This project began with a personal interest in family history. I am a fifth generation descendant of Samuel and Jane Retter, who emigrated to Wellington in 1841 on the ship Lord William Bentinck. They had worked as farm servants at  Ham House in the village of Ham in Richmond, Surrey. Ham House is now a National trust property. A tourist visit there in 2005 led to a five year  academic research project. The Retters had been part of a group of seven male servants - four of them marries with children - sponsored under the New Zealand Company's scheme by their employers, the Tollemache brothers. Nine letters by members of the emigrant group have survived. These led to research in ten archives in the UK and in New Zealand. The following publications resulted:

  • Middleton, S. Jane’s three letters: Working with documents and archives. (2012) In: S. Delamont (Ed)., Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education, (Cheltenham UK and Northampton MA: Edward Elgar), pp. 299-312
  • Middleton, S. (2011). 'Schooling of Labouring Migrants, Surrey to Wellington, 1841-44'. History of Education Review, Vol 40, No. 2, pp. 108-126. (An earlier uncorrected conference paper version can be downloaded from this site);
  • Middleton, S. (2010). The seven servants of Ham: Labourers’ letters in the New Zealand Journal, 1840-45. The New Zealand Journal of History, Vol 44. No 1, pp.54-75;
  • Middleton, S. (2010). ”˜Labourers' letters from Wellington to Surrey, 1840-45: Lefebvre, Bernstein and pedagogies of appropriation,’ History of Education (Journal of the British History of Education Society), Vol 39, No 4, pp. 459-479.
  • Middleton, S. (2008). Schooling the labouring classes: Children, families, and learning in Wellington, 1840-1845. International Studies in the Sociology of Education. 18 (2), pp. 135-147