Subject: Arnold Mitton
Date: 28 Jan 1880
Photographer: Clifford & Morris, Royal Arcade, Dunedin, NZ
I’ve had this photograph for so long that I can’t remember where it came from. I’ve never had any luck researching Arnold before so I had put him to the bottom of the pile waiting for another day, and finally that day has arrived, and what a day (or three) it’s been! Make yourself a cuppa and settle down to read quite a nice little story about Arnold’s life – as I know it.
Originally I was at a loss as to what his surname was, I thought it was MITTON or WITTON but couldn’t find any reference to an Arnold of either surname in the NZ BMDs. When I first found this photo either it was before Papers Past arrived online or before I became aware of it. This time, after still having no luck in the BMDs I tried Papers Past and had five pages of hits turn up!
It seems the few years that Arnold was in NZ might not have been a very happy time for him, but let’s start at the beginning.
Arnold was born on the 28 Dec 1856, the son of the Reverend Joseph Mitton & his wife Ann née Barrett, Joseph was the Vicar of St John the Evangelist Church in Baildon, Yorkshire and Arnold was baptised there on the 14 Apr 1857.
Arnold was living at home with his parents in the 1861 & 1871 census. In 1876 he was admitted into Peterhouse College at the Cambridge University, I’m not exactly sure what this all means but from his photo above it would seem he matriculated sometime later.
Then in 1877 we find him in Brussels, Belgium getting married to Louisa Thompson of Shipley, Yorkshire. Louisa was the daughter of Joseph & Margaret Thompson, baptised at Shipley on 8 Oct 1858, her father was a solicitor. They were both underage so this is the declaration they signed before Her Majesty’s Vice-Consul in Brussels on the 12 Jan 1877. I presume they did get married as I didn’t actually find the marriage itself.
After this they disappeared from the UK census and turned up on the 17 Apr 1878 living at 2 Windmill St, Sydney, Australia where they had ‘five white shirts’ stolen off their clothesline in broad daylight!
The following month they arrived in Otago, New Zealand on board the SS Harrington, 2nd cabin, on the 21 May 1878. Later that year or early 1879 he was appointed by the Committee of the Athenaeum & Mechanics’ Institute to the position of ‘Librarianship’, reported in the newspaper 11 Feb 1879.
Then disaster struck! On the 24 May 1879 he was declared bankrupt and soon after he was more or less forced to resign his position. On the 26 Nov 1879 he was charged with three counts of embezzlement and was committed for trial, set down for the following Jan 1880. To cut a long story short he had been let out on bail at one of the hearings, by the time his trial started on the 7 Jan he had absconded and didn’t turn up! Two months later on the 15 Mar he was arrested in Timaru and remanded to Dunedin. On the 7 Apr the judge stood down from the case and so finally on the 23 Apr his case was heard and after deliberating for only ¾ of an hour the jury found him ‘Not Guilty’! This is just the shortened version, you can read the full story in Papers Past by searching on ‘Arnold Mitton’.
Mr & Mrs Mitton immediately disappeared from NZ and soon after turned up back in Australia again, advertising a new private school for young children they were opening in South Yarra, Melbourne. Strangely I found Louisa Mitton living in England in the 1881 census, listed as married and working as a nurse in a hospital, but there was no sign of Arnold so it remains a bit of a mystery.
If it was Louisa in England in 1881 by 1883 she was back in Australia where she had three children, all born in Melbourne, Lionel born in Mar 1883 who died 11 weeks later, Pleasance Katharine born in 1884 and Guy Myddelton born in 1885. Then sadly Louisa died in Nov 1885 aged 27. When Arnold died in Jun 1910 he was aged 53, his death notice in the newspaper said he was the son of the late Rev Joseph Mitton, Vicar of Baildon and the father of Mrs Farrell and G M Mitton. So far no grandchildren found by me.
Oh yes, finally I deciphered all of the writing on the back of Arnold’s photograph and this is what it says:-
Vide N.Z.P.G. (see New Zealand Police Gazette)
January 28th 1880
If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the MITTON family please do contact me, I would love to pass this photo onto a family member, even a distant one. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.