Page 1: Biography
Strode, Alfred Rowland Chetham
Police officer, magistrate, goldfields commissioner, runholder
This biography, written by Sherwood Young, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.
Alfred Rowland Chetham was born at Fareham, Hampshire, England, on 10 May 1823. He was baptised Alfred Chetham in 1823 and Alfred Rowland Chetham in 1828. Alfred was the third son of Margaret Kezia Dean and her husband, Edward Chetham, who took the additional name of Strode on inheriting property in about 1845. Alfred married Emily Borton, daughter of William Borton of Banbury, Oxfordshire, in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 14 March 1851. They had six children.
Alfred Chetham arrived at Wellington with his older brother Edward Chetham on the Harrington on 15 June 1841. He became clerk to the Wellington Bench on 1 February 1844, and in 1845 also took the name of Strode. He was commissioned as sub-inspector, second in charge of the Armed Police Force for the Southern District of New Ulster (later New Munster), on 13 April 1846. As an ensign in the Wellington Militia, Strode was involved in fighting in the Hutt Valley in 1846, and in the pursuit of Te Rangihaeata in 1847. He also fought at Wanganui in 1847. For these services he received the New Zealand War Medal in 1873. Strode remained in Wellington until 1848, when he was sent to Otago, arriving there on 20 April as head of a detachment of police.
The Free Church settlers welcomed the new police force, but became less enthusiastic when they discovered that three quarters of their taxes were being spent on law enforcement. Soon disillusionment set in. Because they were seldom busy, the policemen tended to get drunk, posing in themselves a threat to law and order. On 16 July 1850 Sub-Inspector Strode was appointed resident magistrate and sub-treasurer for the district of Otago, while continuing to control the police. Strode's offices were in reality incompatible. He was seen by the Scots colonists as embodying arbitrary (and English) government authority. He may have provoked further resentment when in 1851 he presided at a number of meetings to organise the Anglican community in Dunedin.
In 1853 the new Otago provincial government took control of policing. The unpopular Strode and his similarly unpopular armed police were not to survive under the new administration. When the settlers had first heard of the advent of provincial control of policing, the Otago Settlers' Association had passed a resolution condemning Strode for 'allowing himself to be influenced by the most unworthy political and party motives, praying that he might be removed'. However, from the Bench, Strode constantly criticised the new provincial police, and in December 1854 the government had to swallow its pride and appoint him 'Police Magistrate', a position which he held until October 1855.
In November 1857 Strode went to England on leave, and by his return in September 1859 he had been removed from the magistracy by the colonial government. In January 1860 he secured the newly created post of assistant native secretary for Otago as compensation. On 9 May 1861, following the discovery of gold at Lindis, he became temporary resident magistrate at Oamaru, and was also given control of all the police north of Dunedin. By mid 1861 the much larger Tuapeka field was discovered, and in July Strode was appointed as its commissioner, with control of the 'Goldfields Police Department'. At this time gold escorts to Dunedin began. About October Strode resigned to become joint owner with William Fraser of Earnscleugh station.
In early 1862 Strode again became resident magistrate at Dunedin. In July 1865 the Weld ministry appointed him to the Legislative Council, but he resigned in November 1867. In 1869 he became a member and honorary treasurer of the council of the University of Otago and remained on the council until 1884. He was a founder of the Otago Benevolent Institution, and was for many years its chairman.
In the 1870s Strode retired from the Bench, and lived at Waikouaiti. In the mid 1880s he returned to England. He died at Croydon on 13 May 1890.