handymen made them, mainly for chimneys.  Bricks for houses were imported, and so were expensive.   The gold rushes of the 1860s inevitably brought some men with brick making skills to Otago.  However well into the 1870s locally made bricks did not have a good reputation and they absorbed a lot more water than the English bricks did.  The Otago University Council revised its original decision to "build economically in brick" in favour of "building substantially in stone."

Joseph's Brickworks      

Late in 1874 Joseph South opened a brick and pottery works at Tainui in the Anderson's Bay area.  He expanded his business by opening up at Walton Park, Fairfield on the Old Brighton Road. It was near the top of the Jubilee Coal Mine(7). This area had a good supply of clay suitable for the manufacture of bricks, flower pots, fire bricks and ornamental flower-urns.     Both works were operated until 1891 under the name "South and Sons". By 1890 Arthur was living out at the Fairfield property. Joseph closed down at Anderson's Bay and concentrated on Fairfield.  The office was in the Walton Park Coal office in Rattray Street, Dunedin.

Several companies were founded in connection with the Walton Park Colliery. Another was the Walton Park Coal and Pottery Co Ltd.  A large company, the Walton Park Brick and Tile Co Ltd, was founded in 1880.

There were numerous brick makers in Otago but still bricks continued to be imported now mainly from Australia. Fortunately the big downturn in the economy of the 1880s affected the large works much more than the family concerns. Also there continued to be a need for building materials in the quite prosperous city of Dunedin which had benefited greatly from the gold boom. At the time it was quite the most important business centre in New Zealand.

Joseph continued to operate his Walton Park brickworks until the beginning of the twentieth century. During the 1890s he was helped by his sons Arthur, Ernest and Will. In 1901, aged 79, he sold the business to Ernest who continued to operate the works until 1906(8).

Life in New Zealand

The South family first lived in Anderson's Bay.  They moved to Fairfield in 1891. Bess, my mother, born in 1889, used to say that she had been born in Anderson's Bay but had her first year of schooling at Fairfield, and her name appears in its records as a first year pupil. However, Joseph appears in Stone's Directory each year from 1887 to 1890 as a farmer at Fairfield, so he may have leased the property before moving and starting up the brickworks. After that he is listed as brick maker there, though in 1896 his name also appears as a private resident in Helena Street in South Dunedin. Bess believed that the move to town was to make access to good schooling easier for Lena and Bess. There were doubtless other good reasons also. The Fairfield house was rented out and a rent book for it remains from as late as 1915 and in a letter Bess wrote of a trip she had made to the "Coach and Horses" Inn at Fairfield to meet a tenant concerning non payment of rent to her mother.   

Other memories were of her father and Ern working at Fairfield during the week and weekend journeys in a buggy from town to the brickfields where the younger family members enjoyed baking potatoes in the embers of the kiln fires.

From Helena St they moved to Brunswick St in 1897.  A year before his retirement in 1901 Joseph bought a property in Bathgate Rd, still in South Dunedin and the family lived there until 1906 when, for the last months of his life, Joseph, Mary Ann, Bess, Harry and possibly Lena lived at 57 Royal Terrace, just north of the central city. It was here that Joseph died on 20 December 1906, aged 84.  Dr B. E. Delatour gave the cause of death as "fatty degeneration of the heart with diabetes" and stated that the onset of the disease had been five years previously. His occupation was given as "pottery manufacturer". He is buried in a family plot in the Dunedin Southern Cemetery.

In England, Joseph's life had taken him from Hertfordshire to Edmonton, then he voyaged to Dunedin in New Zealand, about the furthest distance he could have travelled, to make a new life.  He had married twice, fathered eighteen children, and been an active and loyal member of the Primitive Methodist church for all his adult years.

In England he founded a flower pot making dynasty. The legacy of his craft did not last so long in New Zealand.  He left families of confident and strong willed children in both countries.

Aged 67 when Bess his last child was born, Joseph may well have seemed an old man to his young daughter. This was my mother and she rarely spoke about her father, but I gained the impression that he was a kindly man, quite emotional and easily moved to tears.

After Joseph's death, Mary Ann, Will and Bess moved with Harry to 328 George St.  Mary Ann owned this property.  Lena married in 1908, Harry in 1910.  In 1911 they were living at 158 Queen St then two more short moves to George St and Regent Rd. 

In 1914 Mary Ann remarried.  She went to live with her husband, Richard Harris, and his children in Timaru.  Bess, the one remaining family member still living at home, followed soon after.

From the time they moved from South Dunedin the Bathgate Rd house was rented out.  In 1915 Mary Ann transferred it to Bess and Harry.  Any profits were to be shared equally with Will and Eva.  The property appears to have been quite a problem for Bess in Timaru and Harry in Wellington and correspondence between them exists concerning tenants, repairs, mortgage, and also letters from lawyers and from real estate agents.  It was finally sold in the year of Mary Ann's death, 1916.

Ern and Arthur still lived in Dunedin but old ties with the city for most of the family generally faded away.  When Bess and Rupert, my parents, returned to live here in 1939, a storehouse of reminiscences and stories, and of new people too, was opened up for me.

The Primitive Methodist Church

When the Souths moved to live at Walton Park, Fairfield in 1891 there were already Primitive Methodist services being held there(9). The Caversham church had begun services in the Walton Park district as early as 1885, using mainly private homes and lay preachers at first and then from 1888 alternating services with the Presbyterians in their church. Strong support had come from members of the established mining community, many of whom had Primitive Methodist associations in England. Two members of this congregation were Daniel and Mary Jane Dutton, parents of Mary Ann, who lived in Fairfield during the decade from 1877. Daniel worked as a boot maker there until his death in 1886.  It was not until 1906, that the congregation got its own small church, and by then the Souths had  left the area and were worshipping at the Kew church in South Dunedin.

The Primitive Methodist Church had begun in Dunedin in 1874 when several families from England petitioned the church authorities for a mission. The first Primitive Methodist minister, the Rev. Josiah Ward, arrived from Timaru and the first Primitive Methodist church building was erected at Kew in 1876. The little wooden church was replaced by a large brick building in 1903.

The Methodist movement had been founded in the mid eighteenth century by John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman who determined to devote his time to evangelical work throughout Britain. Finding the churches closed to him he began preaching outdoors.  His success led him to organize a body of lay preachers to follow up his evangelism. Methodist missionary efforts had actually preceded the organisation of the Scottish Free church settlement and the arrival of the first settlers in Dunedin.  James Watkin, a Wesleyan, was the first Christian missionary in southern New Zealand and was working with the Maoris in this area as early as 1840.  One of the main features in early Methodism was the extensive use of lay preachers in "circuits" which included small preaching stations. Another was the class meeting which brought Methodists together regularly.

In the nineteenth century there were a number of secessions from the Methodist movement.  From these arose the Primitive Methodist church.  In New Zealand it merged again with the Wesleyans, Bible Christians and United Free Methodists in 1912, predating a similar reconciliation in Britain by twenty years. The "Primitive" in the church's title indicated its intention to follow the teachings and practices of the early Christian congregations as described in the New Testament. They were stricter and more abstemious in their attitudes than the Wesleyans.

Memories of Gladys Short, English great grand daughter of Joseph, about church-going in Lower Edmonton, tell of attendance at Sunday School in a local hall and of Samuel, her father, attending an Ebenezer Chapel. I have an old poster advertising a Band of Hope concert in the Primitive Methodist chapel in West Green, Tottenham, on November 18 1871 with Mrs Dutton in the Chair and songs ("The Sister's Warning" and "Driven from Home") by Mrs South(10).

When they moved to Walton Park, Fairfield, the South family worshipped with the Primitive Methodist congregation there and then were involved from 1901 in the Kew church. Later when Mary Ann moved into North Dunedin they attended the Dundas St. church.

Her parents, the Duttons, like the Souths, were very active in their local congregation at Fairfield. And it is surprising to read that in 1877 another Daniel Dutton, a minister, was sent from Staffordshire, England to New Zealand to help pioneer the cause of Primitive Methodism. He worked in Auckland, Wellington and Invercargill before deciding in 1886 to join the Presbyterian Church. In 1888 he was called to the Caversham Presbyterian Church where he remained for thirty one years. He was an eminent and much loved leader in the community there.  It is interesting also to see that by 1890 Wise's directory lists two Methodist ministers named Dutton in Auckland.

Involvement of the family in the Kew congregation at Forbury Corner is documented as early as 1900. The Hocken Library holds the original Kew church choir minute book and the South brothers and sisters figure large in the efforts to get a choir started. To start with Mr Ernest South was appointed Choir Librarian, and Moses' South's future wife Miss Emma Dodd was Secretary-Treasurer. When Moses and Emma resigned from the choir in 1901 a letter was written asking them to reconsider. Lena South, aged eighteen, became Secretary in 1903, the recently married Moses and Emma gave a cash donation to the choir and Bess joined (for a very brief time.) It is interesting to read these minutes, written in young Lena's handwriting, as various other family names appear. Arthur came to speak about church collections, Harry reported on the church quarterly meeting, and Moses, now in North Auckland, sent donations. Bess was approached again to join and it appears that she did not do so.

At times after Joseph retired, Primitive Methodist ministers boarded at the Bathgate Rd house, and one photograph shows the large wedding group of Rev. Percy Crossman outside the South residence. In 1903 Rev. John Southern stayed there and in 1904 Rev. Ralph Liddell.

Bess often spoke of her later involvement at the Dundas St. Church. Also, from both Kew and Dundas St, Mary Ann and Bess took part in church concerts all over Dunedin, Mary Ann with her singing and Bess with her elocution.

The South women were also involved in the Temperance Movement and Mary Ann held office in the Dunedin South Women's Christian Temperance Movement., and she attended at least one New Zealand conference, in Nelson. Bess remembered older sisters wearing the white ribbon badge and singing the song "Lips that have ever touched liquor are lips that shall never touch mine...."  Mary Ann was deeply involved in the International Order of Good Templars, a temperance lodge that took its terminology from the Crusades.  ( the "Saracens" were the "Beer Barons")

Mary Ann South

Mary Ann, Joseph's second wife, was born in London in 1850.  Her parents were Mary Jane (nee Toomath) and Daniel Dutton, who  immigrated to Dunedin in 1875.  Daniel was a boot maker, or, as he sometimes called himself, a "cordwainer." This was the old guild name for a master craftsman with boot making skills.  They had come originally from Northern Ireland where he had at one time been a military bandsman.  Mary Jane's father also had been an Irish soldier as was Daniel's father. After her husband's death Mary Jane, now "Granny Dutton", lived with the Souths until she died in 1897.

There are stories of a French speaking Channel Islands connection which have come down through several generations of different family members.  This is not easy to trace. It seems possible that Mary Ann's maternal grandmother may have been a de Gruchy, French speaking and from the Channel Islands. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, had visited the Islands in 1787 and this Protestant non-conformist faith existed there, especially on Guernsey, from that time on. In the early days its introduction was aided by the influence of the Protestant French Huguenots. Among non-Catholic non-conformist churches the Methodist congregations predominated with thirty chapels in the nineteenth century. A number of these will have been Primitive Methodist. It may be possible that James Toomath, a British soldier from Northern Ireland, garrisoned in the Channel Islands in the years immediately after the Napoleonic Wars, met Miss de Gruchy through their church.

In the eighteen years between 1871 and 1889 Mary Ann bore Joseph nine children(11). the very last of whom, by nearly five years, was Bess, my mother.

After Joseph died Mary Ann was involved in a running a fruit shop in George St. for some years. Obviously an energetic and capable woman she belonged to a number of Lodges and Temperance organizations.  She was member of the Loyal Heart and Hand Lodge, active in the Dunedin Temperance Club, performing in many of their concerts, and was in the International Order of Good Templars. She was Vice President and then President of the South Dunedin Branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement. A letter of 18 Sept 1911 from the Quarterly Meeting of the Dunedin II station of the Primitive Methodist Church thanked her for "splendid services which you rendered in organising and helping so strenuously the bazaar at Fairfield" and for her "efforts on behalf of the Kingdom." She was also a lay preacher.  In 1910 her daughter Florence, now Mrs David Campbell, the wife of a Presbyterian Minister, wrote to her from the manse at Dunback thanking her for her preaching on the previous Sunday, and refers to "flattering messages from parishioners." In 1911 Mary Jane travelled back to Dunback to help look after Florence, who by then was gravely ill with cancer.

When she made a second marriage, to Mr Richard Harris of Timaru, she took on another family.  On her arrival there in April 1914 she wrote to Bess "Everybody is kind to me and I am mother to them all, every one." Mary Ann lived only two more years, dying in Timaru on 27 August 1916 of diabetes after being in a coma for a day. She is buried in Timaru Cemetery.

Letters written in the following months indicate how devastated Bess was by the loss of her mother, with whom she had lived for twenty six years and who had been the major formative influence in her life. They seem to have got on well together. There were character traits in Bess that reflected her mother's self confidence and firm ideas.

At 19 Mary Ann had married a widower of 47 with a large family. At the age of 24 she coped for nearly three months with the extremely arduous conditions in family quarters in steerage on the "Buckinghamshire." She was pregnant at the time and had to look after her own baby, Florence, and the four youngest step children. Mary Ann had taken on an enormous responsibility and, like the majority of immigrant women, had no choice but to cope with all the changes and challenges that she faced.

Both Mary Ann and Joseph had strong personalities, and were always guided by their deep Christian and Primitive Methodist faith.  They came to New Zealand in the peak year of assisted immigration and made good lives for themselves and their children in Dunedin.

J.Cranefield (nee Scott), M.A. (Hist.Hons)                                                                  


(1) This is directly based on "South from Barley" by Kenneth Barker.

(2) Website as above.

(3) Ann b. Barley  c1846:   Isabella b. Standon  c1849;   Joseph b. Ware  1850-1897;  Solomon b. Ware  1851;  Samuel b. Cheshunt 1853-1919;  Walter b. 1860;  Keziah b.1863;  Arthur b.1865;  Moses b. Edmonton  1867-1949.

(4) See Archive

(5) An account of the voyage of the "Buckinghamshire" in 1874 may be found in the diary of Henry Bennewith, lodged in the Otago Settlers' Museum. See Article

(6) Information from Elizabeth Seed's unpublished M.A. thesis, "The History of Bricks, Tiles and Pottery in Otago."  It is lodged in the Hocken Library, Dunedin.

(7) Information on the Jubilee Coal Mine may be found in "In the Shadow of Saddle Hill" by Nicol MacDonald.

(8)This is a fairly lengthy document It includes "the said Ernest James South agrees to take over all the Goods (28 are listed), Horses, Machines, Kilns. Tools, Barrows, and all other things described on the attached list, also the Lease of Ground belonging to the New Zealand Government and other Land leased from of Mr John Howarth of Fairfield, Green Island for the sum of One Hundred and Fifteen Pounds, Sixteen Shillings and Six Pence...."  The witness was the Rev John Southern.

(9) Charles Croot in "Dunedin Churches, Past and Present."

(10) See Archive

(11) Daniel b. Edmonton 1871-1871;   Florence b. Edmonton 1873-1911; Cordelia b. Dunedin  1874-1897;  Cornelius William b. Dunedin  1877-1930;   Ernest b. Dunedin 1878-1967;  Evangeline b. Dunedin 1885;   Harry  b. Dunedin 1882-1978;  Emalene b. Dunedin 1885;   Elizabeth b. Dunedin 1889-1987.



Published sources:

Croot, Charles  "Dunedin Churches, Past and Present" 

MacDonald, Nicol  "In the Shadow of Saddle Hill 1872-1972"

Olssen, Erik  "Building the New World, work, politics and society in Caversham, 1880-1920."

Thomson, Jane. ed. "A Dictionary of Otago and Southland Biography."

Stone's Directories of Otago and Southland,  1880s and 1890s.

Wise's Directories of New Zealand,  1870s and 1880s.


Unpublished Sources:

"History of Bricks, Tiles and Pottery in Otago" by Elizabeth M. Seed.   M.A thesis, Hocken  Library.

Methodist Church Archives, Hocken Library, Dunedin.

"South from Barley"   by Kenneth Barker.

South  genealogy by Wendy Moses.

Passenger list of the "Buckinghamshire" 1874, Otago Settlers' Museum.

Correspondence and documents retained in the South family archive by Bess Scott.



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