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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


Petone Pen Pictures 1840–1881


Modern progress with its skyline of factory roofs makes it difficult to visualise the Petone of 1840, but let us imagine ourselves one of those pioneer families landing on a shore so entirely different from the English country-side or the crowded streets of London.
We would see in the foreground the long stretch of sandy shore from the Koro Koro stream to the Heretaunga (Hutt) river; immediately behind the beach, low sand dunes, then a stretch of flat sandy soil reaching back for its greater length beyond the line of what is now Jackson Street. On this flat stretch of land would be growing groups of glossy-leaved Karaka trees laden with yellow berries and beneath these trees, rooting for the berries, a few wandering pigs. There would also be found toi toi bushes waving their graceful heads in the breeze and, perchance, we would
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A Settler's House, Pito-one Flat, near the Korokoro stream and mill, and near the scene of the boat accident of 1840
(Sketch by William Swainson, Esq., F.R.S.)
(By courtesy Mr. J. W. Marshall)

hear the notes of the tui and see it clinging to the tall flowers of the flax bushes from which it sought its meal of honey. As we top the sand dunes we would see the pukekos, in their blue coats flirting their white tails on the edge of a lagoon which occupied an area southwest of the present site of the Gear Meat Company. Then we would hear the cry of "Haeraemai! Haeraemai!" coming from the west of what is now Te Puni Street and would see the palisaded sides of Pito-one pa, and emerging therefrom, the inhabitants numbering then upwards of 150 Maoris.
Pito-one (the end of the sandy beach) like most Maori place- names, was well-named, for it was really the end of the long sandy beach which stretches from Pencarrow till it joins the rocky headlands of the west of Port Nicholson.
The children of our emigrant party shrink close to their parents' side as they hear the vociferous welcome, and look on the red ochred carved heads which adorn the high parts of the pa palisade, but they are soon reassured and speedily learn to treat these dark-skinned people as their best friends.
Turning east, we find another pa situated about the site of the present rubbish tip and we are told that this river-mouth pa is Hikoikoi. Standing in this pa and looking across the mouth of the Heretaunga, we see yet another pa—Ohiti—near the site of the present Maori cemetery close to the mouth of the Waiwhetu stream.
Turning north again, about a quarter of a mile from the beach, we come to a gravel ridge reaching across Pito-one from east to west. We do not need to be told that we are standing on the old shore line and, against this bank of shingle, the storms of many a southerly gale have driven the waters of Whanganui-a-tara (Port Nicholson).
On this convenient bank of dry shingle, the first farm houses of Petone were built. Northward of this ridge the nature of the soil changes. Here we have an alluvial soil upon which were afterwards produced the first cattle to fill the ever hungry maw of the Gear Meat Company's works. At this early stage, it is in parts swampy, and was for many years liable to be flooded from the overflow of the Heretaunga and the many creeks which flowed from the western hills. Still travelling north, we come to a wide creek which the early settlers named after one of their number, Mr. Moreing. Since that far-off day, the name, with the usage of time, has become Moran and as Moran's creek it was known until it was culverted some years ago. Crossing the creek we find first a few scattered trees and then see, beyond what is now White's Line, the beginnings of the dense forest which stretched right though to the head of the valley. So much for the flat land. On either side of the valley the hills were clothed with dense forest in which native pigeons, kakas, tuis and huias abounded. On the Koro Koro hills however, some clearing had
been done and here the Maori women might have been seen attending their kumera patches while nearby the pigs rooted among the fern.
From every break in the western hills there flowed a placid stream. Of the largest, the Koro Koro (The Throat), we have already spoken; it flowed into the harbour much as it does to-day; the next has been known by many names, one of the most familiar was Edmonds' creek because it supplied Edmonds' brewery, a building still standing just north of the present railway station; also as Cemetery creek because it passed by the Roman Catholic cemetery. Before any buildings were erected and even for years after, this creek flowed across the Hutt Road in an easterly direction and then turning south, entered the harbour near where the Gear Meat Works now stands.
Further up the valley, we have the stream which since early days, has retained the name of Percy's creek which flowed east and joined Moreing's creek, ending in the Hutt river.
Such was the topography of what we now call Petone; the only inhabitants being the Maoris in the two pas—Pito-one and Hikoikoi at either end of the beach.
A good deal of confusion has arisen through forgetfulness of the fact that the original Pito-one pa from which the larger district got its name, occupied a very small corner between the Koro Koro stream and the stream which flowed into the harbour near the Gear Meat works.

Mr. E. Maidment's Impressions.

The following graphic description of Petone in 1872 was given by Mr. E. Maidment of 23 Elizabeth Street, in an interview in 1935. Mr. Maidment, still resides at the above address.
In 1872, the Maidment family removed to Petone. There were only thirteen families there then. Coming into Petone the families were as follows:—King, in front of the old workshops site; Sellars, opposite the present site of Sharpe's store, near the Workingmen's Club; T. Riddler (still on the same site); Collett, (back of Mr. A. Coles's house off the Hutt Road); Bassett, off the Hutt Road; Percy, near the Petone end of where the Hutt Road ramp now stands; Maidment, on the present site of the monumental mason's on the Hutt Road; Saywood, on the present corner of Udy Street and the Hutt Road; Scholes, where Campbell Terrace now stands; Jackson, in the same vicinity as Scholes; William Buick, on the present corner of Kensington Avenue and Huia Street; Buick, senior, on the present corner of Cuba and Emerson Streets; Dave Buick, behind his father's house; Mudgway, near where Tennyson Street now stands.
In those days, the only road of any consequence was the Hutt Road. It was 10 to 15 feet wide in some places, and 20 to 30 feet in others. There was barely room in some parts of the road for two carts to pass. The road was full of holes. When metal was put on the road it was frequently crushed into the holes by the wagons. Motor-cars would have been unable to travel on it, had there been such vehicles in those days. A coach driven by Mr. Harry Death, used to go to Wellington from Taita in the morning, and be driven back at night, and Presser's coach went to Taita in the morning, returning at night.
Petone in those days was divided up into 100-acre sections. White's Line, the boundary of these sections up the Valley, used to be a swamp in winter, making access to them almost impossible, but it was fairly dry in summer. There was little grazing ground in Petone of much value. Over the paddocks there grew rushes, flax, and toi toi. Not a great deal of farming was done that provided a good return to the owner. Mr. Buick, who was believed to have paid £1 an acre for his land, grazed a few sheep and other property owners had cattle, but the land was so poor that it took about two acres to keep a cow. Streams ran down from the hills, and at times covered Petone, down as far as the present site of Jackson Street, with water. On the present site of the tobacco factory of Messrs. W. D. and H. O. Wills, there would be about four feet of water all winter. During one or two large floods, the whole of Petone was covered, with the exception of some of the raised portions of ground.
In the Lower Hutt, near the present site of Hume Street, there was what was known as "the duck pond," there being some hundreds of ducks there.
In the early days of Petone, there were more Maoris than whites. On the present site of the Petone West School, there was a big Maori pa, containing six or seven families. Between the present sites of the railway crossing and Odlin's, was the Te Puni ground, containing many whares. Mr. Maidment can remember having seen as many as 20 Maori canoes drawn up on the beach, these canoes being used for fishing purposes. The big pas, however, were at Naenae, Waiwhetu, and Taita. The white boys used to play marbles with the Maori boys, who had a smattering of English and would talk nothing else. Mr. Maidment says he suspected that the elderly Maoris directed the children to play with and talk to the white children so that their English would be improved and the conversational powers of their elders be indirectly affected.
Where Queen Street now stands was the site of the first Petone township. It was a favourite practice of the children to go down there and hunt for coins. In the early days, the vicinity of where Campbell Terrace is now situated, was raised land, with the consequence that it was a favourite spot for building.
The Hutt Road was the first street in Petone, and after it, White's Line was formed. The first subdivision was carried out about 1880 on the property that was originally held by Mr. Sellars. The land concerned, stretched between the present sites of the Petone West School and Sydney Street. The sections were 50 or 40 by 100 feet, and in Nelson, Richmond and Fitzherbert Streets, sections could be bought for about £10 each. Other holdings were cut up between 1880 and 1890. The sections sold very slowly. Because of the swampy nature of the ground, those who bought the sections often had to fill them in, or level them off as the case may be, some of the sections having sandhills on them.
It is only during the last forty years that Petone has begun to go ahead, states Mr. Maidment. Although he has lived in various parts of the Hutt Valley, he has resided in Petone uninterruptedly for the last forty years. Mr. Maidment leased 35 acres of land and a house in Petone between 1902 and 1912 for £80 a year, but by the time he left it the rates were about £80 a year. It was never very profitable to buy land in Petone as a speculation, says Mr. Maidment, for the rates soon ate up any profit there was in the transaction.
He worked on the formation of a number of streets in Petone, and was also engaged in levelling the track for the first railway- line to run through the Hutt Valley.
Asked what families who were in Petone when he first went there were still represented, Mr. Maidment answered that the only old residents of the very early days were Mr. Tom Riddler, Mrs. G. London, Mr. Arthur Percy, Mrs. Martha Englert (formerly a Miss King), Mrs. Jack Cotton and Mrs. Rodger (the Esplanade), the two last-named ladies having been members of the King family, as was Mrs. London.
What was the equivalent of Jackson Street in the early clays, ran down from the Hutt Road past where the Oddfellows' Hall is now situated, but could not be carried further because of Maori land. When the various owners started to cut up their property, they put the streets where it was best suited to their particular sections, so that was how Jackson Street was made crooked from the start. The street was formed in parts. For instance, for about twelve years it did not go past where the Central School is now situated, and there was a boundary fence across the road. When Jackson Street was extended from the Gear Company's premises to the Hutt Road, the direction was decided by what the Maori owners of the land would allow.
Asked as to the early shopping facilities in Petone, Mr. Maidment stated that when he first came to the district the residents used to go to Lower Hutt, where there were three shops, or to Wellington. The first shop in Petone was that of Mr. Ray Johnson, on the Hutt Road, it being the post office and "Evening
Post "agency, besides a general store. The next shop was on the present site of Webley's on the corner of Nelson and Jackson Streets. In 1880, a man named Moss had a general store there. The next shop to be erected was on the corner of Jackson and Sydney Streets, and was that of Mr. Dave Wilkie, who had a general store. On the other corner a man named Mayo had a grocer's shop. The early shops were general stores.
Jackson Street did not exist when Mr. Maidment first came to Petone; where it now stands there was only swamp, water, flax and toi toi.
There were also in the early days no churches in Petone, and the Petone residents used to go to Lower Hutt for Divine worship.

Recollections of Mr. H. Kirk.

We came to Petone in 1881, and before that, there was no kind of Town government as far as I know. A Town Board was formed, and our dad was its first Chairman. He continued as a member of the Board, and, as far as I remember, its chairman, until Petone was made a Borough. As our dad was a Civil Servant, he was not eligible for a position on the Borough Council, and so he just dropped out of the running.
When we came to Petone, there were very few houses. Some of those I can remember were Pierard's, right opposite our place in Britannia Street; Scholes's in Richmond Street; Truman's boot shop at the corner of Jackson and Nelson Streets; Tetley's on the south side of Jackson Street, between Nelson and Richmond Streets; Calvert's in Richmond Street; Robert Brown in Nelson Street north; Peter Smith in Victoria Street; John Manning (Gentleman) in Petone Avenue; Samuel R. Johnson on Hutt Road; Ashcroft's near the old Petone Railway Workshops; Miller's in the Workshops' yard; Cheeseman's place up against the hill just north of the hotel, now called the Grand National. The Te Puni family had several houses, the largest of which was on the left side of the Hutt Road, near where Odlin's timber yard now ft. The Edmonds family lived near their brewery on the Hutt Road, just north of where the present Petone Railway Station is. There were other houses, but the details have escaped my memory. As far as I can remember, the original Hart Udy, who arrived in New Zealand in 1840, was also a member of the Petone Town Board. He lived in Victoria Street, on the right hand side as you go toward the beach, and somewhere near the street that goes through to Fitzherbert Street, the name of which is, as far as I can remember, Regent Street. The only places of
business in Petone when we went there were these:—S. R. Johnson, Grocer and general store, Hutt Road; H. Truman, Bootmaker, Nelson and Jackson Streets' corner; Robert Brown's rope walk, along that lane runs north-ward from Jackson Street, between Nelson and Richmond Streets; and Edmonds's brewery, Hutt Road.
We lived in Britannia Street, on the ridge that runs east and west through the town. In those days, the Hutt River used to back up and flood the part of Petone north of the ridge, but our place was above the level of the highest flood. Owing to our elevation, we had a good view round about, and houses were so few that we could see the railway station, small as it was. We had an almost uninterrupted view of the sea, and when there was a water-spout in the heads, or a school of bottle-nose whales in the harbour, we could see them.
When the Maoris from the South Island visited the Te Punis, they usually walked round the few then existing streets, causing a mild thrill for the residents. Other houses I think of now are Jackson's, Morriss's and Silva's in Nelson Street. Mr. Jackson is the man after whom Jackson Street was called. He was a member of the Petone Town Board. So was Mr. Edmund Battersby, who lived in Nelson Street just near Campbell Terrace.
Jackson Street extended from Britannia Street to Victoria Street. When we went to the railway station, we had to either go round Petone Avenue to the Hutt Road, or across the two paddocks of the Gear Company. By the way, the Gear works, only a very small affair then, were another item of the business places of Petone. Also the Wollands had a flour mill on the Koro Koro stream.
The railway station was near the Hutt Road crossing, and quite near Cheeseman's house. As far as I can remember, it was only a flag station.
Lower Hutt was a long way from Petone in those days, and was more of a town than was Petone. I'm sure I can't tell you how we got our letters in those days. Probably Mr. S. R. Johnson was the postmaster. He was an important man in those days, and a member of the Petone Town Board. I think he was Petone's first Mayor.
It's only when one collects together the items descriptive of the town as we knew it at first, that one realises the great progress that Petone has made.

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