Petre

Go-Ashore

 

This distinctive vessel is known as a “go-ashore” pot. The round shape and handles made it the ideal pot for cooking over an open fire, and were handy for sailors when going ashore for supplies.  These pots were often traded in exchange for timber or provisions and were offered as part of larger purchases. This particular pot is believed to have been part of the initial purchase of Whanganui.

1. Go-Ashore Pot

The “go-ashore” pot included with the payment for The New Zealand Company’s purchase of land to settle the town of Petre, later Whanganui. WRM Ref: TH.3527

The New Zealand Company was formed in London in 1825 with the express purpose of systematically colonizing New Zealand. Edward Gibbon Wakefield joined the project and envisioned a new-model English Society in the Southern Hemisphere. He planned to purchase land from indigenous populations at a low cost and sell it on to speculators and gentlemen settlers at higher rates. The buyers would in turn hire immigrant paupers and labourers who would break the land in and cater to their needs while saving up enough money to purchase their own piece of paradise after several years’ work.

After the turbulent settlement of Wellington in 1840, the New Zealand Company searched for more land to house the prospective settlers who had already purchased farms and homes. In November 1840, Edward Wakefield (son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield) began negotiations for the sale of 40,000 acres of land on the lower reaches of the Whanganui River from 27 local Māori chiefs. He named the site after Lord Petre (pronounced Peter), one of the directors of the New Zealand Company.

The purchase of the land was disorganised, unethical, and haphazard. Māori were paid in goods, including muskets, umbrellas, Jew’s harps and cooking pots, possibly including the one shown here. These goods, the purchase price of the land for Petre, reached a value of £700, the equivalent of less than $100,000 today.

2. Petre plan

A plan of the town of Petre, late Whanganui; commissioned by The New Zealand Company in 1842. WRM Ref: 1971.70.1

European settlers began to move in from February 1841, before the sale was completed in May. Many Māori were angered by the inundation of strangers and their demand for more land. Some Māori saw the settlement as “their town” while others were concerned that European settlement on the river might challenge those who held mana (traditional authority) over it. Others did not acknowledge any agreement had been made.

An enquiry was held to look into the purchase, and in 1844, Land Commissioner William Spain ruled against the New Zealand Company. He found the settlers had purchased land through the Company in good faith, but the Company’s dealings with Māori were far from satisfactory.

Rather than return the land, he ordered the New Zealand Company to pay monetary compensation to the Māori, but allowed the Company to establish the value themselves. Some chiefs refused to sell their portion of land regardless of what compensation was offered, but when Spain’s offers were refused, he stated that would not prevent the land from going to the settlers.

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The Governor Grey

A new schooner, called the Governor Grey, has been built at Wanganui, and is intended for coasting. [New Zealander 20 March 1847]

The Governor Grey was built for Merchant Mariners Taylor and Watt of Petre (the official name of the town of Whanganui at the time) by a Mr Walker and launched on 4 January 1847. The Reverend Richard Taylor recorded in his journal of the day, “The new vessel was launched. It is about 30 tons and was first named the Harvest Home but as everybody laughed at the name the owners substituted that of Governor Grey.” The launch was reported to be attended by most of the citizens of the town of Whanganui who cheered her into the water. Apparently, these worthy citizens had requested the name change, and thus she was christened in honour of the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, who had been appointed to his post in 1845.

2. Taylor & Watt premises on Taupo Quay

Taylor & Watt premises on Taupo Quay.  Photograph thought to be by WJ Harding, 1860s.  Ref: W/S/TW/18

Thomas Ballardie Taylor and William Hogg Watt had arrived in Whanganui in 1841 and begun trading immediately. They built a store on the beach (now Taupō Quay) and then a jetty for their ships. The company built up a significant business in Whanganui, often acting as “bankers” to settlers all along the coast.

The new schooner replaced the Catherine Johnstone, known locally and affectionately as the Kitty J, a single masted cutter of only 10 tons, built in 1841. The cutter had traded between Taranaki, Wellington and Nelson, and occasionally Sydney, until the Taylor and Watt cargoes grew too big for her holds to carry. After the launch of the Governor Grey, Captain Taylor took on command at sea while Watt ran the business ashore. Business increased and the small vessel had plenty of profitable voyages.

Rigged with two masts and about 30 tons in weight, the Governor Grey was only 44 feet long and a mere 12 feet wide. Never-the-less, she managed to transport her fair share of goods and passengers between Whanganui and Wellington, sometimes venturing further to Nelson. In a November 1854 issue of New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, a report records her carrying “1010 feet timber, 220 bags potatoes, 18 kits maize, 1 beer engine, 1 bundle bedding, 10 barrels 3 cases bottles.”  She was also advertised as a regular packet, to sail between Whanganui and Wellington once a month, with “superior accommodations for a few Passengers”.

1. Watercolour of Governor Grey

Watercolour painting of The Governor Grey.  Artist Charles Heaphy, late 1840s.  Ref: 1910.2.1

Artist and draftsman Charles Heaphy painted the Governor Grey in watercolours in the late 1840s. In the painting, the schooner is at sea, with Mana Island immediately behind her. It is probably an exact rendition of her rig. Three small figures can just be made out, two aft and one fore.

The Governor Grey was wrecked on the Whanganui River bar in a gale in November 1854. While much of her cargo was recovered, the heavy swell prevented the schooner from being saved and she was completely wrecked.

 

Libby Sharpe is Senior Curator at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Free Post

Every now and then we uncover a  hidden gem in the collection.  A bit of philatelic sleuthing has recently lead us to incover a fascinating story behind a rather ordinary envelope.

The official On Her Majesty’s Service envelope is addressed to Major Durie of the Wanganui Militia.  It bears the stamp “FREE WANGANUI” and is the only one of its kind found to date.

1802.3832

The British Post Office initially provided the town with the date stamp bearing the name PETRE, and even after it was officially changed to WANGANUI in 1854, due to budgetary constraints it took another eight years for the new stamps to be issued and used. This envelope is dated 1862, the year the new stamps came into effect, and is a unique example of a free-post stamp being issued to a second class post office.

There we have it – one of a kind, in Whanganui!