Month: September 2019

The Wanganui Town Bridge Cog

This is one of the larger items in the Museum’s collection – a large cog which was attached to the first Wanganui Town Bridge. Measuring 110 cm across the base and 180 cm high, it is part of the turning mechanism that allowed a section of the bridge to swing open and let ships through.

1. Wanganui Town Bridge cog

The cast iron cog – part of the turning mechanism for the Whanganui Town Bridge. WRM Ref: TH.1252.

A swing span was a common feature of early bridges in New Zealand when shipping was still the best form of transportation of goods and people. Once the span opened, the ships would sail up to the sheltered basin near Shakespeare Bluff to discharge cargo.

Although not built until 1871, the structure had been in development since 1857 when a petition requesting a bridge was submitted to the Provincial Superintendent.  The first pile was driven into the riverbed in 1859, but the project met continuous halts due to failed contracts and arguments over the location.

The turbulence of the 1860s also halted work on the bridge, with fraught land purchases and the resulting wars causing tension and bringing threats to the area.  Despite not having a permanent bridge, Whanganui was a prime transport location and became a major military site during this time.

As the region began to calm and peace was resuming, the bridge project was raised again. A plan by Mr Henry McNeil was accepted at a cost of £30,000 (around four million dollars in 2019). The bridge was formally opened by Governor Sir George Ferguson Bowen on 28 November 1871.

Tolls were introduced to help pay for the bridge: A penny for pedestrians, sixpence for horseback riders, nine pence for two-wheeled carriages with springs and a shilling for those without, and two shillings for four-wheeled carriages. Stock were charged by the head. The first toll was paid by pedestrian Mr George Ross. Mr Tom Jones was the first to cross on horseback, riding backwards for the occasion.

Prior to construction, all people, stock and goods were transferred across the river by small boats or by pulley bridges, but a permanent bridge made access much easier. After it opened, the bridge became the main link between the coast and the hinterland, and the port boomed with the increased ease of access to trade routes.

2. Bridge with open span

Whanganui Town Bridge with the swing span opened to allow a ship through. WRM Ref: 1967.8

Coaches had already made their way north but the bridge helped to open up transport routes to Whangaehu, Turakina, Marton, Bulls and Palmerston North.  These routes from town to town spurred the development of rural roads, and more farms became established. A significant proportion of the Whanganui economy came from this fertile farming hinterland.

Whanganui became New Zealand’s second most important town and port. The European population advanced at a great rate and by 1886 was around 15,000. At the same time, the Māori population was 1,770, having halved within 15 years.

As technology developed, gas and water pipes and telephone lines were fitted to the bridge but these proved to be cumbersome as they had to be disconnected every time the span opened, resulting in a half hour delay for those waiting to cross. The span last opened in 1902 when the SS Huia passed through carrying materials to fix the Aramoho Rail Bridge which had opened in 1877. In 1914 the span on the Town Bridge was closed up permanently, meaning it was no longer a swinging structure. It was finally demolished in 1969.

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Reverend Richard Taylor

In June 1840, not long after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in Whanganui, a Mission Station was built next to Pūtiki marae and many of the leaders converted to Christianity. After Reverend John Mason drowned in the Turakina River, Reverend Taylor and his family were called to take over the position, arriving at Pūtiki on 1 May 1843.

P-Q-006

A photograph of Reverend Richard Taylor in his later years. WRM Ref: P-Q-006.

Taylor came from Yorkshire, England. He earned his BA at Queen’s College in Cambridge before being ordained as a Minister on 8 November 1829. He was then appointed as a missionary to New Zealand by the Church Missionary Society after gaining his MA in 1835. After a three year stint working in New South Wales, he worked in the Bay of Islands before being stationed in Whanganui. Taylor’s role was as evangelist, travelling the area from Taupō to Rangitīkei. He was also a peace keeper, defusing tensions within and between European and Māori.

At one point Taylor was baptising more converts than any other missionary in the country. He regularly travelled his parish to make sure he kept in contact and maintained an influence, leaving his wife and family at home to run the Mission Station and cater for visitors. He and Bishop Selwyn oversaw the building of several churches. He was also responsible for some of the place names along the Whanganui River, including Ātene/Athens, Koroniti/Corinth, Hiruhārama/Jerusalem, and Rānana/London.

He was greatly respected among local Māori. In the early 1840s he was presented with an intricately carved chair by the Māori of Pūtiki in recognition of the work he did with them and as a token of their respect for him. Whereas many Māori were appreciative of Taylor’s efforts, European Settlers were ambivalent towards his pastoral work, preferring to attend the horse races on Christmas Day rather than the church services that Taylor offered.

From the 1850s Taylor’s religious influence began to wane as his role in civil matters increased. He continued negotiating the peace but was not always successful. He attempted to prevent war in Taranaki in the 1860s and was torn when Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui and Pūtiki Māori fought on the Government side, unable to condemn them but upset by the devastating effects of war.

Taylor often represented Whanganui in government matters. He was a close friend and confidant of Governor Grey and helped make the decision to call a military presence to the town in 1845. He was involved with land negotiations and the final Whanganui land settlement agreement, and helped to establish several schools and the local hospital.

 

2001.57

View From the Cave in Hill overlooking Putiki-waranui [sic]-a-tamatea-pokai-whenua. A pen and wash painting by Cranleigh Barton after a work by his great-grandfather Rev. Richard Taylor. WRM Ref: 2001.57.

Alongside this Taylor also maintained a serious interest in the natural world. He discovered a new species of plant, Dactylanthus taylori, or the wood rose. He also sent moa bones to Richard Owen, who ultimately recognised and named the species of bird new to science. He sent samples of New Zealand native plants to Joseph Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew at the time. And he found the time to write and illustrate several books on natural, social and religious themes.

Reverend Taylor passed on his mission work to his son Basil, who joined him in his pastoral work in 1860 but continued his civil work. Taylor died on 10 October 1873, but is still fondly remembered and respected today.

Leg Shackles

This set of leg shackles illustrate a fraught time in Whanganui. They consist of two ankle clasps joined by four links to a central ring, which has a further set of links to which a weight or bolt could be attached. These shackles come from the Rutland Stockade and are known to have been used on prisoners of the Pai Mārire Movement.

1. Shackles

The leg shackles from the Rutland Stockade, known to be used on Māori prisoners. WRM Ref: 1800.262

The 1840s was a fraught time for Whanganui with tensions high over land sales and concerns for Māori rights as kaitiaki of the river. In 1846, fighting broke out in the Hutt Valley and Whanganui Europeans feared similar resistance and unrest. This was heightened when upriver leader Tōpine Te Mamaku and 200 toa (warriors) joined the resistance in the Hutt Valley, leading an attack on Boulcott’s Farm and calling on other Whanganui River Māori to follow him. Te Mamaku returned to Whanganui and assured the European settlers that he would protect the town, as long it remained free of soldiers.

By mid-December 1846, however, the 58th Rutlandshire Regiment had garrisoned the town. The 58th completed building the Rutland Stockade by April 1847. It cost £3,500 and was thought to be the largest stockade in the country at the time, measuring 55 x 30 metres. As well as being a home base for the soldiers, the stockade was also a military prison, housing detainees from battles in the region.

2. Rutland Stockade

The Rutland Stockade, overlooking Atkinson’s Hotel on the left and the Court House on the right. WRM Ref: B-ST-01D

In 1847, an incident occurred in which a young Māori man was shot in the face by a midshipman from the HMS Calliope, although sources differ on whether the incident was deliberate or accidental. The man was treated by a military surgeon and later recovered, but the injury drew utu (retaliation) when the Gilfillan family of Matarawa was attacked by a group of young Māori men and four family members were killed. Five of the six attackers were captured and court-martialled, with four of the men being hung and one being banished due to his age – he was only 14.

After this, many of the European settlers in the rural areas fled to the town and the stockade and a number of women and children were evacuated. Te Mamaku and 300 of his men attacked and blocked the town for two and a half months, with many rural settler homes being burned and stock plundered.

The 65th Regiment arrived in May 1847 to help reinforce the town, resulting in nearly 800 soldiers being stationed to protect fewer than 200 settlers. More skirmishes and minor battles followed and a second stockade, the York, was built by July of that year.

The tensions came to a head on 19 July 1847 with the battle of St Johns Wood. Even though this had an indecisive outcome, Te Mamaku and his men returned to their upriver home a few days later and a tentative peace was restored. The military presence would remain for nearly two decades.

In May 1848, eight years after the initial negotiations began, the Government repurchased the block of land at Whanganui, paying £1,000 for 34,911 hectares, of which 2,200 hectares were reserved for Māori.