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Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.



It is many years now since Renwick-town was represented by a single dwelling, but there was a time when "Bagnal's whare" was the only habitation upon this portion of the plain. This building had been a surveyor's hut, and a gruesome hut it was, for under one of the bunks there was a pile of Maori skulls, relics of "Bloody Jack's" encounter with Te Rauparaha at Lake Grassmere, the collection of some enterprising chainman, and here they lay kicking about the floor like so many footballs, to be made playthings of by every traveller who made the hut a halting place. But the township had in reality its origin not in the whim of the surveyor, but in the choice of the bullock drivers, for in travelling up and down the valley they found this a convenient camping place owing to its central position. The locality also had the remarkable advantage of being exceedingly free from the poisonous tutu plant which proved so destructive to the cattle of the early settlers, and it was probably this guarantee of safety to their teams that made the spot so popular with the hardy bullock punchers, whose personal wants were soon ministered to by Mr. John Godfrey, who built a sort of "half way house," sometimes page 377called the Wairau Hotel*, but more often the "Sheepskin Tavern," for the simple reason that where timber was lacking, the pelt of the merino acted as a substitute in its construction. At this time there was practically no township, but in 1855 Dr. Renwick acquired the Delta run from Mr. Green, of Nelson, and laid out a portion of it as a town, which afterwards became a Scotch settlement, named after himself. The Lakeman Brothers then opened an hotel some distance from Mr. Godfrey's and speedily acquired considerable trade and fortune. The site of their house, which was called the Woolpack Inn, is now only to be discovered by the excavation that once fulfilled the duties of a cellar, but which at present acts as a receptacle for all the odds and ends of the township. But Renwick was not entirely composed of "pubs," for there was shortly afterwards a school under the charge of Mr. Moore, and it was here that the Rev. Mr. Nicholson had his manse and the first church in the Wairau, the latter edifice being still used as a Sunday school.

It was at Renwick that the first horse races were run in the district, this event taking place on 10th and nth January, 1854, in one of Mr. Brydon's paddocks, when the following steeds carried their owner's colours to victory. 1. Wairau Jockey Club's Plate, Mr. I. Freeth's page 378"Kick up the Dust"; 2. Wairau Turf Plate, Mr. I. Freeth's "Deceiver"; 3. Handicap Hurdle Race, Mr. T. Redwood's "Wild Harry"; 4. Selling Stakes, Mr. V. Hewitt's "Strop"; 5. Handicap Hack Race, Mr. Johnson's "Primus"; 7. Hack Race, Mr. J. Wilson's "Blunderbuss."

* The Wairau Hotel stood on the site of the Renwick bakery, and it was here that the first meetings in connection with the separation movement were held.