Essentially the family story started with Eva(born Eve), Samuel's de facto wife, emigrating to New Zealand from Wales in 1875. She married Edmund Phillips in Wales, sailed to New Zealand with him in 1875 and had three children to him before she met Samuel Clifton.
Samuel Clifton's arrival in New Zealand is shrouded in mystery. There is no official record of his arrival and it can only be assumed that he may have come as a crew member on one of the early steamships sometime prior to 1882 - or paid his own fare to NZ.
One of the main problems in researching the family has been establishing Samuel's bona fides because he has left no written records which link him to his parents. Because of the lack of evidence, a number of assumptions have had to be made to connect Samuel the head of the Clifton family in New Zealand and a child born in Bethnal Green, London in 1851. These assumptions are thought to be reasonable . They have in general been supported by family legends which were in circulation long before any attempt was made to record a Clifton history. It would be nice to think that hard evidence will one day be uncovered to support the assumptions. The search will continue.
As will be realised the story of a family never ends and even details of past members can never be fully closed off because new sources of information are being made available to researchers each year and there is always the possibility of a snippet making mention of something about a person that was not previously known. The story can only contain that evidence that is available at the time the work is written. However for practical reasons the story has to be closed off at some point. The story part of this work deals only with the first three generations but the charts give the basic details of all of the descendants known to the writer at the time of publication. Perhaps it will be updated at some future date with the stories of the later generations.
This work is being produced only for the family and not for general publication. In many instances the dates of birth, marriage and death have been verified by sighting the official entries, some have been passed on by close members of the family, some have been found only in indexes at The General Register Office (GRO)records (English and Welsh Births, Deaths and Marriages) and NZ Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and some have been approximated from ages given in other certificates.
The story part of this work is meant as a photo album and repository of the family tales about the older people that up till now have just been passed by word of mouth from one generation to another. It records some of the stories about the first three generations of the family in New Zealand and shows at least what some of them looked like. It is hoped that it will ensure that none of these photos and tales are lost so that future members of the family may enjoy them.
It must be realised that only two of the third generation are still alive and the chance of these tales being lost and photos being destroyed is increasing.
Eve was born in 1853 to David and Rachel Morgan(nee Williams) in the small Welsh village of Llangattock(Llangattwg) which is close to the town of Crickhowell and the mountain range of the Brecon Beacons in Central Wales. Eve's birth was not officially shown in Welsh civil records but the Parish records show that she was christened as EVE Morgan on 19 June 1853. In almost every record after this she is shown as EVA, except on her Death certificate. She had an older brother, Thomas, who was born on 14 August 1849 and christened in Llangattock on 9 September 1849.
The 1851 Census for Llangattock shows:
David Morgan, head of household, age 42, married, Woolcorder and Spinner, born in Brecon.>br> Rachel Morgan, wife, age 30, born in Pontypool, Monmouthshire.
Thomas Morgan, son, age 1, born in Llangattock.
David and Rachel Morgan were married on 12 August 1844 in the
Trevethin Parish church, close to Pontypool.
The family apparently moved during the period 1853 to 1861 as there is no trace of them in the Llangattock area in the 1861 Census records. Eve is next seen in the 1871 Census records where she is living as a servant in the household of Thomas Griffiths in Llanfodwyg, near Llangeinor. Two years later on 31 August 1873 she married Edmund Phillips at the Parish church of Llangeinor which is a small village just North of Bridgend in Glamorganshire. One of the witnesses to the wedding ceremony was Alfred Bowden, shown in the 1871 Census as the head of household where an Edwin Phillips was a lodger. It is not certain who Edwin Phillips was but it is thought that he might be either a brother of Edmund's or a cousin (Edmund's eldest child was named Edwin).
Edmund Phillips was born on 18 July 1848 to William and Amy Phillips (nee Williams) in the small Welsh village of Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, close to Pontypool. It is not known if the couple knew each other before they met in Llangeinor but their birth places were only 14 or 15 miles apart, their mothers shared the same maiden surname(Williams) and Eve's parents were married in Trevethin Parish church which is about a mile away from Mamhilad.
Two years after their marriage, on 1 September 1875, the
married couple emigrated to New Zealand under the Sir Julius
Vogel's public works programme. They sailed from London on the
sailing ship Avalanche
which landed in Wellington on the 1 December 1875. In the passenger list Edmund Phillips occupation was shown as Platelayer which would appear to indicate that he had worked on the Railways in Wales. This occupation probably qualified him for migration as the Vogel Government were recruiting workers to help build the roads and Railway systems in New Zealand.
There had been some concern in previous years about the conditions on board the migrant ships - more so for those going to America than to New Zealand and Australia as the following quote from "The Immigrants" by Tony Simpson shows:
"Successive British governments passed laws which attempted to establish at least minimum conditions of travel on immigrant ships. These included requirements as to victualling, the licensing of passenger agents, the carriage of sufficient water, the space available to each passenger, the carrying of surgeons and cooks and facilities for the preparation of food etc"
"The Avalanche was a smart looking iron-hulled
sailing ship of 1210 gross tons built for Walter Savill by
Alexander Hall of Aberdeen in 1874. Her fine lines and neatness
aloft bore the impeccable stamp of that famous clipper-ship
builder who had turned out some of the fastest and most beautiful
ships afloat" - a quote from "Sail To New Zealand" by David Savill.
Unfortunately she sank in a collision in the English Channel on 11 September 1877 when she was outward bound with immigrants. Almost all of the passengers and crew lost their lives.
As will be seen by the final paragraph of the following article that appeared in the "Evening Post",of December 4 1875, Wellington, people were aware of the concern about the conditions on board the immigrant ships:
"The fine ship Avalanche arrived last evening from London, making a good passage of 89 days. She experienced very light winds until after leaving the S.E. trades, when she encountered several heavy gales from N.W. and S.W., with high seas, and lost her starboard lifeboat. Made Cape Farewell Light on Thursday evening, and arrived at the Heads at 10am yesterday. Spoke the ship Cape Wealth, from Glasgow bound to Ceylon, on 21st October, and was in company with her for three weeks. Sighted a brig-rigged steamer standing to northward on 22nd October. Passed an iceberg in latitude 46 deg. 48 min.S and longitude 32 deg. 5min East. The Avalanche brings Government immigrants, numbering 180 adults.
The health has been excellent. Only two deaths occurred - both of infants. There were no births. The ship is remarkably clean, and the system of management during the voyage appears to have been most admirable, especially the arrangements in the event of fire."
In February 1877, 14 months after landing in New Zealand their first child, Edwin Phillips, was born, in Sydney Street, Wellington. This is a street which is close to the northern end of Wellington and would have been very handy for access to work on the developing Railways.
In January 1879, Edith Phillips was born in Mangaroa. This is a small settlement north of Upper Hutt and at this point in time there were camps for the labourers who were clearing the bush and working on the Railway line and the hill road, both of which were being constructed over the Rimutaka Ranges to the Wairarapa.
William Edmund Phillips was born in Upper Hutt on 19 October 1880.
Unfortunately there are no Phillips descendants as none of the Phillips children married and there were no children born to them. The last of the Phillips' children(Edith) died in 1965.
Sometime before 1882 Edmund Phillips disappeared from the
scene and in 1882 Eve set up house with Samuel Clifton in
Aramoho, Wanganui. So, it was thought that in the period between
the birth of William Edmund Phillips (October 1880) and the
conception of the first of the Clifton children, Arthur Clifton
(approx May 1882) - Edmund Phillips had died. The legend as
passed down by Edith Phillips (Auntie Edie) states that her
father was quote - murdered in the bush. She also maintained
that she met someone later who told her that he knew who had
committed the crime - but as this was much later no action was
taken to report it to the police.
At first it was thought that there was some validity to the legend but there was always the problem that neither a Coroner's Inquest report nor a Death record could be found.
After some perseverance the apparent truth was revealed when
the Police Gazettes for the period were made available and
examined(in NZ National Archives).
An entry in the Police Gazettes for Wellington (Page 65), Wednesday April 21, 1880 would appear to indicate that Edmund Phillips deserted his wife Eve. And there is no record to show that he ever returned.
The entry shows:
EDMUND PHILLIPS is charged, on warrant issued by the Wellington Bench, with deserting his wife at Mungaroa, Upper Hutt, since 5th Instant.(5th April 1880).
Description; English, a labourer, thirty years of age , 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, medium build, sallow complexion, thin features, brown hair, and small fair moustache, third finger of left hand off; wore dark coat, light plaid trousers and vest, and dark twilled billycock hat. It is supposed that he has gone to Picton.
It would seem that the action of reporting his desertion was
taken by Eve. This appears to have been a common practice in this
period and presumably it was done to try to enforce the return of
the husband back to the family with his ability to earn wages and
keep the family from starvation. One wonders how Eve and other
deserted wives survived in the harsh days where there were no
benefits from a welfare state.
A curious fact is that six months after Edmund deserted her, Eve gave birth to his second son, whom she named William Edmund Phillips (after Edmund and his father, William).
Edmund's whereabouts after this are not known - no research
has been carried out mainly because it is suspected that he would
have changed his name. As for why he did it - it can only be
conjectured that he wished to escape from the life of marital
He did it when Eve was three months pregnant with their third child. It is possible that he left the country, re-emigrating to Australia where Victoria was having an economic boom, whereas New Zealand was putting off many of the recent immigrants brought in to build the Railways and road systems. It would seem that the "murdered in the bush" legend was created by Eve to explain the absence of their father to her children and to keep up a semblance of propriety among friends and neighbours. There is no evidence to show that Edmund ever returned and the fact that Eve never married Samuel Clifton suggests that she had no evidence that he was dead. There appears to be no record showing that the charge in the Police Gazette was ever executed.
It is interesting to think that there is probably a bewildered Great Grandchild of Edmund Phillips(in disguise) who wonders from where he suddenly materialised.
Samuel Clifton is a bit of a mystery because there appears to be no record of his immigration to New Zealand and there is no recorded link between him and his parents.
What he looked like is known because there is this photograph of Eve and Samuel in a typical Victorian husband and wife pose which was taken in a studio in Ingestre Street(which later merged with Vivian Street) in Wellington and it is thought that this may have represented their marriage ceremony in 1882(approx).
From an official point of view Samuel first appears on the New Zealand scene in 1883, as the father, on the birth record of Arthur Clifton, (the first of the CLIFTON children) - who was born on 22 February 1883 in Aramoho, Wanganui. On Arthur's record Samuel is shown as a Stoker(of train engines), born in London, aged 33. This would make his birth around 1850/51. The London Birth records have been searched for a period of 6 years around this date and only two Samuel Clifton's were shown. One has been eliminated as still being in England in 1883 and the other is assumed (for this family history) to be the correct one.
At a later date when two red-headed children were born to one of Samuel's children(Albert) there was a contretemps over their parentage - between Eve and her daughter-in-law - until Edwin Phillips, who worked on a Coastal steamer mentioned that he had met up with a red-headed Clifton family on the West Coast, who were related to Samuel. Upon investigation this legend was confirmed in that Benjamin Clifton (sandy haired), living in Westport was found to be the younger brother of the child Samuel, born in London. From following Benjamin's migration record and his marriage and death records the London family's details were easily revealed. Unlike Samuel, Benjamin's migration, marriage and Death are fully recorded and they clearly show the link between him and his parents.
There is one other piece of information that seems to add weight to the "evidence". This is the fact that Benjamin's emigration record shows that he was sponsored by someone to come to New Zealand . Unfortunately the records of the sponsorships for that period are not held by NZ National Archives and it is assumed that at some stage they have been destroyed. It is conjectured that Samuel arrived in NZ at an earlier date and then became sponsor to his younger brother, Benjamin. There appears to be no-one else in New Zealand that is remotely linked with Benjamin or his family. Benjamin arrived in New Zealand on the ship "Gainsborough" in 1878 and was in Wellington when he married in December 1883. By this date Samuel was settled in with Eve who was pregnant with her fifth child, Albert, and on the move from Wanganui to Palmerston North. He does not appear as a witness to the marriage.
Samuel Clifton was born on 5 September 1851 in Bethnal Green, London to John and Mary Clifton. In the 1851 Census (as at March 1851), just before Samuel was born, the family is seen as follows:
Their address was 15 Hague Street, Bethnal Green.
John Clifton, Head of Household, age 25, foreman of a braid factory, born in Whitechapel.
Mary Clifton, wife, age 23, Frimmaker, born in Bethnal Green.
Lavinia Clifton, age 3, born in Bethnal Green.
John Clifton, age 1, born in Bethnal Green.
Five other children are recorded as being born later:
Samuel - 1851
Benjamin - 1857
Mary - 1859
Lucy - 1865
Elizabeth - 1870.
The Cliftons were obviously a very poor family and this is witnessed by the fact that the eldest son , John, in the 1861 Census was shown living in the Bethnal Green Workhouse. The circumstances surrounding this are not known but it is presumed that there was insufficient income to support the whole family.
From their Birth Certificates it can be seen that in 1871 the family had moved to Shoreditch (85 Worship Street) but the 1871 Census records are scanty and details of the family cannot be traced.
It should be realised that Bethnal Green and Shoreditch were two of the poorest London suburbs and as this quote from "The Immigrants" about the state of Britain in the nineteenth century shows there were very serious housing problems in many cities:
"Most cities contained large areas of ramshackle, unhealthy and overcrowded slum housing, a legacy more often than not of 50 years' too-rapid expansion of towns to accommodate industries, and their masses of workers. The sanitary officer for the London parish of Shoreditch, for example, drew attention in 1868 to the severe overcrowding in his area, which he attributed to the widespread demolition of dwellings to build factories, workshops, railways and other constructions. 'Numbers of the working classes' he reported, 'are by these means driven from their houses to seek shelter elsewhere, whose occupations compel them to live near their daily employment. They are therefore obliged to get into almost any place, often places totally unfit for many to reside in, frequently they are underground dwellings, contrary to the public health act'. This situation worsened significantly by the eighties. Housing densities of nine persons to a small dwelling were not uncommon, and in the worst areas of some cities might rise as high as 13.
The 1881 Census shows the family back in Bethnal Green(they had moved to Shoreditch for a period in the 1870s):
John Clifton, head of household, age 55, no occupation, born
Mary Clifton, wife, age 52, Girdles Handler, born in Spitalfields.
Savina Clifton(Lavinia), daughter, age 33, Girdles Handler, born in Spitalfields.
Lucy Clifton, daughter, age 16, scholar, born in Bethnal Green.
Elizabeth Clifton, daughter, age 11, scholar, born in Shoreditch.
As will be seen by the change (from the 1851 Census)in birth places for the parents to Spitalfields and the spelling of Lavinia's name in this Census that not all records are completely reliable - but a check of Elizabeth's birth certificate confirms that it is the correct family.
It is thought that Samuel and Eve met in the Wellington area. Samuel's brother, Benjamin, was living in Wellington at the time and it is possible that Samuel was visiting him. However, the earliest record of their relationship is the birth entry of Arthur, the oldest Clifton child.
The Clifton children were born between 1883 and 1889. Arthur, the oldest, was born in Aramoho, Wanganui on 22 February 1883, followed by Albert in Lombard Street in Palmerston North on 20 June 1884, Lillie in Taonui Street, Palmerston North on 10 August 1885 and Ernest in Wanganui on 28 June 1889.
On all four birth records Eve is shown as Eva Phillips , the mother, with Samuel Clifton as the father. During this period Samuel was employed by the Railways Department
It is not known exactly when they moved to Napier except that it was between Ernest's birth in 1889 and 1893 when Eve and Samuel appear on the first universal suffrage Electoral Roll in Napier. It is thought that when the Manawatu Gorge Railway link to Napier was opened in 1891 that it would have made things easier to move.
In the 1890s New Zealand women canvassed for the right to vote and this was decreed with the first universal suffrage election taking place in 1893. To obtain this right two huge petitions were drawn up and circulated around the country for completion. These were signed in 1892 and 1893. These petitions are now held in NZ Archives - it can be seen that Eva Clifton of Carlyle St, Napier signed the 1893 one. Eve and Samuel appear on the 1893 Electoral Roll. These are the first known official records of Eve using the surname of Clifton. There is no record of a marriage taking place in any of the years between when the last Clifton child(Ernest) was born and 1894 (when Samuel died).
In the 19th Century it was customary to name children after their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles etc and this can be seen in the naming by Eve of William Edmund Phillips(after her husband Edmund and Edmund's father - William) and the naming of Benjamin Clifton's daughters - Mary Lavinia and Lucy Elizabeth( after Benjamin's mother and his sisters). But Eve and Samuel Clifton's children were not named after any of Samuel's or Eve's family. At a later date (presumably after Ernest was born) she added a second christian name of Morgan (her own maiden name) to all four of the Clifton children. In all of their Marriage Certs etc they are shown as Arthur Morgan Clifton, Albert Morgan Clifton, Lillie Morgan Clifton and Ernest Morgan Clifton.
On 30 September 1894 Samuel Clifton died from a stroke. At the time he was in Mount View Lunatic Asylum, in Wellington, where he had been since 2 August 1894. His admission and death are recorded in a Coroner's Inquest report, held in NZ National Archives (Ref No 94\629)
In part, this report shows:
"The deceased was received into the Asylum on 2nd August 1894 on the order of Mr Turnbull RM Napier on the Medical Certificates of Drs Reed and Marsh. He was very feeble and unable to stand properly and was put to bed from the first he could speak very little and his mind was as weak as his body he continued in this state for some time and on 19 September he had an attack of apoplexy he was diligently nursed and had special diet and medicated injections. He did not rally but died on 30th at 20 minutes past 9 at night, his wife was informed from time to time of his condition and saw him yesterday before his death. The head attendant informed her of the Inquest but she declined to attend. His age was 42. The cause of death was apoplexy"
It is thought that his certification was brought about by an initial stroke which left him very weak and unable to speak properly. Samuel Clifton was buried in Karori Cemetery, Wellington in a plot which was not purchased and had no headstone. Because of this the plot was re-used some years later.
At this time in New Zealand the Lunatic Asylums were used to house not only the insane but also those people who were unmanageable. Samuel Clifton, after suffering a stroke would have been one of these.
The reasons why there is no documentary evidence of the link
between Samuel and his parents are:
a) He did not marry Eve - marriage certificates show the parents of the bride and groom.
b) When Samuel died in Mount View, Eve returned to Napier and declined to attend the inquest and the undertakers would have had no person from whom to obtain information about his parents. Because of this his Death Certificate is virtually blank of personal information. It is also possible that Eve did not know the details of his family as she appeared, later, to have no knowledge of Benjamin's link to Samuel.
As a letter from one of Benjamin Clifton's descendants shows - the link between the two families was known as early as the 1930s. A visit is recorded in a book to the Benjamin Clifton home in Happy Valley, Wellington of an Miss E.Clifton from Carlyle Street, Napier. This would have been Edith Phillips who had adopted the name of Clifton.
After the death of Samuel there are very few records showing what happened in Eve's life. But we can see from the Electoral Rolls the movements of the family. Eve lived at Wellesley Road, Napier with her family of three Phillips and four Clifton children from 1894 until Edith Phillips moved out to Station Street in 1905. At the same time the family moved to 86 Carlyle Street, Napier. In the same year Arthur, the eldest of the Clifton children married Daisy Elizabeth Kirk - but for a short time they stayed at home at Carlyle Street.
In May 1907 Lillie Clifton married Robert William Martin and moved out to Charles Street, Westshore and shortly afterwards(September 1907) William Edmund Phillips (Wheeler) was certified and sent to Wellington Lunatic Hospital.
In 1908 Albert Clifton married Winifred Eveline Stitson and moved out of the family home to live at his wife's parent's house at Westshore. By 1911 Arthur and Daisy had moved to Westshore and Edith had moved back in. There were now just Eve, Edwin, Edith and Ernest left at the Carlyle Street house.
Eve, for some time, acted as a Midwife and was entrusted to escort patients when they were transported from Napier to other hospitals.
Eve died on 20 September 1926 at home, 86 Carlyle St, Napier. She was aged 73 and died of a heart attack. She was buried in Park Island Cemetery.
Eve's life had been a hard one. She came from a poor background of the Welsh mountains and countryside where her father was a Spinner in a time when the automation of this type of work was putting large numbers of people out of work, was put out to "service", married a labourer and ventured into emigration to the other side of the world in the hope of a better life. After arriving and obviously thinking that she would be able to settle down she started a family but just three years afterwards her husband deserted her, leaving her three months pregnant and with two children, aged 3 and 2 in a workers camp in Mangaroa. Fortunately Samuel Clifton was brave and kind enough to set up home with her - with three existing children and both of them facing what would be a constant criticism and slur on their marital status for years to come. After this she suffered the problems of several moves between Wanganui and Palmerston North, presumably either to escape the slurs or to find work, rearing seven children, until they finally settled at Napier. She must have thought that her problems were over , she could call herself Clifton and could settle down to a more or less normal life like many other married couples. However, shortly after arriving at Napier(no more than three years), her second husband, Samuel, had a stroke, was certified and taken off to a Lunatic Asylum, from where he died a few weeks later. At the time she was just age 41 and she still had children aged 5, 9,10, 11,14,15 and 17.
It seems that after this her life did settle down for a few years until her second eldest son,William Edmund, was also certified and was also taken away to a Lunatic Asylum in 1907. Towards the end of her life she experienced something that most people do not have to suffer - that is, she saw two of her children die before she did. Her youngest daughter, Lillie, died of cancer at the age of 38 in 1925, followed by her eldest son, Edwin, who died in an accident in 1926, just two months before she died.
These are the bare bones of Eve's experiences and it does not tell us of the poor working and living conditions and the work that she would have had to do to keep her and her children fed and housed when there was no income from a husband. Yet her story is probably no worse than what many of the women and children went through in those earlier days. The stories of the pioneering women of the very early days have been recorded in books but the people like Eve who were of the "lower classes" and lived "normal" lives are not considered heroic and their story will only ever be recorded in family legends and small works like this one.