Submitted by admin on April 22, 2009 - 22:45
BEAUCHAMP, Sir Harold
Bank director, company director, and general merchant.
A new biography of Beauchamp, Harold appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Beauchamp was a director of the Bank of New Zealand for almost 38 years, and its chairman for some periods; but he will be remembered longer and more widely as the father of Katherine Mansfield, in some of whose stories he is sharply portrayed (e.g., as “Stanley Burnell” in Prelude and At the Bay). Beauchamp was born on an Australian goldfield, at Ararat, Victoria, on 15 November 1858. His father, Arthur Beauchamp, was a cheerful wanderer of the pioneering and gold-rush days who lived first in Australia and later in New Zealand. His mother was Mary, née Elizabeth Stanley. As a boy in the Marlborough Sounds (he records in his privately printed Reminiscences and Recollections) he tasted the flesh of tuis, “which were delicious”. He was educated at Picton School and Wanganui Collegiate School. At 13 he went to Wellington to work for his father, but four years later joined the importing firm of W. M. Bannatyne and Co. By his keen commercial sense and an assiduous drive that may have represented a determination not to resemble his father, he gradually took charge of the firm, being left sole partner in 1894. Meanwhile he had married (1884) Annie Burnell, daughter of Joseph Dyer, Wellington manager of the A.M.P. Society. His business talents being obvious in the town, Beauchamp was in much demand as a company director, and he served at various times on the boards of the New Zealand Candle Co., New Zealand Piano Co., Gear Meat Co., the New Zealand Times, Wellington Patent Slip Co., Wellington Gas Co., A.M.P. Society, I.C.I. (N.Z.), and Berlei (N.Z.) Ltd. He was also on the Wellington Harbour Board from 1895 to 1908. In 1898 Beauchamp's personal friend (and connection by marriage), the Prime Minister, R. J. Seddon, asked him to be the Government's appointee on the board of the Bank of New Zealand, which was in difficulties. He played a part in helping to restore the bank to stability, and remained on the board, with one break of a few months, until 1936.
Beauchamp was not altogether happy about the fame of his erring daughter, who, for her part, once described him as “the richest man in New Zealand, and the meanest”. Some excuse may be made for him; it can hardly have been easy to be well known as the original of “Stanley Burnell”. Towards the end of her life, however (and after the death of his first wife, and of his only son) there was affectionate reconciliation between them, when they met on the Riviera. A few years later he married Laura, widow of Lewis Bright, of Wellington.
In 1923, having then retired from the Bank of New Zealand, Beauchamp was knighted. And in that year his firm was sold to T. and W. Young for £150,000. In the same year he gave his house in Fitzherbert Terrace (a former home of Katherine Mansfield) to the nation to form a fund for the purchase of pictures for the National Art Gallery. Later he erected a tramway shelter and pergola in Fitzherbert Terrace as a memorial to his daughter. His own Reminiscences and Recollections (1936) outlines his life, and further light is thrown by the biographies of Katherine Mansfield and by her stories and letters.
by Antony Francis George Alpers, Editor, Caxton Press, Christchurch.
- Reminiscences and Recollections, Beauchamp, H. (1936)
- Katherine Mansfield, Alpers, A. (1954).