Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977


For several years I have been engaged on Research to trace the Ancestors and descendants of the Pennell Family, some of whom came to Ohinemuri before the turn of the Century. In a recent Historical Journal I noted a request for old family photographs and having collected a number of these I would like to donate copies to our Society for its Archives.

It has been established that there have been Pennells in the village of Shalstone, Buckinghamshire, England for over 300 years and we have Baptismal Records from 1709 till 1900. Some of the family moved to Cheshire and from there we find that 3 Pennells emigrated to N.Z. Our branch descends from Suzannah and Thomas, (who died in 1735). They had five children, one of whom was Thomes Johnston Pennel and it was his son Thomes with his wife Sarah (nee Foxley) and their son John who set out for N.Z. on the Barque Union. A second son, Robert, was born on the ship which arrived in Auckland on 23rd March 1843. After a stay in Auckland where Ralph and Peter were born the family leased 100 acres of land where the Pakuranga Shopping Centre now stands, and farmed Hereford cattle. A fifth son, William, was the first born there, but subsequently the family increased to 15, there being only 1 daughter, Hannah, who later married Thomas Kirker of Waihi. The members of particular interest to this district were John (Paeroa), Robert (Hikutaia) and Ralph (1844-1900 (Karangahake).

John Pennell married a young nurse, Mary McCarthy, a daughter of a soldier at Howick, on 3/1/1865. Their first daughter was Mary, Mrs. W. Neil who spent most of her life in Paeroa where she reared a large family, (Bert, Mont, Ivy, Myrtle, Ruby, Mavis, George, Roy, Ned, Jack and Norman). The only surviving members are now Myrtle and Mavis in Auckland and Ned (Paeroa) and Jack (Te Aroha).

Mary Pennell (Neil) and her four sisters, Sarah, (Mrs. Horspool), Hannah (Mrs. Clark), Helen (Mrs. Goldsworthy) and Mabel (Mrs. Sherson) were born at Pakuranga and then the family moved to Thames where on 23/9/1875 the first son was born. (He was John (Jack) who became a well known jockey.) In 1878 another move was made to a small farm on Thames Road, Paeroa where the father attended to every variety of animal that needed assistance while the mother became the legendary Nurse Pennell who ministered to human need be it sickness, child-birth, or death. Meanwhile, her own family increased and Tom, Jim, Harold, George, Wm. Patrick (Seaver) and Dorothy were added to her brood.

Nurse Pennell died during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, and when the Paeroa Maternity Hospital was opened in 1930 a Ward was dedicated to her memory and many of her descendants have been born there. (This Ward, I understand, was the first). Rose Hopping was the Hospital's first baby and it is note-worthy that later she married a Grandson of the famous nurse. He is Phil Pennell, probably the best known member in Paeroa to-day to bear the name, and currently Manager of Road Services. His father, Wm. Patrick Pennell was Manager of the first Paeroa-Waihi Transport Co. and conducted the first motorised rural delivery service between Paeroa and Ngatea in the days of terrible roads. [see also Journal 11: Paeroa Maternity Hospital, and Journal 27: Paeroa Maternity Hospital – E]

John Pennell's eldest son, Jack married Edith, the daughter of Captain Tonge of Auckland. They had two sons - Mick and Ted, and the latter married Una Simpson, a descendant of another pioneer family at Pakuranga who had moved to Komata Reefs. (Mrs. Gwen Patterson of Paeroa is a member of the Simpson family). Ted and Una Pennell were my parents and built the house on Thames Road now owned by Barney King. The kauri timber for it was brought from the home of my Grandparents of Komata Reefs. Eventually our property was sold to Bob King and we moved to Tauranga. My mother had inherited the Bickers Homestead, a Fencible Cottage which had belonged to my Great Grand Father, Henry Bickers who had fought in the battle of Gate Pa in 1864. The cottage was sold in 1960 and is now being restored in the Elms Mission House Grounds.

(See "Journal 10" for further details of descendants of the original John and Ralph Pennell. All of these will be covered in the book on which I am working) [see Journal 10: Nurse Mary Pennell, and Our Contributors (Mrs. Ivy Hawkins) - E].

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EDITORS NOTE: In 1976 our Contributor Mrs. Colleen Sullivan organised a Pennell Family Re-union in her home town (Tokoroa). It was attended by 250 representatives but there are now over 2,000 members of the Pennell Family in New Zealand.