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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]

Sir Thomas Tancred

Sir Thomas Tancred, eighth holder of the baronetcy, which was created in 1662, the second year of the reign of Charles the Second, was one of the earliest colonists of Canterbury. He and his family arrived at Lyttelton in 1851, and resided in Canterbury continuously for some years. They then paid a prolonged visit to England and the Continent of Europe, but returned to New Zealand in 1872. After again residing in Canterbury for about eight years, he and Lady Tancred went to live in Clareville, Wairarapa, in the province of Wellington. Sir Thomas Tancred belonged to one of the most ancient families in England; the founder, then known as Tankard, held lands at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, at the time of the Conquest, and page 373 the Tancreds are still associated with that district. The name, too, has many associations with history, as the Tancreds gave Sicily some of its most famous counts and kings, and romance, poetry and the Crusades several heroes. In addition to the prominence of the name in Italian literature—a Tancred is the hero of Tasso's “Jerusalem Delivered”—Disraeli has made it familiar to modern English readers with his novel of “Tancred, or, The New Crusade.” As a colonist Sir Thomas Tancred was a man of somewhat retiring disposition, and was less known to the public than his brother, the Hon. Henry John Tancred, the first Chancellor of the University of New Zealand. He, however, distinguished himself at Oxford, where he graduated Master of Arts and was a Fellow of Merton College and also of Christ's College. During his second sojourn in New Zealand he became a member of the Anglican Synod, and always took an actively enlightened interest in religion and its bearing on the life of the people. One of the memorial windows in the Christchurch Cathedral is dedicated to his memory. While he was in England Sir Thomas went personally amongst the dwellers in the poorest parts of the towns where he happened to be living, or visiting, and was in the main bent of his life a philanthropist. In 1841 he drew up for the Children's Employment Commission appointed by the British Government, a report on the employment of children and young persons in collieries and iron works in the West of Scotland, and on the state, condition, and treatment of such children and young persons. On account of the facts it brings together, and the way it brings them together, this report is of permanent historical and sociological value. It carries the drama of a striking phase of social and industrial life back into the preceding century, and describes conditions, the effects of which are still felt in human society. The writer shows himself to be a man of high intelligence, and generous sympathies. It may interest New Zealanders to know that one of the suggestions he made was to the effect that an eight hours' day would be the means of improving the condition of the workers. He also made strong recommendations in favour of the better housing of the people, and argued that local wealth arising from an increase of population should be chargeable with the maintenace of the educational and religious establishments rendered necessary and desirable by that increase. Sir Thomas was born on the 16th of August, 1808, and succeeded his father in the baronetcy in 1844. He was married on the 16th of April, 1839, to Jane, third daughter of Prideaux John Selby, of Twizell House, Northumberland, and five sons and three daughters were born of the union. Sir Thomas died on the 7th of October, 1880, at Napier, while on a tour of the North Island, and was buried at that town. Lady Tancred survived her husband by twenty-one years, and died at Taratahi, Carterton, in the province of Wellington, on the 15th of November, 1901. The baronetcy is now held by Sir Thomas Selby Tancred, their eldest son.

The late Sir T. Tancred.

The late Sir T. Tancred.