MEREDITH, Tring Station, Aldbury, mid-19th century

September, 2010




[while this page was created in 2010 the links to allow it to be accessed were accidentally not added and this fault was corrected in October 2012]

Michael Meredith is one of the railway workers living at Tring Station, Aldbury, in 1851. Carlene Holland (carlene.holland @t of Auckland, New Zealand, wants to know more about his connections with Hertfordshire and writes: Michael Meredith was born at Stoke Prior, Hereford, [Baptised 1803] and married Eliza Preece [in London in 1831] They were resident at Aldbury, Hertfordshire, in 1851 but they later emigrated to New Zealand. Michael and one of his sons were murdered in New Zealand in 1863 [Daily Southern Cross] which was one of the tipping points for the Maori Wars [Wiki: Maori Wars, Invasion of Waikato]. Michael's eldest son, Dr Henry Price Meredith [who was in New Zealand by 1860] is recorded as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

As the Meredith family were in living at Tring Railway Station, Aldbury, at the time of the 1851 census, and they had a 10 year old daughter, Eliza, who was born at Aldbury, it is likely that they were in Aldbury at the time of the 1841 census - and if you look you will find them there - but recorded under the spelling variant Merrith. Combining the census results with some other data we get:

  1841 Census

1851 Census



  Age Occupation Age Occupation Born    
Michael 35


47 Rail Ticket Inspector Stoke Prior, Herefordshire      
Eliza 25   39   Stoke Prior, Herefordshire      
Thomasine 8           Baptised in London (Ancestry) - see note below.  
William 3   13 Junior Rail Clerk Bayswater      
Eliza 4 months   10   Aldbury      
Louisa             Birth &death registered 1843. Infant burial at Aldbury, 1843  
Mary     6   Aldbury      
Edward     4   Aldbury   Birth registered Edward Charles  
Frederick     2   Aldbury   Birth registered Frederick Richard  
Robert     1 month   Aldbury   Birth registered Rowland Joseph  
Harriett(?)             Birth of Harriett Louisa Rosamond Meredith registered in Berkhamsted in 1856  

Thomasine Meredith:  I couldn't spot her in a quick search of the 1851 census - but she may well have been working somewhere as a domestic servant and recorded inaccurately (or mis-indexed). Someone called Thomasine Meredith married Edward James Cooper in Marylebone registration area 1855 and in the 1861 census they were living at Hawes, Yorkshire, where Edward was the Parish priest. If this is the right Thomasine it looks like a major jump in social status - but occasionally a young man might marry a domestic servant. The marriage certificate will need to be examined to establish the name and occupation of Thomasine's father.

Harriett Meredith: She was born after the 1851 census - and the family had apparently gone to New Zealand before the 1861 census. To confirm her parents (assuming she did not turn up in New Zealand) you will need to buy her birth certificate.

Henry Price Meredith: If he was a son of Michael and Eliza Meredith one would have expected him to be at home with the family in Aldbury at the time of the 1841 census. It is very unlikely that the son of a railway porter living at Aldbury would be educated to become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. You provide no evidence as to why you think he is related and he is far more likely to be related to the many other people called Price Meredith listed in the records. I assume that he is the Henry Price  Meredith who married Louisa Rosamond de Montmorency in London in 1855 and his marriage certificate will give his occupation and the name and occupation of his father and prove the matter one way or another. After all it may be a coincidence that he arrived in New Zealand at about the same time as Michael and his family arrived.    BUT SEE LATER

Why the Family went to Aldbury: For some reason Michael and Eliza left Herefordshire and went to London and Thomasine's baptism record will record Michael's occupation at the time. Sometime around 1838 he moved to Aldbury to work first as a porter and then as a ticket inspector on the London to Birmingham Railway. As the railway only opened in 1837 it is likely that he was recruited in London to work on the railway at the time it opened, and was provided with housing at the station. I think the first staff houses built were those to the south east of the Royal Hotel (see map) rather that those along the road to Tring (see pictures)

Michael's Employment Records: I am not an expert on railway records - but for a number of lines staff books have survived - which means that you can check on salary, promotions, disciplinary matters, etc. I do not know what records may have survived for Michael or where they might be.

Why the family went to New Zealand: My first thought was that new railways were being opened all over the world, wanting experienced staff of all kinds, and that might have been the reason they went to New Zealand. However it seems that the family went in about 1859 and the first New Zealand railway didn't open until 1863 - so that seems unlikely. At the time they left there were a number of agents which were actively recruiting emigrants with promises of a brave new world and land for everyone. As George and his son were killed building a fence round their property this could well be the reason. New Zealand records are likely to be more informative than those in England.

March 2013

Richard Jobson (jobson1 @t of Piggabeen, Queensland,  Australia, writes:

I am a great great great grandson of Michel Meredith, who along with his son Frederick was murdered in 1863 in New Zealand. My great great grandmother was Thomasine their eldest daughter. I have read the data on your website and am in a position to clarify a few points:

Michael Meredith came from a landed farming family which had fallen on hard times.

Thomasine, married a Rev Cooper with whom she had 5 children. Around 1860 one of the children died of Scarlet Fever, then two years later Rev Cooper also died of the same disease. According to my family history (I am a great great grandson) after the family fell on hard times she was taken care of by an aunt or family friend and sent to finishing school in France. She was a skilled musician and later in Australia taught pianoforte. It was noted her earlier experience as a lady in England was hardly appropriate preparation for a pioneering life in South East Queensland. My late mother dimly recalled meeting her.

In about early 1863? Thomasine married Capt Walter Browne and they planned to emigrate to New Zealand to join the rest of her family. Upon hearing of the murder at Shepherd's Bush in 1863 they changed their plans and went instead to Australia where they settled in the pioneering area of Nerang, behind what is now the Gold Coast.

Thomasine had ten more children (incl 3 pair twins who died). My great great grandmother named Thomasina, was the first white child to be born in the district. The Brownes became farmers and played a significant role in the development of this district. There is a bridge over the M1 Pacific Highway at Nerang named the "Walter J Browne Bridge".

There are many hundreds of descendants in Australia. A lot more information is available on the web.

I am most interested to hear that Michael Meredith had fallen on bad times and Thomasine had been educated with the help of a family connection. It is useful to be reminded that in interpreting census returns things are often not as straightforward as they look, and while it is reasonable to assume that most teen-age girls who left Aldbury in the mid 19th century would have gone into service this would appear not to be the case with Thomasine.

It was not uncommon that, when one branch of the family had difficulties, others would help them out in one way or another. In particular a childless couple might informally "adopt" a child from a family who had a number of children. When my great great grandfather Francis Reynolds got into difficulties on his farm (too much money spent on the horses and possibly drink) the family broke up and my great grandfather Jacob Reynolds got a clerical job with his uncles. Undoubtedly helped by the fact he was "family" he worked his way up to being London manager of his uncle's company - before benefitting from some family wills and returning to the business of farming and taking up other business interests. A teenage girl might well go to become a companion to an older couple - which benefitted everyone - but there may have been some cases where the child was merely seen as cheap labour. Sometime an older girl would move into the household of a recently widowed male relative to help with young children - with predictable consequences! Two of my direct ancestors ended up marrying their late wife's sister, while two others married their late wife's first cousin.

April 2013

Dale Meredith (peterdale @t of Dunedin, New Zealand, writes:

I am a great great great grand daughter of Michael Meredith. My great great grandfather was Henry Price Meredith, the surgeon who married Louisa Rosamund De Montmorency. I can confirm that Henry Price Meredith was the son of Michael. This is confirmed through baptismal records in London, and in his death notice in the Wellington Independent, which records him as Michael Meredith's son. Various newspaper articles in New Zealand's newspaper archives, relating to the murder of Michael and Frederick confirm this.

It seems that Henry may have had some assistance to study in London. At the 1851 census, a 16-year old Henry is boarding in London with a 60 year old baronet, Sir William Ball.

Henry and Louisa migrated to New Zealand just ahead of his parents. He joined the 65th Regiment of the Auckland Battalion as a surgeon, but by January 1863 had moved to Wellington, where he established a surgery in Cuba Street. Various newspaper articles refer to medical cases he attended, as recorded at the Supreme Court - in both Auckland and Wellington. A newspaper advertisement in 1863 confirms that his credentials as a surgeon of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, are valid, as determined by New Zealand's Medical Council. Henry died of phthisis (tuberculosis) and was buried at the Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington, NZ. His gravestone is shared with Louisa Andrews [it appears Louisa repartnered, I can find no marriage record in NZ], James Andrews [Louisa's second 'husband'] and Henry and Louisa's son William Henry Price Meredith, who died in 1926 - he was a Wellington Harbour Board tug master]. This gravestone is photographed and accessible online.

My great great grandfather is Alexander Octavius Meredith, born in London in 1856. After his father died, it seems that he separated from the rest of his family, and moved to stay with his grandmother, Eliza Meredith, widow of Michael. While in Wanganui, he witnessed his cousin's death, Henry Bradley, son of Mary Bradley [nee Meredith - the 6 year old daughter in the 1851 census record at Albury]. Henry Bradley had fallen from a horse in Wanganui, and newspaper records detail the inquest, including recording evidence provided by by GG grandfather.

[Dale then gives further information to the present day, not directly related to the Hertfordshire story]

I am trying to locate exactly where Michael and Frederick were murdered at the moment, as on 14 July 2013 it will be 150 years since that tragic event. There are many newspaper articles on the murder in the following months and years, and how it was used to further justify the invasion of Waikato, in what became known as the Waikato War. However, this attack had already commenced on 11 July 1863. By the end of 1863, newspapers identify who his murderer is purported to have been.

Eliza's home was burgled in the days afterwards [as all the families were brought into more secure accomodation] and  was eventually successful in getting some compensation through NZ's House of Representatives.

It really seems like a big sad mess, and the repercussions have lasted for years. not only for our family, but also for the Maoris involved in the Waikato War. Not at all what you would expect to be the legacy of a rail ticket inspector!

Very interesting - and I note that in 1841 a 7 year old Henry "Merdith" was living with Sir William Ball at Number 40, Upper Seymour Street, Marylebone. Sir William was Sir William Keith Ball (1791-1874) the second (and last) Baronet of Blofield, his father being Sir Alexander John Ball (1757-1809), governor of Malta.

As many records have come online (on Ancestry or FindMyPast) since this page started I summarise the relevant entries - in all cases the original register entry can be seen online. I have also listed Michael's occupation (where recorded) which shows that he worked on the railway before he came to Aldbury. I also wonder if a child was born and died between 1838 and 1842 - and if so where.

Marriage 17 November 1831 St James, Piccadilly Michael Meredith & Eliza Preece  
Baptism 23 March 1833 St James, Piccadilly Thomasine  
Baptism 3 August 1838 St Mary, Paddington Green Henry Price A Clerk
Baptism 18 November 1838 St James, Padington William John Porter
Baptism 15 May 1842 Aldbury Eliza Porter at Railway Station
Baptism 9 December 1843 Aldbury Louisa Porter at Railway Station
Burial 15 December 1843 Aldbury Louisa [Infant]
Baptism 28 January1845 Aldbury Mary Porter at Railway Station
Baptism 14 February 1847 Aldbury Edward Charles Porter
Baptism 18th July 1849 Aldbury Frederick Richard Railway Porter
Baptism 27 April 1851 Aldbury Rowland Joseph Railway Ticket Collector


On the 17th [July, 1855], at St Mary's, Marylebone, the Rev. Edward James Cooper, B.S., curate of Garforth, Yorkshire, to Thomasine, eldest daughter of Michael Meredith, Esq., of Aldbury, Herts.

Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal, and General Advertiser, 21 July, 1855

The notice also appeared in many other papers

June 2013

Richard Jobson (rjob1954 @t of Piggabeen, New South Wales, Australia, writes:

Thank you for your website - through the blog I have contacted relatives in New Zealand who are also researching the Meredith family. Here is some information that would clear up some of the queries you have on the page about the Meredith family:

Extract from "The Two Families of Thomasine Browne (nee Meredith of Hertfordshire)

The Meredith family or part of it came out to New Zealand on the passenger ship Nourmahal (846 tons) under Captain Brayley which sailed from London on 20th August 1859 and arrived at Auckland on the 5th December 1859. The shipping list published in the New Zealander on 7th December 1859 lists Michael, Eliza, Eliza, Mary, Ed. Charles, Frederick Richard, Roland Joseph and Rosamond Meredith.

In Thomasine's letter to Frederick of 1916 she tells him that "Michael Meredith (her grandfather) was the Squire of the Parish of Stoke Prior, North Leominster, Herefordshire. He was Constable of the County of Hereford, higher than the Sheriff of the county. He was rich, had two estates (parks) belonging to him; one called The Heath and the other The Grange. He kept a pack of hounds and horses of his own and lived extravagantly and mortgaged both estates and died very poor. His son Michael, (her father) left home at the age of 16 and went to London to make his own living, he was badly treated by the steward of his father and one of his brothers, so he left. The steward I believe, was instrumental in helping to get the property mortgaged and I believe he got hold of some of the property himself. The property has been in Chancery since 1855".

The Court of Chancery existed to consider cases of equity, and was often used to consider disputes about estates. At some dates court cases could take many years, and be extremely expensive, but by 1855 the worst of the excesses were in the process of being removed, and the court was actually abolished in 1875.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

September 2010   Page created but due to error not posted
October 2012   Page made accessible
March 2013   Richard's Contribution
April 2013   Dale's Contribution