Henry Coote

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Henry Joseph Coote (9 January 1819 – 25 March 1867), known as Major Coote,[note 1] was a British army officer who served in India, Corfu and New Zealand and returned to breed sheep in New Zealand on his retirement from the army. He was a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council from 8 July 1865 until his death in his 49th year on 25 March 1867.[1]

Born in London in 1819, third son of barrister[2] of the court of chancery Richard Holmes Coote and his wife Elizabeth née Callander[3] he was a younger brother of surgeon Holmes Coote 1817-1872.[4] A professional soldier Henry Joseph Coote had been educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Commissioned Lieutenant in 1839 and Captain in 1844 Coote was appointed Major in 1857[5] when attached to the new arrivals in New Zealand, the 18th Regiment of Foot.

Punch Magazine - 18 May 1844

He was aide-de-camp to General Sir Charles James Napier in the 1843 conquest of Scinde and after he was the first man to enter the enemy position at Hyderabad (peccavi) described by the General as "the intrepid Coote". Wounded he returned to England, marrying in 1844. He later joined the 36th (Herefordshire) Regiment of Foot and served in the Ionian Islands, where he distinguished himself in Cephalonia during the time that Henry George Ward was Lord High Commissioner.[6]

Coote was appointed Brigade-Major to the 65th Regiment of Foot in Wellington New Zealand in 1852.[7][8] On half pay from 1 July 1853 he returned to England in 1858 soon after his promotion to Major. There he lobbied the War Office to put a force together under his command to fight in the New Zealand Wars but was unsuccessful.

He retired from the army and returned to New Zealand arriving in December 1861. He took up the Carleton run near Oxford, Canterbury[9] and won prizes for his merinos. He left Canterbury and settled in 1864 first at Opaki north of Masterton then as he had originally intended about four miles west of Masterton on Matahiwi Station[10] which he had purchased in 1861.[11] It was later described in an (unsuccessful) 1896 petition for compulsory purchase under Seddon's Lands for Settlement Act as six or seven thousand acres of good land, some first-class some second.[12]

An accomplished artist in watercolours he was a regular exhibitor.[13] His portraits of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata were engraved and published in Sydney.[7]

Major Coote married Rhoda Carleton Holmes, daughter of William Holmes of Worthing, Sussex at Lyminster on 22 October 1844.[14] There were no surviving children of the marriage. He died after a long illness aged 48 on 25 March 1867[6] and she died in England in December 1898.[15] Their property went to his wife's family. The main homestead is now a residence of Sir Peter Jackson.


  1. ^ Army ranks of Captain and above are retained in retirement


  1. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840-1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 151. OCLC 154283103. 
  2. ^ 1851 census, FindMyPast
  3. ^ Register of baptisms, Old Church, parish of St Pancras, London
  4. ^ Norman Moore, ‘Coote, Holmes (1817–1872)’, rev. Stella Butler, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 accessed 12 March 2016
  5. ^ Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List for 1861
  6. ^ a b "The Late Major Coote". Wellington Independent. XXI (2498). 28 March 1867. p. 3. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Una Platts, Nineteenth century New Zealand Artists: a guide and handbook Avon Fine Prints, Christchurch 1980
  8. ^ New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, Volume IX, Issue 963, 25 October 1854, Page 2
  9. ^ Valuable Merino Rams for Major Coote, Lyttelton Times, Volume XIX, Issue 1061, 10 January 1863, Page 4
  10. ^ Important public meeting at Masterton, Wellington Independent, Volume XIX, Issue 2085, 9 July 1864, Page 1
  11. ^ Matahiwi Again, Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XVI, Issue 5533, 14 January 1897, Page 2
  12. ^ The Matahiwi Station. Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume XVI, Issue 5521, 30 December 1896, Page 2
  13. ^ New Zealand Exhibition, Lyttelton Times, Volume XXIII, Issue 1353, 31 January 1865, Page 5
  14. ^ Register of marriages, parish of Lyminster Sussex
  15. ^ Personal Items from London, New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXV, Issue 10942, 22 December 1898, Page 6