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Last updated: 24 November 2009

Roberts, John, Sir: Family and Business papers

Collection | Ref # ARC-0189 | Held by Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hakena

What is it?


Roberts, John, Sir: Family and Business papers


Roberts, John, Sir, 1845-1934

Level of description:



6.00 linear metres

Reference number:



John Roberts was born at Selkirk, Scotland in 1845. As a young man he worked for his fathers factory of George Roberts and Co., woollen manufacturers, until 1864 when he left for Melbourne. In 1868 he opened a business in Otago as Murray, Roberts and Co., becoming involved in station management and the wool business, becoming one of the largest exporters of wool in New Zealand. John Roberts married Louisa Kettle in 1870, and was a trustee of her fathers estate. Roberts was heavily involved in public life in Otago, he was mayor of Dunedin in 1889 and held directorships on the boards of many organisations, including the Otago Provincial Council, the Taieri County Council, the Trustees Executors' Co., the Otago A. & P. Association and other businesses.

Scope and contents:

The Family correspondence (1864-1874) contains letters from George Roberts with instructions for buying wool in Australia for the family woollen mill in Scotland. It refers to the reasons John Roberts left Australia to come to New Zealand, the setting up of the firm of Murray, Roberts and Co. and its relationship to the family firm in Scotland.

The private business letters contain more about the setting up of Murray, Roberts and Co. and the various branches of the firm, and of other partnerships which Roberts and the Murrays entered into. There are also letters about the acquisition of property, mainly sheepruns, for Roberts, his family and the firm, and letter from the managers of these properties. The managerships seem to be divided mostly between the three Handyside brothers. William Handyside also started a coal mine in which Roberts had an interest at Nighcaps in about 1882. Much of the business correspondence between Thomas and John Roberts concerns wool prices, wool and land buying in New Zealand, and this is reflected in the trial balances of companies and other documents and reports. The main correspondents in the business letters are Thomas Roberts, J. Murray and his sons William and Charles, William Handyside and his sons William, Hugh and J.S. Handyside, William Common, John Sanderson, William Kettle, John Dalgliesh and Will Laidlaw. There are also letters from various run holders in Otago and Canterbury asking for Sir John Roberts' business and land management advice.

Dates covered:

1864 - 1906

Access conditions:

Partial restriction : Some items are available only at the discretion of the Curator, due to fragility.

Finding aids:

Listed on the 'Hakena' archives and manuscripts catalogue.

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Associated with:


Dunedin · Sherwood Downs · Canterbury Region · Otago Region · Moa Flat Station · Puketoi Station · Lauder Station · Ashwick Estate · Three Springs Estate · Deep Dell Station · Hakataramea Station · Gladfield Station · Spylaw Station · Motuotaria Station · Westwood Estate


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