George and Susan Landon-Lane

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George and Susan Landon-Lane lived for much of their married life in New Zealand. The story of their earlier lives in England is an interesting one.

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George Landon-Lane. Image supplied by author

In early 19th Century England there was a great difference between the rich and the poor, no in-between. Families were built on their nobility and their land, this meant that marriage outside of the noble lineage was frowned upon, especially if it was marrying for love which was a radical idea even up until quite late. This is why the tale of George and Susan Landon-Lane is a very elaborate and mysterious tale of which can be found very little detail. 

George Lane was born in Yarpole, Herefordshire, England sometime in 1819 to Thomas Silvannus Landon. His mother is shrouded in mystery. There are two names given for his mother. Bessie Olive Lane and Ann Lane. Bessie Olive may have been the stage name of Ann as she is said to have been an “actor”. His Landon family was one of high nobility. His Uncle Whittington Landon was the Dean of Exeter Cathedral and his Great Great Great Grandfather Thomas Landon was the Great Grandfather of the Declaration of independence signee Benjamin Harrison and in turn an ancestor of two United States presidents.

George was taken in by an uncle for some reason - possibly George Edward Lane. It is believed that this uncle was a veterinary surgeon who took George under his wing and taught him the ropes of the trade. His parents were married some time after his birth, possibly when he was a teenager and still living with his uncle. George eventually joined the Herefordshire Militia and it is said that he had two brothers who had already enlisted and had died in the Crimean War, although this has not been clarified. He told the Press in later years that he had been a paymaster during the Crimean Wars in various shires.

After the war, George met a girl of lower nobility named Susan Jane Jones. Susan is believed to have been born in Hereford to William and Margaret Jones, possibly 29th of January, 1832, however, this may have been her Christening date. It would seem the family and the Militia probably disapproved of this relationship. George’s father had already passed away in 1849, however his mother may have been still living. It is probable that the Militia asked George to leave their service, which may have caused him to look to New Zealand.

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Susan Landon-Lane. Image supplied by author

In applying for a marriage license George found his surname not to be Landon but Landon-Lane. It is possible that he took the surname of the uncle who raised him. George and Susan did marry and soon after boarded a ship for New Zealand. The ship was the “Cresswell”, a barque of 574 tons which departed from London for Nelson. George kept a diary during this time which is believed to have been in the care of George’s daughter for some time. Adrian Landon-Lane, great grandson of George, states that the couple travelled in steerage with Susan’s brother and four children however, the list of passengers does not have any names that would match this. Adrian also goes on to say that the Cresswell was becalmed for seven weeks in the English Channel in the hottest summer in some time and they were not allowed to go back to England even though they were still in sight of it. Eventually they got underway and twice in Southern Ocean storms the topgallant sail ended up in the water. Terrifying stuff.

George also apparently got into a fight with the Purser ten days out from Nelson. The argument was over pain relief for his heavily pregnant wife. The argument got so heated that George struck the purser and was sent to the brig. This meant that he arrived in Nelson as a prisoner. He is also said to have complained a great deal about others on board. The surgeon was no more than an “amateur butcher” that is, according to him.

His time in Nelson is another unknown part of his life. We know his first child Jane was born there on the 30th of May, 1858 in Port Road, Nelson. One bible reads that she was born in Hardy Street. In 1859, George, Susan and Jane are living in Picton and running a Hotel humbly named “The George Hotel” or “The George”, located where Mariners Mall stands today. This would probably have been a very small abode and is likely to not have been in their possession long. Their eldest son, Whittington was born there in 1859.

The family seems to have returned to the Nelson area following Whittington's death of a gunshot wound, taking up property at Hira and then at Korere in Motupiko. The family circulated around places like Wakefield, Marlborough and Motupiko during their lives in New Zealand, but most of their time was spent in Blenheim and Motupiko. Their family grew until they had had nine children all together. The most living at one time was eight, as their second daughter Catherine died as an infant. Their children were; Jane Landon Lane (1858-1949) who married Edward Morgans and resided in Blenheim for her married life; Whittington Landon Lane (1859-1886) who married Hannah Henderson and had three children before his untimely death at the age of 26; George Landon-Lane (1861-1958) who married Maria White and had a family of nine children (he was a well-known shepherd and owned various runs throughout Marlborough); Catherine Landon Lane (1863-1865) who died as an infant in the Nelson area (supposedly); Ada Landon Lane (1865-1936) who worked as a teacher until marrying Dan Harney at Denniston and raising a family; Thomas Landon Lane (1869-1883) who shot himself accidentally at Motupiko; Edward Landon-Lane (1871-1945) who married Sarah Bartlett and farmed Marlborough much like his other brothers; Eleanor Landon Lane (1873-1960) who married Theophilus Powell-Phelps and raised a large family in Hamilton, she was the last sibling to pass away ; Walter Landon-Lane (1878-1923) who married Sarah Melhuish and had a family of four boys all the while farming and running businesses in Marlborough and other locations.

It is likely that George was not present at home a great deal as it he would travel for weeks at a time leaving his family to fend for themselves. He traveled all over New Zealand, even down to the Otago Goldfields and on the 15th of January, 1864 he enlisted in the New Zealand War effort. It is unknown what service he actually did. In his obituary he is said to of been a drill-sergeant however, George may well have been the source for the newspaper. He was “Struck Off” on the 16th of April, 1866. It is also during this time he may have been bestowed the name “Mizpah”, a name on the family headstone.

One story from this time was that George and a friend were heading up to Taranaki on a steamer to fight in the wars, but bribed the captain to smuggle them back to Nelson. When troopers marched up to George’s doorstep they asked for a “George Lane” however, George sent them on their way by saying he was George “Landon” Lane which prompted him to move to Picton and change his name. This story is not reliable however, as the family moved to Picton in 1859 and George did not enlist until 1864. In 1861 he also tried to get compensation for his service in the Crimean Wars. He felt he was entitled to land and money as someone else had been given a 300 pounds for his service. He did not receive anything as he had not done New Zealand service at the time. Throughout his life he seems to have tried to get land or money from his service in both Crimea and New Zealand. In the late 1800’s he is said to have sued his son George for a pension but was unsuccessful.

Eventually, Susan and George settled down in Dashwood Street, Blenheim where two children would later live at different times. The home was situated where flats now stand and was also the home to George’s son Walter. George grew to a very old age of 96 and passed away in Blenheim. His body was laid to rest in Omaka Cemetery -  the funeral expenses were paid by the very son he sued. He was later joined by wife Susan in 1917 who lived to 85. With them lies their grandson Gladstone (Tim) Landon-Lane and granddaughter Gwendoline Morgans and across from them another granddaughter.

2019 (updated August 2020)

For more on the Landon-Lane Family, see the story of George Landon-Lane (1861-1958) third child of George and Susan Landon-Lane [PDF]

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