Burial register ID: 12866
First name: THOMAS
Middle names: WHITELOCK
Gender: Male
Age: 82 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 03-Nov-1915
Date of burial: 05-Nov-1915

Block: 194
Plot: 24







Died 19th Feb. 1903.


Aged 83.

Died 3rd Nov. 1915.

Bio contributor: Simone Lehr

Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne was the co-founder of one of New Zealand’s leading companies, Kempthorne, Prosser and Company. He was born in Cornwall, England in 1834. He was the son of a builder and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1854. After a brief stint as a labourer he found a position in the wholesale drug trade. In 1863 he was sent to Dunedin by the Melbourne pharmaceutical firm H. & E. Youngman, to explore the possibilities of expansion.

After the death of the company’s principals, Kempthorne decided to stay in Dunedin and went into business with the Welsh chemist Evan Prosser, who was currently in business on the South Island’s West Coast. Together they formed Kempthorne Prosser & Company in 1870. The head office building was designed by F. W. Petre and was erected in Stafford Street in Dunedin.

The business proved very prosperous and they had no difficulty in raising funds due to the general shortage of drugs and medical supplies. They were involved in both the manufacture and the importation of drugs and medical supplies. The products of their trade ranged from pharmaceuticals through to hospital beds, bandages and dental equipment. It even included photographic and household equipment. The success of the company became apparent when it became a Limited Company with a capital of £200,000. Due to this success, Kempthorne, Prosser and Company set up Warehouses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

In 1881 the government offered a bonus of £500 to anyone that could manufacture 50 tons of sulphuric acid within one year, as this was both expensive and dangerous to import. Kempthorne began building the acid works at Burnside in Dunedin. Sulphuric acid is a vital component of chemical fertiliser and this was of course in very high demand in New Zealand’s agricultural industry. The business boomed and branches were set up in Hornby, Canterbury and Wanganui. The Company was to dominate this field for almost a century. In 1886 Prosser resigned from the company and moved to Australia.

Kempthorne was a dynamic and meticulous businessman who became an important figure in Dunedin’s business community. He remained managing director of Kempthorne, Prosser and company until his retirement in 1904. He was also the director of the National Insurance Company, the Perpetual Trustees Estate and Agency Company and Donaghy’s Rope and Twine Company Limited. Kempthorne was not heavily involved in local politics and his most important public role was as a member of the King Edward Technical College (then called the Dunedin Technical School). In addition to donating £900 to one of the colleges’ new buildings he was a generous benefactor of St Paul’s Cathedral. He also set up a scheme to reduce the city’s unemployment by putting people to work in Dunedin’s parks. Kempthorne also owned Dunedin’s first car, a two cylinder, steam-operated automobile.

He married a widow with two children, Sarah Inman in 1859, with whom he had five daughters and one son. Sarah died in 1895. Four years later he married Annie Charlotte Rawdon Robinson who was about 40 years his junior. They had one daughter and she died in 1903, aged 31 years. Kempthorne himself died in Dunedin on 3 November 1915 after suffering a stroke.


Parry, Gordon. ‘Kempthorne, Thomas Whitelock 1834? – 1915’. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 16 December 2003


Molloy, Kevin. ‘Kempthorne, Thomas Whitelock (1834 – 1915)’. Southern People. A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography. Longacre Press: Dunedin. 1998. 226 – 227.

75 Years of Life. A Brief History of Kempthorne Prosser and Co. New Zealand Drug Company Ltd. 1879- 1954. Otago Daily Times: Dunedin. 1954.

Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne
Source: 75 Years of Life. A Brief History of Kempthorne Prosser and Co. New Zealand Drug Company Ltd. 1879- 1954. Otago Daily Times: Dunedin. 1954.

K. P. & Co. Pharmaceutical Laboratories
Source: Unknown

There are 3 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
KEMPTHORNE ANNIE C R 31 Years 19-Feb-1903 21-Feb-1903
KEMPTHORNE CHILD Unknown 01-Dec-1899 02-Dec-1899
KEMPTHORNE THOMAS WHITELOCK 82 Years 03-Nov-1915 05-Nov-1915