William Travers (politician)

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William Travers
William Travers ca 1879.jpg
Travers, c.1879
Personal details
Born William Thomas Locke Travers
January 1819
Newcastle West, County Limerick, Ireland
Died 23 April 1903(1903-04-23) (aged 84)
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Relatives Henry Travers (son)
Profession Lawyer, magistrate, politician, explorer, naturalist, photographer

William Thomas Locke Travers (January 1819 – 23 April 1903) was a New Zealand lawyer, politician, explorer, and naturalist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Travers with his wife and daughter in the garden of Englefield Lodge in Christchurch.

Travers was born near Newcastle West, County Limerick, Ireland, either on 9[2] or 19[3] January 1819. His father chose to retire to France, and Travers was consequently brought up there. He was educated in Saint-Malo, a town in Brittany. In 1835, he joined the British military, and was part of the British Auxiliary Legion that fought in Spain's First Carlist War. After his military service ended, Travers became a lawyer. In 1849, he and his family moved to Nelson, New Zealand, where he continued to practice law. Later, he also lived in Christchurch and Wellington. He purchased Englefield Lodge in Christchurch in 1866 and sold the property in 1872 to Edward Stevens.[4]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1853–1854 1st Nelson Independent
1854–1855 1st Waimea Independent
1855–1859 2nd Waimea Independent
1867–1870 4th Christchurch Independent
1877–1878 6th Wellington Independent

Travers' political career covered both national and provincial politics. He was a member of the 1st New Zealand Parliament, representing first the Town of Nelson and then Waimea electorates, and served in the brief Forsaith Ministry formed by Thomas Forsaith.[5]

In the 1st Parliament, the Town of Nelson was a two member electorate.[6] On nomination day on 25 July 1853, Travers and James Mackay were the only candidates put forward. They were thus declared elected unopposed.[7] Parliament's first term started on 24 May 1854.[8] Travers and William Cautley, MP for Waimea, both resigned on 26 May 1854.[9] Travers subsequently contested the electorate that Cautley had vacated, being elected in the 21 June 1854 Waimea by-election. He was re-elected in the 1855 general election, but was disqualified on 26 July 1859.[10]

Travers returned in the 4th Parliament as representative for the City of Christchurch, after winning the 1867 by-election. He resigned on 29 July 1870 before the end of the term. He was a member of the 6th Parliament as representative for the City of Wellington, having won the 1877 by-election. He resigned on 25 January 1878.[11]

He also served in the councils of Nelson Province and Canterbury Province, and unsuccessfully stood for the superintendency of both. He stood as one of seven candidates for the Nelson Provincial Council in 1853 in the Town of Nelson electorate, where five seats were elected. He came sixth and was thus not elected.[12]

He represented Wellington in parliament from 1877 to 1881, but was not elected when he stood again in 1893. In Wellington he was City Solicitor, and was an advocate for the west coast railway in 1878. He subsequently became company solicitor to the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company which built the line north from Wellington to the Manawatu.

His most significant political contribution was his campaign to make central government (rather than provincial government) responsible for education.

Explorer, naturalist, photographer[edit]

At the same time, Travers was also an avid explorer and naturalist, often mounting expeditions into the less well known parts of New Zealand. He was responsible for tracing the source of the Waiau River, and gave the Ada River its name. He also collected many samples of mountain grasses and flowers, sending them to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Travers was also responsible for drafting the legislation that created the Wellington Botanic Garden, and was a Botanic Garden board member for 22 years.

Death and commemoration[edit]

Travers died in an accident at Hutt railway station on 27 April 1903. His descendants settled in Marlborough.

Mt Travers, the Travers Saddle in the Travers Range, the Travers River in the Travers Valley, Upper Travers Hut and the Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park are named after him, as is the Travers Room at the Rainbow Ski Area.[13]


  1. ^ Shepherd, R. Winsome (22 June 2007). "Travers, William Thomas Locke 1819 - 1903". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  2. ^ The Cyclopedia of New Zealand - Wellington Provincial District. Mr. Williiam [sic] Thomas Locke Travers. Wellington: The Cyclopedia Company Limited. 1897. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Foster, Bernard John (1966). "TRAVERS, William Thomas Locke (1819–1903)". In McLintock, A. H. An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "Christchurch's Oldest House". Canterbury Heritage. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Scholefield 1950, pp. 31, 144.
  6. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 161.
  7. ^ "Election Intelligence". Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle. XII (595). 30 July 1853. p. 2. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 68.
  9. ^ Scholefield 1950, pp. 100, 144.
  10. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 31.
  11. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 144.
  12. ^ "Election of members for the Provincial Council for the Town of Nelson". Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle. XII (597). 13 August 1853. p. 7. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Reed, A. W. (2010). Peter Dowling, ed. Place Names of New Zealand. Rosedale, North Shore: Raupo. p. 420. ISBN 9780143204107. 


  • Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Nelson
Served alongside: James Mackay
Succeeded by
Samuel Stephens
Preceded by
William Cautley
Member of Parliament for Waimea
Served alongside: David Monro, Charles Elliott
Succeeded by
Fedor Kelling
Preceded by
James FitzGerald
Member of Parliament for Christchurch
Succeeded by
William Sefton Moorhouse