Tag: George Grey

Howick’s Settlement of Old Soldiers in New Zealand

In 1845, the European population of New Zealand hovered around 6,500. While the 1840s saw the first substantial wave of British migration, the British remained in the minority compared to the nearly 200,000 Maori. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi had established British sovereignty; however, there were not nearly enough British citizens for the country to run in a British way.

Howick Historical Village
Howick Historical Village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising campaigns throughout England promoted New Zealand as a great place to live, and this did bring in a trickle of immigrants. Nonetheless, there was still not a large enough population to maintain an effective police or military presence. With the ever present threat of Maori attack, the New Zealand settlements were desperate for protection.

To that effect, Lt. Governor George Grey turned to England and petitioned the government for soldiers to supplement his small force of 1,100 fighting men. In response, the Lt. Governor received a contingent of 900 soldiers from New South Wales, and an additional 702 “old soldiers”.

These old soldiers, or “Fencibles” as they were called, were retired soldiers in their upper 30s and 40s, living on government pensions. A fleet of eleven ships brought the old soldiers, along with their wives and children, to New Zealand.

In return for their military duties, the soldiers (along with their families) were offered free passage and a fresh start in a new land. They were each paid a regular pension and given a cottage on an acre of land. This land would become fully theirs after serving for a seven year term. Officers were given large homesteads and a full 50 acres of land.

The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymout...
The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymouth and Grey Lynn all derive their name from Sir George Grey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Howick Settlement

The Howick settlement was originally part of a claim established by William Thomas Fairburn. Fairburn had purchased 40,000 acres of land at the insistence of local Maori tribes, and had established a mission station at Maraetai.

After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, the government took back 36,000 acres from the Fairburn claim. Some of the land was sold off to settlers and some was returned to the Maori; however, a substantial portion was used to establish Fencible settlements of Howick and Otahuhu.

The Howick settlement was named after Lt. Governor Grey, who was the 3rd Earl Grey and Viscount Howick, as he was largely responsible for the Fencible immigration scheme. Each old soldier was given land with the understanding that they would be called up as a defense force in wartime. Their name “Fencibles” was in fact derived from the word “Defencible”, meaning capable of defense.

While the old soldiers never were called upon to honour that defense contract, they did establish a thriving permanent settlement – some of which can still be seen today in the Howick Historical Village. Many of the old soldiers became successful farmers, and a large number of their descendants still live in the area today. In fact, it is estimated that over 600,000 New Zealanders can trace their roots back to this first group of old soldiers and their families.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his New-Model English Society

Though he was a rather colorful fellow with questionable views on society, Edward Gibbon Wakefield is remembered today as a colonial reformer and advocate of systematic colonization. His writings and actions helped to reform British views on colonial development. He was one of the founders of New Zealand and much of the settlement was based upon his ideas for a model societal structure.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), Brit...
Edward Gibbon Wakefield (* 1796; † 1862), British statesman and promoter of colonization of Australia and New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wakefield was a London land agent’s son, born on March 20, 1796, and educated at Westminster. In 1826, he met Ellen Turner, the young daughter of a wealthy silk merchant. Wakefield spirited her away to Scotland where he pressed her into a quick marriage ceremony. When they were discovered, the wedding was annulled by Parliament and Wakefield was sentenced to three years in prison for kidnapping.

During his time in prison, Wakefield turned his thoughts toward corrective punishment and colonial development. From prison, he began to publish papers stating his position on these topics. He strongly promoted the colonization of Australasia and provided detailed plans for how he felt it should be accomplished.

His plan involved the New Zealand Company buying land at a pittance from the indigenous tribes, and then selling it at a high price to “gentleman settlers” and investors. Revenue earned through these land sales would finance the immigration of free settlers; however, since these newcomers would be unable to purchase land of their own, they would make up a laboring class to work for the landowners.

Many members of the New Zealand Company embraced Wakefield’s ideas and put them to use in the colonization of South Australia. While these supporters envisioned the creation of a “perfect English society,” Wakefield viewed their work there as a failure and instead turned his focus toward New Zealand.

In 1837, Wakefield chaired the first meeting of the New Zealand Association, where he was joined by a number of wealthy supporters. A bill was drafted detailing their intentions; however, it was strongly opposed by Colonial Office officials and the Church Missionary Society. The opposition was horrified by claims made in Wakefield’s pamphlets, where he declared his intentions to “civilize a barbarous people” who could “scarcely cultivate the earth.” They took issue with the unlimited power that would be wielded by the colony’s founders, and felt that the indigenous peoples of the region would simply be exterminated.

By the end of the year, however, Wakefield’s association was gathering favour throughout the government, and in December they were offered a Royal Charter which gave them responsibility over the administration of the colony of New Zealand. They soon merged with the New Zealand Company and continued under that name.

treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on th...
treaty of Waitangi version in the museum on the Waitangi grounds, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the government could impose further control, the Company set out to buy up as much land as possible. By the end of 1839 they had purchased land in Wellington and as far north as Patea, and intended to buy as much as 20 million acres in Nelson, Wellington, Wanganui, and Taranaki. Their ambitions were cut short though, when the government intervened with the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty allowed only the government to make any further land purchases.

When the government began to question the land titles of the Company, Wakefield campaigned for self-government, though this was easily opposed by the governor, Sir George Grey. In 1853, Wakefield emigrated to Wellington and became involved in the political institution in New Zealand. Just one year later though, his health broke and he was forced to live in retirement until his death in 1862.

While Wakefield’s views were often impracticable due to his lack of first-hand knowledge, he was instrumental in the colonization and settlement of New Zealand. Due to his strong beliefs in modeling the settlements on the structures of British society, many New Zealand towns were established this way. While population growth wasn’t rapid by any means, many were attracted to life in New Zealand and colonies were quickly established. When the New Zealand Company arrived in 1839, there were a mere 2,000 immigrants in the country; by 1852 that number had climbed to 28,000.


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.