The Batten sisters were the daughters of James William and Emma Rebecca Batten nee Todd. In 1879 the family came to New Zealand on the Sobraon via Australia, and then settled in Lyttelton, where they resided for some years. On the 9 March 1891, they came to Taranaki and took up land at Ketemarae, near Normanby where they went dairy farming. While there, the family took an active part in church affairs especially in the work of the Anglican Church at Normanby. In 1901 the family settled at Tokaora, near the Waingongoro River, when the Waipapa block was opened up.
Before leaving England, James Batten had a friend, Thomas Barnardo, who has spent some years studying medicine, hoping later to go to China as a medical missionary. Then after seeing some appalling things in London's East End, where orphan boys were sleeping outdoors with no coverings, or dying in the dark alleys from starvation and neglect, he realised that there was vast work for him to do right at hand without going to China. So he began his great work in the East End, and in 1866, under the patronage of the famous Lord Shaftsbury, he had founded his children’s homes.
Meanwhile the Battens in New Zealand continued to take an interest in the work of their old friend, and in 1905 Emma Batten and her daughters parcelled up some garments which they thought might come in handy for Barnardo children and despatched them to the homes. The gratitude received encouraged the family to send more. Friends and neighbours soon heard of these activities and began passing on their old garments which were patiently sorted, washed and mended, and the NZ Shipping Co (James Batten being a former employee) began shipping the packing cases, free of charge. Flannelette was quite reasonably priced then and Emma began buying it by the bolt, and she and her daughters made it up into warm petticoats. After a few years, the family began to include some soft toys.
Emma Batten died on the 23 May 1930 at Tokaora, aged 90 years, and was buried at the Hawera cemetery. After her death, the family carried on as usual with the Barnardos parcels. Apart from the knitting and sewing they did for the children, between them they made over 76,000 soft toys.
May Lilian Batten was born on the 31 January 1869 in London. The day of her arrival in New Zealand was her 10th birthday, and as a special treat she was the only passenger on board to be allowed ashore. She married William Hooper in 1905, and she and her husband farmed on Ketemarae Road, Normanby until his death in 1916. She was a staunch church worker for the Normanby Anglican Church and acted as organist in her younger days. May Hooper died on the 26 March 1970 at Hawera aged 101 years and is buried at Hawera cemetery.
Ida Mary Batten was born about 1870 in Loughton, Essex, England. She was a keen amateur photographer, a painter and a musician of no mean order, playing the cello in the family's own orchestra. Ida was a staunch worker for the Anglican Church and for many years was a member of the church choir. She bought her first car in 1930, when she was over 60 years of age and became a competent driver. Ida made a trip to Auckland in her baby Austin. Ida Batten died on the 14 September 1960 at Hawera aged 90 years, and is buried at the Hawera cemetery.
Hilda Terry Batten was born about 1876 in Essex, England. For 45 years, she assisted her brother, Hamilton, with the farming activities on the family farm at Tokaora. During that time she travelled twice to South Africa and England to see her sister (Norah Nettleton Cockerton) and cousins. In the war years, Hilda and her brother Hamilton, and sister Ida, took up spinning for the men of the merchant navy and during the whole period skeined as much as 280 pounds of wool, the sisters knitting most of the quantity into comforts for the sailors. After the war, they continued their spinning for Barnardo boys who were emigrating to face the harsh Canadian winters. Hilda was a regular attendee of St Mary's Anglican Church, Hawera and was chief chorister for many years. She was also a keen member of the Tokaora branch of the WDFU and was an enthusiastic gardener. Hilda Batten died on the 20 January 1946 at Hawera, aged 70 years and is buried at the Hawera cemetery.
Various obituaries and articles
Also see THE BATTEN FAMILY.
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