Page 1: Biography
Businessman, banker, philanthropist
This biography, written by Roberta Nicholls, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Harold Beauchamp was born at Ararat, Victoria, Australia, on 15 November 1858, the son of Arthur Beauchamp, an auctioneer, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Stanley. At the age of two Harold sailed to New Zealand with his parents on the brig Lalla Rookh, arriving at Nelson on 23 February 1861. The family settled at Picton where Harold attended a dame school and later a public school. Arthur Beauchamp became a general merchant and entered local politics. He was elected to Parliament for Picton in 1866 but in 1867 was forced to sell up and resign. He went first to Westport, leaving the family in Picton, then to isolated Beatrix Bay in Pelorus Sound where the family joined him. While there Harold assisted in the felling of bush, milking, and other outside jobs and 'gained some proficiency in cooking, scrubbing, [and] washing.'
In late 1869 the family moved to Wanganui where Arthur Beauchamp set up in business as general merchant and auctioneer. He asked Harold to work at the office, but because the lad 'protested mildly' that he had not had enough education, Harold and his brother Arthur were sent to Wanganui Collegiate School. Harold left school at the age of 14 and spent four years working for his father. He swept the office, bagged lime and clerked, often until 11 at night. Sometimes he acted as a drover; in 1874 a friend and he drove a large mob of horses overland from Wanganui to Wellington.
In 1876 Arthur Beauchamp moved to Wellington. Harold worked with Beauchamp, Campbell and Company, and at the age of 18 started with W. M. Bannatyne and Company, where he remained for the rest of his working days. At his new job Harold found himself 'lamentably ignorant of many things'. However, with a strong will to succeed and a natural flair for business he soon received a substantial rise in salary, which made up for his father's loss of all Harold's savings.
On 18 February 1884 at St Paul's Cathedral Church in Wellington Harold Beauchamp married Annie Burnell Dyer, daughter of Margaret Isabella Mansfield and the late Joseph Dyer. Margaret Dyer (known as 'Grannie' Dyer) and her two younger children, Edith (Kitty) and Isabel (Belle), moved in with Annie and Harold. The Beauchamps shifted to ever more prestigious houses as Harold prospered. The couple's six children were born as they moved from address to address: Vera in 1885, Charlotte (Chaddie) in 1887, Kathleen (Katherine Mansfield) in 1888, Gwendoline in 1890, Jeanne in 1892 and Leslie in 1894.
After the death of W. M. Bannatyne, Harold Beauchamp became a partner in the firm in 1889. He admitted Walter Nathan as a partner after the demise of A. R. Baker in 1894. Beauchamp recalled that he did not begin to make money until after his first visit to England in 1889. In 1900 the business became a limited liability company.
In the early 1890s Beauchamp joined the boards of a number of companies. In 1895 he became a member of the Wellington Harbour Board where he was often involved in controversy and was not afraid to speak his mind; for many years he resisted the installation of a dry dock. Because he preferred to concentrate on business and exert influence through his financial connections, he did not himself enter politics. He became a personal friend of Richard Seddon, and in 1898 was appointed by him to the board of the ailing Bank of New Zealand. At Karori he presided over meetings of the Liberal and Labour Federation of New Zealand. In 1901 he was a member of the Royal Commission on Federation which advised against New Zealand joining the Australian federation.
In 1903 Harold Beauchamp took the entire passenger accommodation on the Niwaru for Annie Beauchamp, himself, their children, and Annie's sister and brother Belle and Sydney Dyer, to travel to London. In 1906 Harold and Annie returned to London to collect their three eldest girls from Queen's College. While there Beauchamp attended the sixth Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire and was received by King Edward VII.
In 1907, on Beauchamp becoming chairman of the Bank of New Zealand, the family moved into a large house with a ballroom, croquet lawns and gardens in fashionable Fitzherbert Terrace. But from this time 'one by one, to our great regret' the Beauchamp children 'left the Dominion for good'.
On returning to New Zealand Kathleen Beauchamp felt trapped and rebellious. She was 'physically revolted' by her father and found her mother 'constantly suspicious'. She longed to go back to London and 'make good in the real world of letters'. After 18 months, Harold Beauchamp yielded: 'There could be no question of standing in her light'. But when his daughter left for London in July 1908, 'it was a wrench'.
The years following were tragic; Beauchamp lost both his son, Leslie, and his wife, Annie. Leslie was killed during the war in October 1915: 'the sudden ending of a young life in which all our hopes were centred.' Annie's health began to deteriorate and Harold, an inveterate traveller, ceased to go abroad. On 8 August 1918 she died. It is apparent from Katherine Mansfield's short stories that Beauchamp adored his wife. But Mansfield depicted her mother's feelings as more complex: 'For all her love and respect and admiration she hated him'.
In 1919 Harold Beauchamp and his daughter Jeanne sailed for London. He returned alone on 4 January 1920. The next day, at the registrar's office in Auckland, he married Laura Kate Bright (née Newton). She had been 'one of Annie's best friends'.
During the early twentieth century Beauchamp served on several directorates. He was also an honorary consul for Chile and a consular agent of France. In his capacity as director and chairman of the Bank of New Zealand Beauchamp gave many press interviews, especially on his return from trips abroad (he crossed the line about 24 times), and frequently wrote reviews on trade, commerce and finance. He took great pride in his reports and quoted laudatory comments about them in his autobiography, Reminiscences and recollections (1937). Katherine Mansfield urged John Middleton Murry to read her father's bank speeches to win his approval.
Katherine Mansfield died in France in early January 1923. Her father's only comment in his autobiography was that when he went abroad in 1922, 'This was the last time I saw Kathleen'. Mansfield's feelings towards her father had remained ambivalent, although her attitude towards him had become more sympathetic as time went by. He was deeply hurt by her portrayal of him in her writings, and after her death Beauchamp attempted to explain away the 'wrong impression' that may have been created. He attempted to refute allegations that his daughter 'had a hard struggle for existence in her early stages of her literary career'. He contended that he had made ample provision for her and that 'she acknowledged this again and again with the fullest expressions of gratitude'. He had letters published to this effect.
In 1923 Harold Beauchamp was made a Knight Bachelor. In the same year he sold his firm to T. & W. Young for £150,000 (Nathan had died in 1922) and he gave 47 Fitzherbert Terrace, which was sold for £6,250, to form a fund to purchase pictures for the National Art Gallery. He gave a further £5,000 for the establishment of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, and in 1933 had erected at the southern end of Fitzherbert Terrace a memorial to Katherine Mansfield. After a last visit to England he died at 88 Hobson Street, Wellington, on 5 October 1938, survived by his second wife and three daughters.
Katherine Mansfield described Harold Beauchamp as 'not tall – very healthy looking – with white hair and a small clipped beard – large blue eyes – an expansive voice. In fact he looks a typical Colonial banker!! And simply full of Life.' She also thought of him as 'cheerful and poetic, a trifle puffed up but very loving'. Others remembered him as 'the beau ideal of the business man – with a soul above business' and as 'essentially a self-made man and proud of the fact'.