Archibald Hitchins Spicer "Archie"


Archie Spicer (1830 - 1883) was the only surviving son of Captain A E Spicer 12th Regiment, Madras Native Infantry, of the Honorable East India Company (HEIC), and Mary Martha Woodhouse, the eldest daughter of Captain John Woodhouse (sometimes Wodehouse), of the 7th Madras Cavalry, HEIC.

Archie was born at Vizagapatam India, but left for England with his mother as an infant. He had four sisters, Mary, Eliza, Maria and Augusta. Archie's father died of fever in 1833 aged forty-four (Archie was aged three), and was buried at Masulapatam, Madras. He left instructions concerning Archie's education.

Archie was a frail child, and it seems that something was wrong with his heart. He was sent to boarding school at "Hampton" but spent the greater part of his childhood at Esher with his uncle John Spicer and possibly his mother's family, the Woodhouses. There is a painting of Mary Spicer, Archie and his four sisters. The mother appears to be holding a portrait of her absent husband.

Archie was aged twenty-one when in 1851 he embarked with his mother and sisters on the H H Wells and Company's packet ship the "Simlah" bound for New Zealand. For the 120 passengers it was not a pleasant journey. There was a threat of mutiny from the crew, and other problems. A court martial was held when the ship arrived at Hobart. A further court of enquiry in New Zealand remarked upon "disgraceful conditions" on the voyage.

Archie's first position was Warehouse-Keeper with the Customs Service in Nelson. Within a few years (at the time of his marriage to Harriett Preece) he was transferred to the Customs service in Auckland. Later he worked as an accountant and then in the Deeds Office, Auckland.

Archie's eldest sister Mary who had come to New Zealand on the "Simlah" never married. She died in 1904. His sister Eliza had married Alexander Jamieson in England. The next sister Maria, had married Lt Spencer Cameron. His youngest sister "Gussy" Augusta in 1854 married Wynne Peyton Gray in Auckland. Wynne was the only son of Major Gray 40th Regiment, who had been Commanding Officer of the Otahuhu Fencible settlers.

Archie's sister Eliza (who married Alexander Jamieson) had emigrated to South Africa, where Alexander died. The widowed Eliza and daughters Mary, Frances and Eiza Ellen were about to embark in Durban for their return to England, when Eliza also died. By about 1864 the three orphaned Jamieson girls were under the care of their grandmother Mary Spicer.

Archie's sister Maria Spicer, who had married Lt Spencer Cameron was widowed at an early age. One of her twin sons also died. Maria Cameron and her surviving son Alexander came to live in New Zealand.

To return to Archie and Harriett.

In 1854 Archie sailed down to Coromandel to ask Harriett's father for her hand. Some letters survive from this time. The young couple were married in St Barnabas church which then stood on the foreshore in Augustus Terrace, Parnell. Harriett's bridesmaids were her sisters Eliza and Mary Ann Preece and two of the Miss Churtons. Andrew Sinclair was best man.


The young couple lived for some years close to Auckland town, where Archie continued at the Customs Office. Of their ten children, only six survived.

In about 1860 Archie decided to leave the city.

He purchased a property of about ten acres which he named "Glenlaveroch". It was situated near the corner of Blockhouse Bay and New North Road, which was then dangerously far from any centre of settlement. The house was a fine one for the times, with a hipped roof of corrugated iron. No lead was used on the roof as it was feared (being the time of the Waikato Wars) that the Maori would strip the lead for making bullets.


The property was laid out in gardens, with flower beds, and peacocks walking about. There were household servants. Archie employed a groom to drive him into the office in the "dog-cart". The house was still standing in the 1930's.

Unfortunately Archie's circumstances changed. He lost his position at the Customs Office and became ill. The family returned to live in Auckland. Archie spent his final sixteen years working as a clerk in the Deeds Office. His fine writing can be found in the old ledgers.

In his spare time Archie liked to paint birds and butterflies. He was very interested in astronomy. He wrote literary letters in his elegant script. He was in great demand as a speaker at meetings, and was a member of literary and debating societies.

Archie died aged fifty-three but Harriett lived until eighty-two years of age. She died in 1917. She loved to tell her children and grand-children stories from the early days in New Zealand.

Their daughter "Marnie" became the keeper of the family history.

During 1966 the Spicer (and Preece) Family graves located in plots 189, 190, 191 and 192 of the Symonds Street Cemetery were "moved" to make way for the motorway. Remember, as you drive by, that you are driving over our tears.

Look at other parts of the Preece story by following the links to the Index page.