Henry Hilmar Wolters
Julia Wolters (nee Tully)
Richmond - Brunswick
Today it’s known for an exceptional garden, and a hundred years ago Richmond was the home of an exceptional man Henry Hilmar Wolters is mentioned briefly in Carterton historical literature, but he deserves greater recognition for his substantial contribution to the town and district.
He is chiefly remembered as Carterton’s first Town Clerk, holding that office from 1887 to 1901, but from about 1878 until his old age (he died in 1926 aged 82) he kept the financial wheels of the whole district on track as an office–holder on dozens of boards and committees. He ran a commercial agency, for a time from his office in the borough chambers, later from a building in Belvedere Road, and handled the affairs of many public and private concerns.
His integrity was beyond question, his industry and ability legendary. He was referred to as the indispensable Mr Wolters.
The Borough Council dispensed with his services though. Wolters was dismissed in 1901, for refusing to obey an order of the Mayor’s. An account of the circumstances appears in the pages of the New Zealand Freelance of 11 January 1902:
The Town Clerk of Carterton has been dismissed immediately – on the spot – if not sooner! Mr H H Wolters was a typical municipal official, and his enforced retirement from office, writer considers, will be a distinct loss to the borough. Mayor Baillie came into office with the intention, it was understood, of playing up generally, but his policy did not include the dismissal of a very capable, obliging and courteous town clerk. The trouble appears to have arisen over a chair – the clerk’s chair – in which the Mayor was politely invited a health officer to sit. The clerk was absent from the room at the time, but, on returning, had to stand on his rights, or rather his up–rights, leaning against the mantelpiece.
Subsequently, the Mayor alleges the clerk declined to read an amendment, while the clerk sarcastically rejoins that he is not there to read resolutions time after time, implying thereby that he had read the amendment more than once. Mr Wolters admitted that he had, in the street, suggested to the Mayor that if the hottest portion of the Inferno was heated seven times more than it is wont to be it would be too cool for His Worship, but the whole affair is a paltry squabble and should have been settled by mutual apology. By the way, the magnificent salary attaching to the position of town clerk is 50 pounds a year, and as there is considerable work, Mr Wolters, I should say, is not at all sorry to be relieved of office.
Wolters continued to make a very good living from his agency, and enjoy a pleasant social life from his home, Richmond. There were frequent gatherings there, such as tennis parties, and the wedding in 1910 of the Wolters’ eldest daughter Frances Melanie to Mansfield Burney Trapp was a grand social event. The newspaper report names many prominent guests and describes the womens’ apparel in detail. Among those guests were the names Beauchamp and Dyer, family of Kathleen Beauchamp, better known to us as Katherine Mansfield. The groom was her cousin. Frances and Burney Trapp lived in Carterton, he becoming County Clerk, and they raised 3 children. Daughter Phyllis became a teacher, son James (who married Noeline Stubbs, sister of Gordon Stubbs, the well–known former chemist) moved to Wellington and ran a restaurant for some years. The youngest child, Joseph, became a distinguished academic, holding the position of Director of the Warburg Institute, University of London.
Wolters had married Julia Tully, a grand-daughter of William Mein Smith (Surveyor-General to the New Zealand Company and a prominent early New Zealand artist), in 1882, and they had four children. As well as Frances there was a son, Gerald, Hilmar, who embroiled his father in several scrapes and was packed off to Australia about 1914. He married and raised two sons and one of these, Henry F (Harry) Wolters, is still living in New South Wales, there are further generations carrying on the Wolters’ name there.
The Wolters’ second daughter, Oliver Werner, followed their father into the commercial agency and ran it capably for some years after his death. She also became Carterton’s first woman Borough Councillor, serving from 1935 to 1944. A third daughter, Clara Beresford (Beres), died of diphtheria aged 6.
Wolters’ Richmond had frontages on Richmond Road, Rutland Road and a driveway leading from High Street along the southern boundary of Carrington Park. The name was taken from Richmond Palace in Brunswick, Germany, where Wolters was born. The naming of Richmond Road may have been a coincidence, or it is possible he had a hand in that too.
The large and impressive family home was built about 1887, and may have been added to around the turn of the century. Some of the 45 acres of land that comprised Richmond then were in garden, orchard, stables and crops, but Wolters also successfully bread Romney sheep, exporting rams as far as the Argentine. He did well from his enterprises, but gave unstintingly to the community in many unpaid positions and showed further generosity in such acts as giving the tennis club virtually free use of land for about ten years.
Henry Hilmar Wolters had a high profile in Carterton over a long period. He owned one of the first cars in the town, a 1900 Cudell De Dion Coiturette, which he acquired very early in the 20th century and which is now in Southward’s Car Museum. It would have been a familiar sight around the town as he went to and from his office and his many meetings.
Richmond is of considerable historical significance to Carterton. The current owners, Melanie and John Greenwood, are keen to preserve the links with the Wolters family. A wooden settle, carved by Julia Wolters in the 1890’s, still graces the house, and a copy of a portrait of William Mein Smith by William Beetham replaces the original, which hung there until gifted to the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1948.