Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


George Clarke – bridge-builder extraordinaire

When the Church Missionary Society devised the notion of developing an inland mission at Waimate North where European agricultural skills could be taught to Maori, along with Christianity, work began in earnest.

Construction of the first houses at the new mission began in 1830, though there were a few obstacles to overcome – not least of which was the need to cross the Waitangi River to access the potentially rich farmland of Waimate North.

“The river crossing was an issue – particularly after heavy rain,” says Mita Harris, the Manager of Te Waimate Mission, now cared for by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT).

“It’s likely that the missionaries would initially have used fallen tree trunks as a way to cross rivers, which probably did the job for foot travel – but once they started using wheeled carts a different standard of bridge became necessary.”

Enter George Clarke – one of the better educated lay missionaries who had arrived in New Zealand in 1824, and who had run the small mission school with his wife Martha at the Kerikeri Mission Station.

“George was a trained gunsmith, but clearly had a wide range of other skills that were very useful in what was basically a frontier situation in the Bay of Islands,” says Mita.

“Another missionary – weaver and flax dresser James Hamlin, who had arrived in New Zealand in 1826 – recorded that he and George began working on the bridge site in May 1830.”

The two missionaries – along with a team of Maori labourers – sometimes camped on the building site, and at other times made the 9.5km trek from their home base at Kerikeri.

“As you’d expect, building a bridge in the middle of the bush was not straightforward. Local trees were pit-sawn and shaped to provide beams and abutments that would eventually be used to span the 19.5m gap,” he says.

“The different parts of the bridge were secured by iron screw bolts and spikes – all of which were handmade.”

The result was New Zealand’s first European-style bridge located close to where Te Waimate Station is located today – a ‘humpback’ bridge with beams rising at an angle from both sides of the river, and secured in the middle by a collar tie and a series of struts and supports. At its high point, the bridge stood 7.3m above normal water level, including its handrails.

Sadly, the bridge no longer exists – but a great example of the carpentry skills of the missionaries and Maori labourers can still be enjoyed today.

Te Waimate Mission – completed in 1832 – is New Zealand’s second oldest surviving building and was constructed for George and Martha Clarke, who helped establish the Church Missionary Society mission at Waimate North.

The house itself was designed and built by George Clarke with help from local Maori that he had trained. In a letter to his father in September 1831, George told of a “New Zealander” he had trained to make window sashes: “He has made 6 pairs and according to my judgement has made them very neat”.

“Te Waimate Mission was once regarded by many as being one of the finest homes in colonial New Zealand,” says Mita.

“It is the picture of Georgian elegance with its symmetrical design and dormer windows. It was here that George and Martha Clarke lived until 1839.”

In 1840 Clarke reluctantly took on a ‘bridge-building’ role of a different kind when he became Chief Protector of Aborigines (referring to Maori) in 1840. Clarke was expected to protect Maori interests on one hand, and to act for the Government in land sale negotiations on the other – a virtually impossible position to be in.

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography summarises Clarke as having “a genuine sympathy for Maori people”, and whose general intentions were “unselfish” – though makes the point that “the same could not be said of most settlers”.

It goes on to say that Clarke’s “placid temperament enabled him to get along with others easily [and that] as protector, Clarke made a positive contribution in the early years of European settlement.”

Te Waimate Mission – George and Martha Clarke’s home for eight years – is cared for by the NZHPT, and open to the public every day over summer.

For more information on NZHPT properties in Northland visit www.historicplaces.org.nz

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell:
On The National Leadership “Contest”

Key’s endorsement of English has turned this “contest” into a race for second place.

This succession was well planned. Lets not forget that English was told by Key in September of his intention to resign, and English was the only member of Cabinet entrusted with that information before it was sprung on everyone else on Monday morning. More>>

Latest: Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman have withdrawn from the leadership race, leaving Bill English the only candidate to replace John Key as Prime Minister.

 

Education, Marketing, Taxes: Health Groups Call For Actions For Sugary Drinks

The New Zealand Dental Association is launching a new consensus statement on Sugary Drinks endorsed by key health organisations. The actions seek to reduce harm caused by sugary drinks consumption. More>>

ALSO:

More Departures? David Shearer Proposed For UN Peacekeeping Role

Mt Albert MP David Shearer is being proposed for a demanding and exciting role heading the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Sudan, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. More>>

ALSO:

Security Agencies' Reports: GCSB Wants To Give ISPs More Power To Block Threats

The Government Communications Security Bureau wants to give internet service providers more information and power to block cyber threats which are increasing, its director told the intelligence and security select committee yesterday.. More>>

ALSO:

Education: Charter Schools Misleading Pass Rates

Labour: NCEA results for charter schools have been massively overstated... In one case a school reported a 93.3 per cent pass rate when the facts show only 6.7 per cent of leavers achieved NCEA level two. More>>

ALSO:

Rebstock Report Resolution: SSC Apologises To Derek Leask And Nigel Fyfe

Following a complaint by Mr Leask, the Ombudsman found that the State Services Commission acted unreasonably in relation to Mr Leask and identified numerous deficiencies in the investigation process and in the publication of the final report and in the criticisms it contained of Mr Leask... More>>

ALSO:

International Rankings: Student Results 'Show More Resourcing Needed'

NZEI: New Zealand had only held relatively steady in international rankings in some areas because the average achievement for several other OECD countries had lowered the OECD average -- not because our student achievement has improved. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier:

Salvation Army Report: Beyond The Prison Gate Report

A new Salvation Army report says changes must be made to how prisoners re-enter society for New Zealanders to feel safe and secure in their homes and communities. More>>

ALSO:

Surprise Exit: Gordon Campbell On The Key Resignation

The resignation of John Key is one thing. The way that Key and his deputy Bill English have screwed the scrum on the leadership succession vote (due on December 12) is something else again. It remains to be seen whether the party caucus – ie, the ambitious likes of Steven Joyce, Judith Collins, Paula Bennett, and Amy Adams – will simply roll over... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news