Whanganui in 1841

A view of Petre or Wanganui (Whanganui) in September 1841, just after its establishment.

Whanganui was the New Zealand Company’s second settlement. It began as an adjunct of Wellington. Most of its early European settlers came via Wellington, with many making the journey on foot along the coast. The name Petre (after Lord Petre, a director of the company) was never popular and it was officially discarded in 1854.

Uncertainty marked Whanganui’s early years. While lower-river Māori were generally supportive of ‘their’ town, upriver Māori were hostile. Conflict broke out in 1847. In May 1848 the government made a further payment to confirm its ownership of almost 35,000 ha.

In this painting the building being thatched is the Police Office and Police Magistrate’s house. The larger home of E.J. Wakefield (‘ware Wikitoria’), who completed the original purchase of Whanganui for the New Zealand Company, can also be seen. Across the river is Shakespeare’s Cliff.

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