An update on Harriet Barlow

For some of our “notables” it can be difficult confirming details of their life and time involved in New Zealand’s music heritage. We include the information we have been able to verify but also update the entries when further details come to light.

One such case is of Harriet Barlow. Initially very little information could be confirmed about the dates, place of origin and fate of the author of the 1857 New Zealand Polka. We now know much more about her life, although the role of music in her life before and after her time in New Zealand is still vague. Thanks to Allan Murphy, of Sydney, for uncovering much of the information below.

Harriet was born in London in 1835, the eldest daughter of Emanuel Rosselli and Harriet, nee Merrill. Emanuel was born in Rome and after settling in London continued to be involved with the Italian community, including fundraising for the Sicilians after Garibaldi’s campaign there. Emanuel appears to have been a successful merchant and his daughter Harriet, aged 20, married the 31 year old Thomas Barlow, an actuary and son of a Master Mariner in 1855.

The exact date they arrived in New Zealand is still uncertain but it seems most likely to have been early 1857. Thomas established a General Merchandisers in Wellington and in November 1857 he is recorded as importing 2 cases of pianos, 2 cases haberdashery, 2 cases millinery, 1 case printed music and 1 case of perfumery. In October 1857 a Mrs Barlow was reported to have travelled to Sydney. It is interesting to conjecture whether this might have been Harriet going to collect the copies of her New Zealand Polka printed by J. Clarke and advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 October 1857 as being available in a few days.

Harriet and Thomas and 1 child returned to England in April 1858. Management of his business was initially continued by a Miss Willcox. However, in the Morning Chronicle of 3 December 1858 there was a short notice of the death of Thomas Barlow, late of Wellington. Was illness the cause of their return to England or an unfortunate coincidence? His probate was registered at less than 800 pounds. Harriet next appears in 1861 in Sewardstone, Essex as a Housekeeper to John Charles Young, an Australian merchant and farmer before returning to live with her remaining family in London until her death in December 1913. In the 1911 Census she is described as a widow, with private means.

So the life of a writer of one of the early published pieces referencing New Zealand is a little fuller. But there remain questions. What happened to the “Child” mentioned in the shipping lists? Were the pieces she wrote sent over to Sydney for printing soon after their arrival in New Zealand, or taken over by either Thomas or Harriet on a visit to Sydney? Was she still an active musician on her return to England? What was her initial musical education? If and when any of this information emerges, we shall update our entry.

And new entries have been added for the leading brass retailer and repairer, J. W. Copithorne, Triphook father and son, piano tuner Hugh Aplin, music instrument repairer James Howden, bassoonist Bryant Williams and organist Alfred Vine.