Benjamin PERRY (1845-1926) Hotelkeeper Oamaru - Dunedin - Christchurch :: Genealogy
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Benjamin PERRY (1845-1926) Hotelkeeper Oamaru - Dunedin - Christchurch

Journal by ngairedith

BENJAMIN PERRY (snr) was born in 1845 in Ashford, Kent and emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and brother Edward James in 1857 on the George Canning
- they arrived first at Port Chalmers where young Ben was apprenticed by his father to a brewer, thus introducing him to The Trade at an early age
- his father was Edward Perry who at one time had the Swan Hotel
- in February 1862 Edward had for sale, 20 acres of land in Sawyer Bay Dunedin with a house and outhouse
- in November 1873 Edward was charged with selling 6d worth of beer without holding a license
- in May 1882 An Edward Perry put up for auction his Bush Inn Hotel in Geraldine along with half an acre of land, his large Brewery & Malt House and all the plant necessary to work the business
... Gold was discovered in Central Otago in 1861 and Ben headed for the diggings. Over the next few years he prospected at Gabriels Gully, Lindis, Winslow, Kumara and Whakamarama with such success that he was able to set himself up in his business of choice.
In 1870, at the age of 25, he purchased the lease of the Empire Hotel in Dunedin, beginning a career in hotel-keeping that would continue for 56 years. He later transferred to Oamaru, but in 1905 moved to Christchurch in high dudgeon when his home borough was voted dry

- he married Julia ALBION on 18 August 1871 in Dunedin
- they had Edward John Perry on 24 February 1875
- Edward died aged 15 months

- Julia died on 24 June 1884 aged 40 at their Swan Hotel, Thames St, Oamaru

Benjamin remarried in 1885 to Mary Ann PERRY
- nothing yet known about Mary Ann (can you help?)

a big thank you to Bonnie for the message of 22-1-2011
... "She was one of the seven sisters of my grandfather, George Perry (1874-1954). There were 12 children from the marriage of their father & mother, William PERRY (1838-1900) and Mary MILLER (1844-1928)' ... - I will be adding this information asap

- their children were:

1886 Benjamin Perry
- born in Oamaru
- he married Mai Maia GRAHAM on 7 January 1925 in All Saints Church, Burwood, Christchurch
- May was born in Amberley, North Canterbury in 1896, a daughter of William GRAHAM & Mary DALZELL. She had come to the Occidental as a housemaid, had learned her trade under the stern eye of Mrs Perry Snr. and had married young Mr. Benjamin. She was to remain at the hotel for the rest of her life. Mai, tall and imperious, would stand in the kitchen and inspect each passing plate of food. If she deemed that any one plate held too generous a portion, she would flick some of the potato or vegetable off onto another plate, all the while scolding the waitresses and cooks for serving Too much! Too much! - - Autocratic by nature, Mai Perry was not popular with the staff.

Benjamin and Mai Perry had a daughter Joan & a son Justin (see comment below)

Benjamin died on 28 February 1956 aged 70 in the first room on the left as you come up the stairs, in the oldest part of the Hotel, but the Perry name would continue at the Occidental. More, it is rumoured that young Mr. Perry has still not vacated his position and has been reported seen from time to time in the upper rooms and at the back of the Hotel.
- he is buried in PLOT 515 - BLOCK 37, Ruru Lawn Cemetery with Mai

Three years after her husbands death, on 6th February 1959, Mai sold the freehold of the Hotel to Roy Alfred Barnsdale, a retired bank manager, James Roland Smith, a retired builder, and Alan Clifford Perry, a solicitor and family member

Mai never did depart the hotel. She remained active in the management of the business to the very end and died on the premises in 1978 at the age of 82. She died Sunday 26th February 1978, aged 82, 22 years to the day after her late husband.
- She passed away in the first room on the left as you come up the stairs ...
- she is buried in PLOT 515 - BLOCK 37 with husband Benjamin

1887 Thomas William Perry
- Thomas married Winifred Newey LUCAS in 1921

1889 Eugenia Alice Perry
- Eugenia married John KERRIGAN in 1913
- they were living at 49 Hewitts Rd in 1937
John died on 30 November 1937 aged in Christchurch
- he is buried in PLOT 37 - BLOCK PR6 at Waimairi Cemetery
Eugenia died on 14 January 1983 aged 92 in Christchurch
- she is buried in PLOT 37 - BLOCK PR6 with John

William & Benjamin were in Class I of the Totara School in 1895

On 28 November 1857 Benjamin (senior) arrived in New Zealand aged 3

In 1861 he went Gold digging in Central Otago. Over the next few years he prospected at Gabriels Gully, Lindis, Winslow, Kumara and Whakamarama with such success that he was able to set himself up in his business of choice.

In 1870 at the age of twenty-five, he purchased the lease of the Empire Hotel in Dunedin, beginning a career in hotel-keeping that would continue for fifty-six years

In April 1875 Benjamin was fined 20 (an April 2010 equivalent of $2,455) for selling alcohol at the Alhambra Hotel in Dunedin without a license

In December 1876 he was granted the transfer of the license of the Swan Hotel from Samuel Gibbs

In 1876 he applied for a license for the Alhambria Hotel in Maclaggan St Dunedin. His lawyer Mr Harris submitted plans for a substantial building but the license was refused

In 1877 Benjamin & Julia had the Swan Hotel in Oamaru

In December 1877 he was charged with permitting gambling on his licensed premises

In 1881 he was granted permission to alter part of his stabling accommodation

In 1884 Benjamin's license for the Swan Hotel was considered

In June 1884 his wife Julia Julia died

In 1885 he remarried to Mary Ann Perry

In 1890 Benjamin's architect, Thomas Glass, called for tenders to built a dwelling house and a stone stable on Benjamin's Totara Tree Farm

In 1894 he had the Empire Hotel in Oamaru when he put up for sale or lease, by tender, his farm at Totara of 365 acres with railway siding into the property

In 1895 he was living on his Totara Tree farm in Oamaru when he was called as a witness at the inquest into the death of Robert Hardy

In April 1896 Benjamin leased out his farm abd cleared his possessions by Public Auction (Draught horses, Implements etc)

In 1896 he had the Railway Hotel in Ngapara

In June 1896 he was granted a license for the Empire Hotel

In 1897 he had the Empire Hotel In Oamaru
- he was still there in 1901

In 1900 he was appointed a Director of the Maerewhenua Gold Dredging Company

In 1905 he moved to Christchurch

In 1908 he took over the Occidental Hotel in Hereford St Christchurch with his partner William Fox. The business prospered and without doubt, during the first decade or two of the twentieth century, Perrys Occidental Hotel was the place to stay in Christchurch, its high reputation due both to the business acumen of Ben Perry and to Mrs Perrys fastidious approach to detail in housekeeping. So prestigious was the hotel that a special ministerial room was maintained for the convenience and the exclusive use of visiting parliamentarians. Members of the House such as Bob Semple and Paddy Webb were frequent and regular guests.

In 1913 Benjamin Perry & Sons Ltd owned cold stores at Bristol Port

In 1920 when he applied for a renewal of his liqour license he was given a most remarkable accolade, possibly unparalleled in The Trade. The Chairman, Mr. S E McCarthy SM, delivered a brief but unprecedented speech of praise on Benjamin's singular achievement. The Committee duly presented Mr. Perry with his license and had it framed as a memento of his good record; it hangs to this very day above the bar in Chats Bar for all to see.

Benjamin (senior) died in March 1926 aged 81
He had been a Hotel licensee for 56 years without a break in Oamaru, Dunedin and Christchurch

He is buried in Oamaru
- The freehold of the hotel came into the possession of his widow Mary Ann and the license was taken up their son Ben Jnr, who, on 14th April 1927, came into possession of the freehold. He was ably assisted in his new responsibilities by his wife. Mai Perry


In 1874, 1875 & 1876 Benjamin lawyer Mr Harris put in an application for a license to the Alhambra Hotel in Maclaggan St but was turned down as the building had not yet been erected (they were supposed to be erected before a license was granted but occasionally there were attempts to get the license first)
the NZ Society of Genealigists, Dunedin Branch Newsletter of 2009 is an interesting read in hotels and includes photos

Some of the above information was taken from the site Perry's Occidental Hotel
There is a great deal more information about them at that site and an excellent read

Records consist of letterbooks from the Empire Hotel, Oamaru and the Occidental Hotel, Christchurch Perry Family Hotel at the Christchurch City Library (dates cevered 1903-1926)

Photos of the Hotel. The hotel became known as the Occidental in 1889 when John Harris became the Licensee. George Pain (1854-1904) is listed the the Hotelkeeper from 1900. Benjamin Perry (1845-1926) acquired the License in 1906 and his son Ben (1885-1956) became the Publican when he died. Popular with the horse racing fraternity during that time, the renowned author Janet Frame was a housemaid-waitress there in 1947

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by ngairedith Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2010-11-10 17:51:23


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by goldilocks on 2010-11-11 19:53:02

thank you sooooooo much how did you find him. I guess you have to know where to look. sorry I can't help much with the info on Mary Ann just that she was referred to as Ma Perry & that she taught nanna what she knew as she worked for her before she married. (Gaga)my name for him as I couldn't say grandad so that was what we called him. I am puzzled as to the son Justin as to my knowledge they only had my Mum and I know nothing of a son. There may be a slight mistake somewhere as I have a son Justin born in 1978 and whilst i was searching I saw the same info but wasn't sure where it came from. I also have a daughter Michelle DOB September 1975. This info is fantastic as I was so little when Gaga died I didn't know much about him except when he passed away Mum was devasted she was very close with her Dad more so than with nanna. It is really uncanny that they passed away on the same day 22yrs later and both are in Ruru lawn. I really appreciate all you have done finding this out for me as I can now give it to the kids.have to fly now as I am getting ready for work. keep in touch and thanks heaps for this info.
Cheers Ann

by ngairedith on 2011-01-22 03:59:40

bumped ...

new info added for Benjamin's wife Mary Ann PERRY

by bonblond on 2013-06-13 19:56:07

Ann, Ngaire,
I now have quite a lot more information on my Grand Aunt, Mary Ann Perry, first of Sawyers Bay, then later married to Benjamin Perry Snr. of Totara Oamaru. I am not sure how to contact you to show you this information.
Can you please contact me? [email protected]
Hope to hear from you both,

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