Person/Corporate Type
Biographical Display
Possibly born in Madeira.
Buried (with his wife, Frances [aka Fanny] Stevens [or Stephen] Shackel] and some of his children in Row M
No. 465-466, Heathcote Cemetery.
From Christchurch City Council publication:
"Legend says that Captain James Penfold was a cabin boy on Lord Nelson’s flagship, Victory. As the Victory was in action at Trafalgar in 1805 and the captain was born in the 1830s, it is clear that legend was wrong.
A seaman and captain of a small schooner, Excelsior, Penfold traded in Australian and New Zealand waters. On 13 June 1863, in the Wesleyan chapel, Christchurch, Penfold, 31, married Fanny Shackel, 29.
Penfold was contracted to ship the first load of train sleepers when, in the 1860s, the provincial government was establishing the Christchurch-Lyttelton railway tunnel. The Excelsior ran aground on the Sumner bar, was towed up the estuary and the rails offloaded onto the river bank. The schooner was broken up as it was considered too damaged for repair to be worthwhile.
On the estuary bank, about 100 yards on the Sumner side of the Heathcote bridge, Penfold and a man named Roberts built a sod house as the captain’s prospective domicile. Timber he brought from Jenkins’ sawmill in Ferry Road. Although it may have looked primitive, people dwelt in it for many years.
After the demise of the Excelsior, Penfold worked on the construction of the railway tunnel. In family baptism and marriage records he is described as a labourer, platelayer and railway employee. His children - at least nine in number - were born in the cottage. The family lived at places other than the estuary abode. The 1882 Return of the freeholders of New Zealand describes Penfold as a platelayer of Southbridge with land in Selwyn County worth 250 pounds. The captain died on 4 January 1905 and his wife on 28 June 1905.
The Penfold cottage was occupied till 1908, after which it fell into disrepair. In 1940 it was but a heap of sods lying about an old fireplace. Cocksfoot grew wild in the area. The Mount Pleasant Burgesses’ Association planned the rebuilding of the structure. Men from the Mount Pleasant Boating Club who were too young for war service were brought in to work on the project. The restored cottage was to be a monument to the ‘gallant spirit, endurance and foresight of the pioneers of Canterbury’. The man in charge, Ernest Parish of St. Andrew’s Hill. could not find suitable ground from which to shape sods. Thus he had to do his work with cob, a mixture of clay and tussock or rushes. The cob was mixed with water in a trench and ‘pugged’ or trodden by foot. This was hard work and meant that Parish had to exercise great patience.
On 16 December 1944, the 94th anniversary of the arrival of the First Four Ships, Christchurch Mayor E. H. Andrews accepted management of the cottage on behalf of the citizens of the metropolis. Among the official party was the Rev. Frederick Guise Brittan, 96, the last survivor of those who had come on the First Four Ships.
Thousands of people attended the ceremony. The Sumner road and streets on the hill overlooking the estuary were lined with spectators. It should be remembered that, although an early settler, Penfold had arrived in the province and built his house more than a decade after the coming of the First Four Ships.
Ernest Parish looked after the cottage for many years. In 1955 Dorothy Richards, a Sydney woman and the captain’s granddaughter, handed over a clock which had been on the Excelsior and, later, in Penfold’s home. The caretaker was delighted, this being the only thing in the cottage which had been in the original building.
The gravestone reads:
Thomas S. died June 1864
Elizabeth A. died 19 October 1873
Frederick E. A. died 16 April 1894 at Clapham Fire Station
William J. died Gisborne, 28 June 1900
Children of J. and F. Penfold
James Penfold, 72, died 4 January 1905
Fanny Penfold, 69, died 28 June 1905"

NOTE: Dorothy Richards would have been his great-grand-daughter: James and Fanny's daughter, Emma Thomasina married William Izard of Christchurch. Their youngest daughter, Eva Grace, married Reginald Thomas Richards of The Point. Dorothy was a daughter of that marriage.

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