R.W. Francis Arkwright P.Dist.GM Print E-mail


The First Master of  Ruapehu Lodge



Francis Arkwright was born to wealthy parents in the same year in Mayfield Staffordshire a small English village made up of pretty stone cottages nestled deep in the Staffordshire countryside

Francis's Father The Reverend Godfrey Harry Arkwright and Mother Rafela Fiztherbert Arkwright had two sons, Francis was born in 1846 a year after his brother William Harry. Great happiness was mixed with great sadness when Francis was only 3 his mother gave birth to his sister Francis Alice, a week later his mother died one presumes through the injuries of childbirth.  Francis would spent the next 13 years without a mother.


Francis had been born into one of England's richest families, it is said that when his Great Grandfather died his estate was worth in access of 500,000 pounds. Because his Great Grandfather was a person of great note, lets take a look at him for a short while.

Sir Richard Arkwright (1732 - 1792)

Arkwright is considered the father of the modern industrial factory system; his inventions were a catalyst for the Industrial Revolution.

Richard Arkwright was born in Preston in 1732, the son of a tailor. Money was not available to send him to school, but his cousin Ellen taught him to read and write.

He began working as an apprentice barber and it was only after the death of his first wife that he became an entrepreneur. His second marriage to Margaret Biggins in 1761 brought a small income that enabled him to expand his barber's business. He acquired a secret method for dyeing hair and travelled around the country purchasing human hair for use in the manufacture of wigs. During this time he was often in contact with weavers and spinners and when the fashion for wearing wigs declined, he looked to mechanical inventions in the field of textiles to make his fortune.

By 1767 a machine for carding cotton had been introduced into England and James Hargreaves had invented the spinning jenny. With the help of a clockmaker, John Kay, who had been working on a mechanical spinning machine, Arkwright made improvements that produced a stronger yarn and required less physical labour. His new carding machine was patented in 1775.

Arkwright's fortunes continued to rise and he constructed a horse-driven spinning mill at Preston - the first of many. He developed mills in which the whole process of yarn manufacture was carried on by one machine and this was further complimented by a system in which labour was divided, greatly improving efficiency and increasing profits. Arkwright was also the first to use James Watts' steam engine to power textile machinery, though he only used it to pump water to the millrace of a waterwheel. From the combined use of the steam engine and the machinery, the power loom was eventually developed.


Although I could find no official record I am certain that at around 13 Francis would have undoubtedly have followed his father's foot steps and attended Eaton College and Trinity until the age of 18, his father had attended that school and gained an BA degree. I have no doubt that Francis would have studied French as one of his subjects as well as politics, for as we discover later this was to stand him in good stead.

Tragedy stuck the family again in this year when Francis's grandfather passed away.

When he was 16 years old Francis's father decided to get remarried to Marian Hilary Adelaide PELLEW, a year later his half sister Marian was born and year after that his half brother was also born Godfrey Edward. Tragically once again this same year saw the death of his sister Frances Alice at the tender age of 16.

If this wasn't bad enough for the young Francis Arkwright two years later in 1866 happiness was once again tinted with sadness when his half brother Walter was born and his father died at the age of 52. What effect this must have had on the now 20 year old Francis we can only surmise.


Army Life & Marriage

It is rumored that Francis upon leaving college went into the army as an officer but unfortunately there is no documentation to confirm this apart from some notes on the matter in the Lodge records, but we do know that at the age of 22 he married a young socialite ‘Lady Louisa Elizabeth Jane Milbank' at St, Pauls Knightsbridge. The marriage must have been a grand affair as Miss Milbank was indeed a lady of high ranking and appears on the linage to the English throne.

At the age of 26 Francis's Grandmother passed away and a year later in 1873 his Daughter Margret Louisa Arkwright was born at St James Place, London, again Francis's life was to take another twist of fate as unfortunately his wife died one week after childbirth.

Purchase Of Coton House

Coton House is situated near Rugby in the eastern part of Warwickshire. A Manor House has stood on the site since Saxon times and nearby burial mounds suggests that there was an Iron Age settlement in the area. Being within a mile of the camp of Tripontium, and the Watling Street Roman road must have made this an uncomfortable place for the natives to live during the Roman occupation.

The area is on a rise of ground between the rivers Swift and Avon, the Saxon translation of which is Cotes Super Le Waines. In mediaeval times the area was also known as Cottenleywolde and Coton on the Wolds. A small village held by Alvic was believed to have existed here in Saxon times but became depopulated in the 11th century.


It is recorded in Domesday that due to a magnanimous gift by Robert de Warre in the reign of King Henry II a Cistercian Order monastery was founded here in the year 1050. The land passed into the possession of Ralph de Duneme in the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154) who sold it to Hugh Bagot. The latter disposed of half the estate to the monks of Combe Abbey and later sold the other half to Robert de Cotes who exchanged his half with the Abbey and covenant of Combe for land owned by them in Newton.

Thus the whole of the land at Coton came into the possession of the monks of Combe Abbey near Coventry who in 1285 proved their right to hold a Court Leet and in 1291 built a moated monastic grange. At this time there were six ploughlands worth twenty shillings each. By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 the Abbot had also been given a charter of free warren, and Coton must have been a wealthy and powerful manor.

In 1551 the manor was given to Mary, Duchess of Richmond, (who was married to King Henry VIII nephew and would have been Queen if he had not died at nineteen) for life by King Henry VIII. She granted it to Lord Edward Clinton (whose ancestors had Kenilworth Castle built during the reign of Henry I) and to Edward Fynes who a few days later obtained a licence to alienate to Thomas Marrow

On 24 November 1551 the latter granted it to William and Elizabeth Dixwell. He demolished what was left of the old monastic grange and erected a fine new moated Tudor House in the reign of Elizabeth I. Part of the moat still exists today by the entrance road to Coton House. Possession of the manor continued for several generations in the Dixwell family (who incidentally appeared to have some history of mental disorder - it is recorded that in 1640 the manor passed to a William Dixwell "who for the past five years had been out of his mind

Possession then passed to his nephew, William Dixwell Grimes, who made settlement of the manor in 1774. In 1787 he was succeeded as Lord of the Manor and patron of Churchover by his eldest son Abraham Grimes, who had the Tudor house demolished and a new mansion erected to the design of Samuel Wyatt, a popular architect of the day.On his death in 1832 his eldest son Henry Grimes who in 1874 sold the house, manorial rights and advowson to Francis Arkwright, an ancestor of the inventor of the spinning jenny (The estate consisted of 10,559 acres with an annual value of £14,97

Although Francis was the last remaining the  Lord of the Manor he let the 500-acre estate to Mr Arthur James in 1888. Mrs Arthur James was a daughter of the Right Honorable George Cavendish-Bentinck and very prominent in social circles. Many notable guests stayed or dined at Coton House during their tenancy and, later ownership of the property

It was said that Francis was a most energetic sportsman and marksman and played host to many important visitors to Coton house.

Coton House was at one time children's home and now a home for the elderly



Life had taken some twists and turns for the young Francis Arkwright and now 29 in 1875 he decides to remarry Miss Evelyn Addington Wells a young lady from Devonshire, unfortunately this was to prove a childless marriage

Masonic Career Scarsdale Lodge 681 EC

It was at this point Francis turned to Freemasonry and on the 21st June 1876 he was initiated into the Scarsdale Lodge.No.681, One presumes he had left the army at this point he was Passed to the Fellowcraft Degree on the 17th of November and Raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on the 6th of December in the same year. According to Lodge records his occupation was noted as ‘Gentleman' This information was kindly forwarded to me by the Secretary of Scarsdale Lodge. Together with two books containing the Lodge History. Scarsdale by all accounts was not a well attended Lodge but certainly local to Francis.


Image: The flag showing the banner of the Scarsdale Lodge

It was at this point Francis turned to Freemasonry and on the 21st June 1876 he was initiated into the Scarsdale Lodge.No.681, One presumes he had left the army at this point he was Passed to the Fellowcraft Degree on the 17th of November and Raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on the 6th of December in the same year. According to Lodge records his occupation was noted as ‘Gentleman' This information was kindly forwarded to me by the Secretary of Scarsdale Lodge. Together with two books containing the Lodge History. Scarsdale by all accounts was not a well attended Lodge but certainly local to Francis.

Read More abour the Scarsdale Lodge

Political Career

MP For Derbyshire East

Being a relatively wealthy and educated man Brother Francis was undoubtedly at that time a Conservative Member of Parliament for Derbyshire East a position which he held from 1876 to 1880 according to records obtained.

MP For Hampshire

In 1881 a census was conducted in England and Francis is shown living in Adbury House, Hampshire, his profession described as, Magistrate & Land Proprietor - His daughter described as Scholar, Francis lived with his stepmother, wife, daughter, half sister and 14 members of staff. It is at this time we presume that Francis had a short spell as an MP for Hampshire. Certainly this must have been the pint in his life when he decided to immigrate to New Zealand, what prompted this act I can not say, but it would be reasonable to suspect that Francis had already purchased land in the Marton area before leaving England.

It is at this point that we must reflect why an English Gentlemen should come to New Zealand to settle? Francis was to all tense and purposes not  a man without some wealth or standing in the community, he owned property and had an income from Coton House and surrounding lands of $4500 per annum. Maybe it was the excitement of adventure or the prospect of increasing his fortune? For myself I like to believe the following:

Overton House England

In 1873 Francis was the owner of the historic Overton Hall set in the most beautiful countryside, hidden away in the depths of Derbyshire. Built some 400 years ago Overton hall had a colourful life and at one time had become the regular refuge of the young Sir Joseph Banks (when he visited his Uncle during his summer vacations from Oxford), until he owned it himself and it became his yearly, late summer residence when he travelled from London to Lincoln.  Sir Joseph was incidentally a Freemason.


It is said that of all the properties occupied by Sir Joseph Banks, Overton Hall still remains as he would have remembered it when he lived here, maybe even including the ghosts! One of Sir Joseph Bank's best friends would often visit the house to discuss his travels this being Captain Cook. Banks accompanied Cook on the Endeavour as the ship's naturalist on behalf of the Royal Society on the voyages to Australia and New Zealand, Banks Peninsular is named after this adventurer.

The romantic in me likes to think that the influence of Sir Joseph Banks remained in the house and because of this Francis sought adventure and fortune here in New Zealand. Incidently Banks was a Freemason!!

Newspaper Reports

Mr. Francis Arkwright of Overton Hall, Chesterfield, who (says the Home News of October 5) represented East Derbyshire in the House of Commons from 1874 to 1880 in the Conservative interest, sailed last week for New Zealand, where he intends residing upon his property at Marton, Wanganui, for some years. The Conservative associations of the division recently represented by Mr. Arkwright took the opportunity of presenting him with an album of views of Derbyshire and an address expressing their regret at his removal from amongst them, and their deep sense of the services which he had rendered to the constitutional cause. In acknowledging the gift Mr. Arkwright said he did not think it probable that he should ever renew his Derbyshire associations by residence.

North Otago Times. MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 1882.

Now Zealand has so many inducements to offer settlers that it is a wonder more people of the better or opulent classes do not emigrate there It is universally admitted that its climate much resembles the best weather in these islands, that the soil is fertile, and the scenery lovely. One English gentleman, however, has the wisdom to benefit; by the many advantages offered by this now country. Mr Francis Arkwright, who was M.P. for East Derbyshire in the last Parliament has, it is said, purchased an estate in New Zealand, and intends to take up his permanent residence in that colony. The Arkwright's are an enterprising race. The founder of the family was the well-known Inventor of the spinning jenny. Of humble origin - the son, in fact, of a barber in Derbyshire- Richard Arkwright had the natural gifts of a mechanical inventor, and his early years were passed in strenuous but long time fruitless effort to apply machinery to the process of weaving. Until success which ultimately crowned his life and the great fortune which followed are matters of history. Chief among, the sights of the beautiful vale of the Derwent is Willersley Castle, the family seat of the Arkwrights. Close by, worked by water-power, is the cotton-mill of Cromford, the first mill ever built in this country, the forerunner of that important branch of English commercial industry. The village of Cromford has sprung up by the mill, and there is something patriarchal in the beneficial rule of the Arkwrights in these parts, where they are greatly respected and esteemed. No doubt Mr. Francis Arkwright will win for himself the same position in his new home

Arrival in New Zealand 1882

Francis arrived as reported in New Zealand in 1882 with his wife and Daughter . This arrival was reported in the Otago Times as being a great occasion to have such an esteemed man arrive in this country to take up residence.

Overton House New Zealand

One presumes that Francis would have come straight to the Rangitikei as two years after his arrival in 1884 he was already in the throws of building his new house ‘Overton' by the banks of the Rangitikei River, North of Marton, The architect being Frederick de Jersey Clere, well known for his style of house building at the time. As a matter of interest the old house can still be seen today and is presently owned by Charles Duncan.


Certainly it would seem that Francis had designs on continuing his political career as this article will demonstrate:

North Otago Times. SATURDAY, JULY 19, 1884.

At this juncture the "honorarium men " should be held in loving remembrance by every electorate . For some time now 210 guineas per session have constituted the payment of members of parliament. And although the average length of a session has been from three to three and a half months, scarcely any one in the House itself - and that is saying a good deal - has complained of the honorarium being too little. What shall be said, then, of those who voted for and those who accepted the full 210 guineas for one short fortnight's very bad work? We don't know what may be said, but we are quite clear as to what should be done. The men who voted for, or who took that money, under the circumstances and at a time like the present, are men from whom the people can reasonably expect nothing but further meanness and further self-seeking of the basest description. They may talk about economy till doomsday, but till doomsday comes they cannot reasonably be expected to practice it. To speak plainly, their acceptance of the full honorarium for twelve days' useless work has been a disgracefully downright barefaced robbery. When they can use their position as representatives of the people to put unearned public money dishonestly into their own pockets, can they possibly be expected to look strictly and honestly after the public's money in other respects 1 How such persons can seek re-election passes all understanding. Their doing so could only be paralleled by the action of a servant who first robbed his master and then imprudently asked him to repose further confidence in him and place him in the highest position at his disposal. What would be done by the master in such a case should now be done by the electors of New Zealand to the "honorarium men," who should be indignantly and contemptuously rejected at the polling booths. Many of the constituencies will, there is no doubt, have the sense and the spirit to do this, and every constituency that reelects an " honorarium man " will by doing so meanly make itself a party to one of the shadiest and most dishonorable financial transactions ever perpetrated in New Zealand. Mr. Francis Arkwright, formerly a member of the House of Commons, and now a candidate for a North Island constituency, lately said that "he had never heard of such a thing as members coolly voting themselves 200 guineas for a fortnight's attendance. He had, never seen one of the members who voted for that motion, but he should like to do so, as he thought he would be a curiosity. If any member of the House of Commons did such a thing, the next time he went to visit his constituents you would find, on looking at the prices for agricultural produce, that the market for rotten eggs had a decided tendency to harden, with a strong demand for the article." Treatment of that kind would degrade those who resorted to it, but it would be the greatest degradation of all for the electors to re-elect men who have been guilty of the atrocious conduct which Mr. Arkwright so well describes in his own way. We hope therefore that the polling booths will show that the electors know how to treat the "honorarium men "as they deserve, which is with indignant and emphatic rejection. Let no such men be trusted.

As you can see nothing has changed much in politics today!

Freemasonry Marton New Zealand

Within 3 years of arriving in New Zealand Francis on August the 11th 1884 Francis met with 11 other Freemasons at the White Hart Hotel Marton with the sole purpose of establishing a Lodge in the township under the English Constitution. At that meeting it was proposed that The Honorable Francis Arkwright take the chair if and when the Lodge was formed.

The proposal was given my Bro, Gibbons and seconded by Bro. Mckintosh that a Lodge be established in Marton under the name of the ‘Marton Ruapehu Lodge' EC. It was also agreed that the Lodge should meet at the Forester's Hall, Marton which I believe before destroyed by fire stood where Woolworth's is today. The Brethren also agreed that the Lodge should meet on the Thursday nearest the full moon each month. The fee would be one Guinea with two in advance with an initiate fee of five Guineas.

In October a committee consisting of the following members was to draw up the by-laws to be submitted to the Brethren at a later date, they were Bro. Arkwright, Cash, Thompson, Macintosh and Edwards.

The provincial Warrant was presented to the meeting, the draft by - laws was considered and alterations and additions were made and approved. It was proposed and carried that Bro's Mackintosh, Gibbons and Watts be appointed a committee to procure furniture and jewels.

The dedication and consecration of the Marton Ruapehu Lodge No. 2137EC was eventually carried out on Thursday, January 15, 1885, at the Forrester's Hall. Bro. Francis of the Scarsdale Lodge was installed in the chair on the same day. This was not the last time Marton Ruapehu Lodge had Francis as Master as he went on to do a second term the following year and again in 1889.

This is an small extract from the New Zealand Craftsman of the time:

The 15th of January was a day of considerable interest to most of the good folks of this smart little township, but most especially of course to those residents who were members of the Fraternity, that being a day appointed for the opening og the Marton Ruapehu Lodge EC. For the information of our readers we may mention that the town of Marton is situated in the Rangitikei District and is in the center of an excellent farming country distant from Wanganui by rail 32 miles. It is well laid out, and has a business look about it which is very pleasing, and gives it a well to do appearance. It has lately arranged for a permanent water supply which will be a great boom to the inhabitants, as previously there had been difficulty in not being able to find pumping supply by either driving or boring. On the morning in question it was easy to see that some special event was expected as one after another of the business places sent up bunting to flutter in the breeze, and when the train from Wanganui arrived, the Masonic contingent from there made the streets look quite lively in appearance. Masonically speaking Marton is in the district of Wellington and the District Grand Lodge Officers arrived via Palmerston North.

It was in 1889 that the Lodge received a notice of motion that the Lodge becomes a member of the, proposed United Grand Lodge of New Zealand'. Contrary to my first beliefs that Francis would have been against this move these prove to be incorrect when at that Lodge meeting he as Master was given the casting vote, Francis obviously did agree as the Lodge agreed to the formation of a United Grand Lodge of New Zealand

Francis Arkwright visited Lodge Rangitikei No. 1905 EC on the Wednesday 7th January 1885, although who ever filled the book in that night got the date wrong and called it the 6th! He signed the attendance book 'F. Arkwright 681. Scarsdale Lodge EC, of course the Master of the Lodge at the time was Charles W Maclean (Maclean the younger). He witnessed a 2nd degree passing. .

Of course by January 15th Ruapehu Lodge had been dedicated. But he returned to Rangitikei on the 28th January, this time signed in as F.Arkwright Marton Ruapehu Lodge and again the next meeting on the 25th February, this time signing himself as WM of Ruapehu Lodge.

Return Trips Home

I believe Francis returned home to England on several occasions, whether this was for business or pleasure no one would know. I do however know that he returned to England in 1891 aboard the Aorangi Steamer, travelling 1st class with his wife and Daughter.

Grand Lodge Duties

He was back by 1893 and the Lodge records show that W.Bro Arkwright Past Grand Steward name be put forward as a person suitable for the position of District Grand Master. Also again from Lodge records we realise that Francis held this position until his resignation was received in 1899, six years later.

Report from 1893 Wanganui Herald

In the same year as Francis became DGM his Brother back in England became the vicar of Wirksworth.

New Lodge Rooms

Following some disturbance at the Forster Hall, site of the initial Lodge meetings, this being an occasion which I will enter more detail at a later date, the New Lodge rooms were built and consecrated in 1884, R.W Bro Francis Arkwright was the consecrating officer, as a matter of interest the original tender to build the Lodge was one hundred and Seventy Five pounds!


Connection with Rata

Whilst reading an account given by an Irish immigrant in 1894 I came across a very nice passage where the person is describing his travels through NZ in search of work. He worked for a few weeks at a large timber sawmill at Rata where he notes that his children were being taught by the young miss Arkwright and how she would take them after Sunday School to the big house for afternoon tea.


Lists the Hon. Francis Arkwright as being in Marton

Politics continued

Certainly Francis was never far away from the political scene and according to records was a member of the Legislative Council twice, and never far from voicing his opinion. One quote has him say "It is a folly to reject a universal pension for all, as it was only a matter of time before it became a reality"

He contested the Rangitikei seat in 1890 against the late Mr. D. H. Macarthur, being defeated by thirty-five votes

Certainly Francis would have been involved in the process of allowing women vote in NZ as on 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Hawera & Normaby Star 23 Jube 1900

The Governor notified the Legislative Council chamber that Hon. Francis Arkwright has been given a leave of absence, no explanation was given for this absence, so we know that he was still a member of the Council in 1900.

Homeward Bound

What prompted Francis to move back to England I doubt we will ever know? His Brother Harry had passed away in 1902 had this been the deciding factor? What ever the cause, he did return at the age of 57. The Lodge minutes make no comment of his resignation or impending departure, considering he had been such an influence on Lodge matters. Was it Francis's intention to return, I doubt it as he had left his home to his Nephew Henry Fiztherbert. I do know however that he returned with his daughter and wife, His Daughter certainly never forgot her tie with New Zealand.

Francis's daughter married On 24 July 1907 at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, Charles Arthur Monckton married Margaret Louisa Arkwright. Returning to New Zealand, he managed a farm near Otago in 1910-14; here he began writing the first of his three books. War interrupted, however, and he went to England to enlist, became a captain in the Sherwood Foresters and served in India. After the war he and his wife settled at Walmer, Kent, where he continued writing. He was elected a member of the Royal Central Asian Society in 1923 and was later made a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Zoological Society and the Royal Geographical Society. Survived by his wife, he died of black water fever and influenza in London on 1 March 1936.

Whether Francis ever returned to New Zealand I am not sure or though I believe not. I do know however that he made good use of his skills in French and before his death in 1914 translated two books from French to English:



Whether Francis ever rejoined a Lodge in England we do no know, although I still search for an answer.

R.W Bro Francis Arkwright P. Dist. GM passed to the Grand Lodge above in 1915 at the age of 68, having achieved in his life time more than most men.

No mention was made of Francis's passing in the Lodge minutes, had they known of his death they would have made such comment and shown him the respect due to a true Gentleman, Brother and Past District Grand Master.