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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Borough Of Wanganui

Borough Of Wanganui.

The Wanganui Borough Council. The Corporation of Wanganui occupies offices at the Council Chambers, St. Hill Street, Wanganui, which were built in 1881 by Mr. Johnston, from plans drawn by Messrs. Ross and Wright, of Wanganui. The borough was incorporated in 1872, and there are about fifteen miles of roads formed within the boundaries. The total number of ratepayers is 755, and the estimated population in March, 1894, 5500. There are 1050 dwellings within the borough, the rateable properties being 1320 in number. The total annual value of property in the borough is £37,700. The general rate is 10d. in the pound, in addition to special rates of 1s. 8d. The area enclosed by the town belts is 1000 acres. The loans of the corporation amount to £55,000, at five per cent., of which £43,000 is consolidated. At the end of 1894, £42,000 was available for new works, £4500 being for sewerage, £3500 for water-works extension, £3000 for street improvements and £1000 for public baths, which have since been opened. The corporation has spent about £5000 to protect the river bank, and £2000 more is now needed, and probably much more will be required before the bank is page 1362 made secure. The last licensing election for the Borough cost over £100, against £13 on the previous occasion. The Borough contributes £150 a year to support the Fire Brigade. The town his first-rate waterworks, including two lakes. The nearer is named Virginia, which is about a mile-and-a-half from the centre of the town, the borough having fifty acres of freehold land, including the lake itself. which is twenty-five acres in extent. The other lake is known as Westmere, the size being twenty-seven acres, the total freehold, including the lake, being also fifty acres. Ejectors are used to force the water from Westmere to Virginia Lake, when the supply in the latter runs short, but it is proposed to lower the water pipes some fourteen or fifteen feet, so as to have a complete gravitation supply for all requirements. The Council has appointed an additional inspector, to insure the proper sanitary conditions being observed by the ratepayers. To the Public Library the Borough contribute £25 annually towards the rent of the building. The streets of Wanganui are well lighted by 110 lamps, under contract with the Wanganui Gas Company, at a cost of £275 per annum.

His Worship the Mayor, Mr. James Lockhart Stevenson, is the eldest son of the late Mr. John Stevenson, of Glasgow, Scotland, where he was born in 1848. He came to New Zealand when six years old, and was educated at the Wanganui Collegiate School, then under the management of the Rev. C. H. Nicholls. Entering mercantile life, Mr. Stevenson has for many His Worship the Mayor, Mr. James Lockhart Stevenson years been in the grocery trade. He married Miss Helen Parkes, eldest daughter of Captain Frederick Parkes, who took an active part in the Maori war, and who is one of Wanganui's oldest settlers. Mr. Stevenson, who has done much for the advancement of his district, is a member of the Wanganui Harbour Board; chairman of the directors of the Castlecliff Railway Company; chairman of the Chamber of Commerce; a director of the Wanganui Gas Company; treasurer of the Orchestral Club; a P.M. of the St. Andrew's Kilwinning Lodge of Freemasons; he also for some time filled the office of chairman of the Wanganui School Committee. He is ever ready in assisting in promoting entertainments for charitable and other purposes. In 1893 Mr. Stevenson had a trip round the world, visiting the Holy Land, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, England, and the Continent, and paying a visit to the great World's Fair at Chicago. He wrote quite an interesting account of his trip abroad, and had it published and circulated among his friends.

Councillor William George Bassett was born in New Plymouth, Taranaki, where, though too young for active service, he with his parents passed through the exciting vicissitudes of the native war. In 1868, allured by the exciting reports from the Thames goldfields, he left his native town for that district, where he remained some three years, part of the time following his trade as a carpenter. Councillor William George Bassett He then returned to Taranaki and entered into business there with Mr. R. Rundle, sen., as general contractors. Some years later, the firm of Rundle and Bassett securing the contract for the Wanganui Railway Bridge, councillor Bassett established his headquarters in that town. In 1880 he constructed some seven or eight miles of permanent rail way in the district between Stratford and Eltham. At a later date he was again the successful tenderer for the construction of the line between Hawera and Mokoia, a distance of seven or eight miles. The railway bridge at Pohangina was also undertaken by him. This is an iron structure of 640 feet in length. Councillor Bassett's private residence is at St. John's Hill, and, though still continuing his business as contractor, he has recently established himself in Wilson Street as a timber merchant. He has served the public as a member of the local school committee, and of the Licensing committee.

Councillor Gilbert Carson, J.P., who has for many years taken a prominent part in the local governing bodies of Wanganui, and still sits as a member of the Borough Corporation, is now the Member of the House of Representatives for the district, in which capacity further information is given in this volume. Councillor Carson held the position of Mayor of Wanganui for three years consecutively. He has also been chairman of the Harbour Board and of the Hospital Board. Councillor Carson is the oldest sitting member in the present Municipal Council. He is chairman of the Board of Governors of the Girls' College, and, until February, 1897, was chairman of the Education Board, on which body he sat continuously for many years. He is also chairman of the Public Library, and of the trustees of the Museum.

Councillor George William Collins, of the Wanganui Corporation, was born in 1839 at Portsmouth, England, where he was educated. Until his twenty-fourth year he was at sea, having risen step by step till gaining a captain's certificate. Subsequently he joined the pilot service for the port of Tien-tsin, North China, in which he was engaged for thirteen years. He was also the founder of the Taku Tug and Lighter Company. In Mongolia he did a good deal to develop the wool industry, and page 1363 Councillor George William Collins founded the firm of Collins and Co., of Leadenhall Street, London, and China. Having sons who wished to become farmers, he came to New Zealand in 1890 and bought 3432 acres in the Mangawhero Valley, about nineteen miles from Wanganui. He takes a keen interest in local industries, and is chairman of directors of the Wanganui Fruit Evaporating and Preserving Company. Mr. Collins, who has five sons and one daughter, resides at “Olive Bank,” Wanganui.

Councillor Thomas Dick Cummins, who has served two terms in the Wanganui Borough Council, was born in 1846 at Port Macquarrie, New South Wales, and came to New Zealand in 1859. As a business man he was one of the pioneers of the flax-dressing industry, was some time engaged in the business of soap-manufacturing, and now conducts a large and successful grocery and provision trade, under the name of Cummins and Co. During the native troubles of 1868–9, Mr. Cummins served on the West Coast with the Wanganui Cavalry Volunteers as a sergeant, and subsequently as troop sergeant-major. As a prominent rifle-shot he held the Carbine Championship of the Colony in 1872. For thirty years Mr. Cummins has been associated with the Wanganui Volunteer Fire Brigade, being captain for most of the time. He was one of the founders of the Fire Brigades' Association of New Zealand, and has filled the offices of president and vice-president. It is not surprising that he was the prime mover in furthering the Council's building regulations in the matter of brick-dividing and party-walls.

Councillor Edward Liffiton, J.P., was born in Devonshire in 1843, and left there for New Zealand with his parents, arriving in Wellington in the year 1856. As a lad he visited the South Island, and spent some time in Christchurch when it consisted of two buildings—the White Hart Hotel and Mr. Bishop's store. He is largely self-educated, having studied a great deal privately, and has had a very interesting experience in the Colony generally. On the West Coast, during the Maori war, Mr. Liffiton was a member of the Wanganui Cavalry, and was a recipient of the New Zealand war medal, having been through both General Cameron and General Chute's campaigns. For fourteen years he held the position of clerk to the Wanganui County Council. Councillor Liffiton has been a member of the Borough Council since 1888, and has had a seat on the Wanganui Hospital and Charitable Aid boards for four years past. He was appointed a J.P. in May, 1882.

Councillor E. N. Liffiton.

Councillor E. N. Liffiton.

Councillor S. H. Manson was born in the Orkney Isles, in the most Northern Island of Britain. Attracted by the accounts from the Victorian diggings, Mr. Manson left his native land for Sydney in 1856 He was all through the Australian goldfields, and endured many hardships in the early days among the snowy mountains of that great continent in search of the precious metal. In 1862 Mr. Manson came over to the Shotover rush in Otago, New Zealand, where he remained for about two years. In 1864 he settled in Wanganui, and has been a resident in that district ever since. Wanganui was but a small place when Mr. Manson first remembers it, and he has seen it grow to its present considerable dimensions. In the exciting times of early settlement in the Colony, Mr. Manson was the issuer of rations to the troops, and also had charge of the stores department all through the war. Mr. Manson saw a great deal of fighting, and was in many skirmishes For fifteen years past Councillor Manson has been a member of the Wanganui Corporation, and in every election that he has contested he has been successful, each succeeding one having shown more satisfactory results. In 1894 he was elected to the Licensing Committee, being the second on the poll. He resides in Taupo Quay.

page 1364

Councillor A. J. Parsons has been connected with public life in Wanganui for the past ten years. He has been mayor of the borough, and has sat in the council almost continuously since first entering it. Mr. Parsons is, perhaps, better known as chairman of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, with which body he has been connected for several years. In 1893 Mr. Parsons stood for the Wanganui seat, but was unsuccessful.

Councillor Edwin Perritt is a native of Bath, and left there in the year 1859 per ship “Magdalene” for Port Adelaide, South Australia. After some years' residence in that colony he removed to Victoria, and spent about two years on the Bendigo goldfields. In 1864 Mr. Perritt came over to Otago, and was again' engaged in goldmining for another period of two years at Garbriels Gully. Removing to the West Coast, Councillor Perritt went into the butchery business, having learned that trade in Bendigo with Mr. Frank Allsworth. For a period of about fourteen years he was thus engaged at Hokitika, Charleston, and other parts of the West Coast. Councillor Perritt has been a member of the Wanganui Corporation for some four years, and has taken his share in public affairs generally. He is vice-president of the Wanganui Bowling Club, and holds a similar office in the Wanganui Trotting Club. He is member of the Masonic fraternity. Councillor Perritt is the proprietor of the City Butchery, and a description of his business appears under that head.

Photo by A. Martin, Councillor E. Perritt.

Photo by A. Martin,
Councillor E. Perritt

Councillor Frederick Morris Spurdle, J.P., was born in New Zealand, his parents being among the pioneer colonists who arrived in the early forties. In 1867 Mr. Spurdle came to Wanganui, and has resided in the district ever since, with the exception of about eighteen months spent in the Fiji Islands. He was first elected to a seat in the council of Wanganui
Photo by A. Martin. Councillor F. M. Spurdle.

Photo by A. Martin.
Councillor F. M. Spurdle

page 1365 in 1879, and since that date has been out of municipal harness only some two or three years. For the two years (1884–6) Mr. Spurdle filled the office of mayor, and as chief magistrate of the borough did a great deal of useful work. As a member of the Harbour Board, too, Councillor Spurdle further added to his popularity. For six years he served the district as chairman of the Licensing Committee, and held a similar honourable position in the local school committee and the Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the directorate of the Public Library and Museum. Councillor Spurdle takes an active interest in aquatic and other sports, and has for many years held the position of President to the Union Boat Club. For a considerable time, also he was an officer in the Wanganui Fire Brigade. As general manager of the Wanganui Sash and Door Factory and Timber Company, Limited, councillor Spurdle occupies one of the most important positions in the town.

Mr. James Purnell, Town Clerk and Treasurer to the Wanganui Corporation, Returning Officer, Rate Collector, and Valuer, was born and educated in London, and came out to the Colony with his father at the end of 1856, per ship “Chatham,” to New Plymouth. Mr. Purnell, senior, had been foreman of pattern-makers at Napier's great engineering works. The construction of some of the gunboats that were built for the Crimean war was superintended by him. The family found life in New Zealand a wonderous change from what they had been accustomed to, particularly Mr. Purnell, senior, who had been used to the control of men in large numbers, only needing to ring a bell to have his wants supplied. However, he did as best he could under the changed conditions, working for the late Sir Harry Atkinson in the bush, but only lived for about twelve years after arrival. The subject of this sketch worked in the shop of Mr. Carrick, in New Plymouth, for some time, and then went to bush life for about four years. He came to Wanganui at the end of 1871, and was assistant town clerk and rate collector to the Wanganui Corporation from 1877 to 1888. In the latter year he was appointed town clerk, and has held the same ever since. Mr. Purnell joined the volunteers in February, 1862. He was all through the Taranaki war, and present at seven different skirmishes as a non-commissioned officer. He holds medals for active service and long service. He at present holds the rank of major on the unattached active list. Major Purnell won the rifle bolt for New Zealand in 1880. He has been second four times, viz., in the years 1880, 1882, 1885, and 1892. He is a member of the Druids' Order, has occupied all the chairs, and is therefor a “past arch Druid.” He was a Grand Lodge representative to Wellington on the occasion of the opening of the Grand Lodge for the North Island, 4th February 1895, at which meeting he was elected District Grand Secretary.

Mr. A. Gilmour is the foreman of Works and Water-works Officer. Mr. Gilmour was born in the village of Bely Walter, County Down, North of Ireland. He is a shipwright by trade and served his time on the Clyde, subsequently working as a journeyman for two years before leaving for New Zealand in 1862. He arrived in Port Chalmers per ship “Lady Raglan,” at the Otago rush, and was a short time at the Dunstan. In 1863 Mr. Gilmour went to the Wakamarina. He left there in 1864 for Wellington, where he worked at his trade for a few months. Subsequently he joined a steamboat as ship's carpenter, and for about two years was so employed. About 1864–5 Mr. Gilmour settled in Wanganui and worked at his trade for about ten rears. In 1874 he Joined the Corporation of Wanganui as foreman of works, a position which he has held satisfactorily ever since that time. Mr. Gilmour has seen more than half the town of Wanganui built, and since 1875 the Corporation have not employed an engineer, the work that is usually done by that official being satisfactorily performed by Mr. Gilmour himself. He has laid off a large number of the streets of Wanganui and most of the earthenware drains in the town have been laid under his direction, and the whole of the pipes for the water works have been put down by him. During the progress of these works as many as sixty-five hands have been employed at one time.

Mr. Thomas Mercer Copeland, Sanitary Inspector to the Wanganui Corporation, which office he has filled since 1894, was born in West Meath in 1856, and came to Auckland with his parents in 1863, per ship “Helvellyn.” After seven years in Australia, he was educated at West's Grammar School, Wanganui. Mr. Copeland is a member of the Caledonian Society, is an old football representative, and is well known on the West Coast as an athletic handicapper.

The Wanganui Public Library, which is incorporated under the “Public Libraries' Act, 1875,” has been established for eighteen years. The directors are Messrs. G. Carson (chairman), J. Ball, C. Burnett. A. Martin, F. G. Newcombe, J. H. Nixon, F. Powell, F. M. Spurdle, E. Withers, J. T. Stewart (hon. secretary), and H. E. Dymock (hon. treasurer). The library and reading-room occupies a convenient building in Ridgway Street. It is free from debt, and has a credit balance in hand. The Borough Council gives an annual grant of £25 towards the support of the institution, which is very popular in Wanganui. There is a large number of subscribers, and the reading-room is well patronised. The public room is supplied with the latest papers, is well-lighted, and orderly, and every person frequenting it may have a book to read in the public room from the lending library, on application to the librarian.

Mr. Charles Edward Hylton is the Librarian; he is also Deputy Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. His office is at the library, Ridgway Street, Wanganui. Mr. Hylton was born in Great Yarmouth, and left there for New Zealand in 1874, per ship “Edwin Fox,” arriving in Wellington in 1875. He was brought up to the wholesale soft goods trade in London. He settled in Wanganui in 1875, and for some time was interested in forming. He was appointed to his present position in 1885, and has held the same ever since.

The Wanganui Volunteer Fire Brigade is one of the oldest in the Colony, having been founded in 1866. The station, which is situated in St. Hill Street, is replete with all the latest fire-saving appliances, which are well kept. The brigade, which is an efficient one, is under the control of Captain C. V. Powell, assisted by Lieutenant T. H. Battle and Foremen G. Spriggens, D. Kitchen, and J. Carrell. There is a substation in Keith Street, the caretaker of which is Fireman R. Sharpe.

Wanganui Corporation Swimming Baths, situate in St. George's Gate, were opened on the 21 st of February, 1895. They measure 82 feet by 42 feet, and have splendid appointments. The water, which is obtained from an artesian well and Lake Virginia, is constantly running in and out, while the baths are thoroughly cleaned out twice a week. The inhabitants of Wanganui largely patronise the establishment, which is justly popular.

Mr. Herbert Mowtell, the Custodian and Instructor of the Wanganui Swimming Baths, was born in London page 1366 in 1863, and learned the art of swimming under Professor Pichles. He came to the Colony in 1890, and received his present appointment—out of thirty applications—on the opening of the baths. Mr. Mowtell is instructor to the Girls' College, and to the public in general. He is assisted by Mrs. Mowtell.

Photo by A. Martin. Mr. and Mrs. H. Mowtell.

Photo by A. Martin.
Mr. and Mrs. H. Mowtell