William Barnard Rhodes

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For other people named William Rhodes, see William Rhodes (disambiguation).
William Barnard Rhodes
man in his 60s in formal Victorian clothing standing adjacent to a pillar
William Barnard Rhodes, circa 1870s
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wellington Country
In office
18 August 1853 – 15 September 1855
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for City of Wellington
In office
27 July 1858 – 27 January 1866
Personal details
Born 1807?
Died 11 February 1878
Spouse(s) Sarah King (died 1862)
Sarah Ann Moorhouse

William Barnard Rhodes (1807? – 11 February 1878) was a New Zealand businessman, pastoralist and politician. He was probably born in Lincolnshire, England, but took up a career at sea at an early age. When he died in Wellington, he was described as one of the richest people in the country.

Early life[edit]

Rhodes was the son of William Rhodes, a wealthy tenant farmer born in Yorkshire. His mother was Theodosia Maria Rhodes (née Heaton). Rhodes Jr. was baptised on 9 May 1807 in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England.[1] He was a second officer on a merchant vessel by the age of 19, and by 1831 he had his own command. After visiting South America, Africa, and India, Rhodes ended up in Australia, where he formed a partnership with a local company to acquire land in New Zealand. Rhodes established his base of operations in Wellington in 1840, and the extensive farming ventures he established became very profitable. Before long he was able to buy out his partners in Sydney, and he became known as one of the richest people in Wellington. His business was originally based around exporting the produce from his farms, but later broadened to include imports, shipping, insurance and finance. At the same time, he continued to expand his holdings, buying and selling huge amounts of land.


Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1853–1855 1st Wellington Country Independent
1858–1860 2nd City of Wellington Independent
1860–1866 3rd City of Wellington Independent

As a result of his prominence in the Wellington community he decided to enter local politics. He served on the Wellington Provincial Council, where he was a strong supporter of Isaac Featherston.

He was then elected to the 1st New Zealand Parliament as the representative for the Wellington Country seat, covering Miramar, Makara, Porirua, the Kapiti Coast and Horowhenua, from 1853 to 1855. From 1858 he represented the City of Wellington electorate in the 2nd Parliament and the 3rd Parliament, but failed to win re-election in 1866. He was later appointed to the Legislative Council.

Marriages and daughter[edit]

Rhodes, his first wife Sarah King, and their adopted daughter Mary Ann.

Rhodes married firstly Sarah King (died 1862), then Sarah Ann Moorhouse, sister of William Sefton Moorhouse. They lived in a large house in Wellington, The Grange, between Thorndon and Wadestown, on his Highland Park run.

He had no children by either wife, but fathered a daughter, Mary Ann Rhodes, by a Maori woman called Mary. William and Sarah Ann loved his daughter, and Sarah Ann adopted her. She was provided for in her father’s will, but she challenged the will, losing in the New Zealand Supreme Court but being awarded £750,000 by the Privy Council.

Mary Ann Rhodes married her stepmother’s younger brother Edward Moorhouse in Wellington in 1883. They moved to England and raised four children, including William Barnard Moorhouse. Shortly before he married in 1912, as required by the will of his grandfather, he changed his name to William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse. He was the first airman to win the Victoria Cross.

William Barnard Rhodes is buried at Bolton Street Memorial Park, and his grave is part of the memorial trail.[2][3]

His widow, Sarah, died at the beginning of January 1914 aged 77. She made many charitable bequests including trusts for the university education of young women.[4][5] One-ninth of her estate went to Victoria College for the education of women and another one-ninth went to the Wellington Boys' Institute.[6]

The Rhodes brothers[edit]

Rhodes was the oldest of 14 children. Three brothers followed him to New Zealand; Robert Heaton (1815–1884), George (1816–1864) and Joseph (1826–1905).


  1. ^ Patterson, Brad. "Rhodes, William Barnard". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  2. ^ "Details". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Memorial Trail" (PDF). Bolton Street Memorial Park. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Mrs Rhodes. Evening Post, 3 January 1914, Page 7
  5. ^ Known for her Good Works. Star 3 January 1914, Page 8
  6. ^ Generous Bequests. New Zealand Times 5 January 1914, Page 4
  • George Rhodes of the Levels and his brothers by A.E. Woodhouse (1937, Whitcombe & Tombs, Auckland)

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Wellington Country
Succeeded by
Dudley Ward