Posted by David Gledhill
The New Zealand Company
Never has the truism that many of our best addresses have come from our own members been more applicable.  June gave us a fascinating account of Wellington's founding by the New Zealand Company and corrected many of the inacuracies still perpetuated in current history books. While in UK recently June and Gary undertook original research in museums, churches and cemeteries in London, Somerset and Edinburgh as well as their own family records.  From these sources June gave some illuminating details not only of Gary's family but also of the conditions in England in the 1830s.  Gary's family history goes back six generations from when one Thomas Stratton came out on a NZC emigrant ship landing in Wellington in 15 March, 1841.
Owing to short term climate variation Europe was undergoing a cold spell in the 1830s.  The growing season was six to eight weeks shorter than normal and on top of this England's population had doubled in the previous fifty years.  These factors, combined with the Enclosure laws which ended poor families' rights to graze an animal on the common land led to poverty, malnutrition and sickness in the country side while urbanisation and overcrowded slums in the cities led to outbreaks of contagious diseases like typhus, smallpox and the cholera which affected the Stratton family. (and you thought NZ has problems!).
There was a strong feeling that England was overcrowded, and Thomas Malthus wrote a popular book that further population growth was inevitable.  Against this background many felt the need for emigration to relieve the overcrowding and give the poor a chance for improvement. Thomas Lambton founded and chaired the New Zealand Company in 1825.  Its first ship arrived at the Great Harbour of Tara in 1826 with 28 settlers but decided against this site and went on to the Bay of Islands and eventually Sydney in 1827.  Lambton lost $40,000 on the venture but wrote a report which was subsequently read by Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
Wakefield came from a philanthropic family but had a somewhat insalubrious early life.  He was described by some as being intensely ambitious for money and power.  He married a young daughter of a wealthy family.  It may have been a love match but she died in childbirth.  He later eloped with a fifteen year old whose father had disagreed strongly with their relationship and made her a ward of court.  By eloping with her Wakefield broke the law and was duly jailed.  He later claimed he met an ex convict there who had returned  from Sydney and given a graphic account of the coarseness of the society there.  In his book "A Letter From Sydney" Wakefield wrote of his aim to found a more civilised colony somewhere and in a further book "The Colonisation of New Zealand" he gave his plans for a new colony.  He founded the New Zealand Association in 1835 and in 1838 it merged with the remnants of Lambton's New Zealand Company, inheriting the influential connections of the latter.
Wakefield himself was not rich.  The NZC recruited gentlemen to purchase land in a new colony and with the money recruited "honest, young, fit  workers under 45 years of age" who wanted to start a new life.  (In fact the Company was so desperate to recruit numbers that they took Thomas Stratton, a 59 year old cripple.  Thomas subsequently came out in the Lady Nugent in a four and a half month voyage in1841 . On board the Lady Nugent were also ancestors of the Fenton family). The Company purchased a ship, the Tory, which, under the command of his brother William, sailed to NZ.  William sought a suitable site somewhere in NZ and after meeting Dicky Barratt in the Marlborough Sounds decided on the Great Harbour of Tara.  Landing in Lowry Bay (where you can find the small memorial) he negotiated with local chiefs and "purchased" a large area of land.
The Wakefield memorial in Wellington is to William W, not EGW).  The NZ Company eventually sent 10,000 settlers to the cities it founded, Wellington, Wanganui, Nelson, Dunedin and Christchurch before it folded in 1850.  EG Wakefield came out to NZ later in his life and became an MP in the new Parliament, championing the poorer settlers in the Hutt Valley against the gentry in Wellington.  His grave is in the Bolton Street Cemetery.
Suggested reading:
Jerningham, Christine Saunders. The best sort of historical novel, accurate on major facts, invented conversations.
Adventure in New Zealand, Jerningham Wakefield. Autobiographical adventure story by EGW's nephew.
The Interpreter,  Angela Caughey.  A very readable, detailed account of the amazing life of Dicky Barrett, after whom  Barrett's Reef is named.  He was the advisor and interpreter for dealing with the local chiefs.