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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]



At the outset, the founders of New Zealand had to face many difficulties. In the first place, Governor Hobson, in his desire to protect the rights and interests of the natives, refused to include in the Taranaki block the Waitara district, which Mr. Carrington had already surveyed. However, the representations of Colonel Wakefield seem to have produced some effect, and the boundaries of the settlement were extended to the points claimed by the Company. But even when this obstacle was removed, the work of settling the immigrants in their new home proceeded but slowly, and was delayed by many hardships and obstacles. “The country,” writes Mr. Seffern, in his “Garden of New Zealand,” “was covered with vegetation, which extended down to the beach.” As to the survey, “owing to the luxuriant vegetation which covered the land, it was a very difficult task, and lines had to be cut through the high fern and scrub.” A bridge had to be built over the Huatoki river, and for this all the timber had to be carried two miles. The colonists, at this early stage of their history, possessed one timber drag, two hand carts, and six wheelbarrows. But they had no horses or bullocks, and all the traction had to be done by hand. As many of the settlers were quite unused to the hardships of such a life, it may be imagined that the first years of their colonial experience were somewhat laborious and depressing; more especially as the natives, who had begun to gather round the settlement in increasing numbers, were even thus early a source of anxiety and apprehension to them. The whalers, who still formed an important element in the coastal population of New Zealand, were often disorderly, and Captain King and Mr. Cutfield had considerable trouble in keeping order among them. Moreover, the settlers resented their enforced isolation even more than the other disadvantages of their position, and they frequently petitioned the Company and the Governor of the colony and Colonel Wakefield, to do something in the way of forming a harbour, or providing shipping facilities, that would give them a better chance of regular communication with the outside world.

Early in 1842, the little settlement was extended by the arrival of 212 immigrants in the barque “Tunandra,” (382 tons, Captain Skinner), and by that time the colonists had begun to settle down in their new homes, and look forward with some degree of certainty to the secure enjoyment of the fruits of their labours. Here, in fact, is a description of New Plymouth in September, 1842, about eighteen months after the settlers had landed from the “William Bryan”: “On the banks of the Huatoki river there were several wooden and cob houses, and a new bridge had replaced the temporary one erected shortly after the passengers had landed. A lock-up, it seems, was thought to be necessary, but the cost had not then been paid for by the Company. Two public-houses, four large wholesale and retail stores, kept respectively by Captain Davy, Mr. Dorset, Mr. Baine, and Mr. Richard Brown, and about 120 raupo and cob huts formed the centre of the town of New Plymouth. At Devonport there was quite a cluster of immigrants' houses. The Henui river had been bridged, and several houses had been erected on its banks. A cutting on the east side of the river had been made, and a road formed to the Waiwakaiho river, which was crossed by a ferry boat. For about six miles from the town, clearings had been made, and houses erected by those who had started farming. Messrs Flight and Devenish, Pierce, Paynter, Edgecumbe, the Bayly brothers, Goodall, and several others, had made a good show, for they worked early and late. Southward of the town, Captain King and Mr. Cutfield had cleared between them about seventy acres, and built a substantial house and farm buildings. Mr. Norice had built a thatched house, and had cleared about three acres of land. Mr. Chilman had partly cleared and fenced a fifty acre section; and Mr. Distin had a house and clearing close to him. Across the Waiwakaiho,” continues the writer quoted, “Captain Davy and myself are clearing and putting in crops; and, added to all these clearings, we page 18 have nearly forty acres of garden ground this year, and have established a horticultural society.”

The first hostelry in New Plymouth was a raupo whare, built on the site of what was (in 1905) Tisch's Terminus Hotel, at the top of Queen Street, near the beach. It was designated the “Seven Stars Inn,” a favourite old Devonshire sign, and in November, 1842, on the walls of this building, a transfer of the license from “John Wilkinson to William George, the younger,” and signed “Henry King, Resident Magistrate,” was posted up. The settlement was then not very large; in fact, the community were more like a family, or perhaps it would be better to liken the relationship to passengers on board a ship, all familiar, and inclined to be sociable with each other. Mr. George afterwards built a more pretentious building on the site the Bank of New Zealand now occupies, and he transferred the license from the whare in Queen Street to his new building, for which, however, he retained the name of “The Seven Stars.”

The first anniversary of the arrival of the settlers by the “Amelia Thompson” was celebrated on Saturday, the 3rd of September, 1842, when the day was observed as a public holiday. Sports were improvised, and the day was spent in boat races, foot races, and wrestling matches. In the evening, the first ball ever held in New Plymouth took place in a small imported building which stood near the beach close to the Kawhau pa, and was used as a hospital when required. The hill on which the pa stood has since been levelled, and the land on the beach reclaimed. The day's festivities in connection with the celebration of the anniversary
Stratford In 1885.

Stratford In 1885.

concluded with a display of fireworks, which astonished as well as amused the Maoris.

Although all the settlers were not perfectly satisfied with their position, most of them, finding they could not better things by growling, and making themselves miserable, set to work to make themselves as comfortable as they could, and in a short time the settlement presented a thriving look. The people, as stated, were chiefly from Devonshire and Cornwall, and though unsophisticated in their habits, they formed the nucleus of a hard-working and industrious community. Their occupation was a purely rural one; and early and late they were to be seen at work, either fencing or digging, or with their ploughs turning up the rich soil that filled their hearts with gladness; and, with a genial atmosphere to live in, and on both sides of them broad expanses extending to the seashore from the slopes of the imposing Mount Egmont, with numerous streams and rivers intersecting the land, supplying the new-comers with the purest water, they were the happiest of mortals. Bright, indeed, seemed the prospects of the settlers after the first year's sojourn in “The Garden of New Zealand,” and many at that time expressed themselves as being truly thankful that their “lines had fallen in pleasant places.” But, unhappily, these bright prospects were soon to be marred by the difficulties which had already begun to arise over the ownership of the soil, which was claimed in part by the dispossessed and exiled Ngatiawas, as well as by their powerful and ferocious conquerors, the Waikatos. Moreover, it must be admitted page 19 that the management of the little colony by the Plymouth Company left a great deal to be desired, as witness the following extract from Mr. Chilman's diary, dated the 11th of December, 1841. “All the circumstances seem adverse to us, and this settlement, which ought to be one of the most flourishing in New Zealand, threatens, through the shameful land jobbery (to characterise it by the mildest terms) in England by the Plymouth Company, to be abandoned at no distant date. When we consider that we might have had the very place chosen by the Nelson settlement where there are three ships now safely landing their cargo, it is enough to disgust us entirely with the whole affair. With regard to the Plymouth Company, it was openly stated during the selection of the town sites that a large sum of money remitted for purchase of some of those sections was returned to Halifax with the answer that they were all disposed of. Judge then, of our astonishment to find that when the “Amelia Thompson” left England the Company was holder of upwards of a thousand town lots, which with 200 for the natives, and 600 held by absentees, reduces the number held by actual colonists to less than 400 sections. These circumstances justify anybody in stigmatising the Company as being engaged in land sharking transactions, which will entail a heavy loss, perhaps ruin, upon all who have bought land.”

The interests of the settlers were at this time in the hands of Mr. F. Carrington, the Company's chief surveyor, and Mr. Wicksteed, the resident agent, who had been sent out to take the place of Captain Liardet. Mr. Wicksteed in his younger days was connected with the London “Spectator,” under Mr. Rintoul's editorship, and when in that position he became acquainted with Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, and Sir William Molesworth. The New Zealand Company, in order to get the support of the Church party in England, not only offered to devote a portion of its funds to the building of churches in the colony, but also agreed to set aside two thousand acres of land—on condition that the Church Society would purchase an equal area—towards the endowment of a bishopric in New Zealand. For the purpose of administering this land, Mr. Wicksteed, as agent for the Church Society, came to New Zealand, and arrived in Wellington by the ship “London,” on the 12th of December, 1840. An energetic man of business was much needed in the New Plymouth settlement, for the changes which had taken place in the office of agent, and Captain Liardet's accident, which had prevented him from attending to his duties, had left the Company's affairs in New Plymouth in a very unsatisfactory condition. Mr. Wicksteed was a fluent writer, and from his monthly report to the principal agent, a history of the next six years of the settlement has been preserved.