Friday, 27 July 2012

James Potts

James Potts (08-12-1834  -  25-10-1879)

James Potts was Sarah Winfield Brown’s first husband.  He was born on 08-12-1834 in Christ Church, Spitalfields, Middlesex, England to John and Elizabeth Potts (nee Thompson).  John Potts was a basketmaker who at one stage employed seven men. They had many children, Valentine John, George, James, Henry, Charles, Alfred, Elizabeth, Jane Emma and Susanna.  John Potts had a will dated 20-11-1868 which mentioned his 9 children.  His personal estate was £85. For more information on this family please see the extensive website on the Potts family click here

James Potts appears in the G.R. MacDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biographies.  James arrived at Lyttelton on the ship Glentanner on 03-10-1857 listed as a basketmaker from London, aged 23. He obviously worked for his father in England.  A report of the journey on the Glentanner was in the Lyttelton Times 07-10-1857.

The Glentanner left Gravesend on the 11th June, and had light and variable winds to the equator, which she crossed on the 20th July, 38 days out. Fortunately, she had pleasant winds from the line until she got into about 43 degs. south, off the Cape, which was made on the 18th August, when she experienced heavy weather. On the 20th occurred somedisagreeable squalls, one of which, a very heavy one from the S.W.,at7p.m. caught the ship on the lee. The vessel was thrown on her beam ends, when every effort was made to take in all sail. The mainmast head gave way, and also the mizen-topmast and jib-boom, which carried away the fore-top gallant mast and fore-topsail yard, fore-topsail, outer and inner and flying jibs, fore and main-top gallant sails, main-topmast stay sail, and cross-jack, and split nearly all the sails. When the masts went down theship lighted herself, but it was not until the following day she could be got before the wind,, and then she could only spread her foresail and fore-top-mast stay sail. By this accident Capt. Bruce had the misfortune to lose one able seaman, Augustus Silva, who was knocked off the mizen top-gallant yard. 

It sounds like a difficult journey out, but this didn't stop James trying to sponsor his future wife, Sarah Winfield Brown to sail out on the Gananoque in 1860.  In the end he didn't have to sponsor her as she became matron on the ship, her job being to keep 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.  They married a month after Sarah arrived in New Zealand.  We are not sure how they met in England but it must have been a strong relationship to continue on once she arrived in New Zealand after three years being apart.  James's occupation was labourer.

On 18 August 1867 when his daughter was baptised, he was named as a Foreman of Government Works.  Sponsors were James and Sarah themselves and also Elizabeth Thompson.  Her relationship to the family is unknown.  James and Sarah had four children but none survived to maturity.  See the blog "The Meng children's Stepmother" for more information.

James became a Civil Engineer in New Zealand and was surveyor to the Waimakariri Board of Works.  How he rose to such a position after being a humble basketmaker we will never know. The Mayor and Councillors paid a visit to the embankments on December 1871.  They had a hearty meal, drank toasts and Harman presented Potts with a black marble clock which is still in the family today.  The article describes the place Mr and Mrs Potts were living.

"Before proceeding to notice the various points which came under our inspection, we will first notice what has been done at what may be called the homestead of the Board, viz., the ground in and around the Surveyor's residence, which is now in course of being ploughed up preparatory to being used as a nursery for the young trees used in the protective works. The cottage of the Surveyor has also been painted and the grounds neatly fenced, altogether presenting a trim appearance."  

The cottage which was probably owned the the Board of Conservators was 16 miles from town, which to my calculations puts it somewhere near the west part of West Melton, to the east part of Halkett, somewhere inbetween on what is now the Old West Coast Road, possibly near Range Road.

In the Press 07-10-1876 there was an ad for roading tenders and one was for near "the conservators' office (Potts' house)" on West Coast Road.

After James's death his wife Sarah Winfield Potts had to make a claim to transfer her deceased husbands sections into her name.  They were Rural Section 14152 which is now a rifle range for the NZ Army, just before Halkett area (more like West Melton area), RS 28130, 28146 and 28287.  It appears James owned land in the vicinity of the conservators' house.  According to the article from 1871 the conservators' house was 2 miles from the Waimakariri River, of course the flow of the Waimak is quite different from what it is today.  There is also a mention of Potts' Road in the papers of the time.  I have a feeling it may now be called Range Road which leads to the NZ Army Rifle Range, but this hasn't been proven.

Even though James had no children he was a member of the Halkett School Committee, as was Jabez Lord.  He was also chairman of the Halkett Church Committee in April 1873.  In May 1875 an addition was made to the Courtenay Church and a spire was added and the Bishop consecrated the Church and James was churchwarden at the time.  So James had a lot to do with the Halkett and Courtenay community.

In the Press dated 27-12-1875 there was a summary of the Courtenay Flower Show which was held on 17-12-1875 and had 300 to 400 people attend.  It listed the prize winners.  J. Potts won the following categories:  One specimen plant, in flower; one geranium; one petunia; six verbenas, varieties and twelve pods peas.  He received second prize for: six sweet williams; one calceolaria and three calceolarias.  He did quite well at the show.  Mrs Potts got second in the table bouquet and hand bouquet sections.  In the evening James Potts helped with entertainment so must have been fairly musical.

"An entertainment was held in the evening, when glees were sung by St Matthew's Choir, readings by Messrs Anson and Stedman, and vocal and instrumental; pieces by Mesdames Anson, Anderton, and Taylor, Messrs Potts and Turner. At its conclusion, dancing commenced, and was kept up with great spirit for some hours,when everyone went home, having spent a very happy day."

James was also treasurer for the 1878 Courtenay Horticultural Show in the Press 16-09-1878.  James again won quite a few prizes for flowers and vegetables.  He offered a 10 shilling prize for an arrangement of flowers. 

James Potts was chairman of the Halkett School Committee at the time of his death on 25-10-1879 at his home in Courtenay, aged a young 44.

Star 6 Nov 1879 James Potts Death

 The Star 6 November 1879

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