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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2, May 1957

Centennial Preparations

page 2

Centennial Preparations

I have come before you to tell you some of those things which were done by the Early Settlers Memorial Association set up in 1936 by the Nelson Rotary Club, for the purpose of preparing for the Centenary of Nelson on the 1st February, 1942.

A large committee was established for the purpose of covering all phases of the centenary.

1.To collect funds for a memorial. It was decided by the public of Nelson at meetings, and by the City Council, that the area of land comprising the Church Hill be re-organised and modernised and that on the Cawthron Steps be built a memorial feature, and the whole Hill to be dedicated to the memory of Nelson's first settlers. The Memorial Plaque was cut from marble by Mr William Trethewey, and the dais was also planned and built by him. The public of Nelson raised a substantial sum of money—I believe it was in the vicinity of £1900—which, together with the Government subsidy, enabled many stone walls to be built about the Hill, thus disposing of clay banks, and putting gardens behind the stone walls. It can be claimed fairly that the re-organising of this Hill created a beautiful memorial which is very much appreciated by the residents of the Nelson district.
2.A select committee was established to endeavour to collect names of of all those persons who arrived in Nelson in the first ten years. There is a card index of these names, which is fairly complete, stored in the strongroom at Nelson Breweries Ltd.
3.Another small committee was set up to secure photographs of as many of the first settlers as possible. It must be remembered that photography was not available until after 1855, hence many of the photographs of the first settlers are photographs of oils or drawings. There are some 200/300 of these photographs, all standard size roughly 6in × 4in, in a filing cabinet, again stored in Nelson Breweries strongroom.
4.An attempt was made to secure interesting family history and biographical notes concerning first settlers and while much endeavour was made in this regard little authentic information was collected. It was found that the memory of old people was not reliable. As the result of this investigation there are two or three family histories filed with the other records in the Nelson Breweries strongroom.
5.The Nelson Rotary Club has a sum of money, which I believe to be in the vicinity of £16, in trust, for the use of a similar organisation, which must be approved by the Nelson Rotary Club. The Early Settlers Memorial Association had planned to have a full scale dress rehearsal of the several salient features of the first settlers, namely:—
1.Kaiteriteri—Captain Arthur Wakefield, his surveyors and workmen.
2.Arrival in Nelson Harbour of Wakefield, his surveyors and workmen in the ships "Whitby," "Will Watch" and the brig, "Arrow." For the 1st February a large demonstration of the "Fifeshire" with the families of the surveyors and workmen and the first immigrants was planned.

Other minor celebrations were planned such as the flying of the British flag on Britannia Heights, commemorating the day on which William Songer flew the first flag.

War intervened and the Early Settlers Memorial Association members were requested by the Government to devote their energies to the raising of war funds and funds for patriotic purposes. This they did with some success.

Large scale plans for the celebration of Nelson's Centenary were put on one side, but all the items mentioned received recognition in token form, particularly the arrival at Kai-page 3teriteri of Wakefield, also his arrival at Wakefield Quay and the flying of the flag by Songer.

The next phase which I would like to discuss is the matter of Memorial Plaques to those early people who did so much for Nelson, and who were prominent in founding our first settlement.

I would refer firstly to the Abel Tasman Memorial erected above Ligar Bay in the Golden Bay area. It was first mooted that this concrete plinth with marble table should be erected on the Boulder Bank, but representation was made to Sir Joseph Heenan, then secretary of Internal Affairs, to put the memorial in close proximity to the spot where Tasman made his first contact with the natives. I believe the spot to be Wharewharangi Bay just inside Golden Bay from Separation Point. Sir Joseph kindly agreed that we should arrange for application to be made by residents of Takaka to have the memorial set up in their locality, and funds were collected. The Government played a very large part in the erection of this memorial and arranged a suitable dedication ceremony. This ceremony was attended by important official representatives of Government, Dutch Government, Local Bodies and others.

The next memorial plaque which I would refer to is that which marks the spot in Kaiteriteri where Wakefield, his surveyors and workmen first landed in the South Island, and where members of the Maori race inquisitively met them. This memorial takes the form of a drinking fountain in which water is collected for use by picnickers and has a suitable memorial tablet. The outstanding feature at the dedication of this memorial was the excellent speech by Mrs H. D. Bennett. She first made an oration in Maori and later gave the English interpretation. It is the finest speech I have ever heard made by a woman.

The next memorial plaque in order is that marking the spot where Wakefield first came ashore at the junction of Wakefield Quay and Rocks Road. This is a plain marble stone which states "Here Landed Captain Arthur Wakefield."

The third memorial plaque was erected by the settlers at Riwaka and is at the top of the rise of the road leading to Kaiteriteri Beach, where overlooking the Riwaka harbour is a Cairn built of local stone, in which is set the two flour stones which were the originals used in the grinding of flour in that district. This is a delightful memorial and is dedicated to the first immigrants.

Then on the Church Hill we have a bronze plaque marking the spot where Bishop Selwyn held his first Church of England service.

So far as I am aware these memorial plaques are the only ones in existence, but I believe two others should be established. I feel there should be a plaque dedicated to the memory of Pilot Cross the first man to enter Nelson Harbour, and I would suggest that it should be incorporated in the sea wall at Wakefield Quay adjacent to that dedicated to Wakefield. Then I believe that a prominent memorial to William Songer should mark the spot where the British flag first flew. A tree was planted to mark this site and there was a notice board in wood, which could still be there.

The next subject I would like to discuss briefly is the matter of the preservation of historic buildings.

There is only one building which I know of in the whole district which is original, and I have reason to believe it was built about the year 1855. This is the Methodist Church at Spring Grove. This building is in reasonable preservaton but is infested with borer, and the plaster over the mud on the walls is deteriorating in places and should be repaired. This building should be preserved. It would not be an expensive matter to restore this building so that it would last for many years.

There are few buildings which, in my opinion, are worth preservation. There is the home of H. E. Stephens at Stoke, and there is the mud house opposite the Brightwater Hotel which are two examples of property which should be investigated. Unfortunately modernisation and alterations have destroyed the original value of most old buildings.

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Finally, I would like to state that the factual and readable history of Nelson being prepared by Mrs Ruth Allen is well under way. The script should be ready for consideration by the Nelson City Council within a year. The Nelson City Council undertook to provide the script at which stage consideration must be given to its publication.

I am very satisfied that we will have a very worthwhile history of Nelson.

Mrs Allen has been kind enough to supply me with the facts of early settlement in the Moutere Valley—a portion of our district in which I have been very interested over the years. This is very interesting and readable and I presented it at the Anzac Day Service at Upper Moutere, where it was favourably received by some 40 people attending the service.

I am very pleased to hand the Historical Society a copy of Mrs Allen's writings in this regard.

My speech has covered many phases of work which has been undertaken for the preservation of names associated with early Nelson, and I sincerely hope that it has given those present an appreciation that some work has been done, and will imbue the Nelson Historical Society with the desire to make further progress in implementing the aims and objects of the Society.