Queen Victoria and Hull – Margaret Kissling

Posted: 25th November 2022

Humber Museums Partnership - Queen Victoria and Hull – Margaret Kissling

As part of the Ferens Art Gallery winter exhibition, Queen Victoria and Hull, Hull and District History Research Group have been researching Victorian Hull. This blog is the latest in a series revealing the hidden stories from Victorians from Hull. You can visit the Queen Victoria and Hull exhibition from 20 October 2022 until 19 February 2023.

Do you know about the woman that Margaret Moxon Way in Hull is named after? Read her biography researched by Maureen Fox and find her commemorative plaque in Hull.

Margaret Moxon was born on the 18th August 1806, in the parish of Sculcoates, Hull. She was the daughter of Margaret Heaton and her husband John Moxon, a business man and a banker (some websites say her mother was unknown).

Well educated, she became interested in missionary work while at school. She began her career as a governess in London, before marrying her husband, George Adam Kissling, a widowed German Lutheran missionary with a young son, on 3 July 1837. They were to have 6 more sons.

After their marriage, Margaret returned with her husband to his CMS (Church Missionary Society) station in Sierra Leone, to teach at the mission school.

In 1840 George Kissling suffered a severe attack of yellow fever and they returned to England with their 1st son, John. Whilst in England he was ordained an Anglican priest. He was appointed to the New Zealand mission, and the family sailed to New Zealand, on the ‘Louis Campbell’ arriving at Auckland on 20th May 1842.

In March 1843 they established a CMS station at Te Kawakawa (Te Araroa) on the East coast.

Margaret experienced isolation and loneliness as most missionary wives did.  She was also attending to the demands placed on her by her husband’s ill-health, the care of her children and two further pregnancies. Nevertheless, she found time to start a school for Maori children and assisted her husband with the daily running of the mission station, taking charge when he was away from home.

Early in 1846 her husband became seriously ill and the family returned to Auckland accompanied by 20 young Maori, 14 female and 6 male, from the East Coast.  They then established a Maori girl’s boarding school in a building which the Bishop had purchased at the Kohimarama (Mission Bay). They hoped to train the girls in the Christian faith, and to demonstrate their faith as mothers and teachers. By December, there were 16 girls attending the school.

Just two years later, in 1848, the Kohimarama School was destroyed by fire. Margaret nearly lost her life while saving some of her husband’s papers. Thankfully her efforts were not in vain, and the school continued in a large house in Parnell.

Needing to qualify for a government grant, Maori boarding schools conducted by church organisations had to provide training in agriculture, domestic and industrial arts, as well as a formal education. Margaret carried out this training and provided financial support for the school by organising the New Zealand Female Aborigines Washing Establishment, which took in laundry from Auckland settlers.

In December 1850 a new building was opened by Bishop Selwyn named ‘St Stephen’s School of Native Girls’. 20 to 30 girls attended. Adult male Maori’s also attended the school as candidates for the missionary, and Margaret was responsible for the formal and domestic education of their wives and children.

Margaret with her common sense, energy, good health and a forceful personality helped to organise the daily life of the school successfully.

She also taught Sunday school at the Maori Church of St Barnabus in Parnell, and assisted her husband with his clerical duties. In December 1856, Margaret’s sister, Mary, had married a widowed Anglican missionary Thomas Chapman in Auckland. For some years from 1861 they took over the management of the school in Parnell.

They returned to their own home, not far from St Stephen’s school when George suffered a stroke in 1860, and continued to help with the instruction of the pupils. After her husband’s death in 1865, Margaret continued to live in Parnell with members of her family until her death on 20th September 1891.

The boarding school which Margaret and George established was the forerunner of St Stephens School, a boarding school for Maori boys at Bonbay, south Auckland.

In Hull, as part of the Lord Mayor’s Community Trail on 20 November 2015 a commemorative plaque to pay tribute to Margaret was unveiled at the birthplace of Margaret. The Plaque is situated on the Centre for Digital & Green Energy, Elba House, George Street.


References: https://teara.govt.nz>biographies>1k13>kissling-margaret, benner.org.nz/index.php/stories/kissling-stories/61-margaret-kissling-nee-moxon

image credit: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/196073955/margaret-kissling