Monday, 21 May 2012

The Meng Children's Stepmother

Sarah Winfield Potts (née  Brown)  (18-08-1830  -  20-06-1904)

Even though Sarah is not a blood relation she is a very interesting lady.  She was born on 18-08-1830 and christened at Dorking, Surrey, England 19-09-1830.  Her christening record gives her name as Sarah Wingfield Potts with just her mother Mary Anne Brown listed.  On her marriage record she states that her parents are James Brown and Mary Ann Weller.  It is possible that her father died before she was born, or the other possibility is that Mary Ann and James were not married and therefore James was not recorded on the baptism.

It has been hard to trace Sarah in England as her name Sarah Brown is very common but there was a possible census record for a Sarah Brown born in Dorking, Surrey, England around 1830.  She was in Lambeth, Surrey, England, in 1851, living in a house full of different people, her relation to them was a servant.

Sarah Brown 20
William Burgess 22
Emily Haydon 2
William Haydon 5
William Hayton 35
Ann N Houston 29
Fanny Houston 7
Mary Ann Houston 6
John Hute 20 

Sarah came to New Zealand aboard the Gananoque which sailed on 09-02-1860 and arrived on 09-05-1860 and is listed as a domestic servant aged 27.  Sarah was the Matron on the ship which meant that her passage to New Zealand cost nothing.  She was originally going to be sponsored out to New Zealand by Horatio Henwood and James Potts but on the passenger list she is crossed out as nothing needed to be paid.  

There was a writeup on the Gananoque in the papers which stated"

The Gananoque, one of the finest ships of her size which we have ever seen in our harbour, arrived on Wednesday from London, after the remarkably short passage of 85 days from Gravesend. She left the Downs on the 14th February, and rapidly cleared the channel, where very cold weather was experiencd for a day or two, and thence made excellent runs daily into the warmer latitudes, sighting the peak of San Antonio, on the 26th February N.E. trades, which had been met with early, were carried down to 3° 0' north, which latitude was reached on the 2nd March, when only 17 days out. About this time several vessels were seen and spoken. One was the ship Cornigha, from Calcutta for London, 69 days out. The passengers were much disappointed that they would not permit the sending of letters on board for home. The line was crossed on Thursday, March 8th, in longitude 23° 39' W., after which fresh breezes carried the Gananoque into the extreme west longitude reached, namely 31° 28': On the 17th March the island of Trinidada was seen and on the next and following days three foreign vessels passed in sight —a Frenchman, a Norwegian, and a Yankee. On the 29th March made Tristan d'Acunha, passed the longitude of the Cape on the 7th April, and sighted Prince Edward's Island on the 10th of the same month.  All the way from the Cape to New Zealand the pace was kept up in first rate style—one day's work showing 266 miles run over, and the rest there and thereabouts. Favorable winds were experienced on the coast and it was only too great a prevalence of southerly weather which prevented the approach to the port for 36 hours after its position was actually reached. The voyage is described by the passengers as having been most pleasant in all respects, and they give credit to Captain Morris, with his officers, and to Dr. Brown, the Surgeon Superintendent, as having been the promoting causes in this respect. Amusements of all kinds flourished on board among which—to prove the universality of the defence movement—the formation of a Rifle Corps and the drilling of the same was prominent, so long as the fine weather lasted and the ship was tranquil enough to permit the goose-step to be practised. The full and true-particulars of the voyage are written in the Gananoque Gazette,' a carefully edited board-ship journal, a file of which we have been permitted to peruse. The names and number of the passengers by the Gananoque, who are perhaps the best lot ever brought in, will be found below. The health on board throughout the whole voyage was generally excellent; except that a few cases of measles appeared before crossing the line, and disappeared again before the cold weather was reached. The two deaths which occurred were from causes as far as possible removed from epidemic.

Eighty five days was a quick journey for a ship to New Zealand.  Sarah as matron had the job of keeping the single women away from the single men and vice versa!  The matron never actually nursed the sick on board.  Being matron meant she got free passage out so she must have had a certain strictness required for the job.

Sarah followed James Potts (who she married on 11-06-1860 at St Michael’s, Christchurch) to New Zealand as she married him only a month after arriving in Christchurch.  They had two stillborn children and two children who survived the birth but didn’t live very long.

Stillborn Potts born and died 25-01-1862
James Leonard Potts died 24-02-1864 aged 11 days of debility
Stillborn Potts born and died 26-08-1865
Sarah Maud Potts died 13-03-1868 aged 8 months

James Potts died on 25-10-1879 aged 44, leaving Sarah a childless widow.   It must have been very heartbreaking for her.   

Sarah had quite a few property issues to sort out.  There was an ad in the Press dated 05-05-1880 which mentioned the rural sections that her husband had owned and how they were to be transfered into her name.

Press 5 May 1880 Land Transfer Act Notice for Sarah Winfield Potts  

She married Karl Philipp Meng on 28-01-1882.  This may have been a marriage of convenience so that Sarah could look after Karl's three daughters Mary, Katherina and Emma Magdalena and also to give herself some security, however it may have been love.  We will never know. 

Sarah Winfield  Meng (nee Brown) Mrs Potts

Once Sarah married Karl Meng, the Meng and Lord families had a close connection.  In the early days James and Sarah Potts lived out in Courtenay near to where the Lords lived and they knew each other.  The Lords included Sarah in their family, and she was legally family after Mary Meng and Edwin Lord married in 1893.  She is even in a family photo of the Lords dated between 1900 and 1904.  A Christmas card exists that was sent from Mrs Meng to Mrs Anderton, Edwin Lord’s Aunt. 

Katherina Fraser (née Meng) told her children that stories about wicked stepmothers were not always true.  Sarah must have been a wonderful stepmother to the three girls who had lost their real mother at such a young age. Mary Lord (née Meng) even named her daughter Dorothy Wingfield Lord, the Wingfield from her step-mother's middle name (which is usually spelt Winfield).

Karl Meng died in August 1885 and it is highly likely that Sarah travelled after his death.  She had a bit of money and travel would have eased her sorrow a bit.  A woman named Mrs S.W. Meng returned to Lyttelton in 1886.  We don't know where she came from, whether from England, Australia or just a local New Zealand port.  I suspect she went back to London as there was a Mrs Meng travelled from Lyttelton to Wellington on the s.s. Wanaka leaving 18 November 1885.  Then there is a Mrs Meng leaving Wellington on the Adelaide for London on 19 November 1885.  After 25 years in New Zealand away from her family and friends in the old country she must have decided to go back for a visit.  This is backed up by Carl Meng's will which states that several different people were paid for maintenance of the three children.  Mrs Hall was paid until 1 Feb 1886.  Mr Schneider took one child into his home and Mr Kissel took two children and they were paid on 1 March 1886 for maintenance.  The last payment to them was on 19 August 1886 for maintenance of the children.  Then Sarah arrived back and was paid maintenance.  

Karl Phillipe Meng_edited bw
Sarah Winfield Meng (nee Brown) bw

These pictures above of Karl and Sarah Meng were done on glass and are quite huge.  Probably taken around 1884 to 1885 before Karl died.

Sarah and Karl Meng lived at 30 Antigua Street and both died there.  Sarah owned a piece of land on the corner of Halkett and Antigua Streets when she died in 1904.  This was where she lived originally in the 1860s with James Potts and they rented out furnished apartments before moving to the Halkett area.  She split the land into 3 sections and gave one to each of her three stepdaughters.  Mary Lord still owned her place in the 1911 electoral roll. This section no longer exists and is located in the middle of Brougham Street.  All Sarah’s personal belongings such as household furniture, clothing, jewellery and ornaments went to her three stepdaughters.  She also left some money to relatives in England. Sarah's mother Mary Ann Brown, married John Risbridger and had eight children from 1834 to 1853.  So Sarah had many half brothers and sisters back in England.

Sarah Winfield Meng is buried in Addington Cemetery with her first husband James Potts and four children.

Receipt - Mrs Potts

 A receipt that had Mrs Potts written on the back.  She  bought ribbon, gloves and other articles from W. Strange & Co which were housed in Victoria House, Christchurch

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