Edward Richardson

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The Honourable
Edward Richardson
Portrait photo of Edward Richardson
Edward Richardson, ca 1894
Minister of Public Works
In office
October 1872 – January 1877
Preceded by new ministry
Succeeded by John Davies Ormond
In office
September 1884 – October 1887
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Christchurch West
In office
1871 – 1875
Majority 20
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for City of Christchurch
In office
1876 – September 1879
Succeeded by George Grey
In office
November 1879 – 1881
Preceded by George Grey
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Kaiapoi
In office
1884 – 1890
Member of the New Zealand Legislative Council
In office
Personal details
Born 1830 or 1831
Died 26 February 1915 (aged 83–84)
Spouse(s) Margaret (née Higgins; m. 1856-61)
Frances Mary Elizabeth (née Corke; m 1864-?)
Children Edward, George, Charles E., (Mr.) E. F., Sydney, (Mrs.) Eardly Reynolds, Mollie Tripe[1]
Occupation civil & mechanical engineer, businessman, politician, runholder

Edward Richardson CMG (1830 or 1831 – 26 February 1915) was a civil and mechanical engineer, and Member of Parliament in New Zealand. Born in England, he emigrated to Australia and continued there as a railway engineer. Having become a partner in a contracting firm, a large project caused him to move to Christchurch in New Zealand, in which country he lived for the rest of his life.

Early life[edit]

Lyttelton portal of the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel with construction workers in 1867

Richardson was born in London in either 1830 or 1831. His parents were Elizabeth Sarah Miller and her husband Richard Richardson (a merchant). He attended the City of London School.[2]


In 1852, Richardson went to Melbourne in Australia. There, he married Margaret Higgins on 13 May 1856. They had two children before Margaret died in Melbourne in 1861. In his time in Australia, Richardson was also active in the volunteer brigade and became a captain in the horse artillery.[2]

New Zealand

In 1861, Richardson emigrated to New Zealand to carry out the contract of building the Lyttelton Rail Tunnel. He married Frances Mary Elizabeth Corke at Holy Trinity Avonside on 27 April 1864.[2][3]

Professional career[edit]


Richardson trained as a civil engineer and worked for the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR). He then trained as a mechanical engineer while working for the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR) in Ireland.[2] [4]


In Melbourne, he first worked for the Victorian Government in roading and bridge design, and then set up a partnership with George Holmes to perform general contracting work.[2][4]

Richardson's tunnel allowed passage between Lyttelton Harbour and the Canterbury Plains (top)
New Zealand

The Canterbury Provincial Government had commissioned the construction of the Christchurch to Lyttelton railway and tunnel, but their first contractor (Smith & Knight) sought a significant additional payment over what had been agreed on, which the provincial government did not accept. William Moorhouse, the Superintendent (i.e. the elected head of the provincial council) at the time and proponent of the project, travelled to Melbourne to find a new contractor. Whilst the price submitted by Holmes and Richardson was the highest of three tenders, Moorhouse engaged them as he had confidence in their technical ability.[2][5]

Richardson arrived in Lyttelton on the Prince Alfred in 1861 with 35 navvies and sufficient materials and equipment to begin the first stage of the railway between Christchurch and Ferrymead. During 1862, Richardson spent time in the European Alps to study the latest tunnel construction techniques and equipment on the Fréjus Rail Tunnel project. This experience was put to good use during the tunnel construction, which was carried out through volcanic rock.[2]

The tunnel project, completed in 1867, was one of the greatest engineering achievements in early New Zealand.[2] It was the colony's first rail tunnel and the first tunnel in the world to be driven through the side of an extinct volcano.[6][7]

Political career[edit]

Provincial Council[edit]

Richardson was elected onto the 6th Canterbury Provincial Council in May 1870 for the Town of Lyttelton electorate. He was re-elected in March 1874 for the 7th (and last) Council and held this role until the abolition of provincial government in October 1876.[8]

Member of the lower house[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1871–1876 5th Christchurch West Independent
1875–1879 6th Christchurch Independent
Nov 1879–1881 7th Christchurch Independent
1884 8th Kaiapoi Independent
1884–1887 9th Kaiapoi Independent
1887–1890 10th Kaiapoi Independent

Richardson and Henry Wynn-Williams stood in the Christchurch West electorate in the 1871 election,[9] obtaining 234 and 214 votes, respectively. Richardson was thus declared elected.[10]

In the 1875 election, he contested the City of Christchurch electorate. He came second in this three-member electorate (Edward Stevens came first, and William Moorhouse, the person who caused him to come to New Zealand, came third) and was thus returned.[11]

He came fourth in the September 1879 election for the three-member Christchurch electorate (George Grey came first, and Samuel Paull Andrews and Edward Stevens came second with equal numbers of votes, and only 23 votes ahead of Richardson).[12] He petitioned against George Grey's return on technical grounds, as Grey had already been elected in the Thames electorate.[13][14][15] The electoral commission unseated Grey on 24 October,[16] with Richardson offered to fill this vacancy a few days later. Grey was allowed to keep the Thames seat and remained a member of parliament through that constituency.[17]

The City of Christchurch electorate was abolished at the end of the 7th session of parliament, and Richardson stood in Lyttelton in the 1881 election. He was narrowly defeated by Harry Allwright, who had a majority of 11 on Richardson.[18] Ironically, Allwright had been the chair of the 1879 electoral commission, and it had been his casting vote that unseated Grey and thus allowed Richardson back into the lower house.

Following a petition, the 1881 general election in the Stanmore electorate was declared invalid. The resulting 12 July 1882 by-election was contested by Walter Pilliet, Richardson and William Patten Cowlishaw (a partner of Francis James Garrick). They received 469, 345 and 244 votes, respectively. Pilliet was declared elected with a majority of 124 votes.[19][20]

Richardson then stood in the 16 May 1884 by-election in the Kaiapoi electorate. He was returned unopposed and re-entered parliament.[21]

Soon after, he contested the Kaiapoi seat in the 1884 general election and was confirmed by the voters.[22] He was re-elected in the 1887 general election[23] and represented Kaiapoi until the 1890 election, when he retired from the lower house.[24]

Minister for Public Works[edit]

In October 1872, Richardson became a member of the Waterhouse Ministry, and held the portfolio of Public Works. He retained that position in the successive Fox, Vogel, Pollen and Atkinson ministries. Poor health brought on by overwork caused him to resign his ministerial role in January 1877.[2][4][25]

As a public works expert, he was again appointed a Minister for Public Works under the Stout Vogel Government, and held the portfolio from September 1884 to October 1887. He was ranked third in cabinet below Robert Stout and Vogel. The family moved to Wellington in 1884 for this ministerial appointment.[2][4][26]

Member of the upper house[edit]

Richardson was appointed to the Legislative Council on 15 October 1892 and remained a member until 15 October 1899, when his term ended.[4]

Later life[edit]

Richardson's residence, The Hollies, in 2011

Richardson bought the land around the Opawa railway station plus an adjacent 13 acres in 1871 and built his residence, The Hollies. It is believed that he designed the house himself, and it is broadly Australian in appearance. Stone from the tunnel project was used in the construction. Richardson was affected by the recession in the late 1880 and in 1889, the Bank of New Zealand repossessed the house and land, and onsold it to sheep farmer John Robert Campbell. The building is registered with Heritage New Zealand, and was registered on 24 June 2005 as a Category II heritage structure with registration number 3112.[27]

Richardson was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1879 Birthday Honours.[4] His second wife (Frances) died on 1 October 1913. Richardson died in Wellington on 26 February 1915, and was survived by a son from his marriage with Margaret, and four sons and two daughters from his marriage with Frances, one of whom was the artist Mollie Tripe .[1][2] He was interred at Karori Cemetery in Wellington.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary Hon. E. Richardson, C.M.G." The Evening Post. LXXXIX (48). 26 February 1915. p. 8. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bohan, Edmund. "Richardson, Edward - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Marriage". Lyttelton Times. XXI (1228). 28 April 1864. p. 4. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Hon. Edward Richardson". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. Victoria University of Wellington. 
  5. ^ "Canterbury Provincial Council". Christchurch Regional Office: The Community Archive. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "A Brief History of the Central City Area" (PDF). Christchurch City Council. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Wilson (Dr), John; Sarah Dawson; John Adam; Jane Matthews; Bruce Petry; Mary O’Keeffe (June 2005). "Theme II : Infrastructure". Contextual Historical Overview for Christchurch City (PDF). Christchurch: BPR Publishers. p. 2. ISBN 1-877313-21-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 195. 
  9. ^ "Nomination for Christchurch West". The Star (820). 12 January 1871. p. 3. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "The General Elections". The Star (826). 19 January 1871. p. 2. Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "General Elections". The Star (2431). 7 January 1876. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Christchurch Election". The Star (3563). 11 September 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  13. ^ "The New Parliament". XXXII (5708). Daily Southern Cross. 8 January 1876. p. 3. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Timaru Herald". The Timaru Herald. XXXI (1594). 30 October 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  15. ^ "The Christchurch Election". The Star (3608). 3 November 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  16. ^ "Sir George Grey unseated for Christchurch". The Timaru Herald. XXXI (1590). 25 October 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  17. ^ "Parliamentary". VI (934). Poverty Bay Herald. 27 October 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  18. ^ "The General Election". The Star (4255). 10 December 1881. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "The Stanmore Election" (4131). West Coast Times. 12 July 1882. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "Stanmore Election". The Star (4437). 14 July 1882. p. 3. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  21. ^ "The Kaiapoi Election". The Evening Post. XXVII (117). 17 May 1884. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  22. ^ "The New Parliament". XIX (5378). Wanganui Herald. 29 July 1884. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "The General Election Results". The Star (6043). 27 September 1887. p. 4. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  24. ^ "General Election – Candidates For Seats In House". XXXIX (8950). Taranaki Herald. 5 December 1890. p. 2. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Resignation of the Minister of Public Works". XXI (2621). Grey River Argus. 5 January 1877. p. 2. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Vial, Jane (22 June 2007). "Tripe, Mary Elizabeth 1870–1939". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  27. ^ "The Hollies". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Personal Matters". The Evening Post. LXXXIX (49). 27 February 1915. p. 6. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Selwyn
Constituency abolished
In abeyance
Title last held by
William Sefton Moorhouse
Member of Parliament for Christchurch
Served alongside:
Edward Stevens, Samuel Paull Andrews, William Sefton Moorhouse
In abeyance
Title next held by
Westby Perceval
William Pember Reeves
Richard Molesworth Taylor
Preceded by
Isaac Wilson
Member of Parliament for Kaiapoi
Succeeded by
Richard Moore