"One of these is the Paetae Reserve which is close to Edmonds Ruins – the historic site cared for by Heritage New Zealand – and located about 10 minutes’ drive from Kerikeri."
“We were fortunate enough to have local resident and researcher, Cath Fergusson, draw our attention to the reserve which is accessible only from the water. Like many other reserves in Northland, Paetae is a kind of time capsule that has remained largely unchanged over the decades mainly because of its relative isolation,” says Heritage New Zealand’s Northland Manager, Bill Edwards."
"In a history likely dating back centuries, Paetae became a place of settlement well before Pakeha arrived in the Bay of Islands."
The Media Release is as follows:
Layers of history at Paetae Reserve
The historic value of one of Northland’s lesser known public reserves has been highlighted by Heritage New Zealand.
One of these is the Paetae Reserve which is close to Edmonds Ruins – the historic site cared for by Heritage New Zealand – and located about 10 minutes’ drive from Kerikeri.
“We were fortunate enough to have local resident and researcher, Cath Fergusson, draw our attention to the reserve which is accessible only from the water. Like many other reserves in Northland, Paetae is a kind of time capsule that has remained largely unchanged over the decades mainly because of its relative isolation,” says Heritage New Zealand’s Northland Manager, Bill Edwards.
In a history likely dating back centuries, Paetae became a place of settlement well before Pakeha arrived in the Bay of Islands.
“Paetae is certainly the sweet spot in terms of places to live,” says Bill.
“It’s sheltered, it’s close to the estuary and open sea – so it’s perfect for shellfish as well as other fishing.”
In terms of settlement, the large volume of shellfish debris in midden scattered around the area is an indicator of at least a semi-permanent fishing camp, says Bill.
“The presence of all these factors – both environmental and archaeological – strongly suggests pre-European settlement. Although detailed archaeological investigations have not been carried out as yet, the probability is that settlement is likely to have taken place here from quite an early date.”
Basalt boulders that were abundant were used to good effect by early stone mason John Edmonds, who left his own mark on the reserve and wider area.
“John Edmonds arrived in Kerikeri with his wife Mary Ann and five sons in 1834 to construct the Stone Store for the Church Missionary Society,” says Bill.
“By the time he and his family arrived, however, the store was largely finished thanks to the work of another stonemason, William Parrott. John Edmonds effectively found himself seriously under-employed.”
He could hardly be blamed for feeling a little miffed, as he was not exactly feeling the love from the missionaries. In a report to the Church Missionary Society in London, they couldn’t help but grizzle: ‘Of those who are here, there is Mr EDMONDS, costing the Society 300 pounds per annum, of little more use than a fifth wheel on a coach.’
There was a bright spot for John Edmonds and his family, however, and that was the five acres (2.02 hectares) of land that he had purchased near the Paetae Reserve in 1837-38. Edmonds described his purchase as being ‘covered with fern, stones of a volcanic nature, caves, swamps and rough grass and a very little wood’.
Edmonds wrote of the difficult circumstances he and his family faced in 1839 – the same year in which the Church Missionary Society eventually paid him out. He had been unable to get work for two months due to chest pain and his wife was ‘near close to confinement’ looking after their seven children.
He later moved away from Paetae to a nearby block. In 1841 he wrote ’I am about to build a cottage on the land and that will expend all I have to retire upon. I am going to turn my attention to agriculture … on the banks of the river on the way to Kerikeri’.
“The ‘cottage’ eventually became what we now know as Edmonds Ruins, though this was not John Edmonds first house,” says Bill.
“It is likely that the family probably lived in a wooden house on the river bank at Paetae before moving about 750m inland where the remains of his stone cottage now stand.”
What appear to be remnants of the Edmonds’ first home – which could well have been a pre-cut, imported, timber dwelling – can still be seen within the Reserve.
“The timber building has long gone, though visitors can see stone foundations and what appears to be a plastered floor. Given John Edmonds’ stonemasonry skills – and the need for a foundation for the imported wooden house – it’s likely that this was the site of John Edmonds’ first house.”
Historic fruit trees, also likely to have been planted by the Edmonds, provide further evidence of the family’s settlement of the area. Other sources from the time record that he also planted his land in wheat, potatoes and maize, and that he constructed the first stone roller to be made in New Zealand to help break in the land.
John Edmonds’ methods for boosting productivity were not always orthodox however. Locally he was described as “a character who supervised his sons in the planting of wheat and building of stone walls with a stock whip”.
Whatever his idiosyncrasies, John Edmonds is regarded as a notable early New Zealander whose stone work literally still stands. He also left a rich legacy that went beyond the physical landscape.
“Many Maori and Pakeha from Northland and further afield are descended from John Edmonds, which gives Edmonds Ruins and the Paetae Reserve special significance for numerous families around the country, besides its broader values as a heritage landscape,” says Bill.
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