The Redwood Family


Farming, Racing and the Church

Henry Redwood and early settlement

The Redwood family is remembered through place names in Nelson, Marlborough, and throughout New Zealand.

It all began with Henry Redwood and his wife Mary (Gilbert), who sailed to New Zealand, both aged 48, on the George Fyfe with their children1, arriving in Nelson in December 1842. The Redwoods had been tenant farmers on the Clifford estate in Staffordshire for several generations.2  Sir Charles Clifford  also immigrated to NZ on the George Fyfe and settled in Marlborough.3

Redwood Henry Senior
Henry Redwood senior.As grandfather Henry Redwood went the rounds with his horse taking orders for flour to be ground at his little mill, it wass his custom to herald his approach by continual and happy singing. New Zealand Free Lance, October 15, 1952. Credit Marlborough Museum Archive.
Redwood Mary

Redwood, Mrs Mary. Nelson Provincial Museum, 5083

Eldest daughter, Martha, was also on the voyage with her new husband, Joseph Ward and was very unwell for much of the voyage. Joseph wrote of the conditions during the voyage: “Bad living, bad health- very bad tempers……Talk of suffering.” 4 Martha and Joseph, who was a surveyor, were to have 12 children.5

On arrival, Henry senior erected a large 60 foot long tent divided into compartments for his family of four daughters and four sons. Soon after arriving in Nelson, on the George Fyfe on 2 January 1843, Fanny Dillon gave birth to her first child with a kindly neighbouring tent dweller, Mrs Redwood, assisting the ship's surgeon.6

The Redwoods spent the first six months of life under canvas at their Waimea West section while their two story mud cob home, Stafford Place, was built. It was replaced by a two story wooden house two years later.7  They were soon supplying the Nelson market with beef, mutton and butter. Henry established a butchery on his Town Acre (no. 167) on the south-east corner of Trafalgar and Bridge Streets, which was run by his eldest son Henry from 1845-1847.8

In January 1845, the family provided a grand social event: a triple wedding was held with Mary Redwood marrying a solicitor, Joseph Greaves, Henry Jnr marrying a widow, Elizabeth Reeves, and Elizabeth Redwood marrying Edward Bolton.9

Henry Redwood Jnr and his father shared an interest in horses and in 1849, a new house Hednesford, was built for him on the family property- where it still stands today. Father and son imported a large number of thoroughbred racehorses from England and Australia and the Redwood Stables  were built alongside Henry Jnr's house made with bricks from their own kiln.  The bricks and heritage listed floor, have been reconstructed into the Stables Tavern and Restaurant in Richmond.10

Redwood Stafford Place

Sarah Greenwood 1809 -1899. Stafford Place, House of Mr Redwood, 1850. Pencil drawing. Nelson Provincial Museum, Bett Loan Collection: AC334

In the 1850s, when youngest son Francis came home from studying at Father Antoine Garin’s seminary to help on the farm, he noted: “The early years are crammed with the practical details of farming; the chopping of stakes, planting potatoes, the bulling of heifers, the slaughtering of sheep and pigs, the pupping of bitches, the castrating ("cutting") of male calves, milking cows in the rain, building a malthouse, making bricks, brewing beer, getting a boat (tub) across the river with ropes and pulley, and getting in the harvest. Tall, golden grain…I did my share, half an acre a day.” 11

Religion played a major role in the Redwood story.  It is reported that Henry and Mary separately converted to Catholicism and that their religion and a lack of land may have played a large part in their decision to emigrate to New Zealand.12  Henry Senior nearly went to Tasmania when he found  there were no regular masses celebrated in Nelson.13 Nelson’s first Catholic Mass was said at the Redwoods’ home on  May 5 1844.14

While the family prospered in Nelson, they also saw opportunities over the hill in the Wairau.  Henry was granted a depasturage licence for The Bluffs Run on Marlborough’s East Coast and son Thomas Redwood established a homestead near the Vernon Lagoons. Another son, Charles established himself on a property at Riverlands in Marlborough, where his mother Mary died in 1879.15

When Henry died aged 79 in 1873, his obituary described him as man of great vigour ‘both of body and mind’,  who had devoted 30 years in New Zealand to agricultural and pastoral pursuits, adding value and acreage to his land. “He who had been a tenant-farmer in England under the family of the Clifford Constables, found himself ‘seized’…of a greater number of acres of land than were owned in England by the wealthy squires to whom he used to pay rent.” 16

Father of New Zealand Turf - Henry Junior

Redwood Henry Junior
Mr. Henry Redwood, junior. Nelson Provincial Museum 67901

Henry Junior was 19 when the family arrived in New Zealand.  His interest and dedication to breeding thoroughbred racehorses became legendary. In 1853-4, he imported 20 thoroughbred mares and seven stallions.17 The Redwood Stables were built in 1851 and land at Rabbit Island was used for training horses.

Redwood horse Henry Junior
Henry Redwood junior imported a number of thoroughbred horses from Australia in 1852, including a chestnut, Zoe, who won numerous races in Nelson and the Wairau. In 1858, Henry sent Zoe to Australia, where she won two prestigious races. Sydney's leading horse painter, Joseph Fowles was commissioned to paint her portrait. Credit Marlborough Museum Archives. Caption by Jane Vial.

Henry Jr. became interested in the potential of the Wairau Plains for grain crops and moved to a property in Spring Creek in 1865. As well as establishing a flour mill there, he increased his reputation as a breeder and trainer of  bloodstock, becoming known as the “Father of the New Zealand Turf”.18  The Examiner noted in 1866, "Mr Redwood's stud is outstanding. No gentleman has a finer lot of brood mares south of the Line…... He has as valuable a stud as could be found in any British colony."19

Francis Redwood - son for the Church

Francis Redwood was to become New Zealand’s first homegrown Catholic archbishop. When Father Antoine Garin came to Nelson in 1850 he saw Francis's potential.  In December 1854, after expressing a strong desire to be a priest, he was sent to France for further education. He studied and taught in France and Ireland and didn’t return to New Zealand for another 20 years.20

Redwood Archbishop
Redwood, Archbishop, right. Nelson Provincial Museum, 61228

Francis became Archbishop of Wellington in 1874 and New Zealand’s senior bishop in 1895.  In 1924, tens of  thousands of Wellingtonians came out to see the pomp and ceremony of the jubilee celebrations  of New Zealand, and the world’s longest serving Catholic bishop.

"Never before has Wellington witnessed such a religious procession," The Evening Post said."It provided a unique opportunity of witnessing a Catholic religious pageant in all its majesty and solemn glory. Along the whole route every vantage point was occupied, and the many colours reflecting the bright rays of the brilliant sunshine made up a radiant sight, which was wonderful to behold."21

Archbishop Redwood was popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike for the stately way he conducted himself and by his balanced views and his eloquence both in the pulpit and on the platform. When he died on 3 January 1935 his life had spanned the Catholic Church’s  transition from a missionary church to an established institution in New Zealand.22

Thomas and Charles Redwood

Eventually Charles and Thomas ended up living in the Wairau. Nelle Scanlan remembered the early Blenheim Catholic Parish in ‘the beautiful old church…The Tom Redwoods were on the right and the Charlie Redwoods on the left.” 23

Redwood Mrs Charles

Redwood, Mrs Charles. Nelson Provincial Museum, 5086

Thomas drove 2000 sheep from Nelson  to the Bluffs’ Run (later known as Vernon) via the Tophouse route.24  He  managed Bankhouse Station and the Vernon Run in the Wairau. Early in the 1870s, he bought “Burleigh” and lived on the estate for twenty-three years. He then farmed “Woodbourne,” an area of 1200 acres, near Renwick, and the Omaka Reserve. He was also secretary to the Marlborough Racing Committee, and owned horses, with which he won many races.25 Blenheim’s Cob Cottage was possibly built for Charles Redwood.  Having housed members of the Redwood family and a succession of farm labourers, it served as  a local schoolroom from 1906 to 1909.26

A 1912 Marlborough Express obituary for Charles’ wife (no first name noted), Mrs Redwood, describes her as being an ‘ideal hostess’ and said that her ‘unselfishness and usefulness will be missed’ particularly regarding her charitable works for the Catholic Church. She was survived by Charles and 12 out of their 15 children.  The Charles Redwood family moved to Toowoomba Queensland in about 1896.27


Updated August 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Mary Redwood. Passenger details, George Fyfe. Early Settlers Database:
  2. Lash, Max D. (1992). Nelson notables 1840 - 1940: A dictionary of regional biography. Nelson, New Zealand: Nelson Historical Society., p.120-1.
  3. Stephens, J. (2009) Early Pastoralism in Marlborough. The Prow
  4. Neale, J. (1982)  Pioneer Passengers. Nelson, N.Z. : Anchor Press, p 71
  5. Orr, K.W. 'Ward, Joseph', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
  6. Allan, R. (1965). Nelson: A history of early settlement. Wellington, New Zealand: A.H. and A.W. Reed.,p 208
  7. Stafford Place in Nelson New Zealand:
  8. Lash, p 120-121.
  9. Neale, p 79
  10. Nelson Historical Society Newsletter, March 2017
  11. Dickinson, M. (1981) The Redwood Stables. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies 1(1)
  12. Henry Redwood (1794 - abt. 1873) on WikiTree
  13. Dickinson
  14. Goodison, A (2010) Nelson's early churches. The Prow
  15. Lash, p 120-121.
  16. The late Mr Henry Redwood (1873, June 28) Nelson Examiner & New Zealand Chronicle
  17. Neale, p 80.
  18. Dickinson
  19. Broadbent, J.V.  'Redwood, Francis William', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  20. O'Neill, A (2015, June 17) Archbishop Redwood's jubilee draws crowd of thousands - 150 years of news. Retrieved from Stuff:
  21. The most Rev. Francis Redwood (1897) The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]. Retrieved from NZETC:
  22. Broadbent
  23. Cahill, P.P. (1964) St Mary’s Parish Blenheim 1864-1946. Wellington, N.Z.: John Milne Ltd p 58
  24. Holdaway, Barry (2016) The Wairau and its forgotten capital [Blenheim, N.Z.] : p 45
  25. Mr Thomas Redwood (1906) The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]. Retrieved from NZETC:
  26. Donovan, D. (2011, April 15) Marlborough: Cob cottage a perfect picture of the past. Retrieved from
  27. The late Mrs Charles Redwood (1912. December 3) Marlborough Express, p.3

Want to find out more about the The Redwood Family ? View Further Sources here.

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  • Interestingly my grand uncle married a Ethel Maud Redwood and they lived in Blenheim area/ Spring River. He was Albert Dawe.

    Posted by Doug McLean, 23/04/2022 8:31pm (2 years ago)

  • A Redwood freind was contacted some time ago establishing a North Island connection this was established. They were connected but the information has been lost I am helping to find it. Thank you

    Posted by Sharron Peters, 08/01/2020 6:28pm (4 years ago)

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Further sources - The Redwood Family


Henry Redwood senior

Henry Redwood junior

 Archbishop Francis Redwood (son of Henry and Mary)

Thomas and Charles Redwood (sons of Henry and Mary)

  • Cahill, P.P., [1964] St Mary’s Parish Blenheim 1864-1946 Wellington, N.Z.: John Milne Ltd p 17, 43
  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts] Marlborough Provincial District - The Marlborough Land District (published 1906) p. 368-9
  • Insull, H.A.H.(1952) Marlborough Place Names Wellington, N.Z.: A. H. & A. W. Reed p 59
  • McIntosh, A. D. (ed)  (1977) Marlborough: a provincial history Christchurch, N.Z. : Capper Press p 3

Wilfred Henry Redwood (Boer War) and Henry Francis Redwood

  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts] Marlborough Provincial District - The Marlborough Land District (published 1906) p. 76.
  • Stowers, R. (2004) Rough Riders at War Hamilton, NZ: Richard Stowers p 178

Joseph Henry Redwood

  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts] Marlborough Provincial District - The Marlborough Land District (published 1906) p 376-7, 613

Ada Redwood – Marlborough’s first female councillor

Mary and Nellie Redwood – vocations to religious life

  • Cahill, P.P. [1964] St Mary’s Parish Blenheim 1864-1946 Wellington, N.Z.: John Milne Ltd p41
  • Furness, J. G (1985) Sisters of Mercy, Blenheim: 100 years of service  [Blenheim, N.Z] : Sisters of Mercy Centennial Committee 
  • Mary Redwood. In Harper, B. (1980) Petticoat pioneers : South Island women of the colonial era : Book three. Wellington [N.Z.] : Reed



Henry Redwood senior

Henry Redwood junior

Stafford Place


Henry Redwood junior

Web Resources

Henry Redwood senior

Henry Redwood junior

 Archbishop Francis Redwood (son of Henry and Mary)

Thomas  and Charles Redwood (sons of Henry and Mary)

Wilfred Henry Redwood (Boer War) and Henry Francis Redwood

Joseph Henry Redwood

Francis Redwood

Ada Redwood – Marlborough’s first female Councillor