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.
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.
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.