Early Marlborough Settlers


An overview..

There was plenty of opportunity for an able man (supported by an equally able wife) in the early days of a colony. All of the people listed below had their fingers in many pies: business, farming, local and national Government and the church.

The first colonists


James Sinclair, Marlborough Historical Society - Marlborough Museum Archives, 0001

  • James and Christina Sinclair were the earliest settlers at the Beaver, with James becoming known as the ‘King of the Beaver’.  They were stalwart Presbyterians.
  • James Wynen set up a store and grog shop on the Boulder Bank (Wairau Bar), later setting up shop at the Beaver.
  • The Marlborough Museum’s Archives hold a rich resource of diaries and letters which provide an insight into life in the colony at the turn of the 20th Century. See our Getting Established story.

Dr. T. Renwick. Hand coloured photograph [1942] Renwick Museum & Watson Memorial Library

Farmers and runholders

  • Joseph Tetley was a farmer, a gentleman and a swindler who skipped the country owing today’s equivalent of $7 million. He was also involved in politics.
  • Dr Thomas Renwick was a medical doctor, runholder, local politician and a proponent of separation from Nelson. The Marlborough Museum holds about 700 letters and family items from the Renwick family.
  • Frederick Trolove settled in the Clarence and his diaries provide an insight into the life of an early farmer/settler. His descendants live in the area to this day.
adams langley dale

View with Langley Dale in background and well-dressed people- possibly members of the Adams family- in boat in foreground c.1890-1920. Renwick Museum & Watson Memorial Archive

Local politicians

  • William Adams was a leading voice for separation from Nelson and became Marlborough’s first superintendent. He and Martha built Langley Dale, a homestead which still stands.
  • Brothers Henry and George Dodson were farmers and local politicians. Henry represented the Wairau in Parliament for nine years.
  • In a time of firebrand politicians, William Eyes was the most fiery and controversial. He held many posts and took part in local and national politics. He became bankrupt and was involved in a scandalous divorce. 
Redwood Archbishop

Redwood, Archbishop, right. Nelson Provincial Museum, 61228

The Catholics

  • Joseph and Martha Ward were early runholders, owning Brookby. Joseph was a forthright voice in local government for nearly 50 years. 
  • Ward’s in-laws Henry and Mary Redwood contributed to the development of Marlborough farming. Son Henry was known as ‘The Father of NZ Turf’; another son, Francis became a much-loved Archbishop of New Zealand.
  • Cousins Charles Clifford and Frederick Weld drove 3000 sheep down the East Coast to a run which they leased for £24/annum. Weld went on to become Prime Minister and Clifford, speaker of the House.

2018. Updated September 2020

Sources used in this story

  • Further sources are listed at the bottom of each referenced Prow story.

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  • My ancestor “John Fay” was one of the first settlers of Marlborough , he is listed on the original passenger list for “The Speedwell” at just 8 years old , he’s among 3 of the youngest passengers on the ship. This site I found on the list highlights his name as well as a few others as early settlers of Marlborough, the list was dated 1656 and Marlborough was settled in 1657. Very interested to see if I can find anything on his life or his role in that town. Passenger list: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~historyofmarlborough/history/speedwell.htm
    Ed. This is a record for Marlborough in Massachusetts, USA - not Marlborough New Zealand

    Posted by Kiara West, 03/11/2021 5:08am (3 years ago)

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