James and Caroline (Kara) Honeyfield, 1829 – 1911

Last updated 27 December 2022


James and Caroline (Kara) lived through tumultuous times in the colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kara was one of the first children of Māori/Pākekā parents, born in pre-colonial times (1829). Kara’s early years would have been most heavily influenced by her Māori whānau and tikanga (culture), transitioning in her latter years to a life dominated by English values and customs.

James emigrated from England, arriving at the fledgling settlement of New Plymouth at a time of nascent conflict between Māori and the settlers about entitlement to and use of the land.

Those differences cumulated into armed conflict and extreme upheaval – war and conflict between Māori and Pākehā lasting about 30 years – that would have played significantly on the relationship between James and Kara that was formed in 1852, through to their marriage in 1864 and throughout their lives from there on.

James Charles Honeyfield

James was born in Gillingham, Dorset in southwest England. He was baptised at St. Mary’s Church on 9th of June 1839. Prior to emigrating to New Plymouth, James attended Orchard House, a school for farmer’s sons in Gillingham.

After emigrating to New Plymouth in 1852, James joined his brother, William working on the Barrett whānau farms in Moturoa and Barrett Road. James was 13 at the time. The circumstances prompting the Honeyfield brothers to work for the Barrett’s is not recorded. We can safety speculate that the farm needed labour due to the deaths firstly of both Dickie (1847) and Rawinia  Barrett (1849) and then grandfather Eruera in 1851, leaving the surviving daughters unlikely to mange on their own. It is plausible that William starting work on the Barrett property as early as 1851 soon after Eruera’s death, possibly in addition to his other interests at Omata with his cousins, the Morgan brothers.

William went on to marry Sarah (Hera) Barrett in April,1853. William and Sarah lived for a time with the Morgans at Tataraimaka and then moved back to the Barrett homestead farm at Moturoa. Their return to Moturoa may have been prompted by the resolve by Māori at a hui in South Taranaki, 1854, not to sell more land to pakeha.

It is likely that James remained working on the Barrett farms, possibly under the supervision of Caroline in the first instance, who was aged 24 at the time of William and Sarah’s marriage.

When the first Taranaki wars broke out in 1860, James joined the local militia and took part in the Battle of Waireka. James also saw active service in the Waitara district under Major Nelson.

Caroline (Kararaina) Honeyfield (nee Barrett)

Caroline (or Kara) was born on 2nd February 1829 at the Otaka pa, Moturoa (Ngamotu) which in terms of size was really more like a kaianga (village). See the posts on Dicky & Rāwinia and Caroline & Sarah for more information about Caroline’s younger years.

By 1849, after her parents had died, Caroline and her sister Sarah continued to live in the house build by Dicky Barrett, but they were under the care of their grandfather, Eruera Te Puke Mahurangi until he died in 1851. After Sarah married William Honeyfield in April 1853, Caroline joined the household of Reverend Hanson Turton for several years at the mission station in Kawhia.

Caroline’s departure may have been the prompt for William and Sarah to return to Moturoa to farm rather than leave James on this own as he was only about 14 years of age at that time.

The mission was established by Rev Turton at Raoraokauere Block in the Aotea District in 1840, although by the mid 1850’s it was being run under Māori leadership under the supervision of Rev Schnackenberg – who was based initially at Mokau but from 1858 was in Kawhia (Robin Astridge, November 2013).

The Aotea mission (then known as ‘The Beechamdale Mission’) continued until the conflicts between Māori and Pākehā in the 1860s forced the closure and withdrawal of all mission endeavour south of Raglan in 1863.

After the cessation of hostilities attempts to reopen the missions at Aotea and Kawhia were unsuccessful as both sites lay beyond the Aukete (confiscation line) in Māori held territory (Astridge) … by which time Caroline had returned to New Plymouth. The coincidence of the Aotea mission having been established by Turton, and Caroline’s years spent living up that way, together with her return to New Plymouth possibly as late as 1863, suggest that Caroline was likely to have been involved with the Aotea mission in some way.

We do not know how long Caroline remained at Kawhia. The Rev Turton left the mission in 1858. It is possible that either Caroline continued with the Aotea mission until it was forced to close in 1863, or she returned to New Plymouth several years earlier than that.

James and Caroline marry

After both coming to the aid of Sarah after William Honeyfield’s untimely death in 1864, and being reunited on the Barrett farms, James and Caroline were married six months later by Rev John Whiteley on 2nd January 1865 at James’s residence in Moturoa, New Plymouth. James was 25 and Caroline was 34.

Soon after they got married, James established a butchery business. It must have been successful as indicative with one of his invoices in 1869 being for £246 owing to him from the Crown for supplying meat to the military – a very large sum of money in those days.

Caroline (Barrett) Honeyfield

Caroline (Barrett) Honeyfield

They went on do have five children:

Octavia Lavinia

  • Born December 17, 1865
  • Married Thomas Johns
  • Died 14 May 1901


  • Born October 1, 1867
  • Died 1932


  • Born September 30, 1870
  • Died 1933


  • Born April 6, 1872
  • Married Ethel Mary Morris 1897
  • Died 27 September 1932

Charles Edward

  • Born September 2, 1874
  • Married Mary Allison, 1878
  • Died 1927, burned to death in his car

Farming at Tataraimaka

The Tataraimaka block, having initially been acquired from Taranaki iwi by the Crown in 1847 under the direction of Governor George Grey, was allocated by Crown grant to the New Zealand Company in April 1950 (Parsonson). The land acquired by James and Caroline had initially been purchased from the New Zealand Company by Robert Greenwood in 1850. In 1869, after the birth of their two eldest children, the couple purchased the 180 hectare farm with the homestead at Tataraimaka for £1250 from Mr Greenwood. This is the land between the Greenwood and Timaru Roads to the hide tide mark but excluded Oxenhams farm down the bottom of Timaru Road. Settlement date was the 15th May 1869.

Robert Greenwood’s original house had been burnt down nine years earlier during the New Zealand land wars. It is assumed Greenwood built a new one on the same site, using the same foundation stones. During renovations on the house in 1988, the base of an old chimney was discovered under the floorboards that may well of been from Greenwood’s original house.

James and Caroline did not have to clear heavy bush to commence farming the property. At the time it was described as park-like countryside with beautiful shrubbery. For many years prior to the arrival of Europeans, Māori had cultivated the land for kumara and taro. However, the land had been let to fallow for 30 years following conflicts between the Taranaki iwi and northern tribes. Yet, it was easy land to cultivate compared to the heavy bush further down the coast and inland.

It was back in 1818 that the northern iwi turned up at the beach by Tataraimaka pa, bearing muskets. The local Taranaki people had never seen or heard of a musket before. Their rangatira were shot and slaughter followed. The invaders raided all the crops and it was from then the land was left to fallow for 33 years before the Morgan cousins bought the first plough to Tataraimaka.

James had to adapt to the markets of the day, from sheep, beef, and cropping, He planted shelter to establishing a dairy herd and processed his own milk. James converted an old flour mill into the first butter factory in the area.

James introduced four sparrows to the property, paying four pennies per sparrow. The grain grown on the farm today is loved by sparrows, and an annual cull is necessary.

James also introduced pheasants, and recent generations of these birds can still be seen from time to time. One story reported in the local paper stated that James had wadded out into the sea to retrieve one of the first peasants that had become disoriented. The event was witnessed and reported by a passing ship.

James proved to be a very good farmer. By 1878 he had acquired 420 acres comprising: wheat, 35 acres; potatoes, 3.5 acres; swede turnips, 8.5 acres; with 370 acres in grass. James entered the farm in the Taranaki Agricultural Society’s ‘Prize Farm’ award, and won! The judges commented that:

The crops on this farm are the best we have inspected, the fences are in good order, with good gates where required, and the farm generally in good order … Dwelling house 44 feet by 40 feet, with verandah around three sides, containing eleven good rooms, iron roof – a first-class dwelling-house, with lawn and flower garden in front, a credit to the keeper thereof (as reported in the Taranaki Herald, 5 December 1878).

The Tataraimaka Pā site was part of the ‘Bank Farm’ that James purchased in 1897. It was called the Bank Farm as it had been managed by the National Bank for many years until James purchased the property. Over the years James accumulated more land in the area to have an uninterrupted block of 486 hectares.

By the turn of the century, James and Caroline’s sons were all farming, William on the original farm, Charlie was on a farm at Oakura, and Barrett at the Bank farm at Tataraimaka.

Barrett ended up leasing out the Barrett’s Lagoon farm and he moved to Parnell, Auckland. Barrett died in Parnell on January 24, 1933. His only child Murray eventually inherited, and then sold his land, to live his life out in Surfers Paradise. It is believed he and his wife had no children.

Charlie sold his farm (at Tataraimaka by that time) around 1916 to take his farming interests elsewhere. His son Arthur Huia Honeyfield, who had his schooling at Tataraimaka, went on to establish the avocado industry in Katikati on his property he called “Tatara”.

William continued living in the Homestead until his death. He had a heart attack whilst milking the cows.

Today, 97 hectares is still owned and farmed by the family, including the original 150 year old Honeyfield Homestead.

Return to Moturoa

The Otaka Pā site in Moturoa where Caroline was born was very close to where James and Caroline returned to some time in the mid 1890’s. The photo below of Caroline and James was taken after their retirement to Moturoa.

Caroline and James Honeyfield

Caroline and James Honeyfield, 1890’s

James and Caroline continued to farm on the Blagdon farm were the Blagdon shops are today, land that they purchased with Caroline’s sister Sarah.

As reported in the Taranaki Herald, in August 1896 there was a petroleum gas explosion from a bore within 50 metres of James and Caroline’s residence at Moturoa. The strong westerly wind blew fragments of burning material over the residence with some falling on the roof, although the house was saved. However, it was a close thing and the family had to carry their valuables and some of their furniture to safety.

The photo below is of the Honeyfield family with some of the grandchildren, taken at the home of James and Caroline in approximately 1899. With Caroline and James at the rear, at the front there is William on the left, Barrett, with Thomas Johns, in the middle and Charles on the right. Octavia, with baby Oscar Johns, is in front of Caroline and Sarah is to the left. William’s wife Ethel, with baby Eric, is sitting just above William.

Honeyfield family 1899

Unfortunately, Octavia passed away on May 14, 1901 with the cause of death being typhoid. Her sister, Sarah took over raising the Johns family. James leased out the Blagdon property and purchased a larger property of 40 hectares at Bell Block for the Johns children to farm. Sarah remained a spinster living with the Johns family until she finally returned to Tataraimaka farm to die aged 65.

Land holdings

After coming from tenant farming background in North Dorset, England, fifty years previously, James had acquired a large land holding, from Tataraimaka to the south of New Plymouth, to Bell Block and within New Plymouth. Included in the Honeyfield land holdings were the Barrett reserves A, C & D. See below of a map of the land holdings (prepared for the Honeyfield family reunion, 2014).

Final years

Caroline died in November 1899 at the age of 70. Her obituary in the Taranaki Herald, on 13 November 1899, read that she:

…earned the respect and esteem of her fellow settlers, who will deeply sympathise with those she leaves behind her – a widower, three sons, and two daughters, as well as a number of grandchildren.

Caroline left a life interest in her estate to James, and then equally to her children. Her interest in a Ngāti Rāhiri land holding trust passed to her children in 1901.

Caroline’s obituary was published in the Taranaki Herald on 13 November 1899. In a subsequent article published on the masthead of the Taranaki Herald on 21 November 1899, Caroline’s extraordinary life was celebrated. The article noted that Caroline was:

Born at time when the European influence was beginning to make it felt amongst the ruthless tribes of the southern part of this island, she had seen the district emerge from a state of wild confusion and lawlessness and develop into the present state of advancement. What changes had occurred at Ngamotu during her life of three score years and ten!

James died on 21st February 1911 at the age of 72, with the cause listed as ‘valvular disease of the heart’ and exhaustion. James is buried alongside Caroline at Te Henui Cemetery.

Prior to his death, James’s sons were effectively given the land they were farming on, although it is evident there was some debt associated with the Tataraimaka farms.

Sarah Honeyfield with her father, James

In his will James left Sarah:

  • his household effects
  • 12 acres on land at Barrett’s Reserve C
  • a lifetime interest in the Bell Block farm and then to Octavia’s children.

James left the Blagdon farm to Octavia’s children, and parts of the Barrett Reserve A, Moturoa, and a section to Edgar, Oscar and Thomas Johns.


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