I came across this newspaper clipping in the papers of my grandfather, Arthur Ernest Robb (1897 – 1979):


The photograph, taken from a page in the ‘Weekly Press and N.Z. Referee’ (see footnote)of July 27, 1922, bears the caption ‘FOUR GENERATIONS: THE LATE MR. E. W. SEAGER OF CHRISTCHURCH, WITH HIS DAUGHTER, GRANDSON AND GREAT- GRANDSON’ and the following sub-caption: ‘Mr. E.W. Seager, Mrs. H.S. Batchelor (daughter), Mr. E.H.S. Batchelor (grandson) and H.S. Batchelor (great-grandson). The above photograph was taken on Mr. Seager’s 75th birthday, May, 1922’, adding ‘For Mr. Seager’s Obituary see page 27 of our last issue’.

The E.W.Seager in the photo is Edward William Seager, younger brother of Fanny Sarah Seager, my great great grandmother. The clipping poses a number of questions. Firstly, to whom was it sent from New Zealand? It could have been sent to my grandfather, who would have been 25 years old at the time. It’s more likely that it was sent to his father, my great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb, who was the son of Fanny Seager and William Robb. It’s likely that Charles, despite not knowing his mother, who died shortly after giving birth to him, retained an interest in her family, even if he didn’t keep in direct contact with them.

The second question posed by the extract is – who sent it from New Zealand? The most likely candidate is Thomas Bowman Robb, Charles’ oldest son, who had emigrated to New Zealand before 1911. Knowing of his father’s continuing interest in his mother’s family, he might have looked out for news of them and kept his father informed of developments. A less likely, but still possible scenario is that Charles was in direct contact with the Seagers.

As mentioned in previous posts on this blog, Edward William Seager’s daughter Rose married Henry Marsh, and their daughter was the novelist Ngaio Marsh. This clipping introduces a second daughter, with the married name of Batchelor. After some internet searching, I found this message from Michael Batchelor on an Ancestry forum from 2002:

My great grandfather was Henry William Batchelor. He lived in London and was described in his son’s marriage certificate as “gentleman”. His son (one of 2 or 3) was Harry Stacpoole Batchelor. He came to New Zealand in 1859. He married Ethel Wilson Seager (2nd marriage) in about 1896. She was the daughter of Edward William Seager.

This means that the ‘Mrs. H.S. Batchelor’ in the photo is Mrs. Harry Stacpoole Batchelor, nee Ethel Wilson Seager. It would appear from the initials that Harry and Ethel followed family tradition in the naming of their son, who followed suit in naming their grandson.

In searching for further information about the Seager family, I came across the entry for Edward William Seager in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, which includes the following:

According to family information Edward William Seager was born in London, England, on 8 May 1828; he was baptised on 1 June 1828 at St Clement Danes, Westminster. Edward was the youngest of eight children of Fanny Fowle and her husband, Samuel Hurst Seager. Samuel Seager was a porter at the Inner Temple law courts in London, and Edward attended the choir school of the Temple Church, before working for three years at the Inner Temple as a clerk. After his father’s death he met in 1849 a school friend, James Edward FitzGerald, who encouraged him to emigrate to New Zealand. On the death of his mother in 1851 he was able to act on this suggestion, and in August 1851 embarked on the Cornwall. He arrived at Lyttelton on 10 December.

This adds significantly to our knowledge of the Seagers and our understanding of their connection with the Robb family. Samuel Hurst Seager’s employment at the Inner Temple provides a clue as to how his daughter Fanny might have met William Robb, who was a law stationer and the son of a solicitor’s clerk. But it also introduces a slight discrepancy with the evidence of the 1851 census, which describes Edward as a carpenter, like his older brother Samuel, rather than as a court clerk. The account also confirms that Edward’s mother died in 1851 (it must have been after the census was taken), and provides us with information about the date of Edward’s emigration to New Zealand.

We know that the Seager family maintained their contact with William Robb’s family after the death of Fanny Sarah. The 1851 census has two of William’s and Sarah’s daughters, Elizabeth and Fanny, living with them in Gerrard Street, Soho. What remains unclear is the extent of contact after that date, and following the departure of a number of the Seagers for New Zealand. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has researched the Seager family, particularly if they have any information about continuing contact with Fanny’s children.


I’m grateful to Richard Seager, a descendant of Edward Seager, for clarifying the name of the newspaper, which is unclear in my copy.