Thursday, 5 December 2013

Alfred Joseph White

Found this  on internet .
Another Eliza White but worth mentioning
Eliza White (1841-1909) was the wealthy widow of successful merchant Alfred Joseph White, who had established a popular high quality furnishing store on the High/Tuam Street corner in the 1860s. By the turn of the century, A. J. White's employed 80 people in the shop and adjacent furniture factory. After Alfred's death in 1895, Eliza continued to run the business herself. Devoutly Catholic, she donated large sums to good causes, including the building of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (1905, Category I). Although she had extensive property interests, it is possible that Eliza lived at Risingholme, as she is recorded as living at Opawa through the period. After her death Eliza left an estate worth £70,000, £40,000 of which was left to be administered by a charitable trust. Risingholme itself passed in 1910 to her daughters Maud, Rose and Beatrice, her solicitor Henry Loughnan and her accountant Arthur Read (or Reed). The following year the house was bought by Cashel Street draper William Burns. Burns was declared bankrupt in 1918, and the official assignee sold the house to Mary Anderson.

In loving memory of

Alfred Joseph WHITE

Who died 7 June 1895

Aged 58

We loved him in life

Let us not forget him in death

Also his loved wife


Who died 30 November 1909

May her soul rest in peace

Also their loved daughter

Maud Magdalena WHITE

Who died 6 December 1960

Block 40 Plot 141 [Alfred and Eliza]

Block 41 Plot 1 [Maud]

Eliza died of Bronchitis [1]

Maud was born in Christchurch

Occupation: Spinster

Address: 365 Marine Parade, Christchurch[2]


Alfred Joseph White, founder of the the firm A J White’s, emigrated to New Zealand from England in about 1862. While sailing for Canterbury on the Zealandia, he met Eliza Baker aged 22. She was a nurse.

A. J. and Eliza were married on 16 March 1864 in the Catholic church in Christchurch. Eliza, a Protestant, promised that children of the marriage would be brought up as Catholics. Alfred promised that he would do what he could to lead his wife to the faith and succeeded so well that Eliza chose to be present at the consecration, in England, of the first Roman Catholic Bishop, John Joseph Grimes.

A. J. ‘came to New Zealand without capital but, by perseverance, business ability and probity made steady progress on the road to success. He devoted himself to the business, taking little or no part in public affairs.

White established the firm of AJ White’s in Tuam / High Street - a business that still operates from these premises today [since destroyed in earthquakes 2010/2011 -Sandy] as McKenzie and Willis. He had learned the furniture trade in his parent’s Taunton (Devon, UK) antique shop.

The Whites originally had a business in High Street and then removed to the building on the Tuam Street-High Street corner. They lived over their shop, sold it and bought it back.

AJ White’s was not only a successful business but a well known landmark with local businesses advertising their location in the small ads as ‘near AJ White’s', ‘opposite AJ White’s’ and ‘three doors from AJ White’s’.

White lived in Opawa Road and in 1894 he donated the Sumner Social Hall that he owned, to the Right Rev Dr Grimes, so there would be a Catholic Church in Sumner.

Alfred and Eliza had seven daughters and one son.

Sadly, A J White died on 7th June 1895 aged 57 (aged 59 in CCC Cemeteries Database) following an accident on a ship in Bluff. He was in failing health for 18 months and for three was unable to attend to his business.

A J was ‘noted for his deep piety and consistency in his attendance at the services in his church’, gave generously to organisations associated with it and was ‘a strong supporter of religious instruction to children’. He was also ‘extremely good to the poor of all denominations’.

A J had a grand Victorian funeral. His body was taken to the Catholic pro-Cathedral (on the site of the modern Catholic Cathedral). The building, which was draped in black, was crowded with prominent citizens (who are named in the Lyttelton Times account of the proceedings).

Bishop Grimes celebrated the Pontifical Requiem Mass which was sung to ‘Gregorian music ancient plain song’. His sermon was based on the text: ‘But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep; that you sorrow not, even as others that have no hope’. The Bishop urged all to ‘follow the example set by the deceased both in his devotion to his church and his actions in business’.

Children of the Convent and the Marist Brothers’ School then marched off in front of the hearse, the chief mourners and White’s employees coming behind.


An astute business woman, Eliza owned a number of properties including Rockville in Nayland Street, Sumner which still stands today. She financed the buildings of the Sumner Borough Council and like her husband, was extremely generous to the Catholic Church.

After becoming a widow in 1895 aged 68. She helped with the original conversion of the Sumner Social Hall that had been gifted to the Right Rev Dr Grimes by her husband in 1894 into the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea. The new church was consecrated on New Year’s Day 1897 after some delays.

Eliza continued to be a benefactor for the church, buying new carpet for the church in 1898 and funding further renovations for the church in 1908. When she died in 1909 she left money allowing the work to continue and the renovations were completed in 1913.

In her will, Eliza also left money for two orphanages, one for girls and another for boys. However, there was only enough money for the girls’ orphanage; St. Joseph’s, which was established next door to the Good Shepherd Convent at Mount Magdala, Halswell. Although the orphanage no longer exists, the Catholic Church still has an Eliza White Trust and Eliza White Home for children in Albert Terrace. [3]

The A J White’s building at 236 Tuam Street was lost to earthquake damage. Description and photograph of this building on Historic Places Trust site. Control F for search:





No comments: