Story: English

Page 2. 19th-century migration

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First arrivals

James Cook, who mapped New Zealand in 1769 on the first of his three voyages to the country, was a Yorkshireman, and most of his sailors were English. When Europeans began to settle in New Zealand in the early 1800s, the English were well represented. They included former convicts such as Jacky Guard and whalers such as Dicky Barrett. Church of England and Wesleyan missionaries and their wives were English. The artisans who accompanied the missionaries and most of the early traders were also drawn from England. It is probable that of those landing before 1840 over 60% were English.

Wakefield settlers

The New Zealand Company settlements in Wellington, Nelson, New Plymouth and Whanganui were largely an initiative of English followers of the colonial promoter Edward Gibbon Wakefield, and not surprisingly they recruited migrants mostly in England. Over 80% of those granted assisted passages by the New Zealand Company were from there. The Otago settlement of 1848 set out to attract Scots, but the Canterbury Association was very much an English scheme, as its name suggests. Auckland drew many from Australia; nevertheless, 45% of its incomers until 1852 were English.

English names

The English settlers of Canterbury commemorated their homeland in names such as Canterbury, Oxford, (New) Brighton, Lincoln, Islington, Sheffield, Charing Cross, Winchester and Christchurch. The last was a tribute to John Robert Godley – the name recalled his college at Oxford. Some of the other names initially referred to individuals in the Canterbury Association, such as the Earl of Islington and the Bishop of Winchester.

Gold miners

During the 1850s and 1860s deliberate efforts to attract migrants still focused on England. For instance, the English comprised well over half of those given assisted passages to Canterbury. However, they were less well represented among the soldiers who participated in the wars of the 1860s and stayed after their discharge, or among gold miners. Only about a third of those who flooded in, first to the Otago gold mines and then from 1865 to the West Coast, were of English birth. Nevertheless, the numbers arriving were so great that even considering this low percentage, there were many English miners. They tended to include particular groups such as the Cornish, who were long used to the work.

Migration patterns from 1871 to the 1890s

By 1871 the proportion of English among those not born in New Zealand was just over 41%, the lowest it would be for 100 years. The introduction of assisted migration in 1871, as part of Julius Vogel’s plan to develop New Zealand’s economy, once more saw extensive recruitment in England. Many English responded to the call. But so too did the Scots and Irish. In fact only 54% of assisted migrants were English – considerably less than their representation (65%) in the United Kingdom population in 1871. With depression in New Zealand, migration from England, as from other countries, tailed off in the late 1880s and 1890s.

How to cite this page:

Terry Hearn, 'English - 19th-century migration', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 June 2024)

Story by Terry Hearn, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2015