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Lower Hutt Past and Present (1941)



The glory of the farmer is that in the division of labours it is his part to create.—Emerson.

The Arrival of the Settlers.

The first of the New Zealand Company's chartered vessels, the "Aurora," 550 tons, from Gravesend, arrived in Port Nicholson on the 22nd January, 1840, bringing 169 settlers. The embarkation registers of this and other early vessels are in the Alexander Turnbull Library at Wellington, and a list of the names of the passengers appears in Louis E. Ward's book "Early Wellington."
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The "Cuba" and "Tory" off the Petone Beach, 8th March, 1840.

(Reproduced from an old print drawn by T. Clay.)
—Courtesy Wellington Harbour Board.
There were nine ships in the harbour at this time, and the scene depicts the firing of the Royal Salute when the New Zealand Company's Flag was hoisted on the shore.
Richard Deighton was the first man, and the Misses Barrows claim to be the first women, to land on the Pito-one beach.
A small jetty had been constructed by the surveyors to facilitate the handling of the cargo, and positions were allotted on the beach for the erection of tents and wooden houses sent out by the Company.
On Sunday, 26th January, the Rev. James Buller, a Wesleyan missionary, held Divine Service on board the "Aurora."
On the 31st January the "Oriental," 506 tons, from London, arrived with 200 colonists, who established themselves on the banks of the Hutt River about a mile from the sea.
The river bank and the beach presented a happy, busy scene as the men and women were engaged in settling into their newly-erected residences, mostly toitoi and raupo whares, built Maori fashion, under instructions from the friendly natives. Te Puni himself had Colonel Wakefield's combined lengthy home and office, a mixture of Maori building and European doors and windows and tarpaulins from the "Tory," erected near his pa under his own personal supervision.
The third vessel, the "Duke of Roxburgh," 417 tons, from Plymouth, with a further 116 passengers, arrived on 8th February, two days after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
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The Village of Britannia Along the Western Bank of the Hutt River in 1840.

(Redrawn from a sketch by E. Betts-Hopper.)
Mr. Molesworth, a passenger on the "Oriental," brought with him people from Cornwall, and they erected their raupo whares on a shingly strip of land close to the banks of the river. They called their settlement "Cornish Row." Kentish men got together near Mr. Duppa, and Scotsmen near to Messrs. Barton and Sinclair.
The first milch cow was depastured on the property of Mr. Dudley Sinclair. Small patches for gardens were cleared in many places, the genial climate encouraging vigorous growth. Ruddy flaxen-haired children were playing about, and the whole scene presented the appearance of a village picnic rather than the birth of a nation.
In the midst of the bustle and confusion caused by the arrival of so many vessels and by attempts to locate friends and belongings, the settlers were
startled by the news that the body of Puakawa, Chief of the Pa at Wai-whetu, had been found dreadfully mutilated, though neither the murderer nor the motive was ever discovered.
The next vessel to arrive was the "Bengal Merchant," from the Clyde. She had 122 Scotch settlers, who disembarked on the 20th February, 1840. Amongst her passengers was the Rev. John McFarlane, a Presbyterian minister, who conducted the first service on the Pito-one beach.

The First Settlement.

Jerningham Wakefield, in his book "Adventure in New Zealand," gives us a clear picture of the conditions which existed at this time. He says that he visited the settlement and found tents and huts dotted over the sand hummocks at the back of the beach. He adds: "At the back of a hut (which was a grog shop) occupied by Coghlan, whither a flag staff and the New Zealand flag invited sailors, a rough and new-made track struck off to the settlement on the river bank across a miry swamp. After about a quarter of a mile of this I reached the junction of a small creek (Moreings) with the Hutt, and soon found myself at the beginning of a little village of tents and huts among the low scrub coppice wood which covered this part of the Valley." It should be noted that at that time the southern boundary of the stately forest of the Valley was approximately at White's Line.
Wakefield continues: "A rough path had been cleared by the survey men along the beach, and on either side of this the colonists had been allowed to squat on allotted portions until survey had been completed."
Reference to the historic plan will clearly show Wakefield's journey, and the illustration redrawn from Betts Hopper's sketch shows these huts which formed the first settlement of Britannia. This was south of White's Line on the western bank of the River Hutt, the main portion of which then flowed on the western side of what is now Gear Island.

Local Government Appears.

The gradual appearance of grog-shops on the beach, and the brawling of the more rowdy elements, made it evident that some governing body must be put into power. The first meeting was held on the 2nd March, 1840, and thus the first Government in New Zealand came into being.
The next vessels, the "Adelaide," of 640 tons, from London, brought 186 passengers, and arrived on the 7th March, 1840. The list of passengers contains the names of many families who settled in the Hutt Valley, and whose descendants still live in the district. This ship, which was accompanied by the "Glenbervie," a store ship, brought out the personnel of a branch of the Union Bank of Australia, together with a well-lined safe. On the following day the flag of the New Zealand Company was hoisted and a grand salute was fired by all ships, of which there were nine, anchored in an extensive line between the beach and Somes Island. The natives shared in the excitement and raced their canoes around the fleet. A picture of this historic scene appears on page 13.

The Site for the City.

Charmed by the expanse of level land, with river and beach sites for shipping facilities, Captain Mein Smith, who arrived in the "Tory," had begun enthusiastically to lay out "Britannia," as the town in the Valley was to be called, and was busily at work when Captain Wakefield returned from his expedition to Taranaki. Wakefield, in his turn, vigorously pushed the claims of the site charted by Captain Chaffers at the southern end of the harbour.
Work was interrupted at the Hutt owing to one of the periodical overflows of the river, and this gave the principals a good opportunity to push the rival claims. It was just when the argument reached the highest pitch that the "Adelaide" arrived, whose passengers backed up the Colonel, as he was
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The Aglionby Arms on the Banks of the Hutt River. 1840.

Brees.—Courtesy Wellington Harbour Board.
This famous Inn stood at the corner of what is now Montague and Mudie Streets.
The entrance to Riddiford's stock yard is shown on the extreme left.
Wakefield Records: "The village of Aglionby contains an excellent Tavern, a small building used as Church and school, blacksmith's forge, several shops, two good farm houses and numerous labourers' cottages."
looked upon as the highest authority, and matters were at a deadlock. Representatives from the "Adelaide" went to Thorndon Flat to look over its advantages as compared with the Hutt.
The change to Thorndon was decided upon, and those who remained settled down to the development of farming lands to feed the city that was to be.
The "Bolton," 540 tons, arrived on the 21st April, 1840, with another 259 settlers.

The Removal to Thorndon.

On the 25th May fire destroyed 14 cottages in Cornish Row. Relief for the unfortunate settlers was immediately forthcoming, but they had hardly settled down for the night when they were further disturbed by a severe earthquake. This caused much consternation, as no one had previously had a similar experience.
At the end of May there was a severe flood, and these events decided those most favourably inclined towards the Hutt as a suitable site for the chief City to move elsewhere. By September many of the settlers had established themselves at Thorndon, and taken the name of Britannia with them, though some had moved further up the western bank of the River, where the villages of Aglionby and Richmond were established.
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The Village of Richmond, Situated on the Banks of the River Hutt

(From a drawing by Robert Park, first surveyor to the New Zealand Company.)
—Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.
This picture was stated to be the first lithograph executed in Wellington in the year 1842. There is no record, however, of a bridge of this description ever having been built or of a church with a tower existing before 1848.
By the end of December the embryo city of the Valley on the banks of the Hutt River was deserted, there being only six families south of White's Line at that time, though there were between sixty and a hundred families north of this point.
On the 30th May all men between the ages of 18 and 60 were required to perform military training with a view to providing an adequate force for the preservation of law and order.
This came to the ears of Lieutenant Shortland at the Bay of Islands, who arrived in Wellington with 30 soldiers to "quell the rebellion."
The "Martha Ridgway," 620 tons, arrived on the 8th July, 1840, with a further 199 passengers.
Early in August the "Coromandel," of 780 tons, from Gravesend, arrived with further passengers. This vessel had called at Sydney on the way out and brought 200 sheep, 20 bullocks, and 4 horses from Australia.
The only means of transport between the settlement in the Hutt Valley and Thorndon Flat was by boat, and on the 25th August, 1840, several persons were drowned in a distressing boat accident off the Pito-one beach.
On the 28th November, 1840, the settlement of Britannia, which had been transferred to Thorndon, was re-named Wellington, after the famous Duke, whose image adorned the prow of the "Tory" as figurehead.
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Wm. Swainson's House At River Hutt, 1843.

—Brees.—By Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.
The Christmas and New Year festivities were carried out in the traditional manner but under summer skies, and on the 22nd January, the anniversary of the day of the arrival of the "Aurora," was celebrated by a race meeting, athletic sports of many kinds, and a ball in the evening.
Thus ended the first year of organised settlement in New Zealand.
The story of the subsequent development of the Hutt Valley, though presented under various headings, is one of overcoming difficulties and dangers which then, as now, bring forth the best in the British race.
"Not once or twice in our rough island story
The path of duty was the way to glory."

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