Walter Hancock (1833 – 1871) and Louisa Hall (1833 -1887) (Callan) – London brickmaker to Hawke’s Bay pioneers.

Early Life:

Walter Hancock I can now say with some assuredness was born in 1833. He was baptised at St Luke’s West Norwood, London, England. His death certificate (which I purchased) gave his age at death as 45, which was incorrect. He was 38 at his death. Walter was in custodial care at the time of his death. Louisa was born and raised a stones-throw away in Clapham in London, England. His certificate of death is notably sparse of detail. Walter was recorded as Hancox on his birth records which no doubt reflected how his parents pronounced their name.

Walter had eight known siblings. William Hancock b 1830, John Hancock b 1835, Martha Hancock b 1838, James Hancock b 1840, Anne Hancock b 1842, Henry Hancock b 1845, Jane Hancock b 1850 and Caroline Hancock b 1854.

In the 1851 census Walter who was 18 and his older brother William were both remarked to be brickmakers. A career Walter would continue through his life.

Walter married his wife Louisa Hall (recorded as Hale on their marriage record) on the 1st June 1857 at her families parish church Holy Trinity in the parish of Clapham in England. Clapham being in the county of Surrey and an area of South London. Both would have been aged around 24 . It was remarked on their banns “full” meaning both had reached their full age of maturity (21 or over) as was a common reference at the time.

Louisa’s father was Robert Hall and Walter’s father was William Hancock. Robert was a plasterer and William a carman. As a carman William would have been delivering goods in a horse-drawn cart. Louisa’s father Robert Hall was recorded as a plasterer.

Whilst Walter may not have been able to read or write it would appear that Louisa could as she signed the register with her name. It would be reasonable therefore to conclude that the Hall family may have been in more comfortable financial circumstances than the Hancock’s.

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Louisa Hall was baptised at the same Holy Trinity church on the 15th September 1833. Her family resided in Clapham with her father’s occupation as a plasterer and her mother’s name being Sarah. Also baptised at the Holy Trinity church in Clapham were Louisa’s siblings. Jane Hall 10th April 1842, Emma Sarah Hall 16th August 1846, Henry Hall 27th September 1835, Robert Hall 18th April 1830, Hannah Hall, 10th May 1840, Caroline Hall 4th March 1838, Alice Hall 23 December 1849 and William Hall 6 July 1828. (Register of Church of England Baptisms and Births).

Besides the parish records I’ve been able to include the following as Louisa’s siblings.

William Hall 1828,
Robert Hall 1830,
Eliza Hall 1831,
Henry Hall 1835,
Harriet Hall 1836,
Caroline Hall 1838,
Hannah Hall 1840,
Jane Hall 1842,
Thomas Hall 1844,
Emma-Sarah Hall 1846,
Alice Hall 1849.

Walter’s younger brother John Hancock would go on to marry Louisa’s younger sister Harriet Hall.

Walter and Louisa would have their first child in England. A boy William Robert Hancock who was baptised at St James Lambeth in Clapham on the 24th April 1859. This little boy has likely not survived as when Walter and Louisa had their daughter Emma Sarah the following year in South Africa, there is no mention of William.

Between 1859 and 1864 when they arrived in New Zealand, Walter and Louisa would leave England to join the British colony at Port Elizabeth on the East Cape of South Africa. On the 21st July 1860 their first child, Emma Sarah was born there. The family traveled not only on this trip but on their subsequent sea travels in third-class. South African records can be challenging to wend your way through and unfortunately to date I’ve only been able to postulate that as a brick-maker in a colony that only established in 1820 the impetus to move to this colony would have been for a better life with more opportunities and ready work? Whilst the Hancock’s did reside at or near Port Elizabeth they would not stay and would eventually make their way to their final home in New Zealand. Insofar as our Port Elizabeth connection, excepting the birth of Emma Sarah, it would appear that Walter and Louisa were really just ‘passing through’.

There were a family of Hancock’s who had come to Port Elizabeth in the original 1820 settlement but whether they were relation to ours? I’ve currently no evidence or reason to support such a claim. Indeed this was a James Hancock who had hailed from Newcastle-upon-Lyme in Staffordshire England with his wife Ann Kennedy (who was from London.) Their son Samuel Hancock and his wife Mercy Cyrus were living (and having children) on the Eastern Cape around the same time that our Walter and Louisa Hancock would arrive. Both families had a child in 1860 at Port Elizabeth.

On the 23rd May 1864 Walter and Louisa would arrive in the busy Port of Auckland aboard the Sir George Grey. The ship had come via the Cape of Good Hope (Port Elizabeth) in South Africa. Their first child Emma Sarah accompanied them. Walters occupation was given as a brick-maker. In the paper he was misprinted as William. (Papers Past, Shipping Intelligence, New Zealand).

There was already a considerable contingency of Hancock’s in New Zealand before ours arrived. One of them was also a stonemason and whilst he is mentioned quite frequently, he is not our man. There was also another female Hancock who appears to have been a rather spectacular drunk who was recorded by the courts as ‘committed’ to her drinking. Also not ours.

New Zealand Herald 17 October 1866

White Pioneering into Waipawa: (Central Hawkes Bay)

What became known by the Europeans as Central Hawkes Bay was previously a place prized by the Maori people for eels and accessible freshwater via the Waipawa River. With Europeans came the acquisition of tracts of land from the Maori owners. Waipawa (pronounced Wy-pah-Wa) saw it’s first European landholders arriving from 1854 onward whose purpose was to acquire the land for farming. Frederick Abbott took up the first holding alongside the Waipawa river that would in time become the township of Waipawa. In 1857 the first store was opened in Waipawa by Messrs Fitzgerald and Du Noyer. Not long after European settlers began to arrive and the establishment of a township began. Of course, this would bring business and tradespeople to the town. In the case of our Hancock family, it was trade and business in the form of a brickworks.

By November 1867 Walter had relocated the family to the emerging township where he had set up brick-making and sales with a fellow brick-maker named T. B. Smith. The business was called Smith and Hancock and was located in their ‘yard’ next to the hotel, ‘Sedgwick Arms’. The Sedgwick Arms would be totally destroyed by fire on the 17th of August 1869.

Hawke’s Bay Herald, 23 November 1867

It would be reasonable to believe that the bricks produced by Walter and his business partner were used in the construction of the township and nearby dwellings. Waipawa enjoyed a period of popularity with agricultural farms soon becoming common in the area. Whilst Waipawa enjoyed modest success in development of the Central Hawkes Bay region, it would undergo a sharp decline of occupancy in more modern times and remains presently a small township enjoying popularity with day-trippers and fishermen in this pretty rural locale. Many of the colonial buildings in the main street of Waipawa were reportedly taken down in the mid 1980’s due to disrepair, from being long abandoned. There do not appear to be any entries for Walter as a run-holder in the Hawkes Bay area and this should not be surprising given that he was a London native whose trade (brick-making) would not have seen him have any experience of agricultural work.

Water and Louisa’s last two children Harriet and William were born in Waipawa in 1869 and 1870. Alison Clarke wrote in her book (2012, Born to a changing world) that in rural New Zealand European women giving birth at this time were fifty percent more likely to have a dangerous birth than their counterparts in the city and that one in eleven children would not live past their first birthday. She attributed much of this to the remoteness of access to skilled midwives or doctors. She wrote that in most cases when was help available, it was only the most straightforward of births that often local women were equipped to manage. Any complications or subsequent infections almost always resulted in an undesired outcome.


Resident Magistrate’s Court.— This morning Walter Hancock, who had been brought from Havelock some time since on a charge of larceny, was brought before S. Locke, Esq., J.P. Mr Scully said the prisoner was evidently a confirmed lunatic. In reply to a question by the magistrate, the prisoner began to mutter in an incoherent manner. He said he had been in prison five years, and had been kept without food all the time. —Remanded for medical examination. Beagley and Stevens v. Dempsey. —(Before S. Locke, Esq., J.l*., and J. G-. Kinross, Esq., J.P) —A disputed claim of 15s for lime delivered, which defendant maintained he had paid for. This case, after occupying the Court nearly an hour, was dismissed.

Walter died on the 7th September in 1871. Walter’s death was registered at the Napier Court House (reg 1871/1041). According to his certificate of death Walter died of a disease of the brain. There is very little information on this certificate, notably it does not even mention Louisa. Which leads me to believe that he and Louisa may have parted before his death? To date, I’ve not been able to locate a cemetery location for Walter. This could also indicate that there is no headstone or marker available at the site of his burial. What I strongly suspect is that Walter is buried in the Old Napier Cemetery located on Hospital Hill in Napier. I know Walter had been in care for several months before his death because of his ‘lunacy’, I know he died of a brain injury, I know he was no longer with Louisa. Whilst records for the Old Napier Cemetery have not provided me with a match yet, I’m confident this is where his remains were interred. Despite the records I am also comfortable that Walter was only 38 when he died.

Children of Walter and Louisa Hancock

Walter and Louisa’s eldest child Emma Sarah Hancock (b.1860, Port Elizabeth, South Africa) would marry a fellow immigrant to New Zealand in Giuseppe Giovanni Donghi (known as Joseph). Giuseppe had hailed from Vittoune, Milan in Italy. They would live around Waipawa and have a very large family. Emma died in 1937.

SHANNON NEWS. HOROWHENUA CHRONICLE, 3 JANUARY 1931 The death occurred at Waipawa on Christmas Eve of Mrs J. Donghi, one of the pioneers of that district. The deceased lady, who was well-known and respected, had reached the age of 70 years and was the mother of eighteen children, eleven of whom and her husband survive her. The daughters are Mrs S’. Bennett .(Shannon) and Mrs R. Broadbent (Takapau), and the sons Walter (Te Awamutu), Robert (Otane), George (Ormondville), Alex. (Puketitiri, H. 8.), and Albert, Charles, Jack, William, and Ernest, of Waipawa.

The next child Louisa Jane Hancock (b.1864, Auckland, NZ) has her own page on this site. She would marry three times in her life and lived her life in New Zealand. She would have ten children all Whiteheads. When Louisa (Miss) wanted to marry for the first time in 1881 to John William Whitehead (registration 2616) it was her mother who was Mrs. Callan by that time who gave written permission for her sixteen-year-old daughter to marry. At the time Louisa was a servant in the house of Mrs. Whitehead who would then become her mother in law.

The next child Elizabeth Hancock (b.1867, Motuotaraia, NZ) was only four when her father died and may not have remembered him. She married John William Pollington in 1885 (registration 1527) and lived in NZ. Elizabeth died at the age of fifty in 1915.

RANGITIKEI ADVOCATE AND MANAWATU ARGUS, VOLUME XLI, ISSUE 11312, 3 AUGUST 1917. The late Mrs Elizabeth Pollington died on July 28th, after a short illness at the age of 50 years. She leaves a grown up family— Mr Charles William Pollington, Fern Flats; Mrs 0. Monro, Wanganui; Mr A. C. Cooper, Wellington, and four grand children— to mourn their loss.

Harriet (Annie) Hancock (b.1869, Waipawa, NZ) was a two year old at the death of her father. She later married James Lord and lived in NZ.

William Thomas Hancock (b.1870, Waipawa, NZ) was not even a one year old when his father died. William would later be a witness in the proceedings of divorce for his sister Louisa Whitehead and worked with her helping her to run the boarding house.

Louisa began a new relationship with Thomas Callan a local Waipawa man also a brick-maker. They would officially marry one 8th of June, 1874 (where she was recorded as Handcock by the registrar, registration 7834)).

Children of Louisa and Thomas Callan

There were twin girls born in 1872. Their surnames were given as Hancock-Callan and on the birth certificate, their father’s name listed as Thomas. Catharine one of the twins died in 1872. Her twin Mary-Ann Hancock-Callan would marry Michael Finlayson-Stirling in 1888 (registration 2949). The Finlayson would be dropped and a very large family of Stirlings would follow. Like her daughter before, Louisa (Callan) gave written permission for her sixteen-year-old daughter Mary-Ann to marry Michael Finlayson Stirling.

Thomas would appear in the Wanganui Chronicle (paper) in the lists of people who were qualified to serve as Jurors for the towns of Wanganui and Turakina and District of Wauganui (1860 and again in 1861). Thomas was listed as a Brickmaker. Later in life he would give his occupation as Bricklayer.

On July 20, 1881 Thomas who resided in Waipawa and was remarked as a native of Ireland was tried in Waipawa and sentenced to twelve months of imprisonment in Napier Gaol because of default of bail with a conviction of assault. He was recorded as having been born in 1930 being 5″10 in height, dark mixed with grey hair, grey eyes and that he had one previous conviction. Thomas who it would appear was locally known as “Bricky” had a brief but further brush with the law when in 1886 he and a mate John Day were charged with being ‘drunk and incapable’.

DAILY TELEGRAPH, ISSUE 4625, 3 JUNE 1886. At the R.M. Court, Waipawa, to-day, Thomas Callan (otherwise “Bricky”), and John Day were charged before Mr S. Johnson, with” being drunk and incapable. After being – strictly cautioned, they were each.< fined ss, with 2s costs, or. 24 hours’ imprisonment. The fines were paid. 

A Mrs Susan Callan died in 1887 also (bet 21-23 July), and it is easy to get the two confused. Susan was 65, died in her sleep in bed at her home The Waverley Hotel, and was from Greymouth. Her registration number (4043), a different lady entirely.

Louisa died in 1887 (registration 2286) with her age given as fifty five years at death. She is buried at the Waipukurau Cemetery. 1592 Block Old. plot 384 Mrs Louisa Callan buried 28 June 1887, no headstone.

There is very little record that I can find in the newspapers of the passing of Walter, Louisa and even Thomas. Whether these records are not yet available? It is a little odd that despite a rather large family and having lived in a small community there is no bereavement notices nor mention of them having been early settlers in Waipawa.