Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, August 1976
The coastal region of the Park attracted settlement in the 1850's. Between 1854 and 1857 about 26 pioneer families purchased land in the area. In many cases descendants still live in Nelson province, and some own the land their great-grandfathers bought over 100 years ago.
Roads throughout the settlement were rough cart or bridle tracks and few and far between. The easiest and quickest way to travel was by sea. Thus Motueka and Riwaka on the south side of the mountain barrier and Motupipi and Collingwood on the north, attracted settlers very quickly. By 1859 there were 39 vessels built or registered in Nelson especially for the Bay Trade and 10 ships ran regular, advertised services. Tasman Bay presented a very different picture from the empty expanse of sea seen now.
The four islands, Tata, Tonga, Adele and Fisherman were bought first.
William Locke Travers, who came to New Zealand in 1849 was a world traveller, a solicitor, botanist, explorer and later a judge. In 1852 he purchased the Tata Islands and two years later sold them to T. R. Berry. Their limestone deposits attracted purchasers and they changed hands several times until 1906, when the Government obtained them for "Harbour purposes." In due course they were gazetted as part of the Park.
Adele and Fisherman Islands were auctioned in 1855 and Edward Hugh Enes Blackmore, Collector of Customs, paid £210 for Adele and £3/8/9 for Fisherman. Appointed Collector in 1853, by 1856 he was "suspended" from office while his defalcations were investigated. His mis-use of Government funds resulted in both islands becoming Crown property.
At that time, Mathew Richmond of "The Cliffs," Nelson, was Commissioner of Crown Lands and John Poynter, a pioneer solicitor, was Resident Magistrate. These two men, after conferring with Blackmore, drew up a Deed which stated that, as Blackmore owed the Government of N.Z. a "considerable sum of money," he wished to sell all his properties to Richmond and Poynter for the total sum of 10/-. Proceeds for the later sale of these properties by Richmond and Poynter were to assist in liquidating his debt to the Crown.
Richmond and Poynter apparently forgot about the islands and forty years later when both were dead, it was realied that page 11the islands had not been registered as Crown property. When this was done the forgotten islands were declared a scenic reserve. Stone from Adele Island was used as fill for the sea-wall at Port Nelson.
Tonga Island has a much less eventful history. It was purchased by Dr. Richardson who with his wife and three children arrived in Nelson on the Maori in 1851.
Within two years, he was appointed a magistrate and represented Nelson on the Legislative Council of the General Assembly, Wellington.
He stayed in Nelson for seven years, purchasing a good deal of land including the Maitai Run and land between Awaroa and Torrent Bay. He later returned to England to educate his children. His eldest son, Ralph, studied law and returned to Nelson in the early 70s where he also took an interest in politics and represented Nelson in the General Assembly. He was appointed Captain of the Nelson (Port) naval volunteers. In 1880, Dr. Richardson transferred his Nelson properties to Ralph, who died nine years later at the age of 47. His young widow and two little girls went to England to the old doctor.
When their education was completed the girls returned to Nelson in the early part of this century.
The late Miss Richardson in 1968 still owned the properties purchased by her grandfather in the early days—much of it, at Awaroa, Onetahuti Bay, Shag Harbour, Frenchman Bay, North Head and Torrent Bay—on the fringe of the Park. Since her death, several of these areas have been included in the Park.
Granite blocks from Tonga Bay were used for the Cawthron Steps on Church Hill and also in the building of the Post Office and Public Trust Office in Wellington. The quarry-men lived in huts in the Bay and the granite was shipped by scow.
For more than 100 years, tales of William Gibbs' magnificent estate at Totaranui have been told. His ideas were so advanced that the plain-living pioneers could scarcely believe some of his innovations. An Admiralty chart, published in 1865, notes "Gibbs' Station" as a landmark.
Although a convenient bridle track ran over the hill to Wainui, the main approach was by sea. As vessels neared the shore, those on board first saw the beauties of the natural setting. Bush clad hills swept down to well-kept grazing lands page 12and on towards the gleaming fringe of sandy beach and the brilliant blues and greens of the coastal waters.
A wide and gracious avenue of plane and macrocarpa trees led from the landing stage towards the house and gardens. A small carriage drawn by a cream pony met visitors at the shore to take them to the house and carried them up the avenue to the drive, planted with ornamental fruit trees including figs, cherries and walnuts. Smooth green lawns and flowerbeds surrounded the two-storied gabled, beautifully built house. A fountain tinkled and splashed into a goldfish pond in front of the house.
He went to Aorere where he took up land between the sea and the harbour at what is now called Collingwood. When the goldfields brought population into the district in 1857 the land was in demand so he drew up plans for a town and sold sections upon which hotels, stores and nouses were built. By then Gibbs was living at Totaranui but the new township was known as Gibbstown (and has retained its identity as the Rating District of Gibbstown.)
By May 1856, Gibbs had purchased 272 acres, including the beach area at Totaranui. It cost him £122/10/-. At this time he was 36 years of age.
During the next ten years Gibbs consolidated his position in every way. He owned over 1,000 acres between Wainui and Totaranui, including Separation Point and had a depasturage licence for a further 6,000 acres, reaching to the Awaroa River. He had built a home at Totaranui, landscaped and planted his gardens, built a boatshed in which he had a windlass to haul up his two boats and stocked his farm. He was a J.P., a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, and his eight children, four boys and four girls, three of whom were born in New Zealand, were growing up.
By the 1870's he was a member of the House of Representatives in Wellington, and by 1878 he completed his plans for the Totaranui estate by building a new and even more luxurious home. There were two six-roomed cottages, one at each end of the beach, called respectively Lagoon cottage and Fern cottage, for the use of the family and friends. A cottage by the dairy was provided for the permanent staff of a married couple. The pony and the carriage were kept in a stable halfway down the avenue.
The new house was the last word in luxury for the period and Betsy, his wife, wrote with pride: "May 18, 1878, moved into new house, Totaranui, built by W. Gibbs."page 13
All the bedrooms were provided with porcelain basins with running water laid on. In the main bedroom, the water gushed from a silver lion's head. The wallpapers in the main reception rooms were hand-painted by William Gibbs, who was a very competent artist. Handsome carpets and rich hangings set off the buttoned-satin furniture in the drawing room. A marble shelf supported fine ornaments and curios, and a miniature, in a gold case, took pride of place. Delicate paintings of flowers decorated the walls. The dining room had highly polished furniture, with leather upholstered chairs ranged about the walls and a handsome marble clock, while a door beside the fireplace led into a conservatory filled with brilliant, flowering plants. In William Gibbs' study, the long winter evenings were catered for by an excellent library of well-used books including a complete set of Dickens' works and Cornhill magazines.
A glasshouse furnished grapes for the table, fruit of every kind grew in the orchard, milk, cream and butter came from the model dairy which was provided with porcelain pans warmed by copper pipes, to make the cream rise. Eggs and chickens came from the fowlhouse which had built-in nests. Turkeys, beef and mutton came from the farm. The prize bull was kept in his own well-fenced field which had a "house" in which to sleep. Fish and shellfish were caught in the sea. Vegetables and herbs grew in the extensive kitchen gardens.
William Gibbs and his family lived in a style worthy of his important position in the community. His hospitality was a byword and Totaranui a famous beauty spot.
In 1881 Gibbs retired from politics and for the next ten years acted as resident magistrate and gold warden for Collingwood and Takaka.
In March, 1892, Gibbs left Totaranui and retired to Nelson.
But the glorious days of the estate were not quite over.
When William Henry Pratt, of Wanganui, heard that Totaranui was for sale he immediately purchased it. Pratt was the son of a pioneer settler who landed in Nelson from the Indus in 1843. After looking around the province Pratt had decided to try his luck in the Canterbury settlement. Seeing opportunities for business he opened a drapery store in Christchurch and prospered so well that, by 1869, he leased his store to Mr. Ballantyne. His son, William Henry, was born in Christchurch in 1852 and was 40 years of age, with seven children, when he settled at Totaranui.page 14
The Pratt family lived there for nearly 30 years. In 1914 when the eldest son, Herbert William, married he built an attractive farm house on the estate. This is now the "old homestead" at Totaranui. While the Pratts were there the conservatory was used as a little Post Office, and the cottage by the dairy became the schoolhouse, where a governess taught the children. The beach cottages were rented to the Fells and Atkinsons who sailed across the bay in a private yacht at holiday periods.
In July, 1920, Charles Pestall Harris, a sheep farmer from Pelorus Sound, bought the estate but only stayed there for four years. By this time the Gibbs' once magnificent home was rather dilapidated, and Harris added to the Pratt's modern house which was then only six years old. In 1924 John Cameron, a farmer from 88 Valley became the owner.
By now much of the place had reverted to fern, the economic depression of the 'thirties and the Second World War had created problems and on June 18, 1948, Totaranui passed from private ownership to the Crown.
It is difficult to over emphasise the importance of shipping or shipbuilding in those early days of settlement. One of the first and busiest of Nelson shipwrights was Ambrose Ricketts, who in partnership with H. Parnell and W. Jennings had completed the 11 ton cutter, Moonraker, by 1834. By 1855 Ricketts had purchased 80 acres at Awaroa, the large tidal inlet south of Totaranui.
Ricketts and his four sea-faring sons were probably the organisers of the first group of settlers in this inlet, which was surrounded by heavily wooded hills of good timber, had ample fresh water from streams and was well provided with food from the sea, and birds in the bush. The others who purchased large sections in Awaroa were also connected with the timber and shipbuilding industry in some way. John Fraser, James Main, W. H. Burton and James Spanton were sawyers; Richard Beckford Scott a shipwright, James Moore a mariner, Thomas Rollisson a blacksmith and Thomas Askew storekeeper, shipowner, blacksmith and man of many parts. Others who bought land there were Dr Richardson, Messrs Buckeridge and Mills and Michael Murnin, a merchant of Sydney. Ricketts, Askew and Scott were intimately connected with the shipping business and over the years built, owned or were masters of many ships.page break
D'Urville's Astrolabe, a corvette or flush-decked warship with one tier of guns. She sailed under the name of Coquille on her first visit to New Zealand 1822/1825. She was 95' long, 26' beam, and 14' 6" draught. This model belongs to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and is in Pompalher House, Russell.
—photo Noel Edwards.
By 1857 Awaroa was a well-settled little community and in 1862 Frederick Brown Hadfield, a dipensing chemist from Nelson, in partnership with H. D. Jackson and W. Lightband, applied for a depasturage licence of 20,000 acres. The area extended from Abel Head at Awaroa to the mouth of the Marahau River at Sandy Bay. The following year, Hadfield purchased 1,000 acres and it was not long before other settlers arrived and there was sufficient of a population scattered around the inlet to warrant the Lands and Survey Department in Nelson making plans for a proposed township. Roads, a school site, a cemetery section and a pound area were planned.
Timber was milled at Awaroa and at the bay just north of the inlet for local use and for export to Australia. Boat building was carried out, but the first record of a large vessel being built at Awaroa was in 1875. In this year, D. Gilbertson, another well-known name in shipbuilding, completed a large, topsail schooner of 50 tons, named the Awaroa. This was built for Captain J. S. Cross, Nelson's pilot and harbour master for many years.
Following the example of Gibbs in the neighbouring bay, the Hadfield family built a fine two-storied gabled home, painted dark red, with white trimmings. Magnolia, walnut, fig and other ornamental trees were planted and an orchard and kitchen garden were laid out. It was the finest house in Awaroa but there were other spacious homes as well as cottages.
The Hadfields entered the shipping business. In 1905 W. W. Hadfield built the Venture, a 19 ton ketch 46 feet in length. The Venture later went to pieces in her home port and remains of the wreck can still be seen in the inlet. F. G. Hadfield and his father bought the wooden Auckland built 32 ton fore and aft schooner rigged scow, Orakei, then lying in an unseaworthy state at Puponga, and sailed her to Awaroa where she was repaired. She was re-registered at Nelson in 1910 and used on the coastal trade.
D'Arcy Hadfield, the world's single sculls champion, was born in the old Hadfield house. Part of his training included rowing from Awaroa to Nelson and back. Fred Hadfield was the first person to take a horse along the coast from Riwaka.
Members of the Hadfield family still live and farm at Awaroa. The old homes are abandoned. The remains of cottages and orchards gently decay in dank undergrowth, but today, near the beach holiday makers have built cottages.
To the south, within walking distance of both Totaranui and Awaroa, is the pretty inlet called Bark Bay. Named thus page 16prior to settlement, the bay had good stands of rimu, pine and beech from which bark, used in the tanning of hides and fishing nets could be obtained. The little Bay Traders would frequently call into this inlet and collect bark for sale.
In 1868, an elderly widower, born in Peckham in Surrey, decided to take his four sons to New Zealand. He hired the "waist" of a ship, The Fanny, packed his goods and chattels, and the family set off. By 1870, Timothy Huffam and his sons, Timotheus Blake, aged about 20; Frederick, 18; Richard, 15 and Gerard, about 13; had reached Nelson and decided to lease a section at Bark Bay. They took up 126 acres for which they paid £1 11s 6d a year. Old Timothy was a man with decided ideas and insisted on building his house around a large flat rock. This acted as a table, and was about six feet long and three feet high.
The family worked industriously on the land, caught fish and took it to Motueka for sale. They also did some boatbuilding.
While they lived at Bark Bay, a romance developed between Mary Anne Gibbs and Frederick Huffam who later married. Timotheus married and left home first, then the other two boys and Gerard stayed with the old man, who was over 80 by the time Gerard purchased the land they had leased for 20 years.
Timotheus, usually called by his second name, Blake, opened a business in Nelson and by 1889 was sufficiently well established to advertise in the Colonist that, 'Huffam's of Hardy Street' was the place for toys and others goods. Later he opened a music shop, which he neglected, in his enthusiasm for the Nelson School of Music. He acted as secretary and was one of those largely responsible for this establishment.
Old Timothy died in 1893 and in 1904 Gerard sold the Bark Bay property to Messrs. Cranley and Mold. By this time the place had become a favourite picnic spot, especially during the fruit season, when the cherry trees, from the old orchard now growing wild, provided bushels of ripe and luscious fruit.
Dr. Ralph Richardson in 1857 was the first pioneer to purchase land in this area, but the first settler was John Westrupp, a mariner, who applied for a lease of 50 acres in 1870. Boatbuilding was carried out here and Westrupp's six sons all became seafarers. Two were drowned. Cockram Westrupp was accidently drowned in the Nelson harbour when his vessel page 17collided with the Charles Edward. The others became well known owners and masters of ships of various sizes, including the Wairoa, a screw steamer of 69 tons.
A descendent of John Westrupp said that his grandfather took the family along the coast in his little boat, the Jubilee, on high days and holidays, and they would spend the day at the Moutere Inn, where prizefighting was organised. Supporters of each protagonist loudly urged their champion to greater efforts, while bets were laid and the women and children prepared a picnic meal.
While the Westrupps lived at Frenchman's Bay, W. H. Glover completed the schooner May by 1876. He was probably assisted by John and his six sons. About 1880, the family moved to Nelson and the next door neighbour from Torrent Bay, Francis William Flowerday, took over the lease. He stayed for two years. When he left, H. M. Burnard, a joiner by trade, settled in and built the ketch Felicity, 27 tons. He finished this in 1885.
Once again, Dr. Ralph Richardson in 1857 was the first pioneer to buy land in Torrent Bay, but the two first settlers were Flowerday and Blackmore, who leased 86 acres at £1/1/6 a year in 1870.
Francis William Flowerday ran away to sea about the age of 12 years and arrived in New Zealand about 1855. In 1860 he married Ann Stanton of Motueka, claimed to be the first European baby born there.
Son of a master mariner, Flowerday was a man of many parts, a ship-builder and owner, a baker and an artist. He built and owned the Wanderer, a schooner of 31 tons, and the Kestrel, a ketch of 20 tons. In later life he opened his own bakery business and taught his son, Francis Henry, the trade. He was a very competent artist and painted at least one excellent portrait, that of a near neighbour, old Timothy Huffam of Bark Bay.
George Thomas Blackmore, his partner at Torrent Bay, was a master mariner but, while living at the Bay, became seriously ill. He was taken to Nelson and died shortly afterwards, in 1874. Flowerday felt he could not carry on alone and forfeited the lease.
Andrew Devaney, who came to New Zealand about 1844, and who was farming at Waimea East, purchased the lease at an auction sale, but gave it up after a year. Well over 50 page 18years of age, Devaney probably found the life too hard. Flowerday again took over the lease and stayed from then until he moved to Frenchman's Bay in 1880.
During the 'seventies a Quarry Reserve was set aside at Torrent Bay and a contract was let to carry stone from the Quarry Reserve in Torrent Bay for the construction of the mole at Nelson Harbour entrance. In bad weather it was not possible to load rock from the Reserve so it was often taken from inside Adele Island and at the end of Long Beach (Anchorage). At one time some was taken from Ngaio Island which led to prosecution and a fine of £10.0.0. The person concerned said the fine was less than paying royalty. Jack Ricketts, the boat-building son of old Ambrose at Awaroa, applied for a lease of a 20 acre section between Flowerday and the Quarry. H. M. Burnard and J. H. Corless applied for 50 acres of the same section.
Boat-building was carried out at Torrent Bay as well as Frenchman's Bay but the largest recorded vessel built was the Comet, a ketch of 22 tons, built by Ricketts and completed in 1883. Ricketts seemed to have "squatted" on his land.
Plans of the area drawn in the 1880's show a cottage south of Torrent Bay, between Watering Cove and Cyathea Cove, large "camps" are shown on both sides of the lagoon, and a house and boat shed on Flowerday's land.
In 1880 a Cornishman, Richard Gill Tregidga, arrived in New Zealand with his wife and infant son, two years of age. He farmed at Riwaka for some time and probably worked at the ship-building yards also. In 1894 he took a 999 years' lease on the 86 acre section at Torrent Bay, paying five shillings more a year than Flowerday, for the same section.
A year after taking up the lease Tregidga was master of the cutter Turanga, 12 tons. In 1900 Tregidga sold his lease to Henry Ranier, a "retired Indian civilian" from Bournemouth, England. Ranier apparently used the Bay as a holiday resort, sailing from Nelson in his private yacht. According to later inhabitants, he built a holiday cottage which consisted of a wooden frame covered with "strong brown paper." This, he said, was similar in construction to some houses in India.
Also in 1900, Albert Pitt, a Nelson solicitor, and former member of the Nelson Provincial Council, purchased a section which includes the headland which bears his name.
About six years after Ranier purchased the lease from Tregidga, he obtained the freehold of the property and keeping page 1917 acres for himself, sold 51 to Ernest Giezendanner, a retired Swiss-Italian.
About this time Thomas William Nalder, a son of an early settler moved from Wharawharangi west of Separation Point to Torrent Bay. His eldest daughter, Mabel, then 21 years of age, joined the family as official school teacher to her younger brothers and sisters.
In 1914, Giezendanner, disappointed in love, sold his land to Henry O'Brien Deck and left the country.
Several Bay Traders were wrecked near Torrent Bay and one, the Result belonging to the Westrupp family and carrying a load of coal, was wrecked there.
Cyathea Cove and Cove Bay:
In the 1850's, William Akersten, described variously as a ship's chandler, storekeeper, marine surveyor and hotel proprietor, was one of the most active pioneer settlers. In 1857 he was secretary of the Nelson Yacht Club, a Land and Estate Agent, a ship owner, surveyor of passenger ships for the Governt, operator of a freight and passenger service, a member of the committee appointed by shareholders to found the Colonist newspaper, and proprietor of the Marine Hotel (formerly the Odd Fellows' Arms) in Trafalgar Street. He also leased and built wharves at Port Nelson and in 1866 was elected a Member of the Provincial Council.
Unfortunately, with so many occupations and activities he frequently over-extended himself financially, and irritated creditors occasionally sued. However, Akersten usually managed to satisfy them in one way or another.
In 1863 he bought 90 acres of land opposite Astrolabe Roadstead, but within a year had crashed financially and was adjudged bankrupt. He was but one of many settlers of good intention who found themselves pressed for money in the 1860's. The Colonist newspaper in which he was interested also went bankrupt in the same month.
Akersten managed to hold on to his land at Astrolabe for three years, but in 1872 the Superintendent of the Province, Mr Oswald Curtis, purchased the land for "public purposes."
Half a century passed before anything of moment occurred at Astrolabe, then in 1923, the Lands and Survey Department surveyed several sections on which local people had been camp-page 20ing for some years. Shortly after this, the descendents of two well known families from Riwaka and Motueka, the Stilwells and Manoys, bought property.
Welby Clark Stilwell purchased two acres of Akersten's original section at a place called Cove Bay in 1926. He and his family had camped there for many years during holiday periods. Stilwell's grandfather, Leonard, originally came to New Zealand from America and his son, Richard Clark Stilwell, was born at Riwaka in 1857. He married the daughter of another pioneer family, Mary Askew. Welby was born in 1881 at Marahau, on the fringes of the present Park, within a stone's throw of Astrolabe, and no doubt knew the area intimately as a boy. Later, Welby used his launch, Terepa, to take tourists and local holiday makers on excursions along the coast of the Park.
The other purchaser at Astrolabe was Lionel (Leo) Manoy, who, in 1928, bought four acres on what had been a Quarantine Reserve, at Orchard Bay, now known as Appletree Bay. The Manoys were also very early settlers in New Zealand. Leo's father, Abraham, was seven years of age when he was brought to Napier in 1845. Abraham married a Miss Moss from Wellington and in 1882, when Leo was a year old, the family bought a general store in Motueka. The business expanded until the family owned not only the store, but a butter factory, bacon factory, flour mill and a hop garden at Ngaio Bay farm.
By this time most of the early settlers and their families had disappeared from the coast. The increasing efficiency and importance of roads and road transport, together with the more stringent regulations of a new Shipping Act had a very crippling effect on the Bay Traders, and their numerous white sails vanished. A handful of descendants of the pioneers battled to make a meagre living, but with road access now available to the rest of the province and only diminishing sea access to the bays, life was difficult. By the 30s the settlers and boatbuilders had gone, and only holidaymakers and fishermen frequented the area.
Then, in 1936, Captain M. M. Moncrieff and his wife Perrine, purchased the 502 acre section at Astrolabe, situated between the unfortunate Akersten's land and Torrent Bay, with Welby Stilwell, a fund of information on the area and its history, a near neighbour at Cove Bay.
Grand daughter of Sir John Millais, a distinguished artist and former president of the Royal Academy, Perrine Moncrieff was not only a patron of the arts, but a lover of nature and actively interested in the cultural live of the province. No sooner was the land purchased than she had it gazetted as a "private scenic reserve."page 21
With determination and energy, Mrs Moncrieff embarked on a crusade to save the whole of the historic coastline for future generations. For several years she worked with indefatigible enthusiasm and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Park. By 1941 she had persuaded seven local bodies in the district to sign a petition which was forwarded to Government by the M.P. for Nelson, Mr. Harry Atmore.
With the establishment of the Park, Mrs Moncrieff did not rest on her laurels, but as a member of the Board continued to work tirelessly for the benefit of the Park and those who use it.
She was presented in 1974 with the Order of Orange Nassau by the Netherlands Ambassador, and was awarded the C.B.E. in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 1975.
While settlement was going on apace along the coast, George Harwood, his wife Elizabeth and their baby son Thomas, born at sea in 1842, were establishing themselves in Golden Bay. By the 1850's George was doing well as a shoemaker at Motupipi, and he gradually purchased land. When Thomas was 26 years of age, in 1868, he leased 195 acres of farmland at Takaka and over the years he and his brothers, Henry and Charles, were given land by their father.
In the 1880s Henry Harwood with T. Manson, son of another pioneer settler, accepted the task of finding an old track across the mountain. The Takaka County Council wanted to find the track supposed to run from "the long cutting" to a place known as "the stock yard" on the dividing range. Reports show that the two men had little luck with this at the beginning, but during their search in the high country, they reached an area lush with feed and holding a herd of approximately 150 wild cattle. Henry looked around with pleasure and surprise. "We are in the land of Canaan," he said. Pointing back along their route he added, "and Mt. Pisgah is where we came from." Harwood later purchased 400 acres on his mountain top, running from Pigeon Saddle. Some of the Harwood property adjoins the Park boundary.