Unsung Heroines - Biographies of Christchurch Women written to commemorate Women's Suffrage Year, 1993

Amelia Frances Rogers

Beside the Avon, a little below the New Brighton Road-Bassett Street roundabout and among large brash new homes, stood an old Christchurch City Council-owned cottage. Originally the home of Frances Inwood and her husband, Henry, a market gardener, it was left at the end of its useful life by flood waters. In June 1993 it was demolished. The reserve thus created has been named after an Inwood daughter, Amelia Frances Rogers.

Amelia Frances Inwood - usually known as Frances - was born in England on 21 July 1849. The family emigrated on the Lady Nugent in 1851, and eventually established itself in the weatherboard cottage on the then remote and sparsely populated New Brighton Road, Burwood. One son, Arthur, farmed in an even more isolated part of Burwood and gave his name to Inwoods Road. Meanwhile Frances gained an education and ran a private school in the city. Her establishment was well-patronised. Pupils included Alfred and Arthur Sandston, later a surgeon and dentist respectively, and Emma Lean who was to marry pastoralist Charles Dillworth Fox.

In 1873 Frances was baptised into the Anglican communion, and in December of the following year, at Holy Trinity, Avonside, she married the Australian-born, grandiloquently named William Warrington Brent Trood Rogers. Once a master mariner, but latterly a clerk, he was already ill with tuberculosis. Within sixteen months Frances watched as her husband's body was interred a few feet from the doors of the church where they had been married.

Frances continued teaching and at Burwood, founded the Sunday School associated with All Saints', originally a daughter church of the parish of Avonside. Her brothers, busily fulfilling the Biblical injunction to go forth and multiply, pitied their childless sister, who, in time, collected as godsons and daughters at least nine nieces and nephews, and was frequently employed as witness at weddings. One niece, Ruby, was left motherless at an early age and came to live with her aunt. The substitute children remembered her as a small, alert, brisk women who was straitlaced and pious and always dressed in black.

Old Mrs Inwood was postmistress at Burwood, operating from the family home. When she died in 1891, Frances succeeded her. She built a two-storey structure opposite the little house and here acted as postmistress, storekeeper and manager of a lending library. In a back room she taught the piano. She had large strawberry and asparagus beds and sold the produce. For a time she lost her official position and its modest but useful salary. When she regained the job, she clung to it tenaciously.

Twice attempts were made to establish 'improved and more central postal facilities'. The postmistress, however, made full use of her symbiotic relationship with the Church of England. The Rev C A Tobin, Vicar of Burwood, drummed up support for the 'esteemed and respected' lady who had given 'many years of service'. He was also on hand for more domestic incidents. A great-nephew turned surly when Frances chastised him for a lack of enthusiasm for piano lessons. The minister called and convinced him of the error of his ways.

In 1924, 75 and still in harness, Frances returned to the repaired and altered river bank home. In November 1928, with her health failing, she at last resigned. On 12 December, 'amidst wind and rain', Tobin took the funeral service, burying the old lady with her long-dead husband.


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