Ann and William Welch and their three boys and four girls arrived on the Oriental, the second settler ship to Port Nicholson, in January 1840. They had four more children in New Zealand, including a daughter Hannah who died when a baby. Their eldest son George reportedly left for the goldfields in California, with later whereabouts unknown.
William Welch and Ann Read were both born in 1804 in Kent where they married in 1827, at Hougham. The groom and witnesses both signed with a cross indicating they couldn’t write.
On arriving in Port Nicholson, William promptly opened a store on Petone Beach and added an accommodation hotel to the building. In 1845 he moved to the Hutt where he started the Rose of the Valley Hotel, also known as the “The Rose Inn, Mr. Welch’s”.
He was involved in starting a Hutt branch of the philanthropic Lodge organisation, the Odd Fellows “Rose of the Valley” Lodge in Jan 1849, with meetings held in his Inn. (Wellington Independent, 3 Jan 1849, Papers Past)
William Welch moved to Taita about 1850, and William Whitewood took over the lease of the Rose Inn, soon replacing it with his Whitewood’s Hotel in a new building. William Welch ran a carrier business and a farm where his activities included horse breeding.
A letter his second son William Read Welch wrote in the 1860s describing the hardships of early pioneer life – “what we had to go through” – was published in the Wairarapa Daily Times in 1907.
William Welch (snr) began a carrier business and his obituary reports he ran a successful farm in Taita, but this letter from his son William Read Welch contradicts this.
William Read Welch goes on to talk about his education in the ‘lushing camp’ or pub.
William Read Welch left to work in the goldfields of Australia in 1848, returning several years later with a profit of 500 pounds. He married Sarah Arabella Hedley in Christ Church Taita in 1856. They lived in a small cottage before he built Laurel Hall in 1870. Laurel Hall stood on nearly 60 acres in Taita with 13 rooms, plus outbuildings on the property.
William (senior) gave up his carrier business after his wife Ann died in 1879, and went to live with his son William Read Welch and daughter in law Sarah at Laurel Hall.
William Read Welch sadly died suddenly in 1881, aged 51, at Opaki Station near Masterton. Witnesses noticed he seemed “queer in the head” after drinking. The coroner ruled suicide while William Read Welch was suffering from delirium tremens. (Wairarapa Daily Times, 1 Feb 1888, Papers Past))
William Welch died in 1887, aged 82. His obituary describes him as having “a retiring disposition” but one who would “express his opinion freely”, an “honest, straightforward man”, “greatly respected”. His children, grandchildren and great grandchildren totalled 106. (Evening Post, 2 July 1887, Papers Past)
After Sarah Arabella Welch died in 1904, aged 69, Laurel Hall estate went on the market in 1906 until its’ sale in about 1920, asking price 6150 pounds. It was one of the properties a Wellington firm considered buying “for the purpose of subdividing for suburban homes” in 1906, but wasn’t purchased then. (Wairarapa Daily Times, 5 July 1906, Papers Past)
Family of Ann Read and William Welch
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Family of William Read and Sarah Arabella Welch
William Read and Sarah Arabella Welch had 9 children.
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There were enough Welch men for them to have their own rugby football and cricket teams from about 1886.
Most of the children of the original generation of Ann and William Welch married into local Hutt settler families – such as the Wrigley, Percy, Poad, Harper families. William Read, Henry, James and Richard all bought land in the Wairarapa, but William Read remained at Taita.
Many of the original Welch family are buried at the Christ Church Taita Cemetery.