Joseph Richards
The George Seymour

Original information:
Joseph Richards does not appear on the passenger list, but it is probable that Henry Richards, Mrs Amelia Richards, and Thomas Richards are his relations. Records show that in 1900, Joseph Richards was living in Papanui.

Readers' response:
Joseph Richards came with his older brother, Henry, to Canterbury.

His brother was evidently a doctor and provided medical services in remote areas, although he never completed his medical degree.

The brothers came from a long line of yeoman farmers in Shropshire, inheriting and buying land. Apparently Henry Slater Richards Sen. (1805-1860) sent his two sons to New Zealand  because he was displeased with their behaviour in England. Henry was married just before he left for New Zealand to Amelia Weston (1827-1915) − neither family was happy about this union.

Upon arrival, the brothers made a good choice of property in Christchurch, buying four town sections in what was to become Market Square (later Victoria Square). Henry was reputedly one of the first to erect a dwelling, in 1852.

 The brothers also bought 100 acres of first-class farming land in the Harewood and Burnside areas of north Christchurch. A group of cabbage trees was the only guide to the site − these trees still stand in the grounds of Burnside High School.

Joseph was described in middle-age as a “typical John Bull, who could carry an enormous amount of liquor and could still sit on his horse as it carried him home. He weighed around 20 stone’’.

Joseph continued to farm close to the city, went bankrupt at one time and was bailed out by his son, Henry Slater Richards, who had become a land agent. He then moved his father into town, building a grand house for him, which later became a private hospital. Joseph died a wealthier man than he might have been, thanks to the efforts of his son.

After one year, Joseph’s brother Henry went into a brickmaking business with his friend, Henry Phillips. However, there cannot have been much profit as both turned to farming after one year. Henry had hoped to put his medical knowledge to use in Christchurch, but Dr Alfred Barker openly showed his dismay at Henry not being qualified.

Within two years of arriving, Henry and Amelia moved to Henry Phillips’ land at “Rockwood’’, near Hororata. There he was esteemed as “Dr Richards’’.
Henry and Amelia’s first house burned down in 1854. Two years later he built a larger home, where they lived till 1863. In that year, the family moved about 20 miles, buying 100 acres at Racecourse Hill, near Sheffield, on the Main West Coast Road. There they built an 11-roomed house, “Hawksview’’. In 1868, the family moved to Hororata, where Henry continued to practise medicine.

Henry died in 1887, aged 61, of pneumonia. Amelia lived till 1915. The couple had eight children.1 


1:Jackie Steincamp, unpublished family history


POSTED BY: Jennifer Queree : January 02, 2007

Joseph Richards (1828-1912) was the second son and third child of Henry Slater Richards (1801-1860) and Mary (née Skelding, 1806-1884) of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England. Joseph was born at Coven and baptised in the family church of St Mary and St Chad at Brewood.


The family, which also included Henry (1826-1887), Mary Jane (known as Polly, 1827-1880) and Thomas (1830-1905), shifted to Bridgnorth in 1838. The boys were educated as day pupils at the Bridgnorth Grammar School, under the direction of Headmaster Dr Thomas Rowley of Middleton Scriven.


Henry Slater Richards was fond of fishing, a pastime that was keenly shared by Joseph in particular. None of the Richards boys were allowed to go fishing by themselves in the dangerous River Severn until they had learned to swim – a skill that probably served them well in New Zealand. Joseph achieved this when he was 16, and his father gave him a wallet of fishing flies that he brought out to Canterbury in 1850. (These are now in the collection of Canterbury Museum.)


While his older brother Henry attended University College Hospital in London to train as a doctor, and his younger brother Thomas was admitted to Christ’s College, Cambridge, eventually becoming an ordained priest in the Anglican Church and attaining a Master of Arts, Joseph Richards never went to university. His father apparently wanted him to study law but this did not happen. Joseph inherited the Richards family love of farming and later assisted his father in the selection of agricultural equipment that he and Henry took out to Canterbury.


There is no evidence that Henry Slater Richards sent his two older sons (Henry and Joseph) to Canterbury because he was “displeased with their behaviour”. However, it is probably fair to assume that he was anxious about them. In 1849 Henry turned 23, and had completed an undistinguished three years of a four-year medical degree, before pulling out. After the fourth year of study he would still have required a diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons and a licence from Apothecaries Hall that could only be issued after formal instruction and an internship. Joseph, at 21, had no qualifications at all and apparently no ambition to acquire any. At the same time, the recently-formed Canterbury Association was issuing pamphlets and plans for its proposed Church of England Settlement in the South Island of New Zealand. This offered the opportunity to invest in land and was also probably seen by Richards senior as a golden opportunity to let his boys do a bit of growing up and hopefully make something of themselves while looking after his investment. The intention was that they would only stay in New Zealand for about five years.


Henry Slater Richards purchased 100 acres of land on 2 July 1850, in England, and was No. 57 in the ballot of the first 106 purchasers. On arrival in Canterbury, Henry and Joseph selected four adjacent quarter-acre sections bounded by Chester, Durham and Kilmore Streets and Market (now Victoria) Square, with Whateley Road (Victoria Street) separating two of the sections. By July 1851 they had built a house on section 256, facing Market Square, a two-storeyed building with a double gable and a central chimney, which can be seen in a pencil sketch by Dr A C Barker (now in the collection of Canterbury Museum). The Richards’ town sections are now the site of the High Court, the Crowne Plaza Hotel and part of the Christchurch Town Hall. Henry and Joseph chose as their 100 acre rural section an area bounded by the Wairarapa Stream, Stanleys Rd, Harewood Rd and Accomodation (now Woolridge) Rd. Part of this property now forms Burnside High School and its ancient grove of cabbage trees, that once guided Joseph Richards (and before him, generations of Māori) home between the Riccarton and Papanui swamps, were protected for posterity due to the efforts of the youngest daughter of Joseph Richards, Mrs F J Reynolds.


All this land remained in the ownership of Henry Slater Richards in England until 12 February 1857. By that time, Henry and Joseph had decided to stay in New Zealand and their father made the property over to them. They amicably divided it, with Joseph taking the Kilmore and Durham St sections and the eastern half of the rural section, which he called Coven Farm after one of the family properties in England. Henry took the balance and shortly afterwards sold it.


The Richards brothers enjoyed mixed fortunes in New Zealand. Henry was prevented practicing medicine in Christchurch by Dr A C Barker because he was unqualified and therefore unlicensed. He and his wife Amelia (née Weston, 1827-1915) shifted upcountry to the Rakaia district, where local farmers were only too glad of Henry’s medical knowledge. He became well-known and respected as “Dr” Henry Richards, but retired to farm at Hawkesview, near Racecourse Hill, in 1863. He sold Hawkesview in 1868 and moved to Hororata where he continued to farm and practice medicine until his death in 1887.


Joseph Richards, like Henry, ran into money difficulties quite soon but survived by bartering some of the farming equipment supplied by his father. He is said to have been the first customer of blacksmith John Anderson, founder of Anderson’s Engineering, and paid for a number of jobs with surplus agricultural goods. Joseph also earned extra money by acting as the Christchurch agent for Robert Greaves of Lyttelton who was selling ironmongery, timber, oats, flour, maize and bran to the new settlers. Sometime in 1852, Joseph Richards set off for the new goldfields in Bendigo, Australia, in the company of Thomas Hopwood. He returned to Christchurch in 1854 or early 1855, “stony broke” with nothing but a cat and a pocketful of wattle seeds to show for his trouble. He then began a carrying business to get enough money to enable him to start farming at Coven Farm. From time to time he visited Henry and Amelia at Rockwood, in the Rakaia.


Joseph married 19 year-old Elizabeth Coster on 1 October 1857, at St Paul’s church, Papanui. It is said that he hired all the available coaches in Christchurch for the convenience of his wedding guests. Joe and Elizabeth had an extremely happy marriage, during which 10 children were born. Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1886, aged 48. Four years later, Joe married Elizabeth’s younger sister, Fanny Coster.


Joseph farmed quite successfully at Harewood for about 10 years. He won several prizes at the Canterbury A & P Shows, first for cattle and later for sheep. A powerful but jovial man, he was loved by family and friends and well respected in farming circles. He was a hopeless businessman, however, and in 1867 was forced to sell all his stock. Three years later he was declared bankrupt, but such was his popularity that none of the creditors appeared to claim their dues. Nevertheless, the properties were put into the hands of a court appointee. Joseph shifted to Aikmans Rd where he had a house but no farm. In 1882, his son Henry Slater Richards bought about 4 acres in Ilam Rd on his father’s behalf. On this property Joe built a rather grandiose house that he named Deuxhill, after a small village where his maternal uncle and aunt lived, near Glazeley, in England. This property was sold in 1887. Deuxhill was subsequently enlarged and in 1942 it became St Winfred’s Hospital, a nursing home for the elderly. Joseph Richards and his second wife shifted to Papanui Rd, where Joseph died in 1912.


A history of Henry and Joseph Richards and the Richards family can be read in Set Sail for Canterbury – A record of the preparations of Henry Slater Richards of Bridgnorth, England, for his sons’ emigration to the Canterbury Settlement, New Zealand, in 1850 by Jennifer Quérée, Canterbury Museum/Caxton Press, Christchurch, 2002. The Richards Papers, which this book describes, are held in the Manuscripts Collection of Canterbury Museum, together with considerable additional material relating to the extended Richards family history.


© Jennifer Quérée