Tea & Talk – 12th March 2018: The Southgate Family

On Monday 12th March, the museum’s talented Brenda Yoxall hosted another Tea & Talk about the Southgate family from Warkworth. Her history lesson was very engaging and the audience had many questions as Brenda’s research sparked more curiosity about our town’s history.

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Here are a few photos and a summary of the event

The following words are from Brenda Yoxall:

John Southgate has been referred to as one of the fathers of Warkworth. A contemporary of John Anderson Brown, Southgate settled in Warkworth in 1848. He arrived together with his wife, Elizabeth and infant son, William. They were to have thirteen more children, not all of whom survived into adulthood.

Together with Nathaniel Wilson, Southgate was one of the first people to recognize the potential of limestone, later establishing a small hotel on the site of his early kilns. This hotel was no more than a collection of huts, but must have been the first sight of their new home for many Warkworth settlers. In 1862/3 he sold this site to Nathaniel Wilson and moved his hotel business to the centre of Warkworth, building the Warkworth Hotel on the site still occupied by a hotel. The Norfolk pine tree he planted in front of the hotel continues to be a prominent feature in the town.

In 1874 Elizabeth died in childbirth after the family were unable to gain prompt medical assistance. It is not certain if she would have survived if this care had been given earlier, but what is certain is that the nearest doctor refused to attend under circumstances that are well documented.

In 1876 Southgate sold the hotel and returned to the limeburning business. He was active in public life, serving on both the school committee and the Road Board. He married again to Ann Williams and had three more children.

He died in 1894 and is buried with his first wife in the Anglican cemetery.

Most of his children from his first marriage remained in the district, marrying into local families. William remained in Warkworth for many years as both a boat builder and the master of coastal steamers, the most well-known steamer being the ‘Kapanui’. Unfortunately a collision between this vessel and the ‘Claymore’ seems to have brought this career to an end under unhappy circumstances. Two other sons, Henry and Walter, lived in Warkworth all their lives and the stories recorded about them show the affection and esteem that they earned for themselves. Similarly there are many stories of their sister, Phoebe, who remained unmarried and cared for them until she died. She was well known for her kind heart, and her silver tea service has an inscription recording that it was a gift from the people of Warkworth.

Phoebe, Walter and Henry are all buried in the Anglican cemetery close to their parents.