One of the many brass plaques at Old St Paul’s tells the story of three members of the fascinating Greenwood family, who died within a few years of each other in the 1910s. The first is Ellen Greenwood, who travelled to New Zealand in 1843 as a young girl with her parents and siblings; eventually she would be one of 13 children.

Ellen’s eldest sister Mary came to Wellington in 1868 and set up one of the earliest schools in Wellington; Ellen followed three years later and taught with her sister, and also set up her own school for girls; a number of the other sisters in the family assisted in these schools as well. Ellen never married, but dedicated her life to education and to charity.

Her life’s work was with the Wellington Ladies’ Christian Society, which set up the Alexandra Home for Friendless Women in Newtown, which took in homeless, unwell and pregnant unmarried women, and allowed them to stay for months at a time, while they learn domestic skills, and also the Levin House for orphan girls in Berhampore. Through this work she touched and improved the lives of many New Zealand young women.

Ellen lived a long and successful life; however, the brass also commemorates her two great-nephews who did not have such a chance.  One of these, Gascoyne Greenwood, died at Gallipoli on 2 Dec 1915 at 28 years old, and Eric Greenwood, who died at 30 years old, at the capture of the town of Le Quesnoy, on 4 Nov 1918, within days of the end of the First World War.  Both of these events will never be forgotten in New Zealand’s military history.


For more information, see Ellen’s biography and the history of Les Quesnoy.

Main Image: Photographer: Clifford, Samuel, 1827-1890. Ellen Sarah Greenwood with Miss Gore Brown [1860s]. Ref: PAColl-2466-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.