Tombstone Tuesday : Symonds Street story

St Andrews Cemetery, Newcastle- Upon-Tyne 
A memorial in St Andrews Cemetery, Newcastle- Upon-Tyne says:

“In loving remembrance of George Brewis McQueen, solicitor of this town who went to Auckland New Zealand for the benefit of his health and died one month after his arrival November 16th 1874 aged 26 years and was interred in Auckland Cemetery. His gentle loving disposition endeared him to all who knew him. His end was peace. Also Robert McQueen brother of the above who died July the 11th 1859 aged 1 year and 10 months. Robert McQueen father of the above died December 14th 1890 aged 71 years. Also Frances his wife died October 9th 1893 aged 78 years.”

Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland

George’s grave is situated in the Symonds Street Cemetery where his gravestone is still in fairly good condition.  A search of the Symonds Street cemetery records on Auckland Libraries Digital Library shows the partial transcription of the stone.  But what is George’s story? Why is he buried alone in Auckland when his immediate family are buried in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne?

A search of reveals that George Brewis McQueen was born in January 1849 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England.  His parents were Robert McQueen (1819-1890) and Frances (Fanny) Brewis (1816-1893) who married in December 1847.

George had one sister, Elizabeth Brewis McQueen who was born in 1851 and two brothers, William Brewis McQueen who was born in 1854 and Robert who was born in 1857 and died in July 1859.

In 1851 the family were living at 7 Wellington Street, Newcastle on Tyne.  George’s maternal grandmother was living with the family too – they were awaiting the birth of George’s sister so she was possibly with them to help with the new baby.  The family also had a 17 year old servant girl living with them.  Robert McQueen was a Cutler (a maker of cutlery) & maker of surgical instruments.

In 1861 the family are at 3 St Cuthberts Terrace, Gateshead, Durham.  George and his sister Elizabeth have been joined by their brother William.  Robert McQueen is still a Cutler by trade but he is now an employer of 1 man and 2 boys.  The family are cared for by a 16 year old servant girl.

In 1871 the family continue at 3 St Cuthberts Terrace.  Robert describes himself as a Cutler & Surgical Instrument Maker, George at the age of 22 years is an Attorney & Solicitor and William is an apprentice Cutler.  Robert will later change the name of his business to McQueen & Son when Robert partners with him in the business.

On 11 April 1873 The London Gazette reports that George is to be Ensign in the 8th Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps on 12 April 1873.

In January 1874, George is in partnership with William Chartres and John Youll, who are attorneys and solicitors at 18 Grainger Street West, Newcastle Upon Tyne. But the London Gazette of 21 July 1874 reports that the partnership of Chartres, Youll and McQueen has been dissolved by mutual consent on 6 July 1874.  Three days later, on 09 July 1874 George is in London boarding a ship for New Zealand.

Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals 1838-1889 says that George arrived in Auckland on the “Zealandia” on 15 October 1874.  A quick check of Auckland Area Passenger Vessels 1838-1886 and we find the “Zealandia” leaving London on 09 July 1874 with 219 immigrants aboard.  George is a Saloon passenger rather than an immigrant, so it may be that he was not planning to settle in New Zealand indefinitely.

George is now safely in New Zealand after a three month sea voyage and he books in to Riding’s Boarding House in Turner Street (off Upper Queen Street).  Mrs G L Riding provided apartments for families and room with or without board for gentlemen at Wolverton House.

Papers Past reveals that just one month later, George is dead.  Friends are invited to his funeral, leaving from Riding’s Boarding House.

Someone arranged his funeral, someone arranged for a burial plot and a gravestone.  We will probably never know who did this for him; or even why George decided to come out to New Zealand; or whether he came alone or with companions.  He may have indeed been ill as his memorial suggests (a colleague suggested tuberculosis) or there could have been other reasons to come half way around the world.

On 28 January 1875 Robert McQueen proved the will of his son George Brewis McQueen.  George left effects of less than £200.

His tidy grave site is tended by a kind hearted stranger who never knew George or his story.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, 9 December 2014 and is filed under ,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

One Response to “Tombstone Tuesday : Symonds Street story”

  1. Some very interesting information on your page - I took a photograph of the McQueen family headstone ion St Andrew's Cemetery recently and was looking to find some information on them. Certainly the story of his untimely death in New Zealand caught my attention.

    St Andrew's Cemetery isn't the same as the one attached to the church here in Newcastle upon Tyne. The cemetery is about 2 miles from the church in a suburb called Jesmond.


Kia ora! Please leave your comment below.