Born 9 Sep. 1822, Clifford Chambers, Warwickshire. Died 8 June 1912, Durban.

Wheelwright, wagon-maker, farmer.

1822.09.09      b. (v.d.B.). b. Clifford Chambers, Staffs. [sic], son of Thomas Spilsbury. (MSCE 46/32). Mother’s maiden name Elizabeth Wheeler. (Brink). He had six brothers and one sister. (v.d.B.). Was brought up in the trades of wheelwright and wagon-maker. (NCA 17.11.54)

1823.06.29      bap. (v.d.B.)

1847.03.01      m. Elizabeth at Cheltenham, [Gloucs.]. (MSCE 46/32). Wife’s maiden name Chandler. (v.d.B.)

1848c.             dau. Ellen b. Date estimated from age given at time of burial. (HMBR)

1849.07.15      son Wilson b. (Tomb. HMC). b.  Gloucs. (CSO 2286)

1850.01.00      Arrived at Natal on the King William, aged 28, with wife Eliza [sic], aged 30, and an infant.  Infant’s name Helen [sic]. (EI 64). Of  Clifford Chambers, Worcs. [sic], arrived with wife Elizabeth (née Chandler) of Cheltenham on the King William with two children. (v.d.B.). Came on the King William from Stratford-on-Avon, Warks., with wife Elizabeth from Cheltenham, Gloucs., and two children Ellen and Wilson. (PP via Edwards)

1850.01.23      The King William anchored off Port Natal. (NW 01.02.50)

1851.09.00      Son Wilson bap., father a joiner. (R. St P., Dbn)

1852.00.00      Commissioned to make a wagon tramline for Mr Godden’s [Godden, Richard*] quarry on the Bluff**.  (Brink)

1852.03.00      Dau. Leah b. (R. Wes., Dbn)

1852.03.12      Unclaimed letter at GPO Dbn. (NT 12.03.52)

1854.04.00      Dau. Elizabeth b. (R. Wes., Dbn).

1854.04.20      Spilbury [sic], a girl. (JC)

1854.06.00      Wheelwright and wagon-maker, Dbn. (RSC IV/7/17  no. 348)

1854.08.15      Wagon-maker, Dbn, owner. (NGG 15.08.54)

1854.11.02      Wheelwright and wagon-builder, West St, Dbn. (NCA 17.11.54)

1856.04.00      Dau. Mary Ann b. (R. Wes., Dbn)

1856.07 –        Dau. Ellen, aged 6½, attended  Dbn Government School from July – Dec. 1856. (CSO 55 no. 145)

1856.11.25      With other Dbn residents signed a petition complaining about Roman-Dutch Law. (Ibid 2245 no. D512)

1858.01 –        Son Wilson, aged 8, attended Dbn Government School from Jan. – July 1858. (Ibid 105 no. 531)

1859.01.03      Wheelwright, Dbn, applied for emigration for Spilsbury, Samuel, aged 23, wheelwright of Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, Eng., Hannah, aged 22, and two children. (EI vol.1, p.253)

1859.05.00      Son Arthur William bap., aged 4 months. (R. Wes., Dbn)

1859.10.00      Of Dbn, stood surety for the passage money of Samuel Spilsbury, 23,

wheelwright, from Stratford-on-Avon. He was accompanied by Hannah, 22, Alice 2 and an infant. They came on the Rydal ***. (EI 65, Akitt Lists)

1859.12.24      Son Arthur William b., Dbn. (v.d.B.) [Should the date of b. be 24.12,1858? BMS]

1860.08.00      Wheelwright, Dbn, owner, on 1860-61 Victoria County jury list. (NM 00.08.60)

1863.10.21      Stated in an affidavit that on 24.07.63 he contracted, at Harrismith, with Duncan C.F Moodie [son of Donald Moodie*] of Natal to hire to him a tent wagon for a planned excursion into the interior. Hire fee £7 per month. On completion of the excursion the wagon to be returned to Spilsbury at Harrismith without entering Natal. After being away 2½ months Moodie returned and paid for the wagon hire plus £2.10s. towards the hire of a buck wagon taken by Edward Moodie at the same time. Spilsbury says he and Moodie were negotiating for the sale of the tent wagon but, before the sale was completed Moodie surreptitiously and clandestinely left Harrismith in the wagon for Natal. Spilsbury fears Moodie intends leaving Natal. Spilsbury said he was a wagon-maker by trade and had been for 14 years a resident of Durban. For the last six months he had been conducting business in Harrismith. The court ordered the wagon to be attached.  (RSC I/8/10  no 803)

1864.07.12      Dau. Ellen and Theophilus Irons* m. by the Revd D. McMillan, at Harrismith. (NM  00.07.64)

1872.07.26      Eldest child Helen or Ellen d. She was m. to Theophilus Irons, he is said to have run an hotel in Harrismith, possibly Spilsbury’s Hotel. (v.d.B.) Ellen Irons b. Spilsbury d. aged 24 (our daughter). (Tomb HMC). When Ellen d. Irons deserted his family of four children. ( Irons)

1873                A trustee of the Harrismith Wesleyan Church. (Steytler p. 124)

1875.10.00      Elected to Harrismith’s first Town Council. (Ibid. p.108)

1878.07.04      Wilson, eldest son of Mr Spilsbury of Harrismith and Grace Annie, second dau. of Mr C. Shaw [Shaw, Charles ex Sovereign*] of Balmain, near Verulam, were m. in the Wesleyan Church, Verulam. (NM 11.07.78)

1880.00.00      Dau. Elizabeth m. Henry, son of James Welch*. (MOT )

1881.12.27      Dau. Mary Ann m. Thomas Oliver Putterill [son of James Putterill*], widower, at Harrismith. (MSCE 47/61)

1912.06.08      Died aged 90 at 93 First Ave, Durban, a gentleman. (DGRD). Died aged 90 of senile decay. (HMBR). Died in his ninetieth year. (Tomb HMC). Born at Clifford Chambers, Staffs [sic], son of Thomas, d. aged 90yrs 9mths in Durban, was of Harrismith, wagon-maker, gentleman, m. Elizabeth at Cheltenham 01.03.1847. Surviving children Wilson of Harrismith, Leah Oats of Natal Govt Asylum, Pmb., Elizabeth Welch of Harrismith, Mary Ann Putterill of Harrismith and Arthur William of Harrismith. Son Wilson Spilsbury, a retired farmer, signed the death notice. Estate worth about £20 000. Widow Elizabeth (née Chandler) of Dbn declined being executor as given in will. (MSCE 46/32). According to family tradition Henry Spilsbury put down the first railway line between the Point and Durban. The Spilsbury’s were Anglicans, but there was no Anglican Church in Harrismith when they first arrived so they became Wesleyans and he paid half the cost of the building of the old [Wesleyan] church in Harrismith. He, James Putterill and McKechnie [ McKechnie, Neil*] invested in erven  and owned most of the town at one stage. He bought a large farm and named it Clifford after his home in England. He was a trustee of the first Methodist Church in Harrismith.  (PP via Edwards)

1913.12.19      Elizabeth, relict of the late Henry Spilsbury, d. aged 94yrs at 93 First Ave, Dbn. (DGRD). Died aged 94 of senile decay. (HMBR) Elizabeth Spilsbury (b. Chandler) who died aged 94. (Tomb HMC)



Ellen (b. 1848c., Eng. – 26.07.1872, Harrismith)

1848c.             b. Date estimated from age given at time of burial. (HMBR)

1850.01.00      Arrived at Natal on the King William with parents. (EI 64)

1850.01.23      King William anchored off Port Natal. (NW 01.02.50)

1864.07.12      m. to Theophilus Irons by the Revd D. McMillan at Harrismith. NW 00.07.64)

1872.07.26      Ellen Irons (b, Spilsbury) d. aged 24. (Tomb HMC).

Wilson (b. 15.07.1849, Glous., Eng. –  05.12.1937, Harrismith)

1849.07.15      b. (Tomb HMC). Glous., Eng. (CSO 2286)

1849.08.18      b. Yorks [sic.]. (v.d.B.)

!850.01.00       Arrived at Natal on the King William with parents and sister Ellen. (PP via Edwards)

1851.09.00      bap., son of Henry and Elizabeth, father a joiner. (R. St P, Dbn)

1878.06.18      Wilson Spilsbury, 21 and upwards, and Grace Annie Shaw, 19, dau. of Charles and Ann Elizabeth Shaw took out licence to marry. Licence taken out at Verulam. (CSO 2286)

1878.07.00      Wilson Spilsbury, 28, Transport agent, Harrismith m. Grace Annie Shaw, 19, of Verulam. (R. Wes., Verulam)

1878.07.04.     m. at the Wesleyan Chapel, Verulam, Wilson, eldest son of Mr Spilsbury of Harrismith, to Grace Annie, second dau. of Mr C. Shaw of Balmain near Verulam. (NM 11.07.78, NW 13.07.78)

1880.05.07      Percy Shaw Spilsbury, son of Wilson and Grace d. (Tomb HMC)

1922.06.14      Grace Anne Spilsbury d. aged 63yrs and 8mths. (Tomb HMC). Died aged 62yrs and 7mths. (HMBR)

1937.12.05      Wilson Spilsbury d. (Tomb HMC). Died aged 88. (HMBR). Died at Harrismith. (v.d.B.)

Leah (b. 00.03.1852, Dbn – 14.05.1913, Pmb.)

1852.03.00      b. Dbn. (R. Wes. Dbn)

1852.06.00      bap. (R.Wes. Dbn)

1872.06.25      Marriage of T. Oates Esq [son of W.E. Oates*] to Leah second dau. of H. Spilsbury Esq, at Harrisnith, OFS, by the Revd D. Macmillan. (NW 12.07.72)

1873.00.00      T. Oates was a trustee of the Harrismith Wesleyan Church. (Steytler p.124)

1876.08.07      Thomas Oates, carrier, Harrismith, renter.  (NGG, Klip River County, Ward 5. Voter’s Roll)

1913.05.00      Leah Oates d. aged 59yrs and 6mths. (PGRD)

1913.05.14      Leah Oates d. at Pmb aged 61yrs, wife of T. Oates. (NW 16.05.1913). d. aged 61yrs and 2mths at Natal Government Asylum, Pmb., of Harrismith. (MSCE 49/240). Leah, wife of Thomas Oates, d. aged 61. (Tomb CRC)

1919.12.03      Thomas Oates d. at Mooi River, aged 74yrs, of Nelson’s Kop, Harrismith,. (NW 06.12.1919). Thomas Oates d. aged 74. (Tomb CRC)

Elizabeth (b. 20.04.1854, Dbn – 30.05.1939, Harrismith)

1854.04.00      b. Dbn. (R. Wes. Dbn)

1854.04.20      Spilbury [sic], a girl. (JC)

1854.08.00      bap. (R. Wes. Dbn)

1880                m. Henry Welch, son of James Welch*. (MOT p.581)

1911.06.05      In loving memory of our dear husband and father Henry Welch who d. aged 65 years. (Tomb HMC)

1911.06.06      Henry Welch, aged 60, d. of cancer. (HMBR). Henry Welch d. at Harrismith aged 65yrs. He was born in Natal [Dbn] and went to Harrismith in1863. For many years he carried on a successful milling business, but latterly had been engaged in farming. He left a widow and two sons; Mr Harold Welch who was Resident Magistrate at Frankfurt and Mr Arthur Welch who had managed his father’s farm for some time past. (NW  20.07.1911)

1939.05.30      Elizabeth Welch d. aged 85. (HMBR)

1939.05.31      In loving memory of Elizabeth Welch, b. Spilsbury, who d, aged 84. (Tomb. HMC)

Mary Ann (17.04.1856, Dbn – 31.03.1941, Harrismith)

1856.04.00      b. (R. Wes. Dbn)

1856.04.17      b. (Tomb HMC)

1856.06.00      bap. (R. Wes. Dbn)

1881.12.27      m. Thomas Oliver Putterill at Harrismith. (MSCE 47/61)

1912.07.31      Thomas Oliver Putterill, farmer, d. aged 64 at Beauchief Abbey, Harrismith. (Ibid.)

1941.03.31      Mary Ann Putterill (b. Spilsbury) d. (Tomb HMC). d. aged 85. (HMBR)



Arthur William (24.12.1859, Dbn – 10.10.1927, Harrismith)

1859.05.00     bap. aged 4mths. (R. Wes. Dbn).

1859.12.24      b. (Tomb HMC). b. in Dbn. (v.d.B.)  [Should date of b. be 24.12.1858? BMS]

1927.10.10      d. (HMBR, Tomb HMC). Late in life he m. Elizabeth Hannah Poskitt, sister of George Poskitt who before the Anglo-Boer War conducted a private school in Harrismith. (v.d.B.). Mr A.W. Spilsbury, of Wattlegrove, near Harrismith, is a well-known and successful farmer, and has his extensive farm of 3 400 acres fenced and divided into paddocks, which effectually preserves his large herds from contact with infected cattle. In his early days he was, like many a successful agriculturalist, a transport rider, and as far back as 1879 he used to undertake the long, weary journey from Durban to Pretoria. There were difficulties in those rough times, crossing the snow-crowned passes of the Drakensberg and the long stretches of the Transvaal tableland. It was a life to inure a man to hard work, and to give him a unique knowledge of cattle. This Mr Spilsbury has turned to good account, and he now possesses a splendid herd of 750 Australian shorthorns, mixed with Afrikander cattle, which are said by many breeders to be the best suited to the country. In addition to this he has 190 thoroughbred Persian sheep and 80 Berkshire pigs.

At one time South Africa was noted for its horses, and an attempt is being made to revive that industry. Mr Spilsbury has 20 mares with a purebred stallion, and is directing his efforts to producing horses suitable for remounts. Poultry is another sphere of action, and he glories in his Leghorn and English Game varieties. As a fruit district this is hard to beat, and large orchards containing every description of fruit-trees are to be seen on the farm. A tremendous quantity of cream is produced and this is sent to the Natal Central Creamery. It is found in practice that it is advisable to send cattle down to the low veld in winter, and Mr Spilsbury has a farm in Natal which he uses for that purpose. (TCI pp 87, 88)

1930.03.10      Spilsbury, (née Poskit[sic]) Elizabeth Hannah, d. aged 66yrs, b. Eng., of Harrismith, bur. Harrismith. (PTGRD). Spilsbury, Elizabeth Hannah d. aged 66. (HMBR). Annie Spilsbury, wife of Arthur William Spilsbury, d. aged 66. (HMC)



* After a surname indicates that person as the head of a family and therefore qualified for

an entry in Shelagh Spencer’s biographical register.

**John Milne* was engaged by the Government as Resident Engineer. Part of his brief was to

design and execute a plan for the eradication of the Bar at the harbour entrance. To achieve this

he advised the construction of a 2 000-foot-long north pier. [William] Campbell* was awarded

the contract for this work. Richard Godden was associated with him in this undertaking. The

stone blocks for the breakwater were quarried on the Bluff, and had to be transported about a

mile along the shore to where they were loaded on to boats to cross the Bay. To assist with the

overland haul Campbell built a rail track of milkwood branches along which wooden trucks were

pulled by oxen. (S.O’B.S vol. 4. Pp 27, 28)

***The Rydal arrived at Port Natal on 21.10.1859, having sailed from Liverpool on 28.07.59. (EI

73/74 via Dickson). In 1871 Spilsbury had an hotel in Harrismith, apparently it was

short lived. (Steytler p.111). The Spilsbury Hotel was established by Samuel Spilsbury,

brother of Henry Spilsbury. (Brink). In December 1877 Spilsbury’s Hotel was bought for £2 000

by the Anglican Church. (Steytler p. 134). In February 1878 St Michael’s Home for Young

Ladies was opened by the Bishop of Bloemfontein in what had been Spilsbury’s Hotel. The

school remained in existence until 1903. Ibid. p. 134). This institution played a great part in the

educational, musical and church life of the town. It was conducted by the Community of St

Michael and All Angels, Bloemfontein. (Hawkins p. 82)



Books and Directories

Hawkins – Hawkins, E.B. The story of Harrismith 1849-1920. Ladysmith: Westcott Printing Co.,


MOT – Men of the times. Johannesburg: Transvaal Publishing Co., 1906.

SO’BS – Spencer, Shelagh O’Byrne. British settlers in Natal, 1824 – 1857a biographical

Register, Vol. 4. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1987.

Steytler, F.A.  Die geskiedenis.van Harrismith. Bloemfontein: NPB, 1932.

TCI – Twentieth century impressions of Orange River Colony and Natal: their history, people,

commerce, industries, and resources. [Durban]: Lloyds, 1906.


CRC – Commercial Road Cemetery, Pietermaritzburg.

HMC – Harrismith Municipal Cemetery.

Church Registers

  1. St P., Dbn – Register, St Paul’s Church, Durban. Anglican
  2. Wes., Dbn – Register, Methodist Church, Durban.
  3. Wes., Verulam – Register, Methodist Church, Verulam.

Manuscript Sources

JC – Mr Johnston’s [Johnston, Dr Charles**] confinement book, 1854.

PP – Putterill papers. (Held in Killie Campbell Library).


NCANatal Commercial Advertiser

NMNatal Mercury

NTNatal Times

NWNatal Witness

Personal Communication

BMS – Spencer, Brian Mitchell.

Brink – Brink, Gail. (Putterill descendant)

Dickson – Dickson, John.

Edwards – Edwards, Cpt Ian. (Deceased)

Irons – Irons, David.

v.d.B. – van den Bosch, L.W.P. (Grandson of Wilson Spilsbury)


Akitt Lists – Akitt, H. Government assisted immigration to Natal, 1857-1862. Thesis,

MA(Natal), 1953.

Unpublished Official Papers (Mostly held in Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository)

CSO – Colonial Secretary’s Office

DGRD – Durban Government Register. Deaths

EI – European Immigration

HMBR – Harrismith Municipal Burial Register

MSCE – Master of the Supreme Court. Estates

NGG – Natal Government Gazette

PGRD – Pietermaritzburg Government Register. Deaths

PTGRD – Pinetown Government Register. Deaths

RSC – Registrar of the Supreme Court


2 476 words

Compiled from Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s records of the British Settlers of Natal 1824-1857