Searching for Grace

by Carol Henderson and Heather Tovey

Plimmerton book club members enjoyed an evening of fascinating story telling with Carol Henderson, author of this engrossing book co-authored with her mother Heather. Carol shared with book club members the long journey to unravel the ‘wildly tangled roots’ of her mother’s birth.

Carol explains that the Edwardian world frowned on babies born out of wedlock so the unexplainable offspring of aristocratic families were despatched to ex nannies and others to bring up. This was Heather’s story. The abandoned but loved daughter of glamorous Lady Grace Weigall, she was raised by a retired middle aged nanny and her sisters. Later, during her time at finishing school in Paris, she was befriended by the glamorous, wealthy socialite, Lady Grace, not suspecting that she was her mother.

Heather turned her back on her aristocratic connections secretly marrying her New Zealand lover when she was 18. They emigrated to New Zealand in 1930 and she and her artist husband, landscape painter and teacher Gordon Tovey, settled in Plimmerton.

Heather’s birth had never been registered and the identity of her mother was a closely guarded secret.

Despite repeated attempts to learn more of her history it was 1975 before Heather made progress and finally gained proof of her birth and a New Zealand passport.

This book is her story to find her true identity. Later in the search her daughter Carol became involved and she completed the book as Heather became unwell in her later years.


Contact Carol Henderson 04 384 8969



Order copies of the book from Carol and give her feedback through her website.  


Kiwi connection to the world of Downton Abbey

Searching for Grace is New Zealand’s own Downton Abbey story. 

Go to Carol’s website to discover how Grace and Archie (Sir and Lady to you) lived during the time Archie was governor of South Australia.  No expense was spared…and what the footman had to wear … changing several times a day into different uniforms for different duties … really illustrates the lifestyle so clearly. 

What the critics say:

“We read of an attempted kidnapping, physicians with much to hide, a glamorous social whirl involving the future king Edward V111, and death and burials worthy of a Wagnerian opera.  Gliding between England, South Australia and New Zealand, this book is simply sensational.”

Edward Mayor, English writer and historian

“Have you ever wondered about the fate of those children born out of wedlock to Edwardian aristocracy who were silently whisked away into obscurity so the season could continue, presentations at court need not be interrupted, lovers could still be bedded and the summers spent languishing on the Riviera? 

Forget all the fictional accounts, here is a true story wonderfully written.  A brave honest indictment of a time when class was everything money could buy silence and secrecy and lives could be cruelly manipulated beyond the grave.” 

Lynne Hatwell.  Editor Dovegrayreader


Book clubs in Plimmerton

There are several book clubs here for people around about Plimmerton.  One meets during the day in Pauatahanui once a month.  The others meet in the evenings every four-five weeks.

Sometimes vacancies arise and you are welcome to enquire whether there’s a space in either group for you now.

Evening group Michele Saunders  233 0454

Friday group Meryl Harwood  233 8051

Last Updated: 04/07/2011 5:10pm