William Charles Hercock

BORN: Kings Cliffe, England, 1835.1

DIED: Carterton, 1902.2


The Hercock family originally came from the tiny village of Laxton in Northamptonshire, England and the family's presence in the village can be traced back to the mid-1600s.3 However, William's grandfather Henry moved to nearby Kings Cliffe after his marriage in 1796 to Elizabeth Horspole, a native of that village.4 Henry and Elizabeth's children were all born in Kings Cliffe, including Charles in 1811.5 Charles continued to live in Kings Cliffe after his marriage to Ann Baldwin in 18336 and their only child William was born there in 1837.7

We don't know what trades the family members were engaged in while they were living in Laxton, but while in Kings Cliffe the family became (or continued to be) wood merchants. Henry and Charles are registered as being in this trade in both the 1841 census and 1851 census. As a teenager William lived with his parents and took up the family trade as a sawyer working with his father, presumably at the same sawmill.

During the mid-1800s, work was scarce and wages low in many areas of England, and more and more people were considering a new life in the colonies. In 1856 after making enquiries as to the availability of work for sawyers in New Zealand, Charles paid £8 for a promissory note to Henry Smith & Co., Shipping Agents, which was the deposit required to immigrate his family to New Zealand.8

On November 5th 1856 Charles, his wife Ann, and son William, then aged 20 years, sailed from Liverpool in the ss Indian Queen, a clipper of 1050 tons captained by Captain D.F. Jobson. She carried 405 souls at £20 a head, as well as a full cargo of general merchandise. The ss Indian Queen was the second ship of James Fames & Co. Black Ball Line and was sister ship of the Oliver Lang.

During the voyage an epidemic of measles broke out, resulting in the deaths of 20 children, and later a Mr and Mrs Fitness died from severe diarrhoea. A Mrs Liverton took charge of their three children, aged 9 years, 5 years and 7 months but unfortunately the infant died shortly after its parents. No further incidents were reported on the voyage and after a very fine passage of 87 days the ss Indian Queen arrived at Wellington Heads on Friday 30th January 1857. All passengers and cargo were discharged at Port Nicholson. Amongst the passengers were no fewer than seven sawyers. There were 90 married men, 90 married woman 63 single men, 13 single women, 68 boys, 60 girls and 21 infants.

Shortly after arriving in Wellington, the family moved to Upper Hutt. In the 1850's the whole valley was dense bush. Settlers filtered up the valley as the road was pushed through. The lands were opened up, and saw-milling and rough farming became the local industries. The family moved to Te Marua, situated in the upper reaches of the Hutt Valley, between the township of Upper Hutt and the Rimutaka mountain range. Here William and Charles commenced work at one of the early timber mills. While they probably started out working for an existing miller, very soon they were running their own business supplying totara shingles, palings and posts,9 and also raising pigs and other livestock for sale.10 These products were advertised in the local newspaper, the Wellington Independent.

In August 1858 William, then aged 22, married Kate Reid, a minor of 15 years, at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Wellington.11 After their marriage they seemed to have moved into Upper Hutt town, where their first child, Annie was born in 1859.12

The road across the Rimutakas was opened in 1859 and an increasing amount of traffic passed through Upper Hutt on its way to the new townships opening up in the Wairarapa. About 1870 Charles and Ann, together with William, Kate and the children, left Upper Hutt for the Wairarapa where Kate's mother and father had already established themselves as farmers in Clareville, just north of Carterton. The family settled in Carterton where Charles and Ann purchased a ten-acre block of land and William and Kate purchased another ten acres.13

Carterton was first established in 1857 as a base for workers building the road from Greytown to Masterton. It was originally named Three Mile Bush and was still heavily forested in the 1870s. The photo of the Carterton Post Office (Photo 1) , taken about this time, shows the bush still surrounding the town. When the road was finished, workers turned to bush cutting. The cleared land was converted to dairying and cropping. Along with timber milling, these provided Carterton's economic base. Photo 2 shows the bush being cleared in Carterton.

Shortly after their arrival in Carterton, William and his father Charles established themselves as general carriers between Wellington and the Wairarapa. This partnership was dissolved in 1876, but William continued with the business. While the details are sketchy, the business seems to have been based in Taueru and the family may have lived there for some time in the late 1870s.

William sold part of his business to John Taplin in 18819, although the death of his daughter Eliza in Taueru in 188410 indicates not all the family had made the move.

To be continued...


  • Church of England. Parish Church of King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire), Parish registers, 1590-1967, IGI Batch No:C010472 , Film No: 0528978.
  • NZ Internal Affairs BDM, Record no: 1902/6826.
  • Hercock Family Tree
  • Church of England. Parish Church of King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire), Parish registers, 1590-1967, IGI Batch No:M010471 , Film No: 0428327.
  • Church of England. Parish Church of King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire), Parish registers, 1590-1967, IGI Batch No:P010471 , Film No: 0428327.
  • Church of England. Parish Church of King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire), Parish registers, 1590-1967, IGI Batch No:M047931 , Film No: 0598180.
  • Church of England. Parish Church of King's Cliffe (Northamptonshire), Parish registers, 1590-1967, IGI Batch No:C010472 , Film No: 0528978.
  • This and the following paragraphs are from Hercock, Dudley Graeme Evergreen is Our Valley: a History and Genealogy of the Clifford and Hercock Families, 1980. This document may be viewed here
  • Wellington Independent 6 August, 1863
  • Wellington Independent 1 December, 1864
  • Dudley Graeme Hercock Evergreen is Our Valley
  • NZ Internal Affairs BDM, Record no: 1859/2457.
  • Dudley Graeme Hercock Evergreen is Our Valley
  • Wairarapa Daily February 7, 1881
  • Evening Post March 12, 1884
This page last modified 23 December 2009.
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Dan Cross: dcross@slingshot.co.nz Ph: (09) 6290052