Thomas and Sarah Roil


Thomas and Sarah Roil and five of their children from Alton, Hampshire emigrated to New Zealand on the Bolton, with 350 passengers, arriving in Nelson 15 March 1842. Thomas Roil’s application for emigration was supported by his employer Abraham Crowley, a substantial Brewer in Alton. Thomas worked for Abraham Crowley, for the preceding eight years.

Thomas Roil was 45 when he emigrated and was listed as an agricultural labourer. When he first arrived he was employed by the New Zealand Company on public relief works in their Waimea East work gang. At this time there was a lot of unrest amongst these gangs. The work that had been guaranteed to them by the Company had failed to materialise as the Company and the Colony struggled in its early days, and there was resentment that land was not available to labourers - the expectation being that they would work their way up the class ladder and eventually be able to buy land. The Company tried to cut the wages for its gang labour, which was met by resistance.

Thomas Roil was the leader of one of the work gangs in Waimea East which resisted. Described as a "refractory overseer" by Tuckett, his gang actively rebelled and attacked the newly appointed overseer, Valle, and the timekeeper in August 1843. Tuckett was furious that he was obliged to pay Roil, and the others, in full. It appears Roil was not charged as one of the ringleaders of the rebellion and benefitted alongside other gang members from the introduction of land allotment, which the Company was obliged to introduce in its dying days. Labourers obtained land through rebellion, not by hard work, which had been the initial plan.1 It appeared Roil became an established and respected land owner.

Roil Property corner Saxton Road and Nayland Road Stoke

Roil Property corner Saxton Road and Nayland Road Stoke. Image supplied by author

The 1845 Nelson Census records the Roil family living as tenants on lot No 29, a Town Acre, and occupying a brick house in suburban south2 and owning a small flourmill capable of crushing one bushel per hour. The "Examiner" 7 February 1846 records Thomas as a farmer of Waimea East.3

The Saxton Diary, recording life in early Nelson, quoted:  "Old Royal (Roil), showed me a wooden plough of his own making such as are used he said in Hampshire."

The Saxton Diary4 also indicates Thomas was a keen churchman on occasions reading the lesson:

"Walked back with Roil from church, who said that in the mudflat there was a hot spring found when the road was made...... young Holland showed me as nearly as he could re-collect, the place in Royale's Gully where in bathing in-the cold water his feet felt a hot spring at the bottom". [ This event was probably in "Waimea East"].

The 18495 Nelson Census showed Thomas Roil living in Waimea East as a farmer. He also had a plant for preparing flax. He lived on 50 acres which was fenced, with 64 sheep, 1 pig, and 8 cattle; 20 acres of wheat, 40 acres cultivated, 40 acres cleared 0.5 acres in garden; 19 acres of barley. He lived in a wooden house with a thatched roof and was a tenant on the property. Also living in Waimea East was Mary Ann Roil, Thomas Roil and William Roil.

The Roils left the established farm in Waimea and Thomas and family settled in the valley of the Aorere with the family being landed from the cutter “Supply,” 26 tons, The Roils were the third pioneering family into Golden Bay after the Rileys and John Ellis.

William and Janet Roil

Their son William established a well known “cob house” in Stoke, at the intersection of Saxton's Road and Nayland Road, bordering the estuary, which is probably the site in suburban south, where the Roils established. Here William Roil is recorded as one of the first hop-growers in the Stoke area.6 Stones Directory 1904 recorded Mrs Janet Roil as a hop grower and farmer, of Stoke, Nelson

Roil Colonist 7 September 1915 Page 2

Colonist 7 September 1915 Page 2

An article in the Nelson Evening Mail 18 August 1962 recorded the demolition of an old hop kiln on the corner of Saxton's and Nayland Roads, where William Roil painstakingly built his property with mud and clay and 18" walls. The Roil family were one of the first to produce hops here commercially. On the site a hop kiln and cider industry flourished. Roils in Saxton’s Road was also identified as one of the oldest buildings in Stoke being over 100 years old by mid 20th century.7

Roil’s Cider Works was located on intersection of Saxton’s Road, Nayland Rd, and Whakatu Bypass. The cider factory run by the descendants of William Roil, six brothers and a sister, all unmarried and residing on the property.

Roil Colonist 6 October 1908 Page 4

Colonist 6 October 1908 Page 4

William died at Richmond Nelson 25 February 1894.8 His death certificate described him as born in Hampshire and resident in New Zealand for 43 years, married to Janet Cook at Stoke when she was 18 years old, a farmer, aged 60 years having 6 male children and 5 female children alive. He is buried in Richmond Cemetery where the headstone records him aged 61 years.9

2015. Updated and edited 2021

Sources used in this story

  1. Davidson, J. (2021) The history of a riot. Wellington, NZ: Bridget William Books
  2. Notes from Dianne Wilson of Rai Valley now of Nelson.
  3. McAloon, J. (1997) Nelson: A Regional History. Whatamango Bay, N.Z. : Cape Catley in association with the Nelson City Council, pp.21-21
    Records  Waimea East as from Suburban South to the Waimea and Wairoa Rivers
  4. Saxton, John Waring. (1841-1851). Diaries. v.2, 22 Dec 1848 & 8 Jan 1849  The Nelson Provincial Museum. Bett Collection, qMS SAX
  5. Census 1849 Nelson Provincial Museum
  6. Notes on the Early History of Stoke (1961, December)  Nelson Historical Journal 1(5), p.3
  7. Notes on the Early History of Stoke
  8. Further notes on children on file.
    Date of death comes from probate LINZ Nelson. Probate No 165. Tombstone in the Richmond Cemetery says 26 February.
    William Roil owned Section 112 and 113 Motueka Valley CT 3/281. Instrument 686 26 July 1878. Source Nelson Land Records Office
  9. Row 8  plot 12 No 340

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  • Nice little article. We intend to visit Nelson, Stoke in 2017.

    Posted by John Roil, 21/12/2016 5:18pm (8 years ago)

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Further sources - Thomas and Sarah Roil




  • Saxton, John Waring. (1841-1851). Diaries. v.2, 22 Dec 1848 & 8 Jan 1849  The Nelson Provincial Museum. Bett Collection, qMS SAX