Frederick and Frances and the two girls left Sydney on the Pyramus on 7 February 1837 with Samuel Marsden and his daughter Martha. Alice was then five. Wilkinson was on leave at half pay and elected to go with Marsden on his last mission to New Zealand to ‘learn more about the country’.
In his evidence to the Select Committee Wilkinson said he spent three months in New Zealand. ‘I was on my passage to England and took the opportunity of going to New Zealand, that I might see the country and the progress that has been made by the missionaries’ he said. He made it clear that although he ‘went with Rev Marsden’ he was not associated with Church Missionary Society. ‘Sailed from Port Jackson we were twelve or thirteen days going down. We had a very bad passage and were nearly lost in going into the River Hokianga. There is a tremendous bar going in. The tide runs very strong if there were not such a bar it would be a very good river; when inside they can go up with perfect safety. On arrival (in Hokianga) I stayed with the Wesleyan missionaries with Mr Marsden and then I walked across the country with a native guide to find a road that Mrs Wilkinson might be able to accompany me to Waimate. Afterwards I was accompanied by Mr. Marsden and his daughter, my wife and two little children.’
Yarwood’s account of this episode says Marsden made an overland journey of forty miles through heavily forested country from the west coast to the Bay of Islands. For much of the distance he was carried on an improvised stretcher accompanied by his youngest daughter Martha and a party of seventy Maoris.
From these accounts it is not clear whether the two stayed together but Wilkinson speaks as though they did not.
Wilkinson made every endeavour ‘to see the country’ and meet the Maori even though he was unaccustomed to the exertion that entailed. ‘I travelled four of five times from Hokianga to the Bay of Islands. The first time I went across I was not accustomed to walking and the roads are exceeding bad there, so that I knocked up and had to stop in one of their villages; they were very kind to me: particularly so.’
Later he visited Mangumuker. Kawkaw, Waitangi, Kororaika, Otoika On that first foray he spent three days with Maori conversing in sign language and with the few words of English his hosts possessed. In his evidence he speaks warmly of their nature and friendship. ‘They were exceedingly peaceable and very kind and hospitable. … They are exceedingly fond of reading, they never go away without their book (their testament) in their blankets. They are very anxious to obtain information on reading and writing. ….. I saw the greatest display, I think, of Christian feeling that could be imagined among such people.’
The Wesleyan missionaries with whom he stayed also came in for praise. ‘I went with the Wesleyan missionaries to make their call at the different principal stations I had the opportunity of seeing a good many congregations. The missionaries have done a great service, immense service. … Missionaries have a service every Sunday there are frequently five or six hundred who attend. The service is conducted in the native language.’
He was naturally interested in education ‘I visited some schools. I lived with Mr. Williams Williams at Wiamate (a missionary formerly trained as a surgeon): his lady had a school which I witnessed almost every day. … In some places there are schools kept by native teachers. At one place I was at, Waronica, they had a native teacher.’
The House of Lords were interested in the customs of the Maori and their attitude to British administration and self government. Given his mixed interactions with the Governors of New South Wales his judgements are balanced and his inclination is support a firmer British administration so long as the Maori are treated as the equal of the European settlers. He judged many of the latter to be a poor example of his own culture. I was in the Bay of Islands six weeks. The European population there is as bad as can be. I was at Kororika and do not know that I ever saw such a bad community; there was drunkedness and profligacy of all kinds. There are a mixture of English and Americans.
There was a good deal of questioning about the transfer of land ownership but given the limited communication Wilkinson’s observations could only be sketchy. ‘They would be prepared to sell portion of their land with sovereign title but I do not thinkaccording to their own native laws that they are allowed to’, he offered.
When questioned he said - ‘I think it would be most necessary and important for the peace of the country (to have a protector of the natives) for they would know where to go to find a person to look after their interests.
Do they still continue to be cannibals? Sometimes. They ate a woman when I was there, which was the cause of the war which took place this twelvemonth.’
What should you think of the chiefs if on any plan of occupation and colonization, they were invited to give up all their territorial and sovereign rights? I think they would be very glad of it. .... They would live under a system of foreign government but not any foreign government. They would be glad to live under the British Government. They know the higher classes of English people and they take the character of the English from them more than from the convicts who go there. … There must be regular Government in the country. I mean the British Authority should be regularly established there to the exclusion of native authority. I do not think the Chiefs would be satisfied without a government in the country. Joining Mr Busby (the present Government agent) with the Chiefs I do not think would succeed. They will be treated of course as free subjects of equal consequence in the government as the Europeans were. They will never be able to govern themselves.
When taken as a whole his evidence perceptively argued that the Maori Chiefs would give up their sovereign rights in return for a treaty providing they were treated as equals in the new society and retained their rights to land and custom. In February 1840 Captain William Hobson RN, signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of the Crown and served with distinction as the first Governor of New Zealand.
Marsden and his daughter Martha returned to Australia on HMS Rattlesnake. The ship was commanded by Hobson, and had been sent to New Zealand a year earlier in response to news of an outbreak of warfare. [Hobson had just been to Port Phillip with Captain Lonsdale and a party of government officials to form a new colony. Lonsdale efforts met with much greater success than those of Samuel Wright a decade earlier. Hobson surveyed the bay that now bears his name.]
Back in England
We must assumed that Frederick and his family left New Zealand late in May and continued his journey around Cape Horn to England. When he gave evidence gave evidence to the Select Committee of the House of Lords on The Present State of New Zealand on the morning of 26 April 1837 he had been in England some time and told the Committee that ‘was then doing duty at Eastbourne’.[Parliamentary papers Report of the Lord's Committee on The Present State of New Zealand. London (1838) p.95 - 108]
Wilkinson’s arrival in England came as surprise to the Colonial Office who had not been informed. Although he presented a letter from Broughton authorising the leave the incident resulted in a 'please explain to Bourke.[HRA series 1 Vol. XVIII p.470.] Alice is said to have remembered their visit and of playing in the grounds of Roseneath Castle, near Glasgow. She also recalls visiting an aunt in London.
Whilst in England it seems the Wilkinsons met Emily White but her background is not known. Alice’s son, Cecil Henry Norton of Moore Park, Armidale used to refer to Elsie and Mary White of Saumarez as cousin Elsie and cousin Mary. They referred to him as cousin Cecil. When Alice died her death certificate records her father as Rev Frederick Wilkinson and her mother as Emily White. The descendants of Alice understand that she, and Emma and their mother came from England to NSW to join their father/husband. When they arrived the mother was told her husband had deserted the army and was in India. She left the girls with the Rev Wilkinson and went by ship to India to find him. The ship went down and all were drowned.
However Alice Ann Wilkinson was born on 20 April 1832 when Frederick was in Wollongong. (Emma was three years younger) Frederick was said to have been particularly caring about orphans and widows. We know that in 1825 McDonald Ritchie left his two sons in Wilkinson’s care for some time while he returned to India. If she and her sister were born in England why did their mother take them to Wollongong? Perhaps she was related to the Wilkinsons. It is even suggested that the girls were illegitimate daughters of the reverend gentleman (or of his wife?). One of Alice Wilkinson's daughters had written to her cousin (Rev Wilton's daughter) in 1920 trying to find out about Alice's parents. At the time Miss Wilton replied she was in her late eighties and the letter is difficult to decipher. Miss Wilton did not know who the girls parents were she only knew the girls father was a British Officer who deserted his wife and her Aunt Wilkinson was ‘not the type of woman a young girl could ask’.
After an extended stay in England Frederick Wilkinson had set out to return to Australia but he was shipwrecked and struggled back to England to rejoin his family. In July 1838 the Frederick and Frances set out again for Sydney sailing from Dublin on the Margaret. The Margaret carried almost one hundred men women and children who were families of convicts. They were accompanied by Frederick's eighteen year-old nephew Thomas Hattam Wilkinson. Thomas was born on the Isle of Wight in November 1820, the son of Frederick’s brother Thomas Hattam (snr). They arrived in Sydney in on 5 January 1839 and Frederick briefly returned to Wollongong. He was appointed to the parish of Oaks and Stonequarry (now Picton) on 6 April apparently at the instigation of the incumbent Rev Thomas Hassall, the son-in-law of Samuel Marsden. The Oaks is 76 km southwest of Sydney near Camden. A wooden church had been built in 1838 as a private chapel but again there was no church residence and he was authorised to live 'within the nearest convenient distance'. He purchased 100 acres from Thomas Inglis from an estate called The Hermitage that was originally granted to one of the districts founders John henry Wild. In April 1841 Wilkinson purchased the remaining 221 acres. It is unclear where he lived in 1839 but during his time there he had a cottage, he called the Hermitage, built by the carpenter Robert Reid and the brothers Kearns who were stonemasons.[Collinson N, A Little Slab Church, St Mathews, The Oaks Historical Society Inc 2004.].
The 1841 Census recorded that the Wilkinson's lived at The Oaks in Camden in a household of fifteen persons. Of the group there were three girls, two under two years of age and one between 2 and 7 years old. In addition to the Wilkinson family there seems to have been a married couple with two young boys and a girl child, who were probably servants, and six other men identified as shepherds. The two Wilkinson girls had been left in England with a Mrs Watson. She was almost certainly Ellen Mary Wilkinson who had married George Watson in Guilford in 1837. Ellen’s father Thomas Hattam snr, Frederick’s brother, was curate of the Episcopal Chapel at Greenock from 1829 to 1837 and Ellen and George returned there after the wedding.
The girls returned with a servant while they were still young. (Tricia Norton has found two Miss Wilkinsons coming up to Sydney from Port Phillip with a servant in 1843.) This would explain why the two girls are not on the 1841 Census for The Oaks. Whilst at the Hermitage Frederick carved a bust of Frances on the outside wall that is still in fine condition today. On the other end of the wall is another head of a man that may be his father. There are other fine examples of his work around the building. Thomas was apparently not living with his uncle’s family at this time. In January 1842 Frederick broke his arm in a fall from his gig.The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘He will be much missed during his confinement, a his attention to his parishioners in health and sickness is beyond all praise.’[SMH 18 Jan 1842.]
In further recognition of his service in this district John Benson Wild named a son Frederick Wilkinson as did William and Elizabeth Howell (nee Hassall).
He remained in The Oaks for three years until a more desirable parish became available. The ‘more desirable parish’ was Ashfield in the inner west of Sydney. The appointment may well have been facilitated by James Norton who was a parishioner. Whilst at the Oaks Wilkinson formed a friendship with Frederich Luther, a German immigrant skilled in wine making. In 1840 Luther had visited the Ogilvie’s in the Hunter and was William Ogilvie employed him to direct his vineyard. When Frederick left The Oaks he retained the ownership of the Hermitage. He returned to the area to baptise Luther’s second child in 1846 and about the same time leased the Hermitage to the vigneron. When Luther became a naturalised Australian he was able to purchase the property in his own right. The house was completely, and skilfully, restored in 1984 and reviewed in the magazine Belle in its April-May edition of 1988.
Rector of Ashfield
The although parish of Ashfield had been formed in 1810 and stretched from Balmain to Strathfield and from Enfield to the Parramatta River, the ecclesiastical district was not formed until 1840. Construction of a church, St John’s, began then but failed to extend beyond a foundation stone. It was not until the industrious Wilkinson arrived in April 1843 that real building began. Six months later his church was licensed for worship and consecrated on 19 August 1845. Wilkinson also arranged to purchase several acres of land around the original site that allowed a graveyard to be established. Shortly after completing St Johns Wilkinson began building another church, St Marys, at Balmain. It was licensed in September 1847 and Wilkinson is reported as holding the first service there in May 1848. Now the indefatigable rector began a third church, St Thomas’ at Enfield. Three churches in six years is a monument to his endeavour.
Norton, now the Parish Registrar contribute some of the fittings to St Johns and Wilkinson personally carved the cedar rails, wainscot of the chancel, the pulpit and reading desk and gallery. His fine craftsmanship adorns the building to this day. During this time the Wilkinson family lived in 'a picturesque many gabled wooden house called The Meads in Enfield (near Burwood road) where he built a large workshop for his wood carving. As well as the chancel of St John's the wooden figureheads that look down from the walls of St. Thomas' Enfield are the products of this the workshop. 'As a pastor, builder, teacher and carver, the Rev. F. Wilkinson will ever hold a high place in the history of the Parish.’
In addition to his wood-work Wilkinson found time to establish a private school at the Meads which 'enjoyed a high reputation as the best collegiate school in the colony and many prominent families sent their sons there'. Samuel Wright’s nephew was one of his pupils after he arrived from Ireland in May 1848. (Later his cousins Thomas Hattam and William Hattam taught there.)
We know that Wilkinson made another visit to England in 1848 because he returned home on the bounty immigrant vessel Fairlie that left Plymouth on 30 April. (This suggests that he could not have held the first service at St Mary’s Balmain.) It appears that he was the ship’s chaplain and had some concerns about some of his flock of 296, mainly Irish new settlers. The ship arrived on 7 August and he wrote from Sydney Harbour 25 August 1848 reporting on his duties and the behaviour of some young women’ lately under my charge’. It is interesting to note that the one cabin passenger was Dr S Wilkinson – perhaps another relative.
In November 1850 Frederick Wilkinson's licence for Ashfield and Enfield was renewed and he continued his service until June 1854 when he accepted 'a special commission for the cure' at Holy Trinity at Millers Point.
The Meads is located in the centre of this map of Enfield
In 1854 Wilkinson’s nephew, Rev. Thomas Hattam Wilkinson who had been curate-in-charge at Balmain under his uncle, took over at Ashfield after a short spell as chaplain to Darlinghurst Gaol and three years as the second minister of St John the Baptist in Canberra. Before leaving he left Balmain his uncle married the curate to Julia Sarah Underwood at St. John the Baptist, Ashfield. Julia was a member of the family that donated the land for the church.
Frederick's daughter Alice Ann Wilkinson was married by her cousin to Edward Norton (fourth son of Frederick's legal advisor) at Ashfield in 1854. Edward lived at Walcha and the couple began a pioneering life in the New England Tablelands. Alice bore twelve children between 1854 and 1877 and died at Walcha in 1917. At that time the children were Arthur F E, 62, Frederick H, 60, Edward C, 58, Cecil H, 56, Ernest A, 54, Walter G, 52, Alfred S, 50, Oswald F, 46, Ethel M, 44, Gertrude M, 42, Mabel M, 40. A daughter had died previously.
Thomas Hattam Wilkinson remained at Ashfield until September 1860 and lived with Julia in Ashfield house after her mother died in 1858. From 1861 to 1863 he confined his ministry to St. Thomas' Enfield where his cousin William Hattam Wilkinson (1831-1908) was superintendent of the Sunday School and later a judge of the NSW District Court. where he became a judge of the Sydney Metropolitan Court and wrote a standard legal text The Australian Magistrate. Thomas' last appointment was to the parish of Appin where he spent the final fifteen years of his life. When he died in 1876 he was buried in the churchyard of St John's in Ashfield.
Judge William Hattam Wilkinson and family at their home Hereford House in Glebe Sydney. From the left standing is Frank Osborne (future brother in law of Frederick Bushby Wilkinson), Frederick Bushby Wilkinson, Elizabeth Sibyl Wilkinson, Maria Grace Wilkinson, unknown, Elizabeth Sibyl Wilkinson snr, bride Mary Wadham, Judge William Hattam Wilkinson (beard & glasses), groom Dr Frederick Wadham, unknown tall man at rear, clergyman unknown, old woman unknown, bridesmaid unknown, Dr William Camac Wilkinson (moustache), Jessie Wilkinson (Dr William Camac Wilkinson's wife), William Alexander Camac Wilkinson (boy on steps), Lucy Rachel Wilkinson (bridesmaid), Darcy Osborne (future brother in law of Frederick Bushby Wilkinson), Edward Western Cave Wilkinson, unknown.
Wilkinson retires to England When he was granted a government pension in June 1855 Wilkinson sold the Hermitage and also relinquished the Meads before resigning and returning to England; Frances and Emma went with him. (Crockford’s clerical directory reported that ‘he ministered in several parishes including Stower Provost in Dorset’ .) In the 1861 Census they were living at 82 Arragon Rd. Twickenham in the parish of Hounslow. Emma, then 26, had married Thomas Gurney, then 23, late in 1859 and the couple were visiting the Wilkinson’s when the census was taken. Gurney was born in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire in 1836 and in 1861 he was a land agent.
By 1863 Frederick was living in Croft Place in the Hastings parish of St Clements, Sussex. He wrote his will in September of that year and it was witnessed by his lawyer Charles Campbell of Lincoln’s Inn, and a neighbour H Pont (or Poat). He appointed his wife Frances and John Campbell a merchant of ‘the Wharf, Sydney’ as executors. Wilkinson died three years later on 4 October 1866 at Claremont Terrace, Southsea, Portsmouth. A death notice was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 28 December. Frederick Wilkinson was seventy when he died. All of his estate, worth £700, went to Frances. There was no mention of Alice or Emma in the will. Emma probably died quite young childless. She may have died before her father for by the 1881 census Thomas Gurney had remarried, to Jane born 1848, Essex, and become a doctor practising in London and living at 22 Warwick Rd.