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RENDELL, STEPHEN, merchant and politician; b. 24 May 1819 in Coffinswell, England, son of John Rendell; m. 30 Sept. 1852 Catharine Norris in Blackhead, Conception Bay, Nfld, and they had six sons, one of whom died in infancy, and two daughters; d. 4 April 1893 in Coffinswell.

Stephen Rendell was the younger of two sons of John Rendell, a Devon trader with Newfoundland interests dating from as early as 1793. In November 1834 John Rendell witnessed the indenture of his 15-year-old son as an apprentice to the firm of Bulley, Job and Company of St John’s, whose principals were Thomas Bulley, John Job, Robert Job, and Thomas Bulley Job*. This important company, founded by Samuel Bulley* and John Job towards the end of the previous century, was already emerging as one of the largest Newfoundland mercantile houses with the by now traditional English West Country base. (It would later move its headquarters to Liverpool.) In 1895 the historian Daniel Woodley Prowse* recorded Rendell’s memories of this era. “The late Hon. Stephen Rendell has often told me that even when he first came to the Colony in 1834, hundreds of sturdy Devonshire lads came out every spring to Rowell’s, Boden’s, Bulley’s, Job’s, and many others on the South Side [of St John’s harbour] and Hoyle’s Town (Maggotty Cove), and to Torbay, Bay Bulls, Petty Harbour, &c. All these ‘youngsters’ were shipped for two summers and a winter. . . . The coming and going of the Newfoundland men was an event in Devonshire. The rurals reckoned the time by the old Church of England lectionary: ‘Jan! the Parson be in Pruverbs, the Newfanlan men will soon be a coming whome.’”

But not Stephen Rendell: his indenture was for a period of five years of service in return for “good and sufficient Board and Lodging,” £20 currency per annum for the first two years, £25 for the third, £35 for the fourth, and £50 for the last year. Bulley, Job and Company for its part undertook to instruct him “in the art and mystery of a Commission Merchant.” Quickly proving himself adept in the trade, Rendell at the end of his apprenticeship became an agent of the firm in various capacities in several Newfoundland outports, principally on Trinity Bay. He managed the firm’s extensive business at Hant’s Harbour, and at some time, probably in the 1850s, he seems also to have operated businesses in Carbonear and Old Perlican, on his own or in partnership with other merchants. At Blackhead on Conception Bay he met and married Catharine Norris, the daughter of a Wesleyan minister. The Newfoundland Bulletin, possibly quoting a contemporary source, recorded that “as a merchant he was honourable, enterprising and at the same time cautious and very acute . . . and every man, woman and child in Trinity Bay knew him and loved him.”

By the mid 1850s the older generation in the firm, now known as Job Brothers and Company, had retired and there were changes in its partners and management. In December 1859 Stephen Rendell joined Samuel Job, Thomas Bulley Job, and Thomas Raffles Job as a partner and also as general manager of the entire Newfoundland enterprise, with his residence in St John’s. Here he directed the firm’s business in supplying the cod and seal fisheries and in a large export trade with Europe and Brazil. In 1859 Rendell, a Conservative, also began his career in politics when he was elected to the House of Assembly as a member for Trinity Bay. He held his seat until 1873 – in 1869 he was one of only a handful of supporters of confederation elected [see Sir Frederic Bowker Terrington Carter]. In 1874 he was appointed to the Legislative Council and during the 1870s was a member of the Executive Council under the administrations of Carter and William Vallance Whiteway*.

Rendell participated fully in the life of the colony in other ways. He interested himself in the mining and sawmill industries. In 1841–42 he had been a founding member and president of the Agricultural Society of St John’s. An eager sportsman since his boyhood in Devon, he was responsible when president for the introduction of the snowshoe hare into Newfoundland to supplement the native arctic hare, whose numbers were dwindling. He imported the hares from Nova Scotia and released them in various locations throughout the island, where they soon became an important local food resource. Throughout his career Rendell devoted himself to the service of public institutions: the St John’s Wesleyan Academy, of which he was secretary from 1866 to 1869; George Street Wesleyan Church (opened in 1873), for which he provided the locally quarried stone; and the academy’s literary institute, which he helped to found in 1866 and in which generations of Newfoundland public figures down to recent times would receive their initiation and training in debate.

In 1881 the affliction of asthma, from which he had long suffered, forced Rendell to resign from business and leave the colony where he had lived for nearly half a century. He returned to his native Coffinswell, where he died 12 years later at the age of 73. His adult children, who remained in Newfoundland, in their turn were to become prominent in the professional, business, and social life of the island.

G. M. Story

[A typescript copy of a note on the Rendell family compiled in 1916 was supplied to the author by Mrs Norma Mainwaring of St John’s, a descendant of the subject’s.  g.m.s.]

Courier (St John’s), 27 Feb. 1867. When was that? A chronological dictionary of important events in Newfoundland down to and including the year 1922 . . . , comp. H. M. Mosdell (St John’s, 1923; repr. 1974), 108. Gunn, Political hist. of Nfld., 201–2. R. B. Job, John Job’s family; a story of his ancestors and successors and their business connections with Newfoundland and Liverpool, 1730 to 1953 (2nd ed., St John’s, 1954), 31–32, 41–42, 94, 127–29. D. W. Prowse, A history of Newfoundland from the English, colonial, and foreign records (London and New York, 1895; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 297–98. G. M. Story, George Street Church, 1873–1973 (St John’s, 1973), 18. Collegian ([St John’s]), 1960: 69, 76. Daily News (St John’s), 4 Sept. 1954: 21. Newfoundland Bull. (St John’s), September 1968 (unpaged).

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Cite This Article

G. M. Story, “RENDELL, STEPHEN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rendell_stephen_12E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rendell_stephen_12E.html
Author of Article:   G. M. Story
Title of Article:   RENDELL, STEPHEN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   February 22, 2024