The Vincents of Canterbury

Port Lyttelton, showing the first four ships and emigrants landing from the Cressy, December 28th 1850

My direct Vincent ancestor arrived mysteriously in New Zealand. John Vincent was the son of gold and silver smith, Thomas Vincent (1782-1829), and Anna Muddle Canney (1790-1866). After some misfortune in business, Thomas moved his wife and children from his father's English county of Middlesex, to Yorkshire. The family became destitute. Thomas was eventually admitted to the Sculcoates Refuge for the Insane and died a few weeks later at the age of 47. The reason for his admission, signed off by his wife, was unclear, but his cause of death was dropsy. I suspect his death was stress-related.

Several years after his father died, John emigrated (mysteriously, since no one knows what ship he emigrated on) to New Zealand. His brother, William, had already emigrated there at the age of 17, and helped set up one of New Zealand's first newspapers, The Independent. William married and moved his family to Australia and started another newspaper in Grafton, New South Wales. John stayed in New Zealand.

In 1856 John married Mary Ellen Burrell, in Lyttleton, Canterbury, New Zealand. Back then Lyttelton was called Cooper's Bay.

John and Mary had four children, one of whom is my great grandfather: Arthur Alfred Vincent (1864-1942). John Vincent died at the age of 70 at Sunnyside (now Hilmorton) Hospital from syncope. John's last occupation was recorded as a printer.

After his father died, Arthur stayed in Canterbury and married twice. Arthur went against the grain and became a carpenter. But it's likely he knew a thing or two about the printing industry given his family history. It was the children through Arthur's second marriage to Irene Carrick Rodmell, of how I came into being. My grandfather was the son of Arthur and Irene.

As it was when his ancestors first arrived in New Zealand, my grandfather, Harry, was also a printer and had a printing company in Christchurch called Vincent and Co. He used a Heidelberg off-set printer (read more about those here), which my father would sometimes assist with. After he was retired, I would find random, and sometimes 'rude' prints that he had made. (One almost got me into trouble when I took it to primary school). It kind of showed his sense of humour, although he passed suddenly from heart failure in 1986, at the age of 77.

A descendant of William Vincent, Melva Thomas (Vincent), wrote and published the book, "The Vincent Printers" in 1980. Much of it is focused on her family, descending from William, John's brother.


Written by RJ Vincent. 25 Feb 2020

Image from Christchurch Library for personal use and family research.