Vilhelm Jensen and Hettie Bennett

Vilhelm Jensen was born in Aalborg, Denmark. In 1873 at the age of 12, he travelled by himself on the ship Halcione to New Zealand as part of an immigration scheme.

His early jobs were in farming, bridge building, saw milling and carpentry. When he was 20, he started his own business and over time ran several general stores around the Hawkes Bay and then in the 1890s at Porangahau. In 1893 he became a JP.

He married Henrietta (Hettie) Bennett in 1886. She was born in St Helier, Jersey and had emigrated with her family in 1875. They had a family of two sons and five daughters.

The family moved from Woodville to Upper Hutt in 1899 where Vilhelm also ran a general store before moving to Wellington. While continuing as a shop keeper, he bought and sold valuable pieces of city land.

At the time of the Boer war, he made statements in support of the Boers. He replied to a letter in the newspaper with his own:

‘… he insinuates that I ought to be struck off the Commission of the Peace for holding pro-Boer views. In answer I may state that some people ought to be bricked up in a lunatic asylum for holding certain other views, but they are not’.

A group from the Seventh Contingent who were camped nearby in Upper Hutt, lowered a Danish flag floating over Vilhelm’s residence, mistaking it for a Boer flag. An officer subsequently apologised and then the Danish consul informed Vilhelm that the government has apologised to him for the affront to the flag.

Vilhelm tried unsuccessfully several times to be elected to parliament and also the Wellington city council, on all occasions as an independent.

In 1924 he became a director of the Theatre de Luxe (later the Embassy theatre) of which he had a one third share of the £50,000 capital. He was chairman until at least 1940.

He made trips to America, Africa and Europe in 1904 and to ‘the old country’ in 1929. His observations on London at that time were:

‘The wonderful underground traffic system made him think of what may ultimately be the solution to the traffic problems of Wellington.’

An audience with King Christien was granted while he was in Denmark in 1930. In 1931, Vilhelm held a party at his home at 32 Fitzherbert Terrace to celebrate the Danish King’s 61st birthday. On hearing of this, his majesty cabled his thanks.

In 1933 he proposed to hold a reunion for those who travelled out on the Halcione in 1873, but it is not known if one proceeded.

In 1936, Vilhelm and Hettie celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at which time they had eleven grand children and one great grandchild.

Hettie’s father Henry died in 1942, aged 102 and was buried at Karori Cemetery. As a schoolboy he could recollect playing with Lily Langtry.

Vilhelm died in 1946 and Hettie in 1947. Both were cremated at Karori.

Nine days before he died, Vilhelm, while sitting in his hospital bed tore his 1925 will in half. His estate was worth £64,750. This resulted in probate being sought in the Supreme Court. His honour held that when Vilhelm tore the will, he understood what he was doing, despite his age, and did it with clear intention of revocation. Vilhelm had gone about creating new wills in 1941 and 1945, each time saying that he had no will. Hettie hoped the matter could be settled among the family, rather than in court, but the family was “so very parted”.

Golden wedding celebrated. Evening Post 14 October 1936
Evening Post, 7 October 1931