The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)
Chapter 10: Wellington Settlement and Hutt War
Chapter 10: Wellington Settlement and Hutt War
THE NORTH PACIFIED, Governor Grey turned his attention to the Cook Strait settlements, where the position for the last year had verged upon war. The New Zealand Company's loose methods in the purchase of native lands had been followed by the repudiation of bargains, the estrangement of the two races, and the blocking of settlement. But the warriors who insisted upon muskets, gunpowder, and shot as the chief portion of the payment for the land upon which Wellington now stands were not at all dissatisfied in 1840 with the bargain they had made. They had secured arms, without which their tenure of the district in those days of almost constant intertribal jealousy and conflict would have been precarious, and they had given nothing of great value in exchange; for they were mentally resolved, if it had not been openly stated, that they would not suffer their existing cultivations and other grounds valuable as food-producing places, such as the portions of the forest richest in birds—the kaka, pigeon, and tui—to pass away for ever out of their hands.
Colonel Wakefield and his coadjutors in the first work of settlement suffered to a considerable extent from their want of knowledge of Maori laws and customs with respect to land, and also from their inability to make the natives understand the precise tenor of their questions and their documents. Richard Barrett, the whaler and trader, upon whom they placed reliance as interpreter and go-between, was illiterate, and his knowledge of the Maori tongue scarcely extended beyond colloquial phrases. Wakefield does not appear to have given close attention to the validity of the native vendor's title; so long as he found a chief or gathering of chiefs willing to sell such-and-such an area of bush, mountain and plain, he was satisfied. He was presently to gain by tragic experience a knowledge of the time and care necessary to complete a really safe and satisfactory purchase of land from the Maori. Doubtless there was at the back of Wakefield's mind a feeling that once the lands were settled by a strong body of British settlers, ready and able to hold their farms against all comers, the page 89 native population would quickly diminish in importance, if not in numbers.
Mr. Spain, the Land Claims Commissioner, in 1845 awarded the New Zealand Company 71,900 acres of land in Wellington and vicinity, excepting the villages and the lands that were actually occupied by the natives and thirty-nine native reserves. At the same time the Commissioner disallowed the Company's claims to the Wairau and Porirua lands, and in the end it was arranged (1847) that the sum of £2,000 should be paid to Ngati-Toa and their kindred for the disputed territory at Porirua, and £3,000 for the Wairau.
There seems to have been considerable uncertainty among settlers and Maoris alike as to the exact situation and boundaries of some of the reserves, more especially those in the Hutt Valley, and to this lack of precise information much of the trouble with the discontented tribes was due. In 1846 we find even the consistently friendly chief Te Puni complaining that the Ngati-Awa reserves at the Taita were occupied by European settlers. As the result of the failure to inform the Maoris of the position and bounds of the areas reserved for them, the natives in some instances cleared tracts of land outside the reserves, and in other cases occupied and cleared bush land that had been sold to settlers: disputes and suspicion were thus engendered.
* Not many of the Ngati-Tama Tribe were engaged in the war in the Hutt Valley. The majority had gone with Pomare Ngatata to the Chatham Islands. Later, a number of Ngati-Tama, as the result of quarrels with Ngati-Mutunga at the Chathams, migrated to the Auckland Islands in a French whaler. To their disgust they found that the climate of the Aucklands was so wet and cold that their potatoes would not grow. They were removed a few years later and returned to the Chatham Islands.
By the end of 1845 the New Zealand Government had the support of five British ships-of-war and nearly a thousand Regular troops. These forces, with the exception of some men of the 58th stationed at the Bay of Islands and two companies left in Auckland as a garrison, and the frigate “Racehorse” and the brig “Osprey,” left at the Bay, were now available for the restoration of order in the Wellington settlements. There was also available a considerable and already fairly well-trained body of Militia, organized under the Militia Ordinance passed at Auckland on the 5th March, 1845. Under this enactment a citizen force was constituted for military service, composed of all able-bodies men between the ages of eighteen and sixty. Militiamen were liable for service within twenty-five miles of the post-offices in their towns, and their period of drill was twenty-eight days in the year. In Wellington the news of the war in the north and the disputes in the Hutt Valley had stimulated a volunteer spirit independently of the conscription measure, and in April, 1845, the daily musters of townsmen for military drill on Thorndon Flat and at Te Aro totalled 220 of all ranks. These drills were held at 5 o'clock in the evening; in addition there was a morning daily drill for the more enthusiastic held alternately on the parade-ground at either end of the town. The Militia drilled with the old Tower flint-lock muskets imported by the New Zealand Company for bartering with Maoris; they were exactly the same make as the guns with which the Company had purchased the Wellington lands from the Ngati-Toa and Ngati-Awa. Later, percussion-cap guns were served out. The uniform was not elaborate or showy, but it was more suitable for campaigning than the tight red tunics, high stocks, and awkward headgear of the Regulars. The oldest surviving pioneer of the Hutt recalled that it consisted page 92 of a blue shirt, a cap similar to that worn by sailors, and “any kind of trousers.”
A redoubt was built on Mr. Clifford's property on Thorndon Flat, very close to where the Normal School now stands (Hobson Crescent). It has sometimes been described as a stockade, but it was simply a square earthwork with a surrounding trench. The parapet of sods and earth was reinforced with timbers at intervals inside. All round the parapet were wood-framed loopholes for musket-fire; the timbers forming them not only kept them clear of earth but strengthened the parapet. In 1846, when the troops were on field service, a Militia guard of a sergeant, a corporal, and twelve men did duty daily at the fort.
A more extensive work was that constructed at the southern, or Te Aro, end of the town, as a place of refuge for the citizens. This was a large earthwork forming two sides of a redoubt; the other two sides were left open, but the houses which stood there were capable of defence. A pioneer resident of Wellington, Mr. John Waters, who landed in Port Nicholson in 1841, describes this Te Aro fortification as follows:—
From a sketch by Judge H. S. Chapman in letter, 1845]
Cross-section of Fieldwork at Te Aro, Wellington
“The earthwork consisted of a ditch and a strong parapet. The trench was 6 feet deep, and the sod wall was about 6 feet high. The area enclosed was the ground between Manners Street and the sea, which then flowed to the ground on which the Town Hall now stands. The longer side of the earth-work was that which ran from Manners Street a short distance westward or inland of what is now Lower Cuba Street. There was an acre of land fronting Manners Street between the Bank of New Zealand (present Te Aro branch) and the angle of the work. The length of this side of the fortification was about 330 feet. The other flank, which was considerably shorter, ran at right angles inland along the north side of Manners Street towards its present intersection with Willis Street. The Wesleyan Chapel in Manners Street was just on the opposite side of the street to the earth-works. The trench and parapet enclosed several large buildings, including Bethune and Hunter's and other brick stores, the bank, and some houses. There was a boatbuilding yard, besides jetties and store buildings, down on the beach inside the wall. I do not recollect any guns in this fortification.
“On the eastern side of Lower Cuba Street, close to what is now Smith's corner, was a stockade enclosure in which the Government commissariat-stores building stood. This stockade was constructed somewhat after the manner of a Maori palisaded page 93 pa. It consisted of large split totara posts sunk in the ground at intervals, the space between them closely fenced with high slabs or pickets with pointed tops, and fastened with horizontal rails inside.”
These defences of 1845 were not the first field-works constructed in Wellington for protection against the Maoris. After the Wairau tragedy in 1843 measures were taken by the New Zealand Company and the townspeople, independently of the Government, to fortify the northern and southern ends of the settlement, and guns were mounted in the works. These were 18-pounders which had originally been mounted on Somes Island, which the New Zealand Company in 1840 regarded as a suitable site for a fort. One of the fortifications of 1843 was in Thorndon; one was a small battery constructed on Clay Point, in the southern part of the settlement. “It was on the seaward extremity of the flat above Pipitea,” says the pioneer settler already quoted, Mr. John Waters, “that the first Thorndon redoubt was built, or rather commenced. I remember that very well, because I saw it being built by the volunteers of the town in 1843, just after the Wairau fight, and, in fact, assisted in the work as a boy. It stood very close to the cliff above Pipitea, between the present steps at the foot of Pipitea Street and the English Church of St. Paul's, but much nearer Pipitea Street than the church. Just below it on the beach-front, now Thorndon Quay, was the police-station, a long whare thatched with raupo. We boys were given a holiday one day to help the men by carrying the sods which had been cut close by to the workers, who placed them in position on the parapet. The earthwork was not completed; the rear was left open. It consisted of three sides of an oblong, the longer side facing the sea, and the flanks extending back a short distance westward. It was not of any great size. The redoubt ditch was about 5 feet in depth and the same in width. We boys used to amuse ourselves by helping to deepen it. The earth parapet was about 6 feet high. The later redoubt was built in a different place altogether, further in on Thorndon, towards what is now Fitzherbert Terrace.” The southern fortification was the battery on Clay Point, Clay Hill, or Flagstaff Hill, as the spot was variously named; after the construction of the work it was named “Waterloo Redoubt.” Clay Point (now demolished) was the abrupt termination of a ridge which trended down to the sea at the place which is now the junction of Lambton Quay and Lower Willis Street. The sea then flowed and ebbed where the Bank of New Zealand now stands, and the cliff jutted out steep-to above the narrow beach, then the only thoroughfare. After Wairau, the townspeople formed a working-party, cut a track to the flat top of the hill, and dragged up three of the New Zealand Company's guns—ship's howitzers (18-pounders) on wooden carriages. The work page 94 was not an enclosed redoubt, but a parapet facing the sea—an emplacement and protection for the guns, with a trench 9 feet wide. The work was completed in one day.
Fort Arthur enclosed the hill forming part of Trafalgar Square. It was built from the design and under the superintendence of Mr. J. S. Spooner. It covers rather more than an acre of ground. It is built in the form of an oblong hexagon, with bastions at each angle. The embankments, or ramparts, and the bastions are of earth, faced with sods, squared and laid in courses. It is surrounded by a moat, 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide, over which is placed a drawbridge at the north end. Inside the rampart is a trench, 5 feet deep, for musketry. On an inner and level elevation, and enclosing the church and Survey Office, is a stockade, 7 feet high, built of 2-inch planking, double, with a space between of 2 inches filled with earth, making it ball-proof, and surmounted with a cheveaux de frise. It is in the shape of an oblong square, 156 feet by 48 feet, with flanking towers at the corners 10 feet high; pierced throughout with loopholes for rifles and musketry, and ports for the great guns (long 18-pounder carronades).
Nelson was not the only place in the South Island in which it was considered necessary in 1843 to erect fortified posts. The English and French residents of Akaroa resolved that three small blockhouses should be erected as a provision for the safety of the settlers and their families. One of these blockhouses was built at the eastern end of Akaroa Town, near the beach at the mouth of the Oinaka Stream; the Bruce Hotel now occupies the site. Another was placed midway along the bay, on the water-front, near the spot where the police-station now stands. The third was erected in Otakamatua Bay, near the head of the harbour. These buildings were the first posts of the true blockhouse type, with overlapping upper storeys, built in New Zealand.
Drawn from a sketch by the late Hon. J. W. Barnicoat, M.L.C.]
Fort Arthur, Nelson, in 1843
(Nelson Cathedral now occupies the side of this fortification.)
Once more the forest, dusk and dread,
With here and there a clearing cut
From the walled shadows round it shut;
Each with its farmhouse builded rude,
By English yeomen squared and hewed,
And the grim flankered blockhouse bound
With bristling palisades around.
Not only the New England and Kentucky stockades but the forts of the Hudson Bay Company, scattered over the northern continent from the Atlantic to Vancouver, were in design the prototypes of our New Zealand stockades. Their walls were built of slabs and solid tree-trunks, as high as 20 feet, with bastioned angles for enfilading-fire. Fort Douglas, which stood on the Red River a hundred years ago, an illustration of which is given in Bryce's work on the history of the Hudson Bay Company, was very similar to Fort Richmond. It had a close-set palisade of slabs and tree-trunks facing the river; at the corners were tower-like timber flanking bastions.
From a drawing by W. Swainson]
Fort Richmond and the Hutt Bridge (1847)
The Karori Militiamen who built the stockade, assisted by a party of bluejackets from H.M.S. “Calliope” and by a detachment of the armed police from Wellington under Mr. A. C. Strode, numbered thirty or forty small farmers, sawyers, and bullock-team drivers. The post was designed chiefly as a protection against possible attack from the natives at Ohariu Bay and the mouth of the Makara Stream, and in the nights of alarm a good lookout was kept in that direction. Some of the settlers worked on their holdings with cartridge-belts over their shoulders and a “Brown Bess” lying close by. However, most of the Ohariu Maoris left by canoe for Porirua and places higher up the coast. There was greater danger from kokiris, or small raiding-parties, of Rangihaeata's force. The armed settlers formed sections each of eight or nine men for garrison duty, and these detachments in turn occupied the stockade-house at night. The Militia mustered for drill three times a week—two hour's drill on each muster-day.
On a commanding position on the Wellington—Porirua Road a stockade was built on Mr. Johnson's land, Section 11/181, now the heart of the Township of Johnsonville. The stockade was a structure of thick slabs, with slits for musket-fire. There was a small loft, to which access was given by a ladder.
* This description of the Karori stockade is the first yet published. The details were given chiefly by Mr. George Shotter, one of the earliest settlers at Karori (died 1920).
From an oil-painting by C. D. Barraud]
An Early Colonial Home
Judge H. S. Chapman's residence, “Homewood,” Karori, Wellington, in 1849. The site of this pioneer dwelling, in the rata and rimu forest, is now the heart of the suburban Township of Karori. The Hon. F. R. Chapman, son of the first Judge of the Southern District of New Zealand, was born in “Homewood.” The place was temporarily abandoned during the war of 1846.
During 1845 two companies of Regulars had been stationed in Wellington. As soon as it was possible to withdraw troops from the Bay of Islands preparations were made for a transfer of the military forces to Wellington, and on the 3rd February, 1846, a body of nearly six hundred men under Lieut-Colonel Hulme embarked at Auckland for the south. The fleet which transported them consisted of the British frigates “Castor” and “Calliope,” page 100 the war-steamer “Driver”—which had just arrived from the China Station—the Government brig “Victoria,” and the barque “Slains Castle.” Inclusive of a detachment of the 99th Regiment, lately arrived from Sydney in the barque “Lloyds,” the following was the detail of the force: 58th Regiment—one field officer, two captains, four subalterns, and 202 non-commissioned officers and privates; 99th Regiment—one field officer, two captains, six subalterns, and 250 non-commissioned officers and privates; 96th Regiment—one captain, four subalterns, and seventy-three non-commissioned officers and privates; also a detachment of Royal Artillery.
The excitement created by the opportune arrival of so large a body of British soldiers, bringing the total force of redcoats in Wellington up to nearly eight hundred men, was heightened by the novel spectacle of a steam-vessel. H.M.S. “Driver” was the first steamship to visit the port; she was a wonderful craft to many a colonist, and amazing to the Maoris, who congregated to watch the strange pakeha ship, driven by fires in her interior, moving easily and rapidly against wind and tide. The “Driver” was a paddle-steamer of 1,058 tons, with engines of 280 horsepower; she was rigged as a brig. She was armed with six guns. Her crew, under Commander C. O. Hayes, numbered 175 officers and men. The vessel had recently been engaged in the suppression of piracy in the East Indies. Her figurehead attracted much attention: it represented an old-time English mail-coach driver with many-caped greatcoat and whip.
On the 27th February some of the troops marched to the principal village occupied by the Maoris on the Hutt banks and destroyed it. The natives had abandoned their homes on the advance of the soldiers, and were camped in the forest above Makahi-nuku. The Governor sent a missionary, the Rev. Richard Taylor, as a messenger to the Ngati-Tama and Ngati-Rangatahi, promising that if they left the place peaceably he would see they were given compensation for their crops. The destruction of the village appears to have been rather hasty, for Kapara-te-Hau, the principal chief, had agreed to the terms, and promised to leave the following day.
H.M.S. “Driver,” the First Steamship in New Zealand Waters
This drawing is the first picture of H.M.S. “Driver” yet published in New Zealand. It is drawn from a sketch by Captain M. T. Clayton, of Auckland, who was in Wellington in July, 1846, as an apprentice in the barque “London,” and is also based on a blue-print of the hull-details received from the Secretary to the Admiralty.
The troops remained inactive on the day of the principal raid (1st March), greatly to the indignation of the civilians. Then it became known that the Governor was undecided whether or not to proceed with hostile measures against the natives. He had been advised by the Crown law authority that he was acting illegally in evicting the Maoris, inasmuch as the grants issued by Governor Fitzroy after the purchase of the valley had excepted all native cultivations and homes. The legal adviser, further, was of the opinion that the natives were justified in resisting such eviction by force of arms.
Captain Grey, however, was not long influenced by this opinion. He quickly made up his mind to protect the settlers at all hazards, and on the 3rd March he issued a Proclamation declaring the establishment of martial law in the Wellington District, bounded on the north by a line drawn from Wainui (near Pae-kakariki) on the west coast to Castle Point on the east.
The first shots in the campaign were fired on the morning of Tuesday, the 3rd March, 1846. A party of natives under cover of the bush and felled trees fired on Captain Eyton's company of the 96th, who were stationed some distance in advance of the camp at Boulcott's Farm, two miles above Fort Richmond. Several volleys were fired into the camp. The fire was returned effectively, and the Maoris were obliged to retreat. When the news of the definite outbreak of war reached the Governor in Wellington he ordered H.M.S. “Driver” to weigh anchor and steam to Pito-one with troops. The soldiers embarked were Captain Russell's company of the 58th, twenty men of the 99th, and thirty of the 96th, under Lieutenant Barclay. A party of men of the three regiments was also despatched to the Hutt.
On the 2nd April a Lower Hutt settler named Andrew Gillespie and his young son Andrew were attacked and so terribly tomahawked that they both died. Gillespie was the first settler placed in possession of the land at the Hutt from which the natives had been evicted in the previous month. Te Pau, of Ngati-Rangatahi, was the leader of the raiding-party. The Gillespie tragedy stirred Governor Grey to speedy action. A police party set out for Porirua, as the result of a message received by the Rev. O. Hadfield from Rauparaha, who gave a hint that the slayers might be found page 103 in his district. Then, for the first time, it was discovered that the hostile hapus had built a stockaded and entrenched stronghold at the head of the Paua-taha-nui arm of the Porirua Harbour, five miles from the open sea. Porirua, the Governor perceived, was practically the key of the west coast; a military station there would keep communications open, and would also directly menace Rangihaeata and his insurgents, and strike at the rear of any force attacking the Hutt. A body of 250 men of the 58th and 99th Regiments, under Major Last, embarked in the warships “Driver” and “Calliope” and the barque “Slains Castle”; on the 9th April the three vessels sailed up the coast to Porirua, where the troops were landed. The force encamped on the low sandy point near Toms' whaling-station, just within the mouth of the harbour, and presently their tents gave place to a barracks of stone, surrounded by a stockade. At the same time the Governor took measures for the construction of a good road from Wellington to Porirua by the military, under Captain Russell (58th Regiment).* Another useful step was the formation of an armed police force of fifty men, under the command of Major Durie as inspector, with Mr. Chetham Strode sub-inspector. The police company was divided into four sections, each consisting of ten whites and one Maori, under a sergeant; small detachments were stationed at the outposts at the Hutt, Porirua, and Ohariu. At the end of April H.M.S. “Calliope” was despatched to Porirua, and then began a boat patrol of the shallow inner waters, which the warship could not enter.
* Mr. Kilmister, of Karori Road, Wellington, who arrived from London in the ship “Lady Nugent” in 1841 and landed at Pipitea, gives the following information (1920) regarding the military stockades which in 1846 protected the Wellington-Porirua Road:—
“When I was a boy I frequently went out along the Porirua Road with my father, who was engaged in transport work for the troops, and I remember the old stockaded posts very well. First of all, as one went out from Wellington there was a small outpost at Khandallah, not fortified; this was popularly known as ‘Mount Misery,’ and officially as ‘Sentry-box Hill,’ now abbreviated to ‘Box Hill.’ The present road over Box Hill, Khandallah, passing close to the little church, goes almost exactly over the spot where the outpost was quartered. This was a kind of midway lookout place between Wellington and Johnsonville, and was garrisoned by a few men from Johnsonville. At Johnsonville—then known as ‘Johnson's Clearing’—there was a stockade, strongly built of roughly squared timbers. Then there were stockades at intervals down to Porirua Harbour—Middleton's, Leigh's, and Elliott's. Leigh's stockade stood on Tawa Flat. Fort Elliott stood near the head of the harbour. From Porirua there was a ferry service in large boats down the harbour to Fort Paremata. These places of defence along the road between Johnson's and Porirua were built in this way: A trench was dug, and large split trees and small whole trees were set in close together, and the earth firmly filled in round them; this palisade was loopholed for musket-fire.”