Sophia Anstice

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Sophia Anstice (née Catesby, 5 November 1849 – 1 August 1926) was a New Zealand dressmaker, draper and businesswoman. She was born in London, England on 5 November 1849.[1]


Sophia Anstice was born on November 5, 1849 in Marylebone, London, England to her father Edward Catesby—a carpenter—and her mother Caroline Catesby (Bailey). On January 12, 1873, Anstice married Edwin George King at the St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, England. Edwin George King was the son of a well-known naturalist George Hoadley King, and he—at the time of his marriage to Anstice—was a salesman for a plant seed company.

On October 26, 1874, one year after Anstice and King were married, they traveled to New Zealand as assisted immigrants with two other companions; Anstice and King's first born son—Edwin, after his father—and King's younger brother, Henry. Anstice and her accompaniment arrived at Nelson on the Chile. Anstice and her family were chosen along with thirty other families to be a part of a pioneer party and initially were to settle on the North-west coast of the Southern Island of New Zealand at Karamea; this was supposed to last from late 1874 through early 1875. The trade-off was simple: The new settlers would be offered the land in Karamea at a bargaining low cost but they would have to contribute labor towards building public buildings and works to help establish a town. The endeavor would prove to be immensely difficult for the thirty families, the new settlement would be discovered to be a poor site to start a town; it was not blessed with rich earth but cursed with infertile soil.

With the combination of infertile soil and the isolation that Karamea possessed it made the living conditions for the thirty families—the early settlers—were extremely harsh and difficult for survival. Anstice's family—the Kings—had an exceptionally difficult time, Anstice and King's second child had died just a few hours after being born; the situation for the Kings had intensified when there hadn't been a properly consecrated burial ground to lay their second child in leaving them to pursue other venues for the baby's eternal resting place.

According to the King family records on the burial of their second child: Henry King had made a coffin for the newly born-deceased out of the packing case that he had. Henry proceeded to take the makeshift coffin over shoulder where he had to travel several miles to the nearest cemetery where the infant was finally buried. The event of the infant's death would prove to be the family King's lowest moment of their excursion. The following year, 1876, the King family had been able to put much of what they had been through behind them; they looked forward to significantly brighter prospects for the new year. 1876 started with the bright prospect that the King family would be allowed to leave behind what was believed to be the "Barren South Terrace" to go to an immensely resourceful alternative upriver; this site was known to the King family as "The Promised Land". The Promised Land had already proved its worthiness of high expectations and prospects. Edwin and Henry King both had gone up to the site in an earlier time and tested its soil for its fertility. The brothers King had found pleasing results after they had planted some of Edwin's seeds that he had brought from England.

In 1878, Anstice and King had moved the family to Nelson, New Zealand. Anstice and King had their third child, a daughter named Lilian Jane King. During this period Edwin senior had developed consumption which burdened the King family greatly. Things for the King family had gotten more severe without the patriarch being able to contribute at the level they had been accustomed to. This new disease of Anstice's husband meant that she had to be the primary provider for her family. In 1879, Anstice's responsibilities of caring for her family went from her two children and—largely—her ill husband to three children and her husband with the birth of their fourth child, Harriet Louise King.

Anstice was extremely adroit with the needle, her sewing capabilities were understood to be truly exceptional. In 1876, Anstice had established her own dressmaking business in Karamea that was titled "St. Alban's House". Anstice's business was a quick success and she had the resources to keep the premises of her business in Karamea while she moved to Nelson; she had subsequently opened another "St. Alban's House" in Nelson...her new home. Anstice business's were able to sustain the necessary lifestyle for the King Family.

In February 1880, tragically, Anstice's husband, Edwin King senior, had succumbed to his disease—consumption—and died. Approximately nine-months after Anstice's husband's death, her youngest child—Harriet Louise King—had died. On the 20 of June 1886, Anstice was remarried to her second husband, John Snook Anstice. John Snook Anstice, was an owner of a bakery on Hardy Street in Nelson, New Zealand. Anstice's second husband was much older than her and was a widower.

Anstice and her second husband would have two children together; two sons, Herbert Anstice and Leslie Anstice. Most unfortunately, Anstice's son Leslie from her second marriage died during his infancy. In 1891, Anstice would establish a drapery and dressmaking business. Anstice would open the business in Nelson at the intersection of Hardy Street and Hope Street. She would inevitably title the business "S. Anstice, Son and Company". Anstice new drapery and dressmaking company had employed a large number of people.

S. Anstice, Son and Company proved to be a success in the southern region of New Zealand prior to the turn of the twentieth century. Anstice had displayed and accomplished entrepreneurial prowess in New Zealand through her business. She opened up branches in other areas of New Zealand, namely: Takaka, Murchison, and Motueka. Her business took orders from New Zealand's very urban to its extremely rural; this includes Karamea. Anstice was a very thorough and rigorous business owner, she was known to be frequently housed in all of her shops as much as possible, taking the traveling coaches to get from region to region.

Anstice had been known to visit London several times over the years to see her family—the Catesbys. This frequency was an ambitious undertaking for her period. On Anstice's visits to London she would buy from her relatives' drapery store. The Catesby's had a drapery store in Tottenham on Court Road. In 1900, Anstice's business was truly flourishing; she had built another St. Alban's House on Trafalgar Street. In 1917, her second husband, John Snook Anstice, died.

After Anstice's second husband's death she had moved in to live with her son Herbert Anstice and his family who lived nearby. Sophia Anstice had died on August 1, 1926. Until her death, she had always worn black—as traditional widow attire—and she had always had her hair tied in a bun, never letting her down. Anstice's successful drapery and dressmaking business was taken over and run by two of her children: Lilian Marin and Herbert Anstice. She was buried in Nelson's Wakapuaka Cemetery.[2]


  1. ^ Malone, C. B. "Sophia Anstice". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ C. B. Malone. 'Anstice, Sophia', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 4-Jun-2013