Edward Laney the baker and his daughter Ann


In the early years of Nelson life was tough for all. Days were long and hard for the settlers trying to build a town and a new and better life in a place that was very different from European shores. Eventually and inevitably, homes and shops started to spring up due to the settlers' hard work.

One of these shops was Mr E. Laney's bakery in Bridge Street, which helped provide early settlers with necessities to keep the family alive and strong. The bakery is said to have been the first established in Nelson (1843) and was run by Mr Laney and his family until 1867.1

birds eye view

Bird's eye view of the early days in Nelson, New Zealand 1842-48. Nelson Provincial Museum. Bett Loan Collection. AC833. Laney's premises sits between the Brook and Church Hill.

In England, Edward Laney had lived in Andover before making the move to New Zealand. He lived in New Street and married his next door neighbour's widow Mrs White in 1841. Mrs White had also lived in the region for all her life. She came from a family of silk weavers who worked in the poorer district of the town. She was born Mary Hammond on the 8th of April, 1808 to John and Sarah. Mary had recently lost her husband George to a trap accident in 1834 and was living with her mother in her home in New Street. She had with her three children; Henry, Annie and George. In the year Mary and Edward married, Mary also lost her son George who was aged about 12 years old. Mary and Edward decided to leave their hard lives to find new beginnings in the land of Aotearoa in Nelson.

In 1842, they boarded the "Olympus" with their two children and one newborn son William. The ship embarked in June and arrived in October in Nelson. Edward rather quickly built himself a business in Bridge Street and set to work making himself known in the region. . Although Mary and Edward had found a new life, Mary's mother did not. Unfortunately, Sarah ended up in the Andover Workhouse which was infamous for its poor condition and the way it handled its residents.

Edward raised all the children in the baking business with Ann and William being the main contributors. William was Edward's right hand man. The next decade dealt Edward reasonably well. In 1849, his step-daughter Ann opened her own bakery in Bridge Street at the age of 16. Edward and his son worked well in the business, so well that Edward purchased another property "The Baker's Arms" in Nile Street. At around the same time Edward came to a spot of bother. In November of 1849 Robert Hunter, a farmer, came into the Bakery demanding a sum of money that Edward owed him. He was drunk and aggressive. Edward refused, claimed Hunter had his hand in the till and reported him to a Constable. Hunter appeared in court and was given two months in gaol with hard labour. Mr Hunter was correct to feel unfairly treated. He decided to get the help of a lawyer named William Thomas Locke Travers. Travers planned to sue the magistrate for miscarriage of justice but Mr Hunter did not want the expense of doing this. The affair caused quite a stir in the town and many newspapers published articles, which cannot have been good for Mr Laney's businesses.

The Baker's Arms didn't stay in Edward's possession for too long. He gave the lease to Andrew Devaney and by 1862 the building was demolished. The 1860s were hard on Edward. in particular the year 1866. In April that year his right hand man William passed away at the age of 24 of bilious fever and in June, Mary died. Both were buried in Hallowell Cemetery.  The next year he sold his bakery and retired to Renwick town and lived with one of his daughters. His burial record states he was buried in "Renwick Cemetery" which is probably the Upper Wairau Cemetery. He died in 1882 having had seven children and after being in the Oddfellows lodge for a number of years.

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Ann in later years. Image supplied by author

Ann White worked at the bakery for an unknown period of time. In 1859 she had a daughter to one Thomas (John) Brookes out of wedlock. Not much is known about this part of her life but by 1862 she had married Joseph Henry Bartlett, a boy who had come out with his family on the same immigrant ship as her. It is unknown to me whether the pair’s families kept in contact after the voyage. Ann left the business behind her and moved to the Bartlett property in Fabian’s Valley. A creek ran by the house and was later named after the family who lived in the area for many, many years. She had two children with Joe; George Edward (1862-1935) and Joseph Henry (1864-1952). Ann’s partner Joe unfortunately drowned alongside his brother-in-law John Ward while fording the Wairau River. They are likely buried somewhere at Bartlett’s Creek. Ann remarried within a year to Joe’s brother Thomas and had a further six children; John William Thomas (1867-1915), Alfred Edwin (1869-1945), Mary Maria (1869-1869), Frances Alice (1871-1955), Mary Maria (1872-1940) and Sarah Elizabeth (1874-1923). Together they all lived in the Cob Cottage at Bartlett’s Creek and dealt with many trials and hardships. The Valley was bitter cold and work was tough and back breaking.

In 1874 however, Ann decided she’d had enough of all the solemness. She invited all the children in the Wairau Valley to come to her little home and have a fun day of games, food and drink. Drays from the Bartlett, Pipe and Mason family were used to convey children over the river and a tent was erected on the green where inside the children sat to eat Ann’s delicious baking. For the rest of the day there was swinging, skipping, racing, jumping, donkey riding and football and all the children slept under the stars. The next day was spent getting the children back home and ready for school. Ann was fed up with there being no festivity in the valley and she wanted to celebrate her eldest daughter’s 15th birthday. Over 90 people including the children's mothers attended. Ann must have been a warm light who endured many hardships. She died on the 31st of July, 1909. and was buried in the Bartlett Cemetery with her husband. Her stone reads; “In Loving Memory Of Thomas Bartlett Who Died 16 June 1907 aged 76. Also Ann Bartlett beloved wife of the above who died July 30 1909 aged 76 years. nearer my God to thee”.

2019 (updated August 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. Walsh, J (1984, October) Edward Laney - Nelson’s First Baker. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies,1(4)

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