Julia Thorne George's wedding

In today’s property market most young couples can only dream of such a wedding gift, but when Julia Thorne George married up-and-coming lawyer Wilfred Colbeck in June 1895 her parents presented her with a house in St Stephens Avenue, Parnell. What’s more, Sir George Grey sent her a generous cheque that enabled her to furnish the dining room in style.

She was nevertheless miffed at Sir George for failing to attend the wedding. Technically, he was her great-uncle, but she regarded him more as a grandfather. She had lived in the same house as him most of her life. Her mother, Annie, was the daughter of Grey’s half-brother Godfrey Thomas, who died young. Grey not only took Annie in but continued to provide a home for her and her growing family after she married Seymour Thorne George in 1872.

Julia was born at Grey’s residence on Kawau Island (now known as the Mansion House) in 1874. She lived on the island until Sir George sold his holdings there in 1888 and he and the Thorne Georges moved together to Parnell.

Grey seems to have long harboured a desire to spend his last years in London. The Thorne Georges were startled, however, when he sailed abruptly for England in May 1894 without saying goodbye or informing them of his plans. They expected him to return to New Zealand for Julia’s wedding and were disappointed when he did not. He died in a London hotel in September 1898.

“I expect you are tired of weddings as you have been in the midst of them lately,” Julia says to Sir George –a little caustically – in her letter of 14 June 1895. He had attended the wedding of his kinsman William Grey, 9th Earl of Stamford, to Elizabeth Penelope Theobald on 18 April at St George’s, Hanover Square.

Julia’s affection for Sir George ran too deep, however, for her annoyance to develop into a permanent rift. She named her eldest son Grey Colbeck in tribute to Sir George.

Sir George is easily recognisable as the central figure in the family photograph taken in Parnell in the early 1890s. The other bearded gentleman is Seymour Thorne George. Grey’s niece, Annie, is seated third from left. Julia is seated at far right. The photograph was donated to the library by Julia’s second son, Dr Stuart Colbeck.

Author: Iain Sharp, Sir George Grey Special Collections


  1. Hi,
    lovely piece but just one small error.
    Sir George Grey's brother was Godfrey, not Gordon.
    Sally Smith
    Gt, Gt, Gt, Grandaughter of Sir Godfrey Thomas

    1. Hi Sally,

      Thanks for letting us know. We actually have the name as Godfrey in the photograph description, but that was a mistake in the text. I've changed it now.

      Thanks again,


  2. I am writing a book on the Thomas family of Wenvoe Castle and would like a member of the Thorne-George family to contact me about Annie Matthews, Godfrey Thomas's daughter.


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