Matthew Barnett
Matthew Barnett
Matthew Frank Barnett, also known as Mat Barnett, was a bookmaker and philanthropist from Christchurch, New Zealand. In his retirement, he became well known in lawn bowls. He donated the statue of James Cook in Victoria Square to the city. His family dwelling, Wharetiki House, was a prominent landmark on Colombo Street in the Christchurch Central City until its demolition in July 2011, following a demolition order by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
Biography
Matthew Barnett's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1935
    Age 75
    After Matthew Barnett's death, the remaining family members put the house up for auction in May 1935.
    More Details Hide Details It existed until 2011, when it was demolished after suffering significant damage in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Wharetiki House was registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category II heritage building. On journeys from Christchurch to Dunedin, Barnett would throw half-crowns to the swagmen working on the roads, as he would remember the hard times that he had when he worked on the roads in Victoria.
  • 1931
    Age 71
    Mary Barnett died on 1 March 1931 at Wharetiki, aged 66.
    More Details Hide Details She was buried at Bromley Cemetery in block number 24 in plot 1 two days later.
  • 1924
    Age 64
    In 1924, Barnett commissioned a tiki as a trophy for this tournament and he personally supervised the carving.
    More Details Hide Details The mahogany carving was presented at the Canterbury Bowling Club in February 1925. The first annual competition with the Barnett Tiki was held a few days later in Wellington and was won by Christchurch. Whilst it was decided that the winning team should hold the Tiki until the next competition, the trophy was left in Wellington after the first competition in 1925. Margaret Whelan died on 24 February 1926 at Wharetiki, aged 89. She was buried at Bromley Cemetery in block number 27.
  • FORTIES
  • 1906
    Age 46
    For a 1906 raid of the Christchurch office, the Police had previously sent an undercover agent to the office to place a bet in order to have some evidence for a court case.
    More Details Hide Details In 1909, Barnett was convicted of having published horse betting details in his publication Daylight that violated the Gaming Act 1908. He appealed the conviction and it was overturned by Justice Sim as being erroneous in point of law. With the passing of the 1910 amendment to the Gaming Act, Barnett decided to officially retire as a bookmaker, but it is likely that he continued to work underground. Barnett's weekly sport magazine Daylight was taken over by The Press. Arthur Barnett's Barnett's younger brother had been apprenticed as a draper. In 1903, he established a drapery store Arthur Barnett in Dunedin. Matthew Barnett guaranteed a £900 loan to get the business going. It developed into the leading drapery store in Otago. Matthew Barnett retained a business interest and became chair of the board. At his death, his son Olly took that role, and he in turn passed the chairmanship to his son Gary. The Arthur Barnett department store developed into a national chain. At its peak in the 1980s, it had 19 stores and 1,200 employees.
  • 1904
    Age 44
    A large family home, which he named Wharetiki, was built by 1904.
    More Details Hide Details The address was 854 Colombo Street, and his friend and business partner Peter Grant had a house built nearby at 901 Colombo Street two years later. Wharetiki was a large and representative dwelling, displaying the wealth of its owner. It had several servants and Mary Barnett's unmarried younger sister Maria (known as Polly) was in charge of them. Mary's father suffered a brain injury in 1888 and spent the remaining 20 years of his life at Seacliff Mental Hospital. When he died in 1908, his wife Margaret and the children who were still at home moved to a different house in Dunedin, but later on she and her second youngest child, Bill, moved to Christchurch to live at Wharetiki. Margaret Whelan made many spontaneous trips back to Dunedin when she got nostalgic and would stay there for a few weeks at a time, but she would otherwise live at Wharetiki for the rest of her life.
  • 1901
    Age 41
    In 1901, Barnett bought a large section in the Christchurch central city, fronting onto Salisbury and Colombo Streets.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1897
    Age 37
    Their Dunedin branch was searched by Police and Barnett, Grant and two employees arrested in September 1897. Between 1901 and 1904, they were arrested three times, including in January 1902, their Christchurch office was raided by Police, with the case going to court the following month.
    More Details Hide Details The case went to a jury trial, but all the witnesses refused to give evidence, as they would have incriminated themselves by doing so, as it was illegal to visit a gaming house. Without any witness statements, the jury delivered a not guilty verdict.
  • 1896
    Age 36
    Luck was with them again, and some time after Grant's wedding in February 1896, they had sufficient capital to add a branch in Christchurch to their existing betting shop in Dunedin.
    More Details Hide Details Initially, the Dunedin business had to financially support the Christchurch branch, but under Barnett's business leadership in Christchurch, the situation changed and Christchurch supported the Dunedin branch. The Christchurch premises were in the central city at 174 Hereford Street, and from 1905 on the opposite side of the road at 163 Hereford Street.
  • 1892
    Age 32
    Barnett and Grant were banned from racecourses, e.g. in Palmerston in 1892 and in Dunedin in 1894.
    More Details Hide Details They had frequent encounters with law enforcement, and they were arrested numerous times.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1888
    Age 28
    From there, Barnett's family returned to Melbourne for another two years. He worked as a swagman in Australia and then had employment as a tram driver in Melbourne for several months. In Melbourne, he married Mary Bridget Barnett (née Whelan) on 18 July 1888.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1863
    Age 3
    He returned to Castlemaine and married Margaret Roughan in June 1863.
    More Details Hide Details They knew each other from Kilkishen, County Clare, Ireland and met in Melbourne by chance. Soon after, James returned to Otago, with Margaret following him later that year. Their first child, Mary, was born in Gabriel's Gully in ca 1864. The family moved to nearby Wetherstons and when the goldfields were exhausted (when Mary was twelve years old), the family moved to Dunedin. Mary travelled to Melbourne to visit relatives of her parents. In that city, she married Matthew Frank Barnett. Children The Barnetts had six children; five girls and one boy: Some time after their wedding, the couple moved to Otago to farm. Barnett's brother Thomas (Tom) had a business relationship with Peter Grant and they were placing racing bets together. Matthew Barnett joined them and for half a year, they worked together. After a substantial win, they dissolved their relationship and went on their own ways.
  • 1859
    Born
    Matthew Barnett Barnett was born in Avoca, Victoria, Australia, in 1859.
    More Details Hide Details He came from a large family and had ten siblings. His parents were William Barnett, a merchant, and Rachel Barnett (née Mitchell). The family moved to Dunedin, New Zealand when Matthew was six as his father was attracted by the goldfields. He left school aged 13 or 14 and had a very brief employment as a photographer's apprentice, but did not like that profession. Instead, he was apprenticed to newspapers, first the Otago Guardian and later the Otago Daily Times. He worked in that profession for about five years. For the next four years, he worked in farming in Otago and South Canterbury. When he came to Oamaru, he became the proprietor of the 'Star and Garter Billiard Rooms', where he had his first exposure to betting on horse races. He returned to Dunedin for some time.
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