Lower Hutt, New Zealand

How Hutt City Got its Name

Great Britain was experiencing a depression in the 1830s and colonisation was looked at as a possible solution to surplus population and widespread distress. In 1829 Edward Gibbon Wakefield, foremost of a new school of social writers and thinkers, published A Letter From Sydney. He expounded a new, systematic and positive colonisation scheme emphasising care in the selection of would-be immigrants across all sections of society and a more enlightened attitude, for its time, to the indigenous inhabitants of lands proposed for colonisation. In 1837 the New Zealand Association was formed in London with Francis Baring MP, Sir William Hutt MP, Sir William Molesworth MP and the Earl of Durham among its members. The Association solicited support from the Government which, in essence, would allow them the maximum power with the minimum of responsibility In a prophetic speech Mr Gladstone foresaw many difficulties connected with the alienation of Maori land and warned the House that great complexity of relations would ensue if the colonisers were given a free hand. After this initial rejection by the Government Edward Gibbon Wakefield organised his colleagues into a more powerful combination which included Joseph Somes, the largest individual ship-owner in England.

Sailing to New Zealand

The New Zealand Company was accordingly founded on 3 May 1839 with a capital of 100,000 pounds. Three days later after a farewell speech by William Hutt as chairman of the gathering, Edward Gibbon, Wakefield's younger brother (36 year old Colonel William Wakefield) set sail for New Zealand on the Tory as the Company's principle agent. William Wakefield had instructions to acquire from the Maori 110,000 acres of flat and fertile land in easy reach of a safe harbour, prepare for the early arrival of a body of settlers from England and then acquire as much land as possible to 'keep off land-sharks and squatters'. (The Tory left very hurriedly to beat the race against Sydney land speculators and other colonisation schemes under way in England and France, and in defiance of the Colonial Office and in contempt of the House of Commons who were planning to stop them.)

Arriving in Wellington

The Tory arrived in Wellington Harbour (Te Whanganui a Tara) on 20 September 1839 and the flat river valley of the Heretaunga (Hutt) became the focus for the initial site of the town of Wellington. In 1839 the Heretaunga River was renamed Hutt by William Wakefield after the founding member, director and chairman of the New Zealand Company, Sir William Hutt.

The confusion begins...

As the first settlement on the Petone foreshore and on the banks of the Hutt River was called Britannia, those living further north were distinguished by being referred to as living "up the Hutt". Thus, when E J Wakefield visited settlers at Britannia on the banks of the river during the winter of 1840 he referred to "visiting my friends up the Hutt".  

As the number of settlers increased this general description of "the Hutt" proved to be too vague. People began to refer to those living on the Upper or Lower Hutt. Accordingly, S C Brees, describing the little hamlet of Aglionby, stated in the mid-1840s that it was sited "in the Lower Hutt". The names of the two hamlets, Aglionby or Richmond, failed to take permanent root as the basis for the city's present name. Instead variations on the name "Hutt" proliferated. The present city district was indiscriminately referred to by Brees as Lower Hutt, the Lower District of the Hutt and the Hutt. This confusion continued for decades. To some extent it still continues today, the city being variously referred to as the Hutt, Lower Hutt or Hutt City. It was the Post Office which began to enforce a certain uniformity. The postmark used in 1874 read The Hutt. In the mid-1880s this was changed to Hutt. The name became Lower Hutt on 1 December 1910 and finally, following local body amalgamation on 1 November 1989, became Hutt City on 8 October 1991. This was designed to distinguish Lower Hutt from Upper Hutt City. Thus the City was named after the river, not after Sir William Hutt. Only the river can claim to have been named after that British member of Parliament. Further to this, it is interesting to note that Sir William Hutt never visited New Zealand.

N.B. The name of the area is still Lower Hutt according to the New Zealand Geographic Board. It's the local body name, not the locality name, that changed from Lower Hutt to Hutt City.

Sir William Hutt  

Sir William Hutt was born in 1791 in Lambeth, Surrey, and educated privately at Ryde, Isle of Wight, and Camberwell. Matriculating from St Mary Hall, Oxford, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge where he graduated BA (1827) and MA (1831). He married (1831) Mary, daughter of J Milner and dowager countess of Strathmore. Hutt was MP for Hull (1832-41) and for Gateshead (1841-74). A free-trader and much interested in colonial affairs, he was a member of the select committee on colonial lands (1836) He was a commissioner for the foundation of South Australia, a member of the New Zealand Association (1837) and of the select committee on New Zealand (1840). After the New Zealand Bill was thrown out in 1838 Hutt helped form the New Zealand Land Company, amalgamating the interests of the New Zealand Company, the New Zealand Colonisation Society and the old New Zealand Company in 1825. He was later a director and chairman. In 1859 he was vice-president of the Board of Trade (KCB 1865). He died on 24 November 1882. His first wife (who died 1860) left him mining properties worth 18,000 pounds a year. He married again (1861) a daughter of the Hon Sir James Francis Stanhope.       

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