Maori Wars: Colonial New Zealand Buildings

Schoolhouse (seats about 4-6 children)!

Restored Schoolhouse (it seats 4-6 children)!

New Zealand’s main Colonial Growth occurred in a period before and simultaneous to the American Civil War, as a result many major buildings from the 1840-1880 period closely resemble the same style of construction as was common in North America at the time of the American Civil War and before. By the 1870′s there appears to be a reasonably widespread introduction of corrugated iron (and of course in the main towns construction of large multi-story stone and similar buildings) – but this is essentially after the period we are interested in.

Fortunately I am lucky enough to live not far from the Howick Historical Village – this features numerous restored buildings from the Northland-Auckland-Waikato region as well as reconstructions of lesser buildings and both Civilian and Military re-enactors.

If you are ever in Auckland and interested in the Colonial Period it is well worth the visit for a modest fee. Meanwhile to assist those wargamers not lucky enough to have seen it, here’s a selection of photos of the main buildings to provide some ideas for what Colonial New Zealand settlements should look like…

The Fencibles: Tents & Raupo Housing

Fencible is a contraction of Defencible (i.e. able to defend) – in modern times the term ‘Home Guard’ or even ‘Self Defence Force’ might be used for the same purpose; effectively a ‘citizen’ Militia.

The Fencibles were the Colonial equivalent of the Home Guard. When Auckland was established a string of settlements were established on it’s southern side; Howick, Panmure, Otahuhu, and Onehunga, running East to West from coast to coast (at this point Auckland, or rather New Zealand, is literally only a few miles wide). Howick was the Eastern and most Southerly outpost on the north side of the East-Tamaki River Estuary, Panmure was North-West of Howick and at the next major water feature (the Panmure/Pakuranga Estuary – now a Lagoon). Otahuhu was centrally placed south of the main Auckland settlement, and Onehunga was a small port on the western Manukau Harbour.

James & Mary Ann Hanson lived in a tent like this from 1849 for (I believe) around 18 months (wonderful!) - this was the fate for many of the Fencibles. This would be typical of improvised accommodation recently arrived settlers and vagrants would have had.

James & Mary Ann Hanson lived in a tent like this from 1849 for (I believe) around 18 months (wonderful!) - this was the fate for many of the Fencibles. This would be typical of improvised accommodation recently arrived settlers and vagrants would have had.

To protect these settlements between 1847 and 1854 the British Colonial Authorities recruited veterans of the British Army and Royal Navy to come and live in New Zealand in return for their services – in essence a ‘Fencible’ and his wife (as most were married) would get a small 2 bedroom cottage on a (very) small plot of land, in return they would be issued a musket and equipment, be expected to drill with it regularly, and be required to turn out in defence of the Auckland settlements against the Maoris, French, or any other aggressor (yes there seems to have been a very real perceived fear the French would try to invade and take control of the Auckland-Northland region). In the case of Howick Village there was a small stockade built on the central dominant hill overlooking the village, intended for the woman and children to shelter in in case of attack and provide a focal point for the Fencibles and local settlers to rally around – the site is still visible today in the current Howick Village.

This is a replica of John & Mary Briody's Raupo, in 1848 there were 351 of these buildings spread between the Howick, Panmure, and Otahuhu settlements, in 1849 this had dropped to only 78, indicating their importance as temporary accommodation for the Fencibles and other settlers - as the Howick Historical Village plaque says "everyone lived in a Raupo"!

This is a replica of John & Mary Briody's Raupo, in 1848 there were 351 of these buildings spread between the Howick, Panmure, and Otahuhu settlements, in 1849 this had dropped to only 78, indicating their importance as temporary accommodation for the Fencibles and other settlers - as the Howick Historical Village plaque says "everyone lived in a Raupo"!

Many ex-Vets took up the offer (today they would be the modern equivalent of pensioners or retired people), it was a chance to escape the poverty and drudgery of Britain, and the poverty faced by many ex-servicemen during the industrial revolution, or for those of Irish descent the Great Potato Famine. Unfortunately, they got somewhat shafted, partially due to incompetence and partially due to crafty politicians! The government under-estimated how many cottages were needed, failed to supply sufficient materials, and generally mismanaged the whole process. Most Fencibles went through several years of hardship and when they finally got what was promised them, it was less than the original agreement!

Many people lived in Raupo's for up to 3 years, especially Fencibles waiting for their promised and much delayed cottages. Raupo's were made from New Zealand Bull Rush (i.e. reeds like that used for thatching in Europe & the USA) and in the Auckland settlement areas the local Maori skilled in raupo construction could usually construct this size building (minus any fancy extras like glass windows) in just a few days. This was much preferred accommodation over the tent pictured at the top of the page!

Many people lived in Raupo's for up to 3 years, especially Fencibles waiting for their promised and much delayed cottages. Raupo's were made from New Zealand Bull Rush (i.e. reeds like that used for thatching in Europe & the USA) and in the Auckland settlement areas the local Maori skilled in raupo construction could usually construct this size building (minus any fancy extras like glass windows) in just a few days. This was much preferred accommodation over the tent pictured at the top of the page!

More substantial Raupos

This is an example of a more substantial Raupo - it's a replica of the Howick Village Mail Runner's, who lived next to the post master, and includes a fireplace of sod-brick with a wooden slate chimney, a solid door, and full frames with glass in all the windows! In the background is a log sawing stand from a sawmill.

This is an example of a more substantial Raupo - it's a replica of the Howick Village Mail Runner's, who lived next to the post master, and includes a fireplace of sod-brick with a wooden slate chimney, a solid door, and full frames with glass in all the windows! In the background is a log sawing stand from a sawmill.

Ngamapu was the name of the mail runner (or letter carrier) in Howick in the 1850's - he would make 2 trips a week into Auckland and back, each taking 1 day in each direction, from Howick he went north-west to Panmure, then north to St John's College, and onto the Remuera Coach Road which ran through Newmarket into Auckland. The second trip each week he would arrive in Auckland Saturday evening, but not return to Howick until Monday - possibly because he had to wait until Monday morning to pick up the mail in Auckland, or perhaps I'll leave it to your imagination what he might have got up to in Auckland for that extra day!

Ngamapu was the name of the mail runner (or letter carrier) in Howick in the 1850's - he would make 2 trips a week into Auckland and back, each taking 1 day in each direction, from Howick he went north-west to Panmure, then north to St John's College, and onto the Remuera Coach Road which ran through Newmarket into Auckland. The second trip each week he would arrive in Auckland Saturday evening, but not return to Howick until Monday - possibly because he had to wait until Monday morning to pick up the mail in Auckland, or perhaps I'll leave it to your imagination what he might have got up to in Auckland for that extra day!

Replica of a local (as often Maori as European) Reed Cutter's Raupo as would be found amongst the European Settlements - like the Mail Runner's above it is fairly substantial including glass windows, a door and a fireplace, but like all Raupo's it has an earth floor and if badly sited could no doubt flood in heavy rain and such like.

Replica of a local (as often Maori as European) Reed Cutter's Raupo as would be found amongst the European Settlements - like the Mail Runner's above it is fairly substantial including glass windows, a door and a fireplace, but like all Raupo's it has an earth floor and if badly sited could no doubt flood in heavy rain and such like.

The rear of the Reed Cutters Raupo - most notable the large Eel trap! Reed Cutters would tend to live close to the River or Marsh that was their source of Bull Rush, so naturally they would have made use of that resource to supplement their livelihood by fishing, trapping eels, and so on...

The rear of the Reed Cutters Raupo - most notable the large Eel trap! Reed Cutters would tend to live close to the River or Marsh that was their source of Bull Rush, so naturally they would have made use of that resource to supplement their livelihood by fishing, trapping eels, and so on...

Fencible Cottages

So the government had promised the Fencibles who came to the Auckland region a nice little 2 bedroom cottage – but in true government style the whole thing was a botch up, they didn’t have enough materials, it was going to take far longer than planned to build the cottages, and it was going to cost a lot more too! Some Fencibles and other Settlers resorted to sod-brick style buildings in the interim…

Cottages like this, made of Sod-Brick and somewhat haphazard were the alternative to a Raupo for more prolonged accommodation - especially for the Fencibles waiting for their long overdue cottages!

Cottages like this, made of Sod-Brick and somewhat haphazard were the alternative to a Raupo for more prolonged accommodation - especially for the Fencibles waiting for their long overdue cottages!

So anyway the Government came up with a solution – cut them in half – so these already small 2 room cottages, on a tiny piece of land, were subsequently divided in half by just inserting a wall through the centre! This left a room at the back just big enough for a small double bed, and a slightly larger room in front to live/eat/wash/and store your possessions in!

A typical Fencible Cottage looking it's best - in reality they may not have looked quite so 'spic & span' when originally built! The chimney marks the point where the dividing wall cuts it in half! This is much smaller than it looks in the photo!

A typical Fencible Cottage looking it's best - in reality they may not have looked quite so 'spic & span' when originally built! The chimney marks the point where the dividing wall cuts it in half! This is much smaller than it looks in the photo!

The Fencibles themselves had even bigger issues – while they had been promised a cottage and land in return for forming a militia they actually had no source of income. The tiny plot of land with their cottage was further reduced by the act of halving each cottage site to make two, so effectively they often had perhaps a 6′-12′ strip of land around the edge of the cottage and a larger 12′-20′ square ‘back yard’ at the rear – in variably all this area was put to use growing food (Vegetables, Corn, Potato, Maori Potato, even Taro) and tobacco, the latter could be traded and was a fairly valuable commodity for bartering. Meanwhile it took the government several years to get around to building all the cottages it had promised during the recruiting drive from 1847-54 – I think the last one’s weren’t built until as late as 1860 or so.

This Fencible cottage has actually been turned into a pub! It'd be a pretty small one, perhaps 4 people could fit inside at the bar! So you could imagine on a Saturday night it'd be pretty raucous outside and you'd not want to be the neighbours! This cottage has a corrugated iron roof so has either been upgraded or was one of the later ones built (corrugated iron started to become common in New Zealand construction in the 1870s & 1880s, a bit after the end of the Maori-European Wars period so not ideal for wargaming terrain, although if all the buildings in HHV have authentic roofs it appears to have first appeared on a few buildings around 1860).

This Fencible cottage has actually been turned into a pub! It'd be a pretty small one, perhaps 4 people could fit inside at the bar! So you could imagine on a Saturday night it'd be pretty raucous outside and you'd not want to be the neighbours! This cottage has a corrugated iron roof so has either been upgraded or was one of the later ones built (corrugated iron started to become common in New Zealand construction in the 1870s & 1880s, a bit after the end of the Maori-European Wars period so not ideal for wargaming terrain, although if all the buildings in HHV have authentic roofs it appears to have first appeared on a few buildings around 1860).

Fencibles therefore still had to also work to earn enough to eat. Many worked as local labourers, barmen, wood cutters, and such like, and if necessary they would even stoop to Charcoal Burning – basically the lowest profession available in a New Zealand Colonial Settlement! Some inhabitants of Fencible Cottages had children, and there was literally no-where for them to go, so the usual solution was a trap door into the roof space and a removable ladder, and the children slept on some form of mattress or padding on the ceiling – there being just enough room to move around up there (the heat must have been intolerable at the peak of summer, especially as many cottages had, or were subsequently upgraded to, corrugated iron roofs).

Fencible Cottage Interior - giving an idea of the cramped small size. The photo is taken from the entrance doorway! This particular cottage is serving as the post master's offices and has been modernised (it has had proper actual wallpaper added - probably in the 1920's or later - most cottages were originally eventually wallpapered with newspapers around the 1880s-1890s or turn of the century, or even later) - the internal walls (including those with the neighbours) are all just a single layer of thin timber planking with gaps between the planks, there could be little privacy in these cottages.. There were still people living in a few of these cottages in Auckland as late as the 1940's I believe.

Fencible Cottage Interior - giving an idea of the cramped small size. The photo is taken from the entrance doorway! This particular cottage is serving as the post master's offices and has been modernised (it has had proper actual wallpaper added - probably in the 1920's or later - most cottages were originally eventually wallpapered with newspapers around the 1880s-1890s or turn of the century, or even later) - the internal walls (including those with the neighbours) are all just a single layer of thin timber planking with gaps between the planks, there could be little privacy in these cottages.. There were still people living in a few of these cottages in Auckland as late as the 1940's I believe.

Charcoal Burners

Charcoal burning was a dirty filthy job, and generally reserved for the lowest of the low, it was often the last stop before destitution for many, and often the province of alcoholics – yet according to Howick Historical Village it was an essential industry right up virtually to World War I and nearly everyone did it at sometime or other (as an alternate income when times were tough). Charcoal was required for Blacksmiths, Brick manufacturing, Paint, and Stoves & Irons. Not to mention the older uses of Glassmaking and Gunpowder (although these were on the way out by this time).

A typical Charcoal Burners Camp showing the kiln and the burner's temporary shelter - he'd need to stay here with the kiln for several days before being able to open it and unpack the burnt Titree into bags.

A typical Charcoal Burners Camp showing the kiln and the burner's temporary shelter - he'd need to stay here with the kiln for several days before being able to open it and unpack the burnt Titree into bags.

More Substantial Settlement Buildings

In the Auckland Region – particularly around the Howick and Panmure Settlements, the soil was (and still is) clay based and poor quality, in the 1840-50′s it was covered with low Titree scrub. This made farming difficult, both growing crops and grazing livestock (sheep & cattle). According to Howick Historical Village it was especially difficult in the South East, across the East-Tamaki River from Howick, in the Whitford area. As a result farmers tended to diversify and do a little of everything – crops would be scattered around in small patches where they would grow and could be Wheat, Oats, or Vegetables. A small Dairy Herd (literally a handful of cows) would be kept to get milk to make butter & cheese for sale, and pieces of Kauri Gum would be collected off the farmer’s land and sold. Finally Wood would be cut and either sold as firewood to other settlers, or used for resorting to the old favourite; Charcoal Burning!

Typical more substantial Settlement Buildings. The white one in the centre is the actual old Howick Courthouse.

Typical more substantial Settlement Buildings. The white one in the centre is the actual old Howick Courthouse.

The Howick settlement also featured a small port (well a jetty really, about a mile from the village over a ridge), something Panmure and Otahuhu didn’t have being inland. This meant that some vessels (e.g. schooners, small coastal vessels, etc) sometimes stopped into the area and discharged passengers or cargo directly, rather than at Auckland (where it had to be transported overland to its destination). Larger vessels could also discharge in some cases using their ship’s boats.

Apparently in Howick the Carpenter & Cabinetmaker, William White, who was also the Undertaker, and a Roof Shingler, and a Glazer, and a Painter, and an Architect, and an Insurance Agent (I kid you not) - really did operate as depicted from underneath someone's house! Although it's unclear whether it was his own house, but presumably so as he was reasonably wealthy and contributed to the building of a church, so would have presumably had one of the more substantial homes in the settlement. He arrived in Howick in 1847 and was in high demand and apparently quite famous for his many skills.

Apparently in Howick the Carpenter & Cabinetmaker, William White, who was also the Undertaker, and a Roof Shingler, and a Glazer, and a Painter, and an Architect, and an Insurance Agent (I kid you not) - really did operate as depicted from underneath someone's house! Although it's unclear whether it was his own house, but presumably so as he was reasonably wealthy and contributed to the building of a church, so would have presumably had one of the more substantial homes in the settlement. He arrived in Howick in 1847 and was in high demand and apparently quite famous for his many skills.

The mill of the Howick Miller, John Bycroft, established in 1854 - it uses a small water wheel (just visible on the right) to drive the mill. There were larger mills in Auckland and a lot of crops were carted north to there for milling as well.

The mill of the Howick Miller, John Bycroft, established in 1854 - it uses a small water wheel (just visible on the right) to drive the mill. There were larger mills in Auckland and a lot of crops were carted north to there for milling as well.

Smithy of Howick Blacksmith, George Wagstaff, established in 1855.

Smithy of Howick Blacksmith, George Wagstaff, established in 1855.

Example of Crushed Shell Farm Roadway into Howick Village that was probably built in the mid-1860's (see below). It wasn't upgraded until the 1930's when solid slabs of Scoria were laid from Pigeon Mountain to Howick Village.

Example of Crushed Shell Farm Roadway into Howick Village that was probably built in the mid-1860's (see below). It wasn't upgraded until the 1930's when solid slabs of Scoria were laid from Pigeon Mountain to Howick Village.

Details of local Howick roading network in the 1860s.

Details of local Howick roading network in the 1860s.

Homesteads and other Substantial Houses

Many (or rather most) larger New Zealand Colonial Homesteads and buildings had a lot in common with the clapboard and similar buildings of North America, and as such bear some resemblance to the buildings commonly seen in the American Civil War and such like.

This is an averaged sized 'house', Colonel P. F. de Quincey's Cottage, built in 1861. It later became known as "Cornhill".

This is an averaged sized 'house', Colonel P. F. de Quincey's Cottage, built in 1861. It later became known as "Cornhill".

A side view of Colonel P. F. de Quincey's Cottage complete with corn in the backyard! Probably gives you an idea what he did and how his house got it's name!

A side view of Colonel P. F. de Quincey's Cottage complete with corn in the backyard! Probably gives you an idea what he did and how his house got it's name!

Thomas Eckford's (pronounced Heckford's) Farm Homestead, built in 1851 at Maraetai (about 20 miles East of Howick over the East-Tamaki River).

Thomas Eckford's (pronounced Heckford's) Farm Homestead, built in 1851 at Maraetai (about 20 miles East of Howick across the East-Tamaki River).

Puhinui Farm Homestead (W. M. McLaughlin) - one of the more substantial buildings in the Auckland Settlements District. It is again a slightly later construction building, being built in 1861. It was originally located in the bushland near Puhinui Stream many miles West of Howick and South of Otahuhu - by the 1860's this area south of Auckland was however slowly becoming more settled.

Puhinui Farm Homestead (W. M. McLaughlin) - one of the more substantial buildings in the Auckland Settlements District. It is again a slightly later construction building, being built in 1861. It was originally located in the bushland near Puhinui Stream many miles West of Howick and South of Otahuhu - by the 1860's this area south of Auckland was however slowly becoming more settled.

On the rise in the background is David Bell's Homestead, one of the major houses in the vicinity of Howick Village - it was built in 1851.

On the rise in the background is David Bell's Homestead, one of the major houses in the vicinity of Howick Village - it was built in 1851.

Another reasonable sized 1½ storey Homestead - I have been unable to identify it (as it was off-limits to the public at the time I visited) but suspect it is a late 1850's or 1860's building.

Another reasonable sized 1½ storey Homestead - I have been unable to identify it (as it was off-limits to the public at the time I visited) but suspect it is a late 1850's or an 1860's building.

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Posted in Colonial History, NZ Wars, The Sword And The Flame
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