Home » Historical Figures » New Addition to our Collections: Samuel Marsden

New Addition to our Collections: Samuel Marsden

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

The broad outline of Samuel Marsden‘s life and works are well-known: born Farsley, 1764, Samuel emigrated to the Australian colonies in 1793 after accepting an appointment as assistant to the Chaplain of New South Wales. There he took up residence at Parramatta, where he had charge of the religious instruction of convicts. Marsden was an influential figure in the early history of New South Wales, both for his clergy work but also his role as a judge and his employment of convicts for farming.

It was in that latter agricultural station that he is best known to us today: returning to Yorkshire in 1807, Marsden brought with him 165lb of wool, which was received enthusiastically by English manufacturers cut off from their usual supply of Merino wool by conflict on the European continent. Marsden visited King George III, wearing a suit made from the Australian wool; so impressed was the monarch by this display of sartorial elegance that he presented Marsden with five Spanish sheep from the Royal flock. These sheep, transported back to Parramatta, were the ancestors of an extensive flock of fine-woolled Australian sheep.

In 1814, Marsden visited New Zealand for the first time, along with six Maori chiefs who had been staying with him. There, he delivered the first Christian sermon on New Zealand soil (fittingly, on Christmas Day); an occasion that was commemorated in 1907 with the erection of a magnificent cross on that same spot. Marsden was to make six further missionary visits to New Zealand before dying in Sydney, aged  74. A full-length biography of this pioneering individual is available from our Information and Research department.

The Local and Family History department is delighted to say that, alongside an existing folder of materials related to Marsden’s life – copies of newspaper articles and original correspondence, mainly relating to the creation of a memorial to his life in Farsley – and an 1819 edition of his New Zealand diary – we have recently added another set of materials to our collection . These were very kindly donated to us by Bob and Lorraine Marsden, of Sydney. Bob is a direct descendant of Samuel Marsden (as well as Thomas Plantangent, Edward I and William the Conqueror!) and the material he has collected for us mainly concern Samuel’s time in Australia and New Zealand.

These do much to flesh out the story of the Farsley man after he left the West Riding and are an invaluable addition to our stock. Of particular note are copies of maps showing the exact locations Marsden settled in; a detailed Marsden genealogy; a transcript of his last will and testament; and full colour photographs of the Marsden Cross in New Zealand and Marsden’s farm ‘Mamre’ in New South Wales. We cannot thank Bob and Lorraine enough for this very thoughtful bequest.

Please visit us on the 2nd Floor of the Central Library to view these new additions to our Marsden collection, or contact us on 0113 37 86982 and via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk to find out more.

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