Topic: Adela Blanche Stewart (nee Anderson) (1846-1910)

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Adela Stewart was an outstanding pioneer who played a major part in the social life of the Katikati settlement. Story by Debbie McCauley.

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Adela Blanche Anderson was born on 1 January 1846 at Clifton, Bristol, England. Her parents were James  and Eliza Catherine Anderson (nee Dick) who married at St James in Picadilly, London on 10 October 1843. Major James Anderson of the East Essex Regiment of Militia died in Clifton, Gloucestershire, England, on 10 March 1850, when Adela was four years old. Her mother remarried in 1851 to Surgeon Charles Henry Scott.

Adela married Hugh Stewart on 28 April 1870, at Frenchay, Gloucestershire. Adela and Hugh had one child:

  1. Mervyn James Stewart (1871-1961). Born in Woolwich, Kent in 1871 he arrived in New Zealand with his parents on board the Lady Jocelyn on 17 August 1878. He returned to England with them when they left in 1906. He married Margaret Emma Steuart at St Mary's New Plymouth on 28 March 1910 and became a vicar. Mervyn died in Windsor, Berkshire, England, in 1961.

Hugh's brother was George Vesey Stewart, founder of Katikati. Adela and Hugh decided to join his scheme and arrived with their son Mervyn in Auckland, New Zealand, aboard the Lady Jocelyn in 1878.

They named their 300 acres at Katikati 'Athenree' after their home village in Ireland (Athenrey) and set about pioneering life. This included keeping poultry and making butter and tomato sauce, as well as selling her honey, flowers and fruit. She also did all the baking and made clothing for the family. Initially staying in a shed they called 'Tinpot Castle' they built their homestead in stages.

Mervyn Stewart, Adela Stewart and Captain Hugh Stewart, 1899

Mervyn Stewart, Adela Stewart and Captain Hugh Stewart (1899).

Adela kept a diary throughout her pioneering years, which was later published as the entertaining book; My Simple Life in New Zealand.

In many ways, Adela was the social heart of the new community. She worked incredibly hard and seems to have been the epicentre around which the social life of Katikati thrived. She organised such fundraisers as this one reported in the Bay of Plenty Times on 17 December 1902:

SALE OF WORK AT ATHENREE. Wednesday last was quite a gala day for Katikati, the residents of the settlement having turned out en masse to attend a sale of work held at Athenree for the purpose of providing funds to supply an organ for No 1 School, which is further utilised by Rev. Mr Katterns for holding divine service on Sunday afternoons. Commencing with the weather I may describe the day as simply perfect; the tastefully laid out and well-kept grounds looked at their best, smiling flowers and sweet scented shrubs perfuming the atmosphere, while the view of the South Pacific Ocean, the precipitous Katikati Heads clad to their summit with vegetation, and contiguous to the House, the broad expanse of the northern extremity of our noble Tauranga Harbour, presented a most pleasing contrast of Nature unadorned, with the refinements of civilisation, cultivation and good taste as displayed at the hospitable mansion and property known as Athenree, the residence of Capt. and Mrs Hugh Stewart, where 25 years ago was a roadless wilderness of fern and tea tree. The sale was opened at 12 o'clock by Mademoiselles Moore, Chapman, Smale, Mary and Florie Gledstanes, Mollie Buckworth, Dollie Stewart and Mrs Katterns, under the inspiring and lively strains from the Katikati Brass Band, and business at the various stalls, arranged with great taste and good effect in the drawing room and parlour, — was exceedingly brisk till the dusk of the evening. Mrs Hugh Stewart was the prime mover and organiser and contributions of all sorts came from friends far and near, many even from the distant United Kingdom, and to all of these Mrs Stewart expresses herself as deeply grateful for the assistance thus given to her project. The sale itself realised a sum of £33 9 and to this most be added a further £8 collected by Mr Henry Tanner, of Katikati, making a total of £41-9. There are yet, it appears, a number of other parcels of useful and pretty articles intended for the sale, which are on their way out from Home, so a second sale will doubtless be held shortly to clear these off. Besides residents in the neighbourhood, visitors were present in considerable numbers from Waihi, Tauranga and elsewhere and all thoroughly enjoyed their outing and many, when leaving, took with them, besides their purchases, lovely bouquets of flowers, while all carried back with them the pleasantest impressions of Athenree and the kindness of their host and hostess. (Bay of Plenty Times, 17 December 1902, p. 2)

The sale realised a sum of £33 pounds and 9 shillings making a total of  £41 pound and 9 shillings for the organ for Katikati No 1 School.

Captain Hugh Stewart and Adela Stewart, 1900

Captain Hugh Stewart and Adela Stewart (1900).

In 1904 a photograph of the coach in front of the Athenree Post Office was taken. Adela Stewart writes; 'One day we had a visit from Mr. Reid, on the staff of the New Zealand Herald, his wife, and a photographer, who took views of the house, garden, and of the mail-coach, with its skilful driver and fine team of five greys. For the picture the driver begged me to sit on the box-seat beside him. When he saw the result he complacently said, "Me and Mrs. Stewart look fine!"' (p. 153).

Coach in front of Athenree Post Office (1904)

Coach in front of Athenree Post Office (1904) 

In 1906, the Stewart's sold Athenree and returned to England aboard the SS Turakina. This article appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on 2 July 1906 (p. 2):

A representative gathering of citizens took place at Waihi on Wednesday night, to bid farewell to Captain Stewart, R.A., Mrs Stewart, and Mr Mervyn James Stewart, who are leaving for the Old Country. The gathering included the Mayor, Mr H. P. Barry, Mrs Harry, Messrs H. L. Simmons, D. Donaldson, J. W. Gray, and M. D. King. (Addresses were presented to Captain and Mrs Stewart, also to Mr Mervyn Stewart, and in addition the Mayor, on behalf of the citizens of Waihi, presented Captain Stewart with a pair of opera and marine glasses, and a Kaipoi rug, Mrs Stewart with a writing desk for tourists, and Mr Mervyn Stewart with a gold chain with quartz-mounted pendant attached, the pendant being made of Waihi quartz. The gifts and good wishes expressed were suitably acknowledged. 

Two years later, in 1908, Adela's book My Simple Life in New Zealand was published.

Hugh Stewart died on 14 April 1909.

In 1910 Adela returned to New Zealand for a visit and to publicise her book.

Six weeks after her arrival back in New Zealand she died at Twickenham on 12 February 1910, the night of her arrival in Katikati.

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Adela Blanche Stewart (nee Anderson) (1846-1910)


Year:1878
First Names:Adela Blanche
Last Name:Anderson
Date of Birth:1 January 1846
Place of Birth:Clifton, Bristol
Country of birth: England
Date of death:12 February 1910
Place of death:Twickenham, Katikati
Place of burial:Katikati Cemetery
Family Surname:Stewart
Date of Arrival:August 1878
Name of the ship:Lady Jocelyn
Residential address:Athenree Homestead
Spouses name:Hugh Stewart
Spouses date of birth:5 September 1841
Spouses place of birth:Germany
Spouses date of death:14 April 1909
Spouses place of death:No. 7 Stratton Terrace, Budock, Falmouth, Cornwall, England
Spouses place of burial:Swanpool, Falmouth, England
Date of marriage:28 April 1870
Place of marriage:Frenchay, Gloucestershire,
Fathers name:James Anderson
Fathers date of birth:c1783
Fathers place of birth:Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Fathers date of death:10 March 1850
Fathers place of death:Caldedonia Place, Clifton, Gloucestershire, England
Mothers name:Eliza Catherine Dick
Mothers date of death:1868
Mothers place of death:Clifton
Name of the children: Mervyn James Stewart
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Adela Blanche Stewart (nee Anderson) (1846-1910) by Debbie McCauley (Tauranga City Libraries) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License