by Alice Reeves nee Blunden
Henrietta Langton Blunden, nee Denshire, was born in 1884, and was my mother.
My mother’s father, William Banks Denshire, was from England. The Denshire family tree goes back to 1743, George Denshire being Mayor of Stamford and lived at Stamford Manor, a huge estate with its own parks etc.
My grandfather, William Banks Denshire, was born at Bowton Rectory, Lincolnshire, and educated at Marlborough Grammar School and Marlborough College (England).
In 1872 he came to New Zealand and left again for England in 1874. After spending some time in England and America he returned to New Zealand and took up farming in Ashburton where he procured 2000 acres. He took a keen interest in sport generally, being elected the first Captain of the Ashburton Golf Club, and well known as an owner of thoroughbred horses. He married, a daughter of Mr Joseph Reid Dodson who was Mayor of Nelson and owned the 1st breweries there.
(Copied from New Zealand Encyclopaedia of Notable Families).
Grandma Denshire and her daughters lived the life of the idle rich. They played Bridge and golf and went to the races etc. They frequently travelled backwards and forwards to their relations in England. They spent every winter away from the Christchurch cold, in Nelson at a lovely guesthouse by the river. They were very witty, gay and entertaining and completely selfish.
My brother Bill in his writing on the family called Grandma Denshire "a selfish miserly old lady".
Grandma said that all the men, who would be suitable husbands, had been killed in the war and it seemed that no man was good enough for her daughters to marry. However, my mother who was a very beautiful young girl with spirit (and was also said to have had a very sweet disposition) was captivated by my father, who was very handsome and dashing. He persuaded her to run away with him and so they eloped. What a scandal!!!
Grandma never forgave my father and never ever spoke to him again. I do not think any man would have relished the thought of having Grandma Denshire as a mother-in-law. Actually, one of the other daughters did get married but Grandma had mellowed by then.
In our adult years we did visit them and they were always charming towards us but my father was never mentioned.
We were remembered when the estate was wound up. With a lawyer in attendance, we were each given a ball with a number on it. As each ball was rolled, the number on the item that corresponded with the ball, was yours. Absolute luck! All the crested family silver had gone, possibly sent back to England.
Grandma Denshire never got sick and she died at the ripe old age of 104. She still had all her wits about her, just died of old age as did the Aunts, who died in their 80’s. At least they gave us a legacy of good health, if nothing else!
One of Grandma’s grandchildren spoke on Gary McCormick’s (Heartland) television show on Early Christchurch recently. She was over eighty (my cousin) and she too, was fit and hearty and very amusing. A real character!
The Denshires kept on giving my mother an allowance though, and she had put money in trust for all her children, which we got when we were 21.
My sister recently went to the old family home Ashtead House in England. It has our family crest there, and there was a stained glass window in the church in memory of Great Grandfather.
The house is now cut into 3 separate freeholds, one being made out of the former kitchen! (A huge house)
Lord and Lady Hayter have one part – Mr and Mrs Wollaston another part, and another lady owns the rest. It was 3 storeys high. When my brother called there years, he was told to go to the servant’s entrance until he was checked out!
Presentation to Museum
Six pieces of London sterling silver ranging from a cake basket made in 1763, early in the reign of George 3rd, to a later Georgian cream jug of 1812 have been presented to the Canterbury Museum.
They were given by Miss Kathleen P. Denshire (Aunty Kath), just before her death in Christchurch.
The items, engraved with the coat of arms and crest of Miss Denshire’s paternal ancestor, WILLIAM BANKS, of Surrey, comprise the pierced silver cake basket, 1863; a silver coffee pot made by Charles Woodward of London, in 1771; a trophy silver horse racing cup inscribed "Stamford Donation, June 13 1771" and made in London in 1770; a matching trophy cup made in London in 1790 to commemorate a cock-fighting win; and the late Georgian cream jug of 1812.
Miss Denshire also gave $270 to the museum’s anniversary appeal fund.
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