James and Mary Ann Gribble

Mining, retailing, farming – James Gribble tried.

A settler epic

The story of James and Mary Ann Gribble and their large family reads as an epic of seeking opportunity, daily struggle, endess movement, and ultimately, success in colonial New Zealand.

Starting in Cornwall

James Gribble was born in 1828 in Cornwall, England. He grew up to become a miner, first learning his trade in his later teens in the 1840s.

With the foundation of the Australian colonies in the 1830s and the opening up of north America, a well-orchestrated campaign of recruitment of Cornish miners began. Combined with the failure of the potato crop in 1840 and the hardship this resulted in, the out flow of Cornish miners became a torrent.

Burra Burra Copper Miner 1846-1849

In 1846 James, aged 18, and a brother travelled to Australia, to the new Burra Burra, South Australia copper mines. Many of the Miners in Kooringa (the mine company town) lived in dug-out homes in the banks of the Burra Creek.

James left Australia and arrived in Auckland, from Sydney on the 219 tons brig Susan on 30th August 1849.

James went copper mining on Kawau Island for a year or two.

In 1850 or more probably 1851 at the time the Kawau Island mine closed, James moved on to work on the copper mines on Great Barrier Island. James and the other miners lived in a bay adjacent to Miners Head and walked around the headland to the mine. James remained on Great Barrier Island to mid 1852.

In 1852 James was one of the many miners who went to seek their fortune on the Victorian gold-fields, and sailed for Australia on the barque Daniel Webster.

James stayed on the Australian Victorian goldfields for approximately 2 years, returning to Auckland by 1854, probably just before the Eureka Stockade battle in Ballarat, between Government troopers and miners. The growing tension on the Ballarat goldfields may have been a contributing factor to James’ decision to return to New Zealand.

Settling for the swamp, temporarily

By the beginning of 1855 James had entered into an arrangement, to purchase 40ha of the Cabbage Tree Swamp area, now known as Sandringham.

Describing his occupation as ‘farmer’, James was now living in Barrack (now Lorne) Street, and had met his future wife, Mary Ann Goldsworthy. He probably met her on Great Barrier Island, when Mary Ann would have been about 12 or 13 and James about 22.

James and Mary Ann then settled on the Cabbage Tree Swamp farm living in a homestead that James had had built prior to their marriage in 1855.

Now for the amazing bit: James and Mary Ann had 17 children in all; 8 girls and 9 boys, born over a 28 year period between 1856 and 1884.

Wakefield Street Grocer 1862-1869

In 1857 James bought a commercial property located from Wakefield Street through to Edwardes (now Airedale) Street.

In about 1862, after the first death of their fourth child, 12 month old Emily Jane at Cabbage Tree Swamp, James and family moved from their farm to live and work as grocery shopkeepers in Wakefield Street. The farmland was probably leased.

In the 1860s James purchased other commercial properties in Auckland.

Thames Gold Miner 1869-1871

In 1869, or perhaps early 1870, James and family joined the goldrush to Thames, settling at Kurunui Hill, adjacent to Grahamstown (now northern Thames).

Some time before 1871 James was employed as captain at the Kuranui and the Albion gold mines near Grahamstown. Captains of mines were in effect mine supervisors.

Thames Mine Manager 1871-1874

In 1871 James was appointed mine manager of the Moanataiari gold mine.

James worked Moanataiari until 1874, when he was ready to try his hand at farming again.

Tauranga ‘Holiday’ Property 1874

In early 1874 James received a Crown Grant of 0.4ha of land in Tauranga. It is probable the family used this as a holiday getaway.

Rukuhia Farmer 1874-1884

In 1873, James bought the 182ha farm Brookfield at Rukuhioa in a mortagee sale for £831.5s

The land was part of the vast area confiscated by the Crown from the Kingite Movement Maori.

During the 1870s it became increasingly evident that the newly cleared land, developed at great physical and financial cost, was failing to “hold” the grass and clover that had promised such success. Even those with capital could not stand the cost of constant ploughing and re-grassing.

In 1882 James’ Auckland, Tauranga and Rukuhia property holdings were valued at a total sum of £6,800.

First Mine Manager Waihi Martha Gold Mine 1882

By 1882 James temporarily left Brookfield and took up an appointment as the first Mine and Battery Manager of the Martha Gold Mine in Waihi.

In May 1882 crushing began, but after cleaning up 111 tons of gold in 5 weeks, James resigned the position and returned to “Brookfield.

In 1988 the Martha mine re-opened as an open pit mine and is still worked today.

Cabbage Tree Swamp Pig Farmer 1884-1886

By 1884, James’ health was failing and the Gribble family returned to their Cabbage Tree Swamp farm, to establish a piggery. The new homestead they had built was located on Kingsland (now Sandringham) Road.

James’ death 1886, Mary Anns 1901

James died of bronchitis and heart disease in 1886, aged 58. His youngest surviving child was still only 5 years old. He was buried in the Gribble family plot in the Symonds Street Cemetery.

Mary Ann continued to live on the family farm and survived James by 15 years until 1901, also dying at the Kingsland home, aged 63.

She, too, was buried in the Gribble family plot.

By 1884 with James’ health failing, the family returned to Cabbage Tree Swamp farm in Auckland.

Of the Gribbles’ 17 children, six died as babies or young children. Only two men carry the Gribble surname now.

Today Gribblehirst Park is situated at the centre of what was once the Gribble’s Cabbage Tree Swamp farm estate.

The Gribble influence on the area is seen in the names of roads that were formed from the Cabbage Tree Swamp property; Gribblehirst Road, Cambourne Road (a corruption of James' home town in Cornwall) and Truro Road (a nearby Cornwall cathedral town).

  • <p>Showing Cabbage Tree Swamp now known as Gribblehirst Park, Sandringham, c1909. James Richardson, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1135.</p>
  • <p>Looking north from the vicinity of the Town Hall site showing Wakefield Street junction right, Albert Barracks right background, a gas lamp to the right, the Anchor Hotel left, Webster's Photographic Studio centre, and premises of T George and Company extreme right, c1868-1872. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A3031.</em></p>
  • <p>James Gribble, a man of many talents.</p>
  • <p>The remians of the copper smelting plant on Kawau Island, where James Gribble worked.</p>

Aerial photo location

Where is the grave?

Enter the cemetery at the top St Martins Lane entrance. The grave is 10m within the cemetery.