Binning Benjamin Whetton (1846-1924)

Binning Benjamin Whetton (1846-1924)

Binning Benjamin Whetton (1846-1924)

(Grandfather of Jessie Roberta SHANKS)

Binning Benjamin WHETTON was born on 26 July 1846 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England.  He was christened “Benjaminus Whatton” three days later at the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Chad in Birmingham.

Cathedral Church of St Chad
Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Chad

Binning’s father was Robert Whetton (c.1812–), a grocer, originally from Deddington, Oxfordshire.  His mother was Arabella BELL (1812–), born in Kirkmichael, Ayr, Scotland.

Binning was the oldest of Robert and Arabella’s children.  His brothers and sisters, also all born in Birmingham, were:

  • Jannet (Janet), born 1848
  • Agnes, born 1849
  • Robert, born 1850, died aged 17 months
  • Robert, born 1852
  • Catherine (Kate), born 1853
  • Jessie, born c 1853
  • Arabella, born 1855.

In the late 1850s or early 1860s, Binning and his family moved from Birmingham to the South English seaside town of Brighton.  In 1861 they were living at the address ‘5 North Quadrant’ where father Robert was running ‘licensed refreshment rooms’, later described as ‘dining and coffee rooms’.  Brighton was a popular resort town from the early 1800s, and became even more popular and accessible when it was linked to London by railway in 1841, enabling day trips to be made.  Brighton’s West Pier was completed in 1866, a few years after the Whetton family arrived in the town.

On 26 April 1871 at the Brighton Register Office, at the age of 23, Binning married 19-year-old Sophia Jane POLLARD, a ‘fancy shell box maker’.  By the middle of the 1870s they had two children: Charles Binning, born on 14 June 1872; and Jessie, born on 1 February 1874.

Binning and Sophia then decided to make a significant change to their lives.  They successfully applied for an assisted passage to New Zealand, where Binning was to work as a labourer in Ashburton.  The family of four left England on 19 April 1875 on the ‘Star of China’.  They arrived in Lyttleton, Canterbury, three and a half months later (on 1 August). Click here for a copy of their migration record and here for a copy of the The Press article (3 August, page 2) about the ship’s arrival.

Immigration notice

Immigration Advertisement Star of China The Press XXIV (3104) p1 4 Aug 1875
It is uncertain how long it took Binning to secure a job, or where the family lived on their arrival, but on 31 March 1878 James Preston, clergyman, had contact with the Whetton family in Peel Forest, Canterbury where Binning was working as a labourer.  On this day the clergyman baptised Binning’s English-born children, Charles and Jessie, and  also Binning’s new son – Robert William – who was born on 3 July 1877 in New Zealand.

Binning and Sophia went on to have five further children in Peel Forest:

  • Rose Emily, born 18 April 1879, baptised 9 November 1879
  • Arabella Mary, born 12 April 1882, baptised 14 May 1882
  • Alma Daisy, born 22 February 1884, baptised 11 May 1884
  • Arthur James, whose birth was registered in 1886
  • Walter Henry, born 7 May 1889, baptised 28 July 1889.

Church at Mount Peel Station, 1873
Church at Mount Peel Station 1873 watercolour

Binning continued to live and work as a labourer in Peel Forest until the end of the 1800s.

However, around the beginning of 1896 a significant event occurred in the family.  Jessie – Binning and Sophia’s oldest daughter – became pregnant to another Peel Forest labourer, Robert Johnston Morrow SHANKS (b. 1856 in Boardmills, Northern Ireland).  Robert was much older than Jessie and was already married to Mary Ann (née WALLACE).  Jessie and Robert’s daughter Jessie Roberta Shanks was born on 14 September 1896, reputedly delivered by grandmother Sophia.  Baby Jessie was fostered by a Dunedin family – the SARNEYs.  Her mother Jessie Whetton moved, or was sent, to Whanganui, where soon afterwards she married Albert Charles MAJOR, another labourer formerly from Peel Forest.

Just a few years later, probably 1900 or 1901, Binning and Sophia also moved north to Whanganui (followed by at least some of their children, including Arthur James, Rose Emily, Robert William and Walter Henry).  Binning continued to work as a labourer, and for many years he and Sophia lived at 15 Tay Street.

15 Tay Street, Whanganui

15 Tay Street, Wanganui

In 1920, Binning’s wife Sophia Jane died in Whanganui, aged 67 (she was buried on 3 June).  Binning himself died three and a half years later on 18 January 1924, aged 77, from cancer of the liver and ‘asthenia’ (weakness).  His address when he died was 104 Somme Street, where his son Walter Henry was living.

Both Binning and Sophia Whetton are buried in the same plot in Aramaho Cemetery, Whanganui, along with their son Arthur James who died about two weeks before Binning.

Whetton grave, Aramaho Cemetery
Binning Sophia Whetton grave Aramaho edited

“To live in the hearts of those we love
is not to die”

The inscription reads:

[about 1 JUNE] 1920
[18th] JAN 1924 AGED 77 YEARS
[about 6th] JAN 1924 AGED 37 YEARS


Ancestors of Binning Benjamin Whetton

Ancestors of Binning Benjamin Whetton

Timeline and information sources

To be completed.

Image sources for this page

(All web sources accessed 6–7 August 2016)

Top banner images:

Left: The Royal Pavilion Brighton, UK.  Photograph 30 September 2013 by Finliokao.  Photo uploaded to Wikimedia under Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.
Middle: Jollie’s House and Mount Peel (1875) surrounded by native bush with Mount Peel (5,633 feet) towering above the homestead.  Watercolour by Rev James Preston.

Right:  Whanganui River from opposite 104 Somme Road, Whanganui.  Photo by Caroline Maskill, 28 July 2016.

Cathedral Church of St Chad: built between 1839 and 1841. Designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.  Wikipedia: Author Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, uploaded by Magnus Mangske under Creative Commons Attibution 2.0 Generic Licence.

Immigration notice: The Press, XXIV(3104): p1, 4 August 1875.  From Papers Past website,

Church at Mount Peel Station, 1873:  Artist Leonard Stowe. Macmillan Brown Library – Te Puna Rakahau o Macmillan Brown, University of Canterbury, reference: UC/MBL/0788.

15 Tay Street, Whanganui: Google Maps Street View,175.0492139,3a,35.7y,277.76h,90.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1shZP-jDN83MsRpUnw_sl38w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1?hl=en

Whetton grave, Aramaho Cemetery: Taken by Caroline Maskill, Whanganui, 29 July 2016

Family tree: Created by Caroline Maskill, 7 August 2016.

For more information on the descendants of Binning Whetton and their family connections, click on the links below:

Jessie Roberta Hodges (nee Shanks): The Early Years – Jessie talks about growing up in Dunedin, her first job at the Kapai photo studio, and meeting her future husband, Alfred George Hodges.
Who was Dorothy Miles?  Find out how Dorothy Miles is related to Jessie Hodges and the wider Dunedin Hodges family; and what happened to her.
Harold Hodges / Agnes Haig wedding reception photos, 6 November 1954.  View more than 60 newly discovered photos of Hodges, Shanks, Haig and MacCallum family members and friends who attended this event.
Dora’s Ninetieth – The Speeches – On the last Sunday of December, 2012, a family party was held at the Harding’s farm to celebrate Dora David’s (nee Hodges) ninetieth birthday.  Click here to see some of the amusing birthday speeches given by family members in honour of Dora.
Shanks at Mount Peel – Jessie Roberta Hodges (nee Shanks) was born at Mount Peel Station on 14 September 1896.  The station is located 30kms north of the inland South Canterbury town of Geraldine. Click here to see photos of Mount Peel Station and nearby Peel Forest, taken in September 2016.
Elsie Blythe (nee Hodges) – Early Memories – Elsie talks about growing up in Dunedin, her childhood interests, schooling and work, and why she eventually moved to Wellington.
Photos of the Week: Descendants of Alfred and Jessie Hodges have been emailing ‘photos of the week’ to each other irregularly since 2009.  A selection of 40 of these family photos are shown here.
Mid-twentieth century Dunedin: Courtesy of the Dunedin City Council, view photos of the city and suburbs taken in the 1960s and 70s.