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.
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.
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.