Wellington’s 180th anniversary

Proposed Colonial Wellington Map 1839

Wellington turned 180 years old this week. Here are twelve facts about the foundation of the settlement.

  1. 22 January 1840 marks the arrival of the Aurora, the first ship carrying colonial settlers to the colony.
  2. The immigrants initially camped at Petone, a town they called Britannia. The proposed town plan was drawn by men with no local knowledge and looked very similar to London (pictured above). The Hutt River flooded.
  3. The settlers moved across to Lambton Harbour and called their new town Wellington in November 1840.
  4. Wellington was named for Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo. He supported the colonies. This was a thank you.
  5. The dominant iwi in the area when the Aurora arrived was Te Āti Awa, who had recently migrated from Taranaki. They called the harbour Te Whanganui a Tara.
  6. Poneke was the Māori pronunciation of Port Nicholson (Port Nicky), named for a Sydney harbour master.
  7. Wellington’s colonial mastermind was Edward Gibbon Wakefield. He came up with his theory of systematic colonisation while serving time in Newgate Prison for abduction of an heiress.
  8. Wakefield’s New Zealand Company began selling colonial land even before sending a ship to New Zealand to make a purchase.
  9. Settlers bought one town acre and a hundred country acres at £1 per acre. Labourers and their families travelled free and were required to work for several years before buying land of their own.
  10. One of every 10 town sections in Wellington was reserved for Māori (hence the Wellington 10ths).
  11. The survey ship, the Tory, with Wakefield’s brother William and son Jerningham aboard, had raced ahead of the British government and made the Port Nicholson purchase five months before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
  12. The Company supposedly bought the land on which Wellington stands for blankets, muskets and ammunition, tomahawks, tobacco and pipes, soap, tools, clothing, fish hooks, mirrors, slates and pencils, beads and ribbons, combs brushes and razors, wax and 1 gross of jew’s harps.

You have a rich history, Wellington. Happy birthday.


Full, illustrated article on Wellington’s first anniversary: Ideas for a Wellington settlement thought up in prison

The proposed plan for Wellington
(Available from Archives New Zealand: R2431150)

Author: Cristina Sanders Blog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

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