Burial register ID: 571
Surname: NICHOLS
First name: CHARLES
Middle names:
Gender: Male
Age: 50 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 21-May-1878
Date of burial: 24-May-1878

Block: 4
Plot: 14




MAY 21st 1878.





DIED 10 JULY 1888.

Bio contributor: Timothy Nichols

The name Nichols was probably Greek. One part of the family arrived in Cornwall with the Romans in about 300AD. There are still descendants there. Another group arrived in England in 1066 with William of Normandy. Both coats of arms bear the arrowheads or "pheons" indicating that they were archers.

The founder of the Australasian branch of the family, Charles Nichols, was the sixth of thirteen children of Joseph Nichols (1796 — 1864) and Mary Coombs. He left London in 1848 and sailed on the Glenelg to Adelaide. There he worked as a merchant for Abraham Scott. He stayed with Scott for three years until the Victorian gold rush. Times became hard in Adelaide, so Scott sent him on his way with a wagonload of goods to be sold in Melbourne as his final duty.

In Melbourne Charles found work as an accountant with Dalgety. Recognising his ability as a trader, Dalgety sent him out on the road selling general stores and buying gold with the proceeds. Dalgety allowed Charles to trade on his own account and Charles soon amassed a fortune. Eventually Charles was asked to go to Tasmania to straighten out the company’s business there. He did and was rewarded with a partnership. The company continued to prosper, trading around Australia and to China and Mauritius.

In 1858 Charles married Mary Cowie of "Brookstead", Avoca, Tasmania. Shortly afterwards, their eldest son, Joseph, was born in Launceston. Between 1861 and 1874 they had another eight children.

In 1869 instructions came from head office for Charles to go to Dunedin, New Zealand, to report on the condition of Dalgety Rattray. On reporting back to head office, Charles was instructed to liquidate it. However, playing on a hunch that the improving wool price would continue to rise, Charles stalled and was allowed to send a consignment to England. While the wool was on the water, the Franco-Prussian War broke out and the price doubled overnight, saving the company and making a large profit for Charles, who had bought more on his own account. Unfortunately, Charles’s successful career came to a sudden end when, in 1878, at the age of fifty, he was killed in a coach crash in Trotter’s Gorge near Palmerston, Otago.

The following year Mary decided to take her children to England. She departed from Bluff on the Stadt Haarlem which was the first steamer to sail direct to England from New Zealand. They lived in Dresden, Germany, for three years while Joseph went to Cambridge University and the other children attended schools in England. After leaving Cambridge in 1881, Joseph returned to New Zealand via Egypt, India and Australia with the intention of farming. His father’s trustee, Mr Stronach, suggested he go to Australia and jackaroo for a few years to establish a grounding in farming. He ended up at "Benduck" on the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales. There he met his bride, Helen Hunter Ayre, who was the daughter of the owner, Robert Mackenzie Ayre.

On his return to New Zealand in 1885, Joseph purchased Kuriheka, an estate of some 31,000 acres in North Otago, at auction. His brother, Arthur Robert, came out from England to help him on the farm, but drowned in 1888 while the Island River Stream was in flood. On New Year’s Day in 1890 Joseph and Nell were married. Mary had the drawing room, stables, woolshed and cookhouse built for them as a wedding gift.

Joseph took a keen interest in military life. In the old volunteers he rose to the rank of Colonel and to the command of the Otago Mounted Rifles Brigade, whose badge incorporates the coats of arms of the Nichols and Cowie families. During the First World War, in which he lost two sons and a brother, he commanded the Otago Military District.

Joseph and Nell had six children: four sons and two daughters. Sadly, war and accident took their toll on the family. The eldest son, Charles Ayre, died at age three from burns which he sustained playing with ashes at the back of the house. Cyril Robert and Joseph Cowie (jr) were killed in the First World War, leaving Arthur Cowie the only surviving son. Their younger daughter, Virginia Lucy, died suddenly in London at age twenty-six. Their other daughter, Violet Mary Helen, lost her beau in the war and never married. After service in Samoa during the First World War, Arthur returned to Kuriheka where he looked after the farm and pursued his interest in machinery. Violet lived at Kuriheka for eighty years, founding New Zealand’s first Welsh mountain pony stud and caring for her parents and uncle, Cyril Thornton.

The family was active in the community life of Maheno. The Church of St Andrew, which was built in 1936, was largely funded by Cyril. The Maheno water supply was set up by Nell. The bowling green and rifle range were funded by the Mary Nichols Trust Fund which was set up by Joseph in memory of his mother. This fund continues to provide support for community projects today.

The Mortgagor’s Relief Act of 1931 greatly benefited the wider community but impaired the ability of the Nichols family to maintain their philanthropic outlook. In 1936, to ensure the family seat could not be lost and could be maintained in good order, Joseph placed the buildings and approximately 460 acres of surrounding land in trust, under the Kuriheka Settlement Trust. The first head of the trust was Nell. After her death in 1949, she was succeeded by her daughter Violet, who became "Head of the Dwelling", therefore the trust. Joseph remained an officer of the trust until his death in 1954 at the age of ninety-five.

After Joseph’s death, most of the land was divided between his son Arthur and two grandsons, David Cowie and Robin Charles. The homestead was occupied by Violet until her death in 1979. Today Kuriheka is the home of the great-great-grandson of Charles Nichols.

In St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, there is a memorial window commemorating Charles Nichols, and also his wife Mary, who is interred at East Sheen Cemetery, Richmond, London.

The children of Charles and Mary Nichols were: Joseph Cowie (1859 — 1954), Mary Beatrice (1861 –1953), Charles (1863 — 1914), Emily Maude (1865 — 1955), Ada Marion (1866 — 1955), Arthur Robert (1868 — 1888), Septimus (1870 — 1950), Walter Harry (1872 — 1915), and Cyril Thornton (1874 — 1953).

Others buried here: Charles’s son Arthur Robert Nichols.

Charles Nichols
Source: Timothy Nichols

There are 2 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
NICHOLS ARTHUR 20 Years 04-Jul-1888 04-Jul-1888
NICHOLS CHARLES 50 Years 21-May-1878 24-May-1878