William Steward (New Zealand politician)

For other people named William Steward, see William Steward (disambiguation).
The Honourable
Sir William Steward

Portrait of an older man with a long beard

William Steward
6th Speaker of the House of Representatives
In office
23 January 1891  8 November 1893
Prime Minister John Ballance
Richard Seddon
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waitaki
In office
1871  1875
In office
1893  1911
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waimate
In office
1881  1893
7th Mayor of Oamaru
In office
Personal details
Born (1841-01-20)20 January 1841
Reading, England
Died 30 October 1912(1912-10-30) (aged 71)
Island Bay, Wellington
Resting place Waimate
Political party Liberal

Sir William Jukes Steward (20 January 1841 – 30 October 1912) was a New Zealand politician and the first Liberal Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives. He represented South Canterbury electorates in Parliament for a total of 34 years, before being appointed to the Legislative Council. He served briefly on the Otago Provincial Council and was Mayor of Oamaru for three years.

Early life

Steward in ca 1891

Steward was born in Reading, Berkshire, in England in 1841. He was educated at King Edward VI. Grammar School in Ludlow (to which his family had moved, his boyhood home at Numbers 4–5 King Street now marked by a plaque), and Dr Benham's Commercial School in Gloucester.[1] He emigrated to New Zealand apparently on the Mersey in 1862,[1][2] but his name is not included in the passenger list for the 25 September 1862 arrival.[3][4]


Steward married Hannah Whitefoord on 4 December 1873 at St. Paul's Church in Dunedin. She was the third daughter of Caleb Whitefoord of Burford in Shropshire near Ludlow.[5] They had one son and three daughters.[1]

Professional career

In 1863, he was working as a draper in Christchurch. From 1867, he was editor of the Oamaru Times in Oamaru.[1] He was later proprietor of the North Otago Times, the Ashburton Mail and Guardian and, after moving to Waimate, the Waimate Times.[1][2]

Political career

Member of Parliament

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
18711875 5th Waitaki Independent
18811884 8th Waimate Independent
18841887 9th Waimate Independent
18871890 10th Waimate Independent
18901893 11th Waimate Liberal
18931896 12th Waitaki Liberal
18961899 13th Waitaki Liberal
18991902 14th Waitaki Liberal
19021905 15th Waitaki Liberal
19051908 16th Waitaki Liberal
19081911 17th Waitaki Liberal

Steward and Macassey contested the 1871 general election in Waitaki. At the time, the Waitaki was a single-member electorate. At the nomination meeting, Steward received a slight majority during the show of hands, and Macassey demanded a poll.[6] The poll was held on Friday, 3 February 1871. Steward and Macassey received 188 and 137 votes, respectively. Steward was thus returned to Parliament.[7]

The next election was held in early January 1876. Waitaki had become a two-member electorate, and four candidates put their names forward. Steward and Joseph O'Meagher contested the election as abolitionists (i.e. they were in favour of abolishing the provincial government), while Thomas W. Bislop and Samuel Shrimski were provincialists (i.e. they favoured the retention of provincial government).[8] The provincialists won the election by quite some margin, and Steward lost his seat in Parliament.[9]

Steward was again elected in 1881 to represent the single-member Waimate electorate. The Waitaki electorate had been abolished and the Waimate electorate covered the area of South Canterbury where Steward resided. Four candidates had contested the election, and Steward was returned with a comfortable margin.[10] He held the electorate until it was abolished in 1893.[11][12]

In 1893 he was re-elected to a reconstituted Waitaki, which he held until 1911, when he was appointed to the Legislative Council.[12]

Steward was elected Speaker on 23 January 1891 when the Liberal Government came to power. The 1890 general election was held on 5 December 1890.[13] Harry Atkinson was the Premier at the time. Traditionally, the incumbent speaker would keep his position, unless the election result was not in support of the incoming government. The 1890 election did not have a clear result and the incumbent speaker, Maurice O'Rorke, lost his seat in Parliament. Alfred Saunders, an independent MP, proposed William Rolleston as speaker, as he had been a long-standing MP since 1868. But Richard Seddon proposed that Steward be chosen instead, which came as a surprise, as the latter was relatively undistinguished. The house voted on the issue and Steward was chosen by 36 to 29 votes. It was the first time that the role of speaker had been put to the vote by the New Zealand Parliament.[14] The election sealed the end of the Atkinson government, which resigned the following day. The forming of the Liberal Party marked the beginning of party politics in New Zealand.

Steward held the position of speaker until 8 November 1893.[12] He was knighted in 1903.[15]

Otago Provincial Council

Steward was a member of the Otago Provincial Council from 1875 until the abolition of provincial government in 1876.[1]

Mayor of Oamaru

Steward was Mayor of Oamaru from 1876 to 1879. He succeeded George Sumpter, who was first elected in 1875.[16] The 1876 mayoral election was contested against J. Falconer, and Steward had a majority of 35 votes.[17] In 1877, Steward was returned unopposed.[18] The 1878 election was contested by Steward and George Sumpter, and the former achieved a majority of 45 votes.[19] In the depression year of 1879, Steward did not stand for re-election.[20] Steward was formally thanked at the last council meeting for the able manner in which he had led the council, and the courteous was in which he had interacted with the councillors.[21] During Steward's term, the most significant achievement was the installation of the Oamaru water supply, which resulted in a fall of the death rate from 10.4 per 1000 population to 8.9 per 1000.[22]

Steward was succeeded by Samuel Gibbs. Gibbs had previously been mayor from 1867 to 1870[22] and was elected unopposed.[23]

Death and commemoration

Steward died in Island Bay, Wellington on 30 October 1912. The body was taken by ferry steamer to Lyttelton, and by train to Waimate. The funeral took place in Waimate.[24]

A plaque in the St Augustine Church in Waimate is dedicated to Steward.[1] The Waimate District Council's district plan has a formal protection for a tree that was planted by Steward on 26 June 1911. It is located beside the memorial statue for Dr Margaret Barnett Cruickshank MD.[25][26]


Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Jukes Steward.
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Hall of Fame: Sir William Steward" (PDF). Timaru District Council. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  2. 1 2 The Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Wellington Provincial District. Wellington: Cyclopedia Company Limited. 1897. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  3. "Mersey". Yesteryears. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  4. "Account of ship Mersey" (PDF). 1862. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  5. "Marriage". Wellington Independent. XXVIII (397). 11 December 1873. p. 2. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  6. "Oamaru". Otago Witness (1001). 4 February 1871. p. 14. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  7. "Waitaki District". North Otago Times. XV (597). 7 February 1871. p. 2. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  8. "Latest Telegrams". Southland Times (2247). 27 December 1875. p. 2. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  9. "Waitaki Election. Declaration of the Poll.". North Otago Times. XXIII (1170). 12 January 1876. p. 2. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  10. "Waimate". Timaru Herald. XXXV (2269). 29 December 1881. p. 8. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  11. Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 165.
  12. 1 2 3 Scholefield, Guy (1925) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record (2nd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 136.
  13. "General elections 1853–2005 – dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  14. "The Speaker in History" (PDF). Parliamentary Service. May 2009. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  15. The London Gazette: no. 27519. p. 529. 27 January 1903. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  16. "The Mayoralty". North Otago Times. XXI (1097). 22 July 1875. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  17. "The Mayoralty Election". North Otago Times. XXIV (1334). 22 July 1876. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  18. "Oamaru". Clutha Leader. IV (158). 20 July 1877. p. 6. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  19. "The Mayoralty Election". North Otago Times. XXVI (1946). 23 July 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  20. "Oamaru". Bruce Herald. XII (1121). 22 July 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  21. "Town Council". North Otago Times. XXVIII (2266). 2 August 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  22. 1 2 The Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Otago & Southland Provincial Districts. Christchurch: Cyclopedia Company Limited. 1904. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  23. "Oamaru". The Star (3515). 17 July 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  24. "Personal Matters". Evening Post. LXXXIV (108). 2 November 1912. p. 5. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  25. "Section 8 – Heritage Protection" (PDF). Waimate District Council. p. 8/30. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  26. "Margaret Cruickshank memorial". New Zealand History online. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Sumpter
Mayor of Oamaru
Succeeded by
Samuel Gibbs
Preceded by
Maurice O'Rorke
Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Maurice O'Rorke
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Waitaki
Succeeded by
Samuel Shrimski
Thomas William Hislop
Preceded by
John McKenzie
Succeeded by
Francis Henry Smith
New constituency Member of Parliament for Waimate
In abeyance
Title next held by
David Campbell Kidd
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