William Gimblett, horticulturalist 1845-1913

For over forty years William Gimblett (1845-1913) was an important figure in horticulture in Canterbury. He was involved in fruit growing and market gardening, especially in Heathcote. The Gimblett collection of photographs of Heathcote gives a great insight into life at the time.

Early years in Canterbury

Orignially from Cornwall, Gimblett emigrated on the Mermaid in 1866 and worked on a farm in Papanui for six years. He bought the property of James Davis Hargood (1820-1868) in Woolston and began fruit-growing and market gardening.

Gimblett ran a business as a seed merchant, fruiterer and greengrocer in Colombo Street and later bought a nursery business on 5 acres (2.02 Ha) of land. The 1882 Return of the freeholders has a description of William Gimblett, nurseryman, Christchurch owning 12 acres (4.85Ha) worth £1800 in the Selwyn County [land in the Heathcote Valley] and land worth £370 in Woolston borough.

Life as an orchardist

Gimblett planted the hill portion of his Heathcote property with fruit trees, mainly apricots and cherries. His wooden house, Hillwood, which he built around 1905 to replace an earlier dwelling, was high up on the hillside amid bluegums. By 1900 the Heathcote Valley was one of Christchurch's biggest suppliers of orchard and market-garden produce. Gimblett sold his Christchurch business to focus on this enterprise and another fruiterer's shop in High Street was sold shortly before his death.

Royal gift

In 1893 Gimblett sent several cases of apples to Queen Victoria at Balmoral. They were not only a gift but also a trial to see how well they travelled. He planted the lime trees in Victoria Square.

Family life

William's first wife, whom he married in 1872, was Elizabeth Burman (1841?-1887). His second wife was Sarah Kitchingman (1857-1929) whom he married in 1890. His children included Ernest William (born and died 1891), Egbert William (1892-1969), Harold Victor (1893-1895), Madeline (Maidie) Elizabeth (1895-1968) and Dorothy Thomasine (1897-1995). Dorothy married William Burnell.

After William Gimblett died, none of his family wished to take on the business and it was sold in 1924. His granddaughter, Ruth Trent, née Burnell, appears in some of the images in our collection.


Because some of the sources do not agree with others, Gimblett’s obituary has been taken as the most reliable source.

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