*Please note I have left the letter as originally written and transcribed. Research has found some small inaccuracies.
I, William John Roydhouse, was born in Ranstone Street, Clerkenwell, England, on August 25th, 1832. At the age of 14 years I was apprenticed to W.T. Henley, Telegraphic Engineer, whose works were in St Johns Street, Clerkenwell. Mr. Henley patented the magnet as applied to telegraphy in the magnetic needle instrument. The invention was exhibited in Hyde Park. These instruments were used by The Magnetic Company . This company later amalgamated with The British Telegraph Company which used Highton’s single needle instruments. The new company was called British and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company, with offices in Cornhill City and after at Threadneedle Street, close to the Bank of England
The Company held six subterranean cables from Cornhill to Dover and Dee, and a submarine cable from Dover to Calais. These were all the wires the company had at that time. The first subterranean cable laid by W. T. Henley for the company was from Threadneedle Street to Liverpool. It contained twelve wires, and I was in sole charge of these wires and tested every length that was laid. The cable was composed of wires covered with gutta perch and hemp, and were soon injured and the insulation destroyed.
The cable was carried from Threadneedle Street to Saint George Square, Liverpool. 350 men were employed upon this work. The distance was 206 miles and the cable was laid at a depth of two feet .The contract of laying and installing this cable was completed in a year and nine months, and I was left in charge for twelve months to keep the cable in perfect working order.
The next work was to tear up the six wires that were previously laid by the company from Cornhill to Dover and three eighteen wire cables were laid in their places. These wires were connected to the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Whitehall, Somerset House, Deptford Dockyards, Woolich Arsenal, Chatham and Dover and Deal dockyards, besides numbers of commercial offices in London and Gravesend. The work was completed in eighteen months, and I was in full charge of all offices from the Houses of Parliament to Deal for five years.
I then started contracting on my own account for the United Kingdom Telegraph Company, Old Bond Street, City. I carried a line of overhead wires from Leeds to Bradford; from Bradford to Halifax; from Halifax to Huddersfield; Huddersfield to Wakefield; Wakefield to Manchester and many other places during the next few years.
I carried an overhead wire for the Taff Vale Railway Company, South Wales; fitted up new instruments and batteries for the then largest railway ironworks in the world.
After this I entered the employ of the Silverton Telegraph Company, North Woolich.
I had orders to fit up electronically H.M.S Valiant from the bridge fore and aft, to the engine room, and to the man at the wheel I fitted up the Minotaur in the same dock, finishing her at Sheerness.
In a like manner the Achilles, Black Prince, and the Zealous were fitted in Plymouth Dockyard, and Agincourt, Cumberland, and Northumberland in Chatham.
After this I went back to my former employers, W. T. Henley. Soon after this the N. Z. Agent General was enquiring for an expert to go to New Zealand to look after the new Cook Strait cable, and to erect land lines. Mr. Henley recommended me, and with my wife and family I arrived in New Zealand in the good ship ” Asterope”, Captain Stewart, in 1868.I was first in the Wellington office and next went to the Wairarapa for experience in the country. I was then directed to build a line from Napier to Auckland. Te Kooti was in rebellion at that time, and my party was armed with rifles. I was six months on that work, and was many times warned to go away, but I held on till it was reported that Te Kooti was coming my way with 400 warriors. My party only numbered 24,and they all left. I then left and went to Napier and then to the Wairarapa………….Possibly I should have stayed on by myself and taken the risk, but without defence, in a strange country, and with my family to consider, I did not think it wise to do so. Through leaving the work, quite justifiably I think, I lost my appointment….
I met a man then who said he was a first class baker and felt sure that there was a good opening in Greytown, but he had no money. I managed to get over that difficulty, and rented a bake house and shop, and I learned baking and did quite well. The business was extended to Carterton and to Featherston, but too much credit and too many friends caused me to give up this venture.
I then took over a brewery and learned brewing-good beer too! But this was not successful owing to similar causes that closed the bakery. Then I built the store now occupied by Veitch and Allen in Greytown. I then went to the Mahaiopura diggings and since then have had varied experiences, spending a great deal of time prospecting for minerals in the Tararuas. I do not think that there is any gold there worth working for, but I do think the prospects for coal are good, and possibly tin also, of which I have found quite good indications, but I am getting too old to go into the hills alone.