A History of Towns and Places in Marlborough Province

It was the centre of the Wakamarina diggings, to which it owed it's orgin, and the name Canvastown was suggested by the fact the township was at first composed almost entirely of the tents of diggers. While the diggings held out, Canvastown was a busy place

Havelock was the latest addition to Marlborough's old towns, practically dating from the initiation of sawmilling in the Pelorus, and the outbreak of the Wakamarina diggings, for in January, 1864, the only building at the head of the Sound was an accommodation house kept by Mr. Corckill. It was just about this time Messrs. Dive and Gabie, Duncan and Brownlee began to cut timber for the market, and when the gold rush came to the head of the Sound proved so convenient for shipping that it was not long before a town was established, to which, in keeping with the military nomenclature of the province, the name of Havelock was given.

The settlement of Kaikoura, like those at Te Awaiti and Port Underwood, grew out of the necessities of the whalers,

Waitohi Bay was selected as the site for a town in the year 1848 by the settlers under the New Zealand Company, who decided to call it Newton, and as such it appears on the early maps of the colony. This settlement arose out of the necessity of the company to compensate it's emigrants to the extent of £50,000 for the failure to supply town sections as agreed upon before they left England, and as the company was either unwilling or unable to pay the recompense in cash they agreed to allow the settlers to select the site for another town in which their sections would be surveyed for them. The spot chosen under this arrangement was Waitohi Bay, and on the 28th December Sir George Gray and Mr. Dillon Bell proceeded to the head of Queen Charlotte Sound in HMS "Fly," and two days later were able to complete the purchase of the necessary land from the Maori, who agreed to remove to Waikawa, where a new village similar to Otaki was to be laid out. In addition to the payment of £100 in cash the company agreed to plough up a similar area of land at Waikawa to that which the Maori already had under culivation at Waitohi, they were to find seed wheat for the first crop, and to build a wooden church in the centre of the new pah, "as a place of prayer to our Saviour."

Although thus early established, Picton did not acquire any degree of importance in the province until 1861, when it became the seat of the Provincial Goverment. It also recieved an immense impetus during the "boom" of the Wakamarina diggings, when it is estimated that it had a permanent and a floating population of fully 3,000 people. The exhaustion of this goldfield, and of the timber in the Waitohi Valley, together with the removal of the Goverment offices, so undermined the prosperity of Picton that now it had to look to it's reputation as a truely beautiful seaside resort, and the prospect of it's becoming the Dover of the South by one day being made the northern terminus of the main truck Railway through the South Island, as the two things that will bring it into colonial importance.

On two occasions Picton has just missed achieving more than this distinction, once when Mr. Stafford had almost persuaded Parliament to make it the seat of goverment on account of it's central position and easily defensible harbour, and again during the Wakamarina rush, when the discovery of coal was made at Shakespeare Bay by some diggers, who were prospecting for gold amongst the neighbouring hills. Little attention was paid to the find at the time, as it was considered that the mineral had been left there by some passing steamer, but in 1883 Messrs. Williams, Nicols and Renfrew took the matter up and started prospecting on the hill between Picton and Shakespeare Bay, and while sitting down to lunch one day they discovered a huge lump of coal of several tons weight. This led to the formation of the Picton Coal Company, but after a few hundred tons had been taken out of the shaft, the company suspended operations. Shortly afterwards Mr. Pugh made another discovery of coal on the peninsula, but when about thirty tons had been obtained, the cost of working the drive became to great for the return, and again operations were suspended. Subsequently Messrs. Hunt and Swanwick made spasmodic efforts to develop the deposits, but so little coal was found that their work was neither profitable to themselves or particularly beneficial to the community. The failure of these coal deposits was a serious blow to Picton, for no harbour in New Zealand is so well adapted for the business of a coal port, and had the mimeral been as easily obtained as on the West Coast, her shipping would have been unrivalled in the colony, instead of being confined to a few wool ships in the year and the usual visits of the Union Company's steamers.

To Mr. John Holmes, of Wellington, is due the honour of being the father of direct shipping from Picton. In 1884 he was one of Blenheim's most influential merchants, and being a keen business man with large ideas and an abundance of energy to carry them out, he saw that to let the produce of the district filter through the hands of a host of middle men, was a pecuniary detriment to the farmer, and a loss of prestige to the province. With such a splendid harbour as Picton at their very doors, he considered it a suicidal policy to consign wool and hemp via Wellington, and so, amidst considerable opposition both in New Zealand and in London, he promulgated the doctrine of direct shipping, and to demonstrate the sincerity of his convictions and the soundness of his conclusions, he chartered the sailing ship "Lyttelton" on April 22nd 1884. She arrived in Picton on June 17th, and sailed on August 21st with a full cargo of frozen meat, thereby inaugurating the frozen meat trade of the province by taking 10,184 sheep and lambs for the Home market, as well as woll, hemp and tallow. In a series of addresses delivered throughout the district at the time, Mr. Holmes predicted that New Zealand would be able to ship upward of 2,000,000 sheep annually, but he was met on all sides by keen opposition. Authorities were quited to show that if we shipped annually 40,000 sheep out of New Zealand, it would ruin the country. Mr. Holmes did, however, live to see the full realisation of his hopes, for this colony is annually shipping now upwards of 3,000,000 carcases of frozen sheep and lambs, while at the same time we are increasing our flocks. [1905] The "Lyttelton" was followed in quick succession by other ships, and in subsequent yaers the development became so pronounced that Mr. Holmes introduced the large oceangoing steamer "Maori" to Picton, which has since been followed by the famous ocean liners "Gothic," "Ionic" and "Waimate."

The town of Picton was constituted a Borough on August 11th, 1876, and Mr. T. Williams was it's first Mayor, with the followinf gentleman as his Council: - Messrs. James Smith, George James, Thomas Philpotts, James Heims, William Dart, Donald McCormick, John Godfrey, and Alexander Duncan. The first Town Clerk was Mr. James Alexander.

Port Underwood
Was from the very early days until 1871, the harbour for the Marlborough District. As many as a dozen barques were often seen loading at one time with wool and produce for England. It also has the reputation of having been in it's time, the most important Whaling Station in New Zealand. Many whales were caught within it, and in it's neighbourhood, and it was no uncommon sight for twenty whaling ships to be in Port Underwood at one time. Port Underwood was considered to be second to no harbour in the Southern Hemisphere being 10kms long and 1½ wide, sheltered by hills 170metres high, and could easily be entered in the roughest of weather. The Port contains 10 Bays which are picturesque

It is many years now since Renwick-town was represented by a single dwelling, but there was a time when "Bagnal's whare" was the only habitation upon this portion of the plains. This building had been a surveyor's hut. The township had in reality it's orgins not on the whim of a surveyor, but in the choice of the Bullock Drivers, for in travelling up and down the valley they found this a convenient camping place owing to it's central position. The locality also had the remarkable advantage of being exceedingly free from the poisonous tutu plant which proved so destructive to the cattle of the early settlers, and it was probably this guarantee of safety to their teams that made the spot so popular with the hardy bullock punchers, whose personal wants were soon ministered to by Mr.John Godfrey, who built a sort of "half way house," sometimes called the Wairau Hotel, but more often the "Sheepskin Tavern" for the simple reason that as timber was lacking, the pelt of the merino acted as a substitute in it's construction.

At this time there was practically no township, but in 1855 Dr. Renwick acquired the Delta Run from Mr. Green, of Nelson, and laid out a portion of it as a town, which afterwards became a Scotch settlement, named after himself. The Lakeman brothers then opened a hotel some distance from Mr Godfrey's and speedily acquired considerable trade and fortune. Renwick was not entirely composed of "pubs" for there was shortly afterwards a school under the charge of Mr. Moore, and it was here that the Rev. Mr. Nicholson had his manse and the first church in the Wairau.

It was at Renwick that the first horse races were run in the district, this event taking place on the 10th and 11th of January, 1854, in one of Mr. Brydon's paddocks.

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