Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BARTLETT, Cyril Montague (1874-1917)

At the time of his birth, Cyril Bartlett's family were living at 57 Fellows Road, Hampstead, London. He was baptised at the Anglican church of St Saviour, South Hampstead, where his  date of birth was recorded as 3 July, 1874 in the parish register and his name as Cyril Montagu Bartlett, though it appears to have been more generally written as Cyril Montague. 

Cyril came from a long line of Devonshire merchant adventurers. His father, Thomas Henry Bartlett (1835-1896), was a London solicitor. [1] His grandfather, Thomas Snr, had moved late in life to London, but had previously been a Teignmouth ship owner. Devonshire was where the Bartlett family's origins lay and Teignmouth, Devon, England, had been their hometownh for several generations. Teignmouth is a historic maritime town and English Channel port, associated since the fifteenth century with English privateers and adventurers. By the Regency period it had become a fashionable seaside resort. Today it remains a classic resort town, while its harbour is still a functioning port.

Cyril's mother Elizabeth née Matthew (1849-1916), was from Cambridge, England, and it's possible that his parents were related to each other - his father's mother was a Susanna Matthew.

Cyril was one of 11 children. He was the seventh child and third son and had 7 sisters and 3 brothers. He appears to have inherited the adventurous spirit of his forbears.[2] Although for unknown reasons he was unable to follow his career of choice and join the Navy, Cyril did go to sea. By the age of 16 he was training as a cadet on the HMS Worcester, base for the Thames Nautical Training College in London, and later crewed for some time on the clipper Aristides.

The clipper ship Aristides.

 The Aristides was on the Australia run, and Cyril Bartlett took the opportunity to disembark and travel around the wilder parts of Australia. He spent several years north of the Gawler Range in the interior of South Australia, among the Malay pearl fishers at Broome, and in the sparsely populated regions of the Fitzroy River in Tasman Land. [3]

He eventually went home to England and became a farmer, but developed itchy feet again, and in 1906, as a bachelor aged 32, he took ship from London for Wellington, New Zealand, travelling as a saloon passenger on the SS Ruapehu. [4]

Cyril Bartlett was initially sheep-farming at Riwaka, on the outskirts of Motueka, but mid-1910 found him living in the Motueka Valley and the owner of the White Pine Swamp farm of around 110 acres on Waiwhero Road, Ngatimoti, bought from Henry Hudson, who had in earlier years leased it to the Ham family. Cyril got off to an unfortunate start with a serious accident. Not long after settling there, he was clearing a piece of land he planned to plant in fruit trees and while he was dealing with the remains of a stump he had just blasted, a large chunk of wood flew up and struck him a heavy blow in the face. Dr Henry Deck was called from Motueka to attend him, and at the time feared that Cyril might lose the sight in one eye. Presumably he recovered fully, given that he was accepted as a fit for duty when he later enlisted. [5]

As an Anglican, Cyril would have attended St James Church, centre of social life in the Motueka Valley, and soon been assimilated into the life of the Ngatimoti community. In 1912 he was elected as a member of the Ngatimoti School Committee. [6] His lands were bounded by those of neighbouring farmers, the Guys and the Strachans, both of whom lost sons during the war. As was the custom, they shared the work on each other’s farms at busy times, like shearing, haymaking and bringing in harvests. Typically, wherever the men finished for the day was where they had their evening meal and found a bed. Cyril had a small mixed farm similar to others in the area, using horse-drawn teams to cultivate the land for grain and root crops and vegetables, and running a mix of animals – poultry, pigs, cattle , sheep and a dairy cow or two for butter, cheese and milk. 

The cold Ngatimoti winters favoured raspberries and Cyril Bartlett had a sizable area planted in raspberries, which were packed and sent off to market. He would have employed  women and school children from the Motueka Valley as pickers - this might be how he became acquainted with Hester Ham and her family. There may have also been some of the girls from town who regularly flocked to the area at harvest time for a sociable summer working holiday, and were known locally as "Raspberry Tarts". The raspberries were taken by express (a type of flat wagon) to Motueka after being packed in wooden casks; Cyril's were probably supplied by his neighbours, the Strachan brothers, who having learned the cooper's trade from their father, Benjamin, made items like barrels, kegs and butter churns to supplement their farm income. Deliveries had to made regularly - if fruit was left to sit in the kegs too long it would start to ferment, froth up and eventually bubble over. 
[7] Earlier attempts to export raspberries had proved uneconomic, but by 1911 a jam factory run on behalf of Dunedin-based firm Irvine & Stephenson had been set up in Motueka to process local crops. This business was in the hands of Thompson and Hill from Auckland by 1913, with Massey Thompson as the local manager. [8]

Raspberry pickers at Ngatimoti.
The raspberry kegs on the cart could be have been made by Cyril Bartlett's neighbours, the Strachan brothers.

Among the Ngatimoti residents he got to know were William and Hester Ham, and their family. When the Hams lost their son, William, during the Battle of the Suez Canal, William Snr was hospitalised in Nelson with pneumonia and his family were living in Nelson to be near him. The news of his son’s death was too much for his father in his weakened state, and he died of a heart attack soon after. [9]

The widowed Hester received a lot of support from her old Ngatimoti friends and neighbours, including Cyril Bartlett, and on the 1st of February, 1916, Hester and Cyril married at Christ Church Cathedral in Nelson. They had only been married for a few months when, inspired by the sacrifice made by Hester's son William, Cyril enlisted in August, 1916, with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion’s 12th (Nelson) Company, the same company young William Ham had joined. Nearly a year after he embarked, Hester received the news that Cyril had been killed in action at Ypres in Belgium, on the 15th of December, 1917. He was 43. [10]  After her son, Harry, now the oldest, was demobilised in 1919, she sold Bartlett's Ngatimoti farm and moved with her family to Dunedin. His will was probated at the Probate Office, London, on 9 March 1918, the applicant being John Soame Austen, director of a public company.

When war broke out in August, 1914, Cyril’s younger brother back in England, Frank Dyson Bartlett (1882-1951),  rejoined the London-based  Honorable Artillery Company, with which he had earlier trained. He served during the war as a lieutenant with the Worcesters – the Worcestershire Infantry Regiment - and survived to return home.


Cyril Bartlett is buried at the Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, his grave marked by a headstone. He is commemorated at the Ngatimoti War Memorial, Tasman, New Zealand, less than a kilometre from where he lived.


1) Ancestry.com

     Colonist, 5 April, 1918

3) Tasman Land was one of the territories of Australia in the 19th century. It was at the top of the province of Western Australia and adjoined Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

4) Archives NZ : New Zealand Immigration Passenger lists, 1855-1973: C. M. Bartlett. Digital  Folder No : 004416608, Image No: 00312

5)  Accident – C M Bartlett Ngatimoti.
     Nelson Evening Mail, 27 July, 1910 

      Nelson Evening Mail, 24 April, 1912

7) Beatson, C.B. (Pat). The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti as I Remember. (1992) Nelson, NZ: Nkau Press, pg 76.

8) Beatson, Kath and Whelan,Helen, The River Flows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, 2003 ed. Pub. Buddens   Bookshop, Motueka, See pg. 46.

    The Prow: historical and cultural stories from Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough. 

10)  Mrs C.M. Bartlett: notification of husband’s death Dec 1916
     Colonist, 18 January, 1918

Photo Credits

Aristides. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Raspberry pickers, Ngatimoti
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315085

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