Giles Family
North Canterbury, New Zealand

Launcelot Giles

Born in Somersetshire, England in 1818, Launcelot Giles was brought up on a cheese and cider-making farm. In 1837 he married Rachel Clothier. Rachel, also from Somersetshire was born in 1821.

Over the next 15 years they had eight children: 

Mary Jane (1838), Lancelot (1840), Thomas (1842), Samuel Clothier (1844), Elizabeth Ann (1845), Benjamin (1848), Eliza Jane (1850) and Martha (1853).

In November 1855 they sailed from London on the 506 ton barque 'Oriental' for New Zealand. On the 27 November Rachel gave birth to their ninth child, Ada Augusta Oriental.

The 'Oriental' arrived in Auckland on the 25 February 1856. Departing Auckland on the 29 March 1856 the 'Oriental' arrived in Lyttelton on the 12 April.

The family spent a few months in Christchurch before Launcelot bought 64 acres of land at Clarkville (formerly known as Kaiapoi Island) which he named 'Somerset Farm'.

Launcelot and Rachel had a further three children: Edward (1857), John (1859) and Obed (1862).

In 1852 the first crop of wheat had been sown in the Clarkville district. Despite setbacks caused by the unpredictable weather, heavy yields of wheat were taken off the fertile land. During the early 1860s land purchases increased and the production of wheat expanded.

By 1856 the first threshing machine had been introduced. In the late 1860s the double-furrow handled plough, reapers and binders, the grain drill, and the traction engine were introduced.

Launcelot was one of the early contractors in the Clarkville district having important an early model threshing machine and then progressively bringing out more modern machinery.

Rachel died in July 1879.

In December 1879 Launcelot married Phebe Moore. They had four children: 

Launce William Ernest (1881), Phebe Caroline Mabel (1882), Hercus Herbert Reuben (1884) and Clara Priscilla Minnie (1885).

Clara died in February 1889.

Launcelot died in March 1900 and Phebe in April 1928.

Giles house, Somerset Farm, Clarkville

Phebe Moore's sisters (girl standing & girl kneeling), Phebe Caroline Mabel Giles (child sitting in chair), Launce William Ernest Giles (child standing on chair), Launcelot Giles, Phebe Moore holding Hercus Herbert Reuben Giles, Obed Giles (c1884)

The 'Oriental', a barque of 506 tons, was one of the first five ships sent out to New Zealand by the New Zealand Land Company. In addition to her voyages to Wellington and New Plymouth, she made further passages to Lyttelton, Auckland, Nelson and Dunedin.


The area known as Clarkville marks the centre of the 'Kaiapoi Island' district, so called for its situation between two equally large branches of the Waimakariri River, which met at Kaiapoi and continued out to sea. The main route to Clarkville from Kaiapoi is along Island Road. This is a legacy of the district's early name which was changed to Clarkville in the 1880s, to honour Joseph Clark who donated land for the local school.

Because of its fertile land, Clarkville was a thriving agricultural area for well over 100 years. Many of the early farming families are remembered by road names in the district. These include Heyward, Giles, Maber, Coup, Clothier, Burgess, Bayon and Butcher.

The cemetery at St Augustine's Church is the resting place for members of many prominent local families. Names to be found include Dowdle, Vaughan, Wilson, Smith, Rice, Allen, Hassell, Rich and Holland.

Early settlers in Clarkville had to contend with the vagaries of the unpredictable Waimakariri River which often flooded the whole district. In the 1860s, farmers cut a new course for the river, choking off the north branch which was reduced to a stream and is now known as Silverstream. The river straightening was completed in 1930 when Wright's Cut was constructed just north of the present day road and rail bridges.

There is no known archaeological sites to indicate Maori settlement on Kaiapoi Island. However they could have possibly used the area for hunting and fishing.

Early European settlement of the district included the issuing of a pastoral lease for 5000 acres of Kaiapoi Island in 1854 to William Smith, who disposed of it almost immediately to George Day. By 1866 there were 41 leased or freehold farms under crops in the fertile soil including more than 1000 acres in grain.

During the next 100 years, Clarkville was a productive farming district for crops and livestock, but in recent years its proximity to Christchurch has resulted in most of the farmland subdivided for lifestyle blocks.

Some land is used for intensive horticulture and a handful of dairy farms remain. But the biggest proportion of Clarkville land now supports pets and hobby farms.

Clarkville (Kaiapoi Island) Historic Trail Brochure, Waimakariri District Council, 1999

Launcelot Giles: Obituary

The Christchurch Press, 1900

Mr Launcelot Giles, one of the oldest settlers on Kaiapoi Island, died on Thursday morning at the advanced age of eighty-two. During a residence there of about forty five years he was deservedly respected. Mr Giles was twice married, and leaves a widow, fourteen sons and daughters, and over one hundred grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Launcelot's Funeral

Back Row (L to R)

William Brice, Harold Claud Brice, Edith Malvina (Vina) Brice, Edith Malvina Brice/Giles, Obed Charles Holland, George Robert Holland Thomas Engelbrecht, John Francis Giles, Alf Carpenter, Frederick John Holland, James Henry Giles, Charles Edward Giles, John Edward Holland

Third Row (L to R)

Rose Ellen Giles, Amy Carpenter, Ida Carpenter, Mary Ann Bailey, Elizabeth Ann Giles, Lancelot (Lot) Giles, Thomas Giles, Benjamin Giles, Edward Giles, John Giles, Obed Giles, Mrs Wordsworth (friend), Rachel Palmer, Augusta Carpenter, Martha Margaret Giles, Anne Florence Holland, Sarah Jane Holland, Leigh Giles & child

Second Row (L to R)

Sarah Comyns, Sarah Clothier, Fanny Moore, Flora Mabel McCandlish, Phebe Moore/Giles, Launce William Ernest Giles, Martha Giles, Ada Augusta Oriental Giles, Tamson Honey Meneer/Giles

Front Row (L to R)

Winifred Martha Giles, Pheobe Augusta Holland, Hettie Maud Giles, Griffen Turner, Ashley Herbert Giles, Samuel Thomas Giles, Fred Flavall, Sidney Giles, Allan James Giles, Hercus Herbert Reuben Giles, Jesse Kidd, Edith Maude Holland, Thomas Henry Holland, Otto Reginald Giles, Annie Elizabeth Engelbrecht