Story: English

Page 9. Transforming the landscape

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Exploration

The English, with their tradition of imperial discovery and exploration, made a major contribution to exploring and documenting the new land from a non-Māori perspective. Explorers like Edward Shortland and Thomas Brunner, geologists like Frederick Hutton, botanists like Thomas Kirk and Joseph Hooker, and ethnographers like William Colenso, Richard Taylor and John White all greatly enlarged understanding of the new land and its people.

Surveying, engineering and building

The English contributed to the transformation of New Zealand’s landscape. They featured prominently among surveyors and engineers. Frederick Tuckett was principal surveyor for the New Zealand Company and Frederic Carrington for the Plymouth Company. Thomas Cass was chief surveyor in Canterbury, John Turnbull Thomson was the country’s first surveyor-general, John Rochfort prospected the route for the North Island main trunk railway, and Thomas (Noel) Brodrick was head of Lands and Survey from 1915 to 1922. Among the engineers, John Blackett and Robert West Holmes served as engineers-in-chief.

A considerable number of English architects helped impose English building conventions and design influences upon the New Zealand town and cityscape. They included Benjamin Mountfort, who was a leading Gothic revival architect in Canterbury, and Frederick de Jersey Clere, who designed 100 churches for the Wellington Anglican diocese from 1883.

New plants, new animals

Understandably, the English set out to use the land in ways that were familiar, and quickly established in New Zealand English forms of agriculture. They introduced animals such as sheep, cows and pigs, and cultivated crops such as wheat, and fruit such as apples. They introduced English grasses.

They also sought to make the landscape more recognisable by bringing in English trees and wild animals. Colonists were provided with a variety of game animals, including deer. The first stag and hind were despatched by Lord Petre of Thorndon Hall in Essex, and the stag arrived in Nelson in 1851 (the hind died en route).

In the 1860s acclimatisation societies, following their establishment in England during the 1850s, were formed to ensure that settlers would enjoy the game sports and studies which had been dear to them at home. Acclimatisation societies helped introduce English birds, hedgehogs, trout, salmon, rabbits and hares, as well as weasels, stoats and ferrets.

Gardens

The domestic garden was a notable English middle-class interest in the 19th century. For some genteel settlers, especially women (such as the writer Lady Barker), the establishment of civilisation in the wilderness was represented by a flourishing English garden. Trees such as oaks and beeches, and flowers such as roses or daffodils, were planted in part as memories of home. Gardening continues to be one of New Zealanders’ most popular pastimes.

How to cite this page:

Terry Hearn, 'English - Transforming the landscape', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/english/page-9 (accessed 30 March 2017)

Story by Terry Hearn, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015