Monday, 11 April 2011

George Hoby (1820-1882) Photographer of New Plymouth & Nelson - Part 1

Image © Puke Ariki Museum and courtesy of Philip Duke

George Hoby was born at Belgrave Place, Pimlico, Westminster, London on 18th August 1820, son of George Hoby (1785-1854) and Eleanor Pulleyn (1788-1859). His grandfather was another George Hoby, (c1760-1832) of St. James' Street, London, the famous bootmaker to the Dukes of Wellington, Kent, Cumberland, Sussex and Cambridge, and manufacturer of the original Wellington boot [1]. As a young man, George became a blacking manufacturer [2] and bootmaker [3] and was married to Hannah Barnett (1821-1894) at Mount Zion Chapel, Birmingham in 1842.

However, disliking both business and city life, he was determined to live in the country [4] and, with this more rural future in mind, George, Hannah and their five children emigrated to New Zealand in late 1851 [5].

Image © Illustrated London News and courtesy of Olwyn Whitehouse
Canterbury Association ships in the East India Docks, London, 1851
Engraving from the Illustrated London News [6]

They arrived at New Plymouth in the Taranaki District on the west coast of the North Island on board the barque Fatima on 17 February 1852, having spent about three weeks in Lyttelton, Christchurch and Wellington [4,7,8]. Initially they lived at Te Henui, opposite the Anglican Church in New Plymouth, and George Hoby offered various imported goods for sale from his home [9]. By November 1853 he was leasing 50 acres of land at Omata west of the town [10], although still importing goods for resale [11].

Later he bought a hundred acres, called Beach Farm, on the Bell Block about 10 miles east of New Plymouth, where they farmed until the outbreak of war in March 1860, and during which time four more children were born. In 1857 a house was built replacing the raupo whare which they had previously occupied [12,13]. Although George "never made a great success of farming, the farm was in good order and condition until the Maori Wars in 1860, when the place had to be abandoned." [4]

Image © Alexander Turnbull Library and courtesy of Timeframes
Bell Block, 14 June 1864, Watercolour by E.A. Williams [14]

Due to an outbreak of hostilities between settlers and Maori over land sales, the Hobys were obliged to move back into town in late 1859 or early 1860. Following the Battle of Waireka on 28 March, disease was breaking out within the crowded New Plymouth community. Their eleventh child was born at the end of May, and not long after they and many of the other white families from the town were evacuated to Nelson aboard the H.M.C.S.S. Victoria [15,16]. Less than a week after their departure, the Hoby homestead was reported to have been burnt to the ground [17].

After settling the family in Nelson, George returned to New Plymouth, where he served with the local militia, making periodic visits back to Nelson. His son Arthur later recorded in his memoirs that it was at about this time that George decided on photography as a suitable means of "keeping his family" during the cessation of farming operations.

Continued in Part 2.


[1] Matthews, George (2006) The Hoby Family, Boot Makers to Royalty.

[2] Hoby's Imperial Blacking (Advertisement), Daily News, 23 January 1846.

[3] 1851 Census of 2 The Grove, Hammersmith, London, England, National Archives Ref. HO107/1470/136/50/173, Courtesy of

[4] Hoby, Arthur (1937) Memoirs of Arthur Hoby, Transcript of original held by Alexander Turnbull Library, Courtesy of Philip Duke.

[5] Transcribed Partial Passenger List for the Ship Fatima, Arrived Lyttelton 27 December 1851, Passsenger Lists.

[6] Canterbury Association ships in the East India Docks, London, 1851, Engraving from the Illustrated London News, courtesy of Canterbury Association Passenger Manifests, New Zealand Bound, by Olwyn Whitehouse.

[7] Shipping News. Arrived., Lytttleton Times, 3 January 1852, p.4.

[8] Shipping News. Sailed, Lyttelton Times, 31 January 1852, p.5.

[9] For Sale (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 27 July 1853, p.4.

[10] Valuable Farm in Omata. To be Sold (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 23 November 1853, p.1.

[11] Boots! Boots!! Boots!!! (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 5 September 1855, p.1.

[12] Testimonial to Mr. B. Wells, Taranaki Herald, 27 August 1873, p.6.

[13] Duke, Philip (2011) Email Correspondence ref. Hoby Family of New Plymouth.

[14] Bell Block, 14 June 1864, Watercolour by E.A. Williams, ID: E-349-127/128, Alexander Turnbull Library & Timeframes.

[15] Shipping Intelligence, Taranaki Herald, 18 August 1860, p.1.

[16] Cowan, James (1922), The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Periods: Volume I (1845-1864), Wellington, New Zealand: R.E. Owen.

[17] Bell Block (from our own correspondent), Taranaki Herald, 18 August 1860, p.3.

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