• The Selwood Family at Lumsden

    The Selwood family moved to Lumsden in about August 1889, soon after the fire that destroyed their Windley home.  James had a major career shift to become the proprietor of the Royal Mail Hotel.  His wife, Helena, would bring to the partnership solid knowledge and practical skills having worked in her father’s Five Bells Inn at Ottery St Mary, and at a travel way-station at Windley.

    A young Helena Selwood

    In contrast to Windley, the Selwoods were now living in a busy community.  It must have been somewhat of a culture shock.  There was a school, library, postmaster, mailman, police officer, groceries, butcher, baker, stables, saddler, blacksmiths, wagoners, bootmaker, nurse, dressmakers, carpenters, bricklayers and clergymen.  There was also a jockey club, friendly societies, and four hotels of which James was the proprietor of one.  The Selwoods become part of this community.  James even became an active member of the Lumsden Lodge Oddfellowship and was an elected official in 1890.

    The most significant Selwood development was the addition of two further children to the existing ten-member family:  William (Willie) James Selwood, born 20 August 1890, at Lumsden, and Evelyn (Eva) Irene Selwood, born 24 April 1892, at Lumsden.


    For the first time in their lives, the Selwood children went to an established school, Lumsden Primary.  We take a closer look at the schooling of the children in the Parawa chapter, but here we will cover a few general comments about school education.

    Prior to 1876 it was up to provincial governments to provide schools.  Education was not compulsory, and fees were charged.  Very few schools were available, especially in the rural areas, and even if the children could attend, the fees charged made it difficult or impossible for many.

    In 1877 the central government passed an Act that gave New Zealand its system of free, compulsory and secular education, but some allowance was made for children in rural areas, or with work responsibilities to miss up to 50 percent of their annual schooling.

    The first school in Lumsden was opened in 1879.  The schoolroom was in a loft just above the stables behind the Elbow Hotel.  It didn’t prove to be too satisfactory.  One child fell from the loft and was injured, and others objected to the rather unsavory surroundings where “… many men the worse for liquor, came into the stables using bad language”.  The teacher complained that the children were being taught the work of the Devil from below, faster than he could teach them the word of the Lord above!  The complaint was acted upon and the school was moved to another building which also had a drawback because it was said to be haunted!  A purpose-built school was established in the early 1880s, and it would be this replacement school that the Selwood children attended.

    Lumsden Hotels

    The imminent arrival of the railway, and its role as an important four-way rail and road junction, was the spur to hotel development in Lumsden.

    George Fletcher, who had his first hotel at Castlerock, at The Elbow, shifted to Lumsden.  He, and his hotel, were long-term Lumsden identities but the hotel finally closed in May 1952.  In 1876 John Garthwaite built the Waimea Hotel at Lumsden.  It had five rooms and a six-horse stable.  It had many proprietors in its short life before being destroyed by fire in April 1885.

    Joseph Crosbie was one of those who operated the Waimea Hotel in the early 1880s but he then built and opened the Railway Hotel in 1885.  It consisted of 12 rooms and a 16-horse stable.  The license remained in the Crosbie family for many years.

    Peter Hansen built the Royal Mail Hotel in 1876.  It consisted of six rooms and a 10-horse stable.  He also operated a coach service, including in 1877-79 a regular service to Burwood Station.  So perhaps the Selwood family on their arrival in New Zealand used his service in 1877 in moving to Windley.  Twelve years later, James Selwood became the proprietor of this hotel for two years before he and family moved to Parawa.

    Lumsden to Burwood transport from Royal Mail Hotel about 1878

    James Selwood’s Royal Mail Hotel

    James obtained and retained the license for the Royal Mail Hotel for two years.  He was granted a hotel license by the Oreti Licensing Board for 1890 and 1891 but by 1892 the hotel was licensed to another.   The name “Selwood, James, residential, Lumsden, hotelkeeper” first appeared in the supplementary parliamentary rolls for the Wallace Electorate in 1890, and in the full Wallace Electorate Roll for 1893.  His name also appeared, with a supporting advertisement for the Royal Mail Hotel, Lumsden, in the 1890 Mills Dick and Co. Provincial Almanac and Directory.  He was also listed as “James Selwood, Royal Mail, Lumsden” in the 1892 and 1893 New Zealand Post Office Directory.

    In his time as proprietor of the Royal Mail Hotel, James took steps to promote the hotel.  For instance, the annual Mills and Dick Otago and Southland Directory had this advertisement:

    James Selwood Royal Mail Hotel advertisement

    He also was the host publican and hotel licensee at the 1890 Lumsden Caledonian Sports Day, with the prize-giving at his hotel afterwards.

    One of the consequences of being a proprietor of a hotel is that there will be incidents, and these incidents may end up in a court of law.  Here are three incidents in 1890 where James appeared in court:

    In August 1890 two men were charged by the police with fighting on the main road, Lumsden. “Both pleaded ‘guilty’ and said that they had indulged a little too freely, and had some words, resulting in a harmless scuffle.

    “It appeared from the evidence that the defendant had made some damaging statements regarding his character, and on the day in question in the Royal Mail Hotel he saw Barnett, and after passing some remarks on the weather struck him with the back of his hand on the face, following it up with other blows.  Jas. Selwood, proprietor of the hotel, corroborated the statement, and said that defendant had apologised to him, and that an attempt had also been made to amicably settle the matter with complainant without success.

    “James Selwood, licensee of the Royal Mail Hotel, was charged with unlawfully permitting quarrelsome conduct in his licensed premises on Sunday 13th July.  This was on information laid in consequence of evidence which came out in an assault case heard on the preceding court day.  Charles Barnett and John Callaghan gave evidence as to the nature of the disturbance, and both agreed that Mr Selwood (who was suffering from illness) did take steps as he was able to stop the quarrel.  His Worship dismissed the information.

    “A sitting of the Court was held on Thursday (20 November 1890) Mr Rawson, R.M. presiding:  James Selwood obtained judgement for £7 8s, with costs of £1 5s 6d against John Payne for board, lodgings and refreshments.”

    Although James Selwood went to some effort to promote the business, it was obviously not sufficient because on 3 August 1891 he was declared bankrupt in the Invercargill Court.  “Notice is hereby given that James Selwood of Lumsden, in the County of Southland in New Zealand, hotelkeeper was this day adjudged a Bankrupt, and that the first meeting of his creditors will be held at the R.M. Courthouse, Invercargill, on Monday, the 10th day of August 1891 at 2 o’clock pm.”  (Southland Times, 4 August 1891).  However, by 1 February 1892 James Selwood was discharged from bankruptcy.

    James Selwood was the innkeeper of the Royal Mail for a relatively short period, from 1889 to 1891.  After his bankruptcy, the Royal Mail Hotel was taken over by Alistair Smith.  He and a series of other proprietors took over the license of the hotel for the next many years.

    In September 1900 the original 1876 hotel was burnt to the ground but, within weeks, planning was underway for a replacement two-storied brick hotel.  The Royal Mail Hotel was the victim of changing social behaviours with the smoking ban introduced in December 2004, the drink-drive campaigns, the improved highways reducing travel times, and multi-channel television entertainment and DVDs at home.  The bar is now closed with the final handle poured in 2009. 

    The historic Royal Mail Hotel continues to offer accommodation and conference room facilities.

    Selwood Property

    It can be assumed that the Selwood family lived on the Royal Mail Hotel premises, but the Selwoods did have title to a section in Lumsden which was purchased when they resided at Windley.  Perhaps it was an investment opportunity.  In the late 1870s and early 1880s Lumsden was seen as a town with a big future.  There were high hopes that it would become a large and thriving inland junction centre.  It was the cross roads to Kingston and Queenstown to the north, Gore and Dunedin to the east, Invercargill to the south, and Lake Te Anau and Fiordland to the west.

    Crown sections in Lumsden were open for selection and sale in the 1877-1882 period.  On 4 October 1882, a Mr. Robert Cowie of Mararoa acquired Section 14, Block 1, of 1 rood (1,012 square metres) area.  This section, just 200 metres from the town centre, was at 27 Pluto Street with Title 26/253.  It was then transferred to James Selwood on 31 May 1883.  A replacement title was issued on 28 April 1885 to James Selwood because “the original Certificate of Title having been destroyed by fire”.  The going rate for town sections at this time was about £80.

    There is no evidence that the Selwoods at any stage built or resided on this section.  It took until 21 April 1905 for the property to be transferred to Helena Selwood under the terms of the Will of James Selwood.  On 11 January 1916 Helena transferred the section to Evelyn Kirk (nee Selwood), the second youngest child of James and Helena Selwood.

    It is interesting to note that there is a Helena Street in Lumsden parallel to Pluto Street.  Maybe it is named after Helena Selwood but I cannot find any supporting evidence for this.