Edmund Storr Halswell
1790 - 1874
Few can claim to have been in New Zealand for such a short time but to have left such a large imprint on the country. The names Halswell Point and Halswell Street in Wellington, a Halswell County and the Halswell River in Christchurch and a Halswell Street in Wanganui all point to the name and presence of Edmund Storr Halswell.
Edmund Storr Halswell was born E. S. Haswell in c 1790, the son of Mr Henry Haswell. Edmund entered Cambridge University and it is here that an interesting metamorphosis takes place, entering the College as Haswell and departing as Halswell. This change of name has been confirmed by the Cambridge Alumni and it was apparently his belief that he was descended from the ennobled family of Halswell from Goathurst in Somerset. The family had fought in the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 and while two brothers had been hanged a third escaped to Radnorshire. It is this brother from whom Edmund claimed descent.
In October of 1840 at the age of 50, Edmund was appointed "Protector of Aborigines and Commissioner for the Management of Native Reserves at Wellington" by the New Zealand Company. The Company's instructions to him, dated October 10th 1840, exhort him to protect the rights of "the Natives" from "the danger to which colonisation exposed them....in the midst of a new society, in which the land had for the first time become a valuable possession".
Edmund left London, Gravesend on October 10th 1840 aboard the ship Lady Nugent. Although some passenger lists show only Edmund (while others do not show him at all but include him as an addendum) we have one very full passenger list showing Edmund Halswell and son. The book Early New Zealand shows, along with an E. S. Halswell a B. Halswell also arriving aboard the Lady Nugent. We know via family connections to E. S. Halswell, that he had two daughters and one son, Hugh Beauchamp Halswell. It would therefore seem feasible to assume that B. Halswell was Beauchamp.
It appears that Edmund applied himself with diligence to his new duties. He not only set about protecting the rights of the local tribes but also studied and wrote about the conditions under which these tribes lived and conducted a nationwide census of Maori from North Cape to "The Remainder of Middle and Stewart's Islands" he estimated there to be a total population of 107,219.
In May 1841 Edmund, already a Solicitor, was appointed a Magistrate and on February 12th of the following year he became Judge of the County Court at, what our research tells us, was an annual salary of £300. As one of three Senior Magistrates he would have had a powerful influence on the legal and lawful conduct of the fledgling town. In this capacity, too, he would have moved in the high social circles of the day, a situation in which he would not at all have felt uncomfortable.
Edmund's house, in Ohiro, Wellington occupied
Section 28 of the old Wellington City Plan of 1841. The
approximate location of this house is on the site currently occupied by Brooklyn School in Washington Avenue. A delightful description of this property by Mr Brees (artist, narrator and Chief Surveyor for the New Zealand Company from February 1842) is quoted from N. Z. Pictorial of 1847: "If the house should ever be completed...it will have a truly English appearance. The entrance hall, which is both large and lofty, is at present used for a kitchen, and the author will not forget the chimney, which was of very ample proportions. The section is moderately hilly and the soil good". In addition to this house Edmund owned several properties in the township of Wellington. It is not known what happened to these on his return to England.
He worked from the original County Court which was towards the northern end of Lambton Harbour, not far from Belsize Point (Pipitea) and would have been in the vicinity of Mulgrave Street. This Court House was burnt down on July 5th 1842, an event thus described by Edward Jerningham Wakefield in his two volume book Adventure in New Zealand........."the building which had so long done duty as Police-office, Post-office, Court of Justice, and Church, took fire, and was burnt to the ground in half and hour. Fortunately, Mr Halswell and the Police Magistrate had for a long while doubted the security of the edifice, and kept their documents at their respective homes; ...and the whole damage done was estimated at nearly five pounds!"
Edmund Storr Halswell was to remain in New Zealand for another three years. In early 1845 he was an officer for the Te Aro District Militia and it was not long after this that Edmund returned to England. On May 31st 1866 Edmund was issued with a land grant of 109 acres along the Old Porirua Road by Sir George Grey. For those who know the area, this was near Halfway House near the present Glenside motorway on-ramp.
Edmund died in London on January 1st 1874 at the age of 83.
If you have any further
information on Edmund Storr Halswell or his family please contact
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|Copyright:||Denise & Peter 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002|