Family notes - Ernest Rushbrooke

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This page has biographical information about Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke (1859-1940), his wife Ellen Sarah Wright (1857-1934), her sister Alice Mary Wright (1861-1941) and their children.

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Much of the information on this page comes from The Rushbrooke Family, a manuscript by the late Michael A Rushbrooke, Lavenham, Suffolk, 2000. This manuscript contains information on the Rushbrooke Family from 1120 to 1997, including the descendants of Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke.

Abergavenny Farm, Scoulton

Abandoned farm buildings in 2005 at Abergavenny Farm, Scoulton, where Ernest Rushbrooke sent his early life.

Abergavenny Farmhouse is north of the Scoulton Church on Clip Bush Lane. The farm buildings above are behind the Farmhouse. The building (front left), now called Clipbush Barn, has been converted into a five bedroom house.


View descendants of Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke. Individuals born since 1930 are listed as "Living" for privacy.

Ernest Edwin RUSHBROOKE and family

Photo of Ernest RUSHBROOKE

Ernest Edwin RUSHBROOKE (1859-1940)

Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke, the second son of Alban Rushbrooke and Charlotte Norton, was born on 10 February 1859 in Scoulton, Norfolk, England. Ernest's mother died in childbirth before he was a year old. As a child Ernest suffered from poliomyelitis and walked with a limp. Edwin's father was a farmer and the April 1881 Census he reported farming 374 acres, employing 13 labourers and 2 boys. However, by August 1881 Alban was bankrupt, with his property being sold in October 1881. Many smaller farms in Norfolk were severely affected in the 1870s and after by a long depression of the agricultural economy.

Ernest was living with his father and step-mother in April 1881 when the Census was taken. He worked for his father on the farm. After his father went bankrupt Ernest and his older brother Alban moved to Great Ellingham, Norfolk and took on Bury Hall, a substantial property on the outskirts of the village. Ernest married Ellen Sarah Wright on 30 September 1884 in Great Ellingham. Ernest and Sarah had six children while living at Bury Hall, and appear to have lived comfortably. Sarah's sister Mary was employed as mother's help and a general domestic servant also lived with the family.

In 1897 Ernest, Sarah and their six children migrated to New Zealand on the steamship Gothic. Mary Alice Wright and James Wright, Sarah's sister and brother, traveled to New Zealand with the family. It is thought that Ernest's father Alban insisted that Ernest migrate because he disgraced himself by getting his sister-in-law pregnant. Ernest prohibited his family from making contact with relatives in England, and it was 100 years before contact was established again. On arrival in New Zealand at Wellington, the family immediately traveled on to Auckland on the steamship Te Anau.

Soon after their arrival in New Zealand Mary Alice Wright, Sarah's sister, gave birth to Ernest's daughter Mary Louisa Rushbrooke. Mary Louisa was brought up as part of Ernest and Sarah's family. Mary went to live with her brother James at Remuera. James worked for the Farmers Trading Company in Auckland and he supported Mary.

Despite his previous comfortable life, Ernest did not have much money and had to find employment on arrival in New Zealand to sustain the family. Ernest found employment as a share milker at Kihikihi. His first venture in New Zealand was a farm on the outskirts of Hamilton, now used as a golf links. This was followed by successive farms in the Waikato at Taupiri (1901-1905), Te Aroha, Kihikihi (1911) and Te Mawhai (1914). The farm at Te Mawhai near Te Awamutu was 130 acres. Ernest built a house from clay and straw. Ernest and Sarah sold the Te Mawhai farm to their sons in 1929.

The Evening Post on 8 March 1899 provided a report of Ernest's impressions of living in the Waikato based on a letter sent to friends in Norfolk.

Mr. E. E. Rushbrooke, of Beerescourt, Hamilton, after being a year in the Waikato, writes a most cheery letter to his friends at Norfolk, who have forwarded the communication to the local papers, and they think that Mr. Rushbrooke is "not sorry he left Norfolk for a colonial life." In his letter he says:- "I am very pleased with the colony. I only wish I had come before I lost so much of my capital. There is a very good chance for any young man in this part with a small capital if he will work and we can grow anything. If any of my old friends ask how I am getting on, tell them that I am glad I am away from 'pay and pay, and nothing for self.'"

In 1918 Ernest and Sarah retired and moved to Te Awamutu. After Sarah died in 1934, Ernest moved to Te Aroha where he resided until his death. Ernest died in Waikato Hospital, Hamilton on 27 April 1940. Both Ernest and Sarah are buried in Te Awamutu Cemetery.

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Photo of E WRIGHT

Ellen Sarah WRIGHT (1857-1934)

Ellen Sarah Wright, the daughter of George Samuel Wright and Mary Ann Barnard, was born in 1857 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk, England.  George was a farmer at Great Ellingham, farming 96 acres in 1871.  As mentioned above, Sarah married Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke in 1884,  had six children in England, moved to New Zealand in 1897, had her last child in 1901 and died in 1934.

The following obituary was published in the Auckland Star newspaper on 13 September 1934.


A respected resident of Te Awamutu, Mrs. Sarah Rushbrooke, of Rewi Street, has died, aged 76 years. Had Mrs. Rushbrooke lived till the end of this month she would have reached her golden wedding anniversary. Born in Norfolk, England, Mrs. Rushbrooke came to New Zealand with her husband and family 37 years ago. Since then she had lived at Hamilton, Taupiri, Te Aroha, Kihikihi, Te Mawhai and Te Awamutu. She is survived by her husband and the following children: Messrs. T. A. Rushbrooke (Te Mawhai) and John Rushbrooke (Te Aroha), and three daughters. Mrs. Roberts (Helensville), Miss Phyllis Rushbrooke (Te Awamutu), and Miss Lily Rushbrooke (Auckland). One son died on active service in the Great War. There are 23 grandchildren.

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Alice Mary WRIGHT (1861-1941)

Alice Mary Wright, the younger sister of Ellen Sarah Wright, was born in 1861 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk, England. At the 1881 Census she was working as a drapers assistant in Ipswich, Suffolk. At the 1891 Census she was living with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Ernest Rushbrooke at Great Ellingham, employed as their mother's help. Alice became pregnant to Ernest Rushbrooke and moved to New Zealand in 1897 with the Rushbrooke household and her brother James. After the birth of her daughter Mary Louisa Rushbrooke on arrival in New Zealand, Alice moved to Auckland and lived with her brother James. James Wright, on arriving in New Zealand, obtained work as a grocers salesman in Auckland. By 1928 he was a manager. Alice and James lived at various locations in Auckland. Alice died in 1941 aged 80.

Alice's daughter, Mary Louisa, was raised as a member of her sister's household and used the surname Rushbrooke.

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Children of Ernest and Sarah

Photo of Alban Rushbrooke

Alban George RUSHBROOKE (1884-1933)

Alban George Rushbrooke, the first child of Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke and Ellen Sarah Wright, was born on 14 August 1884 in Great Ellingham, Norfolk, England. His father was a farmer who lived at Bury Hall in Great Ellingham. Alban migrated to New Zealand with his parents and family in 1897 on the steamship Ionic when he was 12 years old.

Alban had an argument with his father on the voyage to New Zealand when he discovered his Aunt Alice was pregnant with his father's child. Alban worked as a teamster in Auckland and subsequently in the Waikato. Alban had a natural ability to work with horses.

Alban and his brother Ernest developed farms adjacent to their parent's property at Te Mawhai near Te Awamutu. Their sister Phyllis looked after them. Alban built a house at Te Mawhai for his bride and himself. He married Elinor McLaren on 15 August 1914 at Manawaru in the Waikato. Elinor (known as Nellie) was the second child and first daughter of Elizabeth Sarah Duxfield and Thomas McLernon, born on 14 April 1891 in Devonport, Auckland.

Within days of Alban and Elinor returning from their honeymoon, Alban began vomiting blood. He had an aneurysm in his stomach. After three months they moved to Manawaru and lived with Elinor's family. In 1921 Alban purchased a business in Te Aroha with stables, wood and coal merchandising and horse haulage. Alban died in August 1933 at Te Aroha, aged 48, leaving a young family of one son and four daughters.

The following obituary was published in the New Zealand Herald.

TE AROHA, Saturday

The death occurred yesterday of Mr. A. G. Rushbrooke, a well-known and highly-respected Te Aroha resident, at the age of 47 years. Born at Ellingham, England, he came to New Zealand with his parents as a child. The family took up land in the Waikato, and Mr. Rushbrooke worked on his father's farms at Hamilton, Taupiri and Shaftesbury. Seventeen years ago he started a carrying business in Te Aroha, which he continued until the time of his death. For many years he was a member of the Te Aroha School Committee. He leaves a widow and five children.

Elinor's son Jim ran the wood and coal merchant business after Alban died. Elinor raised her family in Te Aroha. In about 1956 Elinor moved to Hamilton, purchasing a house next to her youngest daughter Ena. In 1963 she moved to Auckland having purchased a house close to Ena and her family. She died on 20 March 1971 in Auckland. Both Alban and Nellie were buried in Te Aroha.

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Photo of Ernest

Ernest Edwin RUSHBROOKE (1886-1915)

Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke, second son of Ernest Rushbrooke and Sarah Wright, was born in 1888 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk. Ernest migrated to New Zealand with his parents in 1897. He farmed next to his parents at Te Mawhai, and enlisted in the Army as soon as the first World War broke out. Ernest was killed in action at Gallipoli in 1915 at the age of 29.

Photograph of Ernest from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150916-39-39.

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Alice Mary RUSHBROOKE (1888-1927)

Alice Mary Rushbrooke, first daughter of Ernest and Sarah Rushbrooke, was born in 1888 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk. She migrated to New Zealand with her parents in 1897. In 1911 Alice married Archibald William Westgate in Te Awamutu. Archibald was from a wealthy family of butchers in Norwich. Archibald and Alice lived in Kihikihi where Archibald earned his living as a dealer.  They had seven sons and two daughters.  Alice died in 1927 and Archibald died in 1968, both at Te Awamutu. 

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Photo of Bertha Rushbrooke

Bertha Louise RUSHBROOKE (1890-1960)

Bertha Louise Rushbrooke, second daughter of Ernest and Sarah Rushbrooke, was born in 1890 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk.  In 1897 she migrated with her parents to New Zealand. Bertha married Watkin Roberts in 1915 at Te Awamutu. Watkin was Bertha's cousin, born in 1884 in Norfolk, the son of her mother's sister Elizabeth Barnard Wright and welsh doctor William Arthur Ormsby Roberts. 

Watkin had a penchant for molesting women which resulted in him having to leave England and Bertha had a very difficult time with him. Watkin first got into trouble in England and was sent abroad by his family to evade prosecution. He went to Ceylon as a "Remittance Man". He got a monthly cheque from his family to stay away. However he soon got into trouble with young girls and was deported from Ceylon.

He ended up in New Zealand where he worked for New Zealand Railways for the rest of his life. Watkin was a very heavy smoker and he had TB. He and Bertha had four sons and one daughter who was killed in a car crash. The family's major claim to fame was their grandson, a 22-year-old anarchist punk rocker, Neil Roberts, who in 1982 unsuccessfully attempted to destroy the New Zealand National Computer Center in a suicide bombing.

Watkin died in 1957 and Bertha died in 1960, both in Auckland. 

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Thomas Alan RUSHBROOKE (1892-1977)

Thomas Allen Rushbrooke, third son of Ernest and Sarah Rushbrooke, was born in 1892 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk. He migrated to New Zealand with his parents in 1897. Thomas ran away from home when he was a young man and he worked on various farms until the outbreak of the First World War. He enlisted in the New Zealand army and was sent to Gallipoli where his brother Ernest was killed just before they were due to meet up. Thomas was sent to England where he met Gladys Jane Alston, the only daughter of a well-to-do draper in Worcester. Thomas married Gladys in Worcester on 4 July 1918.

After the war Thomas and Gladys returned to New Zealand where Thomas farmed at Te Mawhai in the Waikato. It was a great shock for Gladys, having led a very comfortable life in Worcester, to adjust to a small farmhouse with an earth floor and no facilities. They later moved to a 600 acre sheep farm at Te Aroha where life was somewhat more comfortable. Thomas and Gladys had three sons and when Gladys' father died, her mother went to live with them in New Zealand.

According to Electoral Rolls, Thomas and Gladys lived at Ngarimu Bay, Thames, from 1954 until 1963. They finally moved to Te Awamutu. Thomas died in 1977 and Gladys in 1978; both at Te Awamutu.

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Phyllis RUSHBROOKE (1896-1964)

Phyllis Rushbrooke, the youngest daughter of Ernest and Sarah Rushbrooke, was born in 1896 at Great Ellingham, Norfolk. She migrated to New Zealand with her parents in 1897. Phyllis never married. She kept house for her brothers, and cared for her parents. Phyllis moved to Auckland after her father died. She died in 1964 in Auckland and was buried at Mangere.

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John RUSHBROOKE (1901-1959)

John Rushbrooke, the youngest son of Ernest and Sarah Rushbrooke, was born in 1901 in New Zealand after the family had migrated from England. In 1925 John married Dorothy Florence Paul (known as Dorothy Blanshard) in Te Aroha. The couple had a son and daughter. John drove horse and carts and in the Electoral Roll was listed as a labourer until 1938. John was a share milker and dairy farmer in the Te Aroha district until moving to Otahuhu in the early 1950's. He then worked as a mechanic. John's probate file lists him as a mechanic from Otahuhu in Auckland, previously a farmer. John died in 1959 and Dorothy in 1996, both in Auckland.

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Children of Ernest and Alice



Mary Louisa RUSHBROOKE (1898-1988)

Mary Louisa Rushbrooke, the daughter of Ernest Edwin Rushbrooke and Alice Mary Wright, was born in 1898 in Hamilton, soon after her parents migrated to New Zealand. Her birth was registered as Mary Louisa Wright, with the father's name not recorded. However Louise, as she was known, was raised by her aunt and father and used the surname Rushbrooke until she was married.

Louise was educated at Epson Diocesan School and after her formal education worked for the Auckland Gas Company in office administration.

Louise married her cousin John William Pearson, known as Bill, in 1937 at Patumahoe in South Auckland. Bill's mother was a sister of Alice Mary Wright. Bill and his brother George farmed successfully in partnership at Patumahoe. Bill and Louise retired to Manurewa where they died, Louise in 1988 and Bill in 1992.

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