Trimble Place in Bell Block was named after an early Taranaki politician.
Born in Northern Ireland in 1824, Robert Trimble immigrated to the United States when he was 21 but moved back to North West England to act as the British partner in an American linen importing firm. A radical liberal, Trimble was secretary of the Manchester Emancipation Society and a strong supporter of the northern forces during the American Civil War. He wrote several anti-slavery pamphlets and was presented with a silver medal for his work assisting liberated slaves after the conflict. He also advocated free trade, secular education and the abolition of the state church. A keen volunteer, Robert rose to be honorary Colonel of the 15th Lancashire Regiment.
Trimble and his family decided to try their luck in New Zealand in 1875. They settled just outside Inglewood on 2000 acres of bush which they dubbed “Riverdale”. Robert took an active interest in local politics, becoming the first chairman of the Inglewood Town Board and the Taranaki County Council. He served as a Member of Parliament representing the region from 1879 to 1887. Long interested in Māori culture, Trimble later acted as a judge at the Native Land Court until poor health forced him to retire.
Robert married Jane Heywood, daughter of the Mayor of Manchester, in 1856. The couple had four sons and three daughters and were known as a literary family – their second son William was an expert on the American poet Walt Whitman and became the first librarian of the Hocken Collections in Dunedin.
Robert Trimble died at “Riversdale” at the age of 75 on 5 September 1899. He was fondly remembered in obituaries published both here and in England, and also has a park named after him in Inglewood.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.