Following on from my last post, I’ll now set out what I know about the lives of the three sons of Samuel Hurst Seager (1780 – 1837): Samuel Hurst, Henry Fowle and Edward William – before they emigrated to New Zealand. A reminder of the link to my family: these were the brothers of Fanny Sarah Seager (1814 – 1851) who married William Robb (1813- 1888) and gave birth to my great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb (born 1851).

Samuel Hurst Seager was christened at the church of St. Clement Danes in the Strand on 11th July 1819. In November 1837, when he was 18 years old, Samuel registered the death of his father, also Samuel Hurst Seager. At this time the younger Samuel was already working as a carpenter at living at 33 East Street, near Red Lion Square.

We don’t get our next ‘official’ glimpse of Samuel until March 1851, when the census of that date places him at 46 Gerrard Street, Soho, with his widowed mother Fanny, older sister Elizabeth (incorrectly entered as ‘Edith’), younger brothers Henry and Edward, and nieces Elizabeth and Fanny Robb (daughters of his recently deceased sister Fanny Sarah), as well as general servant Elizabeth Blake, 12. Samuel, now 31, is still working as a carpenter and is described as the head of the household.

Samuel married Jane Wild at the church of St Martin in the Fields later that year, though I haven’t seen any record of the event and am relying entirely on information from other family trees. Apparently Samuel and Jane had four children. Rose Elizabeth was born in 1852, Samuel Hurst in 1855 and Jane in 1857, all in the Strand district, while Ada was born in 1859 in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields. Only by accessing the official records of these births will we be able to confirm where Samuel and his family were living during these years.

Jane Wild Seager must have died shortly after giving birth to Ada, since on 5th June 1860 Samuel married again, this time to Mary Ann Yeates. We are fortunate in having access to the parish record for this event, which informs us that Samuel was 41, a widower, and working as a builder, when he married Mary Ann, 45, the daughter of tailor George Yeates, at the church of St. George the Martyr, Queen Square. It’s interesting that Samuel describes the status of his late father as ‘gentleman’. The couple gave their address as 6 Theobalds Road, which was not far from the church where they married (see the map and discussion in my last post). The witnesses to the event were John Thomson and Elizabeth Seager, the latter presumably being Samuel’s sister, who would have been about 43 at this time.

A interesting insight into Samuel’s life during these years is provided by Madeleine Seager’s biography of his brother, Edward William. She cites the programme for the Annual Patients’ Ball of 1872 at Sunnyside Asylum in Christchurch, New Zealand, where Edward was Steward. The programme praises the musical contribution of Edward and Samuel, describing the latter as ‘recently a member of Mr. Bamby’s well-known choir in London’. ‘Bamby’ is a mis-transcription of ‘Barnby’ and refers to Sir Joseph Barnby, a noted Victorian composer and conductor who, among other distinguished posts, was director of music at St. Anne’s church, Soho, and who formed his choir in 1864.

Sir Joseph Barnby

I’ve been unable to find any trace of Samuel, Mary Ann, or Samuel’s children from his first marriage, in the 1861 census. However, we know that on 23rd September 1870, they set sail on the ‘Zealandia’ and arrived in New Zealand three months later. The ship’s records describe Samuel as a carpenter, his daughter Rose as a domestic servant and his son Samuel as a labourer (though of course, he would later become a renowned architect). According to Madeleine Seager’s account, Samuel senior brought with him the parts for a pipe organ, which he and his brother Edward would instal at Sunnyside.

Henry Fowle Seager was christened at St. Clement Danes on 23rd April 1821. There is then a long gap before we find him again, age 30, in the 1851 census, living with his mother and siblings in Gerrard Street (see above). At this stage Henry’s occupation is given as printer.

Henry married Charlotte (Quelch?) towards the end of 1852 at St Martin in the Fields. They had four children before emigrating to New Zealand seven years later. Henry Fowle  was born in 1853, Charlotte Elizabeth in 1855,  Amy Eliza in 1857 and Annie in 1859. All were born in the Pancras district, except for Annie whose birth was registered in Holborn. Again, the family’s precise movements can only be established once we have the official documents for these births.

Henry and his family set sail for New Zealand in the ‘Clontarf’ on  25h November 1859. According to Madeleine Seager, Henry was described in the ship’s records as a compositor. Sadly, young Charlotte, then aged 5, died en route. The family arrived in Lyttleton on 1st March 1860.

St Clement Danes

Edward William Seager  was born on 8th May 1828 and christened at St. Clement Danes on 1st June. As with Henry, there is then a gap until the 1851 census that finds them all living at Gerrard Street, where Edward, then 23, is said to be employed as a carpenter. Some additional information is supplied by Madeleine Seager’s biography of Edward, but I’m not sure what evidence exists to support her account. According to the book:

We understand Edward William Seager went to the choir school [at the Temple church], and owed to it his education and musical training. We do know he worked as a clerk for a Barrister-at-law at the Temple.

Although this is at variance with other information that we have about Edward’s occupation (such as the 1851 census), it does open up another possible route by which my great great grandfather, William Robb, a law stationer’s clerk, might have met his wife, Edward’s sister Fanny.

The biography also offers an account of how Edward came to emigrate to New Zealand:

In 1849, Edward Seager, strong, healthy and adventurous, met James Edward Fitzgerald, the emigration agent for the Canterbury Assocaiton, who suggested Seager should emigrate to New Zealand. He liked the idea ‘exceedingly’ in spite of his vivid mental pictures of ‘hordes of ferocious cannibals revelling in horrible repasts’.

It was James Edward Fitzgerald who would found  the (Christchurch) Press, for which Edward’s brother Henry would work after he emigrated to New Zealand. After the death of his mother Fanny in 1851, reports Madeleine Seager:

Seager, then 23, felt no ties bound him to the old home. About that time, in a building near Leicester Square, he saw many panoramic views of New Zealand. The proprietor, a Mr Brees, displayed magnificent views of Auckland, Wellington, Lyttleton and Christchurch.

Having made up his mind to emigrate, Edward managed to obtain a certificate guaranteeing his moral character from the vicar of St. Anne’s, Soho, despite the fact that he and his family were Nonconformists.

Edward William Seager sailed for New Zealand on the ‘Cornwall’ on 12th August 1851. He was described in the ship’s records as a ‘blindmaker’. His biography (presumably drawing on Edward’s own reminiscences) paints this vivid picture of his departure:

His farewell was most sentimental, as all his relations, and most of his friends, were attending his brother’s wedding. As the Cornwall lay at Gravesend the wedding party passed by on their way to Margate. There was a waving of handkerchiefs as the couple went by, then they were gone, leaving Seager dejected and melancholy.

If this story is true, then it must refer to Samuel Hurst Seager’s marriage to Jane Wild. Within less than ten years, Jane would be dead, Samuel would have remarried, and both he and Henry would have joined their brother Edward in New Zealand.

Sunnyside Asylum, Christchurch, New Zealand, in the 1880s

Christchurch City Libraries: File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0013