Sunday, January 17, 2016

William Boyt 1804-1884: Fencible

The term Fencible comes from the word “defencible” meaning “capable of defence”

The Royal New Zealand Fencible corps were retired soldiers from Britain and Ireland, often referred to as 'Pensioners', who enlisted as a military reserve to act as a 'defence force' for the protection of the early settlers in the fledgling town of Auckland, New Zealand.

In return for signing up to provide defense against local attack and to perform garrison duties, they were given passage for themselves and their children and were provided with a cottage and an acre of land which after a term of service of 7 years, they would own outright .
 There were over 2,500 men, women and children who arrived in New Zealand during the years 1847 - 1852. They settled in the now south and eastern suburbs of Auckland, namely Onehunga, Otahuhu, Panmure and Howick. service they would own.
Generally members of the Fencibles were required to be under 48 and  had attained a minimum of 15 years service and most had significant overseas service
The fencibles settled in speciallyh created villages in the Auckland suburbs of Howick, Onehunga, Otahuhu and Panmure.
In the 1849 census of Auckland nearly 1/3 of all recorded were Fencibles.
They were first called to action in 1851 when a large party of about 350–450 Ngati Paoa from the Thames and Waiheke Island areas arrived at Mechanics Bay Auckland in about 20 waka to attack the city. A British regiment at Albert Park Barracks was called out to the hill overlooking the bay. It was reinforced by fencibles who had come from Onehunga, the closest fencible town. Fencibles at Howick and Panmure were stood to in case of further trouble. The frigate HMS Fly trained its guns on the Maori war party from offshore. The cause of the aggression was the arrest of a Ngati Paoa Chief who had stolen a shift from a shop in Shortland St. The situation was defused when the attackers were given tobacco and blankets.
William Boyt was aged 21 when he enlisted to the Royal Marines in 1824. He was born in Wellington Somerset England to parents Parmenas Boyt and Jean Boyt nee Greedy.
He is described as a Sawyer (a trade he recommenced later in his life) , 5 foot 10 inches , brown hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion and of good industrious character.

William’s regiment was posted to Wales where he met and married his wife Mary Mathias. It was whilst posted in Wales his older  children were born.

He was discharged unfit with a fractured left clavicle after serving 10 years and 11 months .

William and his family were aboard the first Fencible ship to arrive in Auckland. The Ramilles arrived on August 5th 1847 with 67 Fencibles and their families aboard and this group formed the settlement in Onehunga.
The Fencibles and their families off the "Ramilles" were housed for three months at the Albert Barracks in Auckland. They moved to the village of Onehunga on the 17th November 1847, where a large wooden 100ft building housed them and their families. Later in the year detached cottages were built on a ten acre site and the families moved into their new homes in April, 1848, laying out their gardens and planting vegetables. By July the village of Onehunga boasted its first school attended by 31 boys and 23 girls and by 1850 the population of Onehunga had grown to 867 persons.

The Boyt family  made their home in Grey Street Onehunga and later William is known to have lived in Captains Street (later renamed Neilson Street) .
Mary Boyt died on 23 August 1883, followed by William a year later on 27 August 1884.
He was buried in the Church of England Cemetery in Symonds Street.


  1. Hello there.

    My name is Brooke Boyd. After some random Google searches I came across your blog. It seems this William Boyt may be connected to my family also.I'm very green to the whole genealogy thing so when I went from Boyd to Boyt I got a little confused. Would you be so kind as to shed some light on when exactly and possibly why there may have been a name change? You can message me on Facebook

    Brooke :)

    1. SOrry I didnt see this post earlier. Im not sure why the name was changed from Boyt to Boyd but it could be any number of reasons. With some branches of my family the name was misheard or misspelled on a marriage certificate and so that is what the family went by from then. I do know that some branches of the Boyt family did become Boyds. WHat branch are you from???