The Sissons Family

Mary and Christiana Sissons lived at No 29 Sydney Buildings from 1870 to 1874.

Mary (b1812) and Christiana (b1816) Sissons at No 16 (now 29) Sydney Buildings were unmarried daughters of the founder of an oil and colour manufacturing business. They were both in their fifties and their income was the interest from invested money, probably in the family firm. Their father was Thomas Sissons (b1783), a younger son in a family of carpenters in the East Yorkshire country town of Market Weighton since the late seventeenth century.

Thomas Sissons

His eldest brother John (b1779) had inherited the carpentry business, so he went off to make his fortune in Hull. Their mother Elizabeth Dove (b1782), who Thomas met in Hull, was the daughter of a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy who, from 1750, had served his country under sail during the Seven Years War, the War of American Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. Probably the most glorious period of British maritime history.

Mary and Christiana were both born in Sculcoates, at that time a prosperous and rapidly developing suburb north of the city walls of the seaport of Hull. They had four brothers and one sister. In 1860 their eldest brother Thomas (b1808) inherited the business as merchant and manufacturer of paints and colours.

By then it was named Sissons Brothers & Co. It became a limited company in 1887 with a capital of £100,000 sterling. Thomas had 216 shares (21.6% of the equity) at £78 per share. Thomas was first admitted to Freemasonry in 1838 in the Trent Lodge, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. He was admitted as a Royal Arch Mason by the All Saints Chapter at Gainsborough in 1841. He became the first Worshipful Master of the Minerva Lodge of Mark Masters, Hull, on its legal constitution in 1862.

The second brother Jonathan was a general merchant in Hull and it is thought that he had the sales role in the paint manufacturing business. Mary came next and, when her mother died in 1854, as eldest daughter she became responsible for looking after her widowed father and two younger sisters. It was probably after her youngest sister Elizabeth (b1823) died in 1864 and her father died in 1867 that she decided to move to Bath.

The next brother Robert (b1814) started his career as a commercial traveler in oils and colors then married Mary Hall of Coventry in 1848. He gave up that job and in 1863 they sailed for Auckland, New Zealand with their 8 children in the Nimroud. In that same year they took up land in Kamo, Whangarei, growing mostly fruit.

Robert became a member and a steward of the Whangarei Racing Club and President of the Kamo Racing Club. He was "the life and soul of every gathering with quaint quips and quainter accents creating endless fun and laughter". Mary became known for her accomplished playing of the harp.


The youngest boy in the family was Richard (b1819). He graduated in 1842 as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS). In 1849, aged 30 he married Miss Cordelia Matilda Rishton in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. In 1866 the couple sailed for Queensland, Australia, where at Moreton Bay, Brisbane, shortly after their arrival, Cordelia died from dysentery contracted on the voyage. The Brisbane Courier death notice describes Richard as late surgeon superintendent of the Golden City. Dr Richard Sissons then went on to Auckland, New Zealand to visit his brother Robert, arriving in SS Prince Alfred on 27 March 1866 and staying for about 12 months before returning to England.

He went back again to the colony, traveling as surgeon-superintendent aboard the clipper ship Ida Ziegler with 134 passengers and general cargo. They sailed from London 11 July and arrived in Auckland on 16 October 1867. He brought with him 27 packages and 'a choice breed of cow'. He married again, aged 49, in 1868 at Whangarei. His second wife, Matilda Helen Mair, was the daughter of Elizabeth and Gilbert Mair, who were among the first European settlers in the area. Matilda and Richard Sissons had no children, but after 1875 fostered Maud Emily Matilda Davis, the daughter of Matilda's widowed sister Jessie.

Richard Sissons

Richard took up general medical practice in the Kamo district and was active in community, church and commercial affairs. In the late 1870s he became a partner in a timber mill at Hikurangi. He was the first chairman of the Hikurangi District Roads Board in 1872, and in 1877 was a member of the first Whangarei County Council, on which he served for a number of years. He was a foundation member of the Whangarei High School Board in 1879.

As a deeply religious man, Richard's care for the welfare of others was also expressed through his involvement with the Anglican church. The Bishop of Auckland, W. G. Cowie, licensed him as a lay reader in 1871, and for long periods when the church was unable to appoint permanent clergy Richard was responsible for maintaining regular services at the Kamo church. When the church was officially consecrated on 30 October 1886, the church gazette recorded that 'Dr Sissons is the veteran pioneer of all good and useful work in the district.' He was also a Freemason, being a member of the Lodge 'Star of the North' in Whangarei and a Past Master.

Richard Sissons died at Kamo on 4 August 1893, aged 74, and was buried with Anglican and Masonic ceremonies at the Kamo cemetery. Despite atrocious weather which made the roads nearly impassable, between 300 and 500 horsemen and 50 Masons joined the cortège. It was reportedly the largest funeral of that epoch in the district. Richard was survived by his wife, who died in 1927. Richard Sissons was a generous, friendly and hearty man, widely known and respected as a doctor, a church leader and a businessman. Surviving photographs include his carte-de-visite showing him and his horse, well known to all his patients.

I was the sixth generation to work at Sissons Brothers. I have a daughter, now living in Australia, named Christiana, after three of that name in our family tree.

Tony Sissons

August 2009

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