During most of the 19th century the northern regions of Yorkshire and Lancashire sent quite a number of people to New Zealand, but this was because they were populous. In proportionate terms, the flow was small. These were areas at the heart of England’s urban–industrial growth. For much of the 19th century Yorkshire and Lancashire attracted people from elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and their farmers prospered as the demand for food increased. If they left at all, people from the north tended to go to Canada or the USA.
Many of those who did emigrate from the north of England came from particular localities. Among the Yorkshire people who arrived in 1842, most came from a triangle formed by Bradford, Leeds and Barnsley in the West Riding.
New migrants from northern England
Towards the end of the 19th century the regional sources of New Zealand’s English immigrants changed. With the exception of London–Middlesex and, to a lesser extent the south-east, New Zealand began to draw more heavily on northern England. This shift intensified after 1900, and continued into the interwar period.
The growing importance of northern England was related in part to increasing levels of mass unemployment after 1920 in the old-established textiles, mining and shipbuilding industries. It also followed the decision by the British government in 1922 to subsidise family emigration, and by the New Zealand government to allow New Zealanders to nominate any person in England (or Scotland or Northern Ireland) for assistance to migrate. Employers in New Zealand took advantage of the scheme to recruit industrial workers.
The last major wave of English migration, in the 30 years to 1975, came mostly from London–Middlesex and northern England. This again reflected the importance of urban and industrial skills as grounds for migration assistance.
From the beginnings of English migration until 1975, New Zealand received a flow of immigrants which, in terms of regions of birth, was not representative of the parent population, but was weighted towards a small and changing number of regions and counties.
New Zealand seems to have had a special appeal for residents of distant off-shore islands. Many Shetlanders came, and in the 1870s and 1880s there was a remarkable migration of people from the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. During those years probably about 3,500 people (or over 4% of the total population) left these small, rocky islands for New Zealand. Located off the north-west coast of France, and 145 km south of England, the Channel Islands, like the Isle of Man, were Crown dependencies and many of their residents would have spoken a French patois before coming to New Zealand.