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The Runaway Settlers

Whilst not actually bearing the Kingshott surname, there was a family who are very likely to be descended from a branch of the Bramshott Kingshott family, that were made famous in a book called The Runaway Settlers, by Elsie Locke, which was first published in 1965.

On 1st January 1821 one of the Bramshott Kingshott family members, called (surprise, surprise) John Kingshott, married a lady called Mary Small. They were married in the parish church at Bramshott, Hampshire, England. John was my 1st cousin five times removed.


The John Kingshott/Mary Small marriage was often touted as the marriage of another John Kingshott who was transported to Tasmania in 1831. Whilst it was accepted for many years that this was correct, subsequent work that I conducted showed this not to be the case. The John Kingshott who married Mary Small was not the convict, but his 3rd cousin from a couple of miles down the road. You can read about convict John Kingshott here.


Anyway, this John Kingshott was somewhat older than Mary Small. Mary was a bit of a "loose woman" by the standards of the day and had an illegitimate son, baptised John Small, on 21st April 1816. She then went on to have another illegitimate son, baptised Stephen Small, on 28th February 1819. On both occasions she was described on the baptism register, somewhat harshly, as a whore. This owes more to the intemperate disposition of the incumbent vicar than to her choice of career, as all unmarried mothers were described in the registers in this way by that particular vicar.


It is debatable whether or not John Kingshott was actually the father of one or both of these children. Against the supposition is the fact that both children retained the surname Small, though certainly John, the eldest, used it interchangeably with Kingshott. I need to try to see if there are any Bastardy orders in existence that would confirm or disprove this.

What is not in dispute is that John Kingshott raised these children as his own. They are therefore, as far as I am concerned, part of the family. Anyway, this story starts with Stephen Small.


Stephen Small

Stephen appears to have been an adventurous sort of chap. He left the Bramshott area and moved up to the London area. I've not been able to find him in the 1841 census, but he is certainly present as later that year, on 17th October, he married Mary Elizabeth Philpott in Kensington. The marriage certificate is reproduced below. Click on the image to see the details.

Mary Philpott was born circa 1814 in Hawkhurst, Kent. Prior to the marriage, she had an illegitimate daughter, called Mary Ann Philpott who was baptised on 14th April 1833 in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Stephen was not Mary Ann's father. Her father was a Thomas Jarvis.


Mary, and Mary Ann, ended up in London and after her marriage to Stephen Small remained in the West London area, settling in Fulham. I have found two children that were born in Fulham, William and John. William was baptised on 26th May 1844 and John was baptised on 23rd May 1847.


Stephen clearly wanted to travel and the young family set sail, as free passengers, on the ship "Midlothian", arriving in Australia on 13th April 1849. They settled in Berrima, New South Wales. Three other children came along, Archibald, who was born in 1850, James, who was born in 1852 and Emma Caroline who was born in 1855.


Reading between the lines, and if the book "The Runaway Settlers" is anything to go by, Stephen Small was an aggressive drunk and, in 1859, Mary took the children and ran away. Stephen was clearly unhappy with this and took out a series of advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald. One of these is here. This was in the edition published on Wednesday 15th June 1859.

Stephen also took out a report in the Police Gazette. This is the entry in the New South Wales Reports of Crime, Volume 47, Monday 13th June 1859.

Mary took the children and found a ship that would take her on the nine-day voyage to New Zealand, where she arrived in the Lyttleton / Governors Bay area. Things were fairly desperate for her, but she did very well there. The following is her entry in the New Zealand dictionary of National Biography. It reads:-


Mary Elizabeth Philpott, the daughter of a gardener, was born in Hawkhurst, Kent, England, probably in 1812 or 1813. She married Stephen Small on 17 October 1841 in London, and about 1849, with her husband and three children, William, Mary Ann and John, emigrated to New South Wales, Australia.


Three more children, Archibald, James and Emma, were born in the Berrima district. Stephen Small treated his family badly. While he was away droving, Mary Elizabeth Small took her children to Sydney and obtained a passage to New Zealand on the Armenian, chartered by John Cracroft Wilson. The elder daughter, Mary Ann, was left to follow later. The family arrived in Lyttelton on 7 April 1859.


To avoid detection by her husband Mary Elizabeth Small assumed the name of Phipps. Work was offered on Wilson's Cashmere run, but conditions were unsatisfactory and the family trekked across the Port Hills to an abandoned cob cottage at Governors Bay. At first they had to live off the land; but by good fortune the soil was perfectly suited to horticulture, and vegetables carried to Lyttelton by the boys found a ready market. Berry bushes and fruit trees were planted next.


While neighbouring settlers were attempting to grow wheat and barley, Mary Elizabeth Small began grazing cattle on the nearby tussock slopes. During the Westland goldrushes some of these cattle were stolen, whereupon she decided to profit from the lucrative goldfields market. In 1864, with her 15-year-old son, Archie, she successfully drove a herd over the Harper Pass.


In 1867, when the eldest son, William, was due to be married, the family resumed the name of Small, although the orchard and garden continued to be associated with the name Phipps. Communications with Lyttelton improved markedly after 1875 when the bridle track was replaced by a road suitable for coaches. Later, steam launches began running regular trips and holiday excursions. The growing popularity of Governors Bay as a holiday resort made it possible to sell produce direct from the orchard and garden which were handy to both road and jetty.


By 1870 Mary Elizabeth Small was able to buy her cob cottage, and in 1876 nearly an acre of the land was bought in the name of Archibald Small. This was subdivided; James Small built himself a substantial cottage of cob on one side of the short road leading to the beach, and some time later a good house of totara and matai was built for his mother on the other side. The latter property was in the name of Mary Elizabeth Small's daughter, Mary Ann Small, perhaps to ensure that Stephen Small could not claim it; however, he did not come to New Zealand.


Mary Elizabeth Small lived to the age of 95; she died at Governors Bay on 23 May 1908 and was buried in the churchyard of St Cuthbert's. She was remembered by her grandchildren as a small woman with curly auburn hair, fond of trinkets and lace. She was much given to singing old ballads as she went about the house, and had a sympathetic nature and a wealth of common-sense expressions. In times when a lone woman with dependent children had to find her own way in the world, she stood out for her courage, determination and clear-sighted enterprise.


I don't have a great deal of information on her descendants, but I do know that most of her children went on to marry as some of her grandchildren were credited with assisting Elsie Locke with the research for her book.


If you are related to this family, I would be really interested to hear from you

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