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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


CARRINGTON, Frederic Alonzo


Surveyor and Superintendent of Taranaki.

A new biography of Carrington, Frederic Alonzo appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Frederic Alonzo Carrington was born in October 1807 at Chelmsford, Essex, the son of Captain William Carrington and Elizabeth, née Peters. He trained as a civil engineer under Colonel Dawson, R.E., and in January 1826 joined the Ordnance Survey Department. For the next few years he did survey work in the counties along the Welsh border. The quality of his topographical delineations and accuracy of his surveys brought him to the notice of his superiors; and in 1832, after the Reform Bill was passed, Carrington was chosen to describe the boundaries of the boroughs between Bristol and Manchester. Early in 1839, as a result of discussions with Captain Mein Smith, the chief surveyor of the New Zealand Company, Carrington became interested in colonisation. In June 1840 the directors of the Plymouth Company appointed him chief surveyor and sent him to New Zealand with instructions to select a suitable site for their proposed settlement. He arrived at Wellington in the London on 12 December 1840 and, after consultations with Colonel Wakefield, visited possible sites at Queen Charlotte Sound, Taranaki, and Waitara. Carrington selected New Plymouth as the most suitable site available, although, later on, he had to defend his choice against that of the settlers who considered a natural harbour, which New Plymouth lacked, to be of paramount importance. In 1843, when he returned to England, Carrington found that the Company was in financial difficulties. His employment therefore terminated. He became associated with the railways boom and, on many occasions, presented technical evidence to various Railways Committees of the House of Commons. For the Great Exhibition of 1851 Carrington prepared exhibits of the Taranaki ironsands and endeavoured to interest the authorities in their exploitation. Between 1851 and 1856 he paid three visits to California to advise on mining problems, water races, and railways. He returned to Taranaki in 1857 where he hoped to promote an iron industry and to construct improved port facilities. In 1862 he became Government Engineering Surveyor for Taranaki and, in the years following, cooperated with the military authorities to establish an adequate system of roads in the province. After the Maori Wars he entered local politics, and in 1869 was elected Superintendent of Taranaki – a post which he retained until the abolition of the provincial system. Carrington's term was chiefly notable for his allocation of one-quarter of the province's revenue towards the improvement of the port facilities. In 1870 he was returned to the House of Representatives for Omata and, from 1871 to 1879, for Grey and Bell.

In 1833, at London, England, Carrington married Margaret Gaine, who died in 1888 leaving one son and four daughters. Carrington died at New Plymouth on 15 July 1901.

Because of his long connection with the province and, particularly, because he selected and laid out New Plymouth, Frederic Alonzo Carrington may justly be called “the Father of Taranaki”. Two of his brothers were associated with him in his New Zealand work. They were Augustus Octavius Croker Carrington (1816–1901), who was his principal assistant during the Taranaki surveys; and Wellington Carrington (1814–90), who visited the Bay of Islands in 1835, was appointed assistant surveyor to the New Zealand Company in 1839, and was interpreter at the arrest of Te Whiti in 1881.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • From Plymouth to New Plymouth, Wood, R. G. (1959)
  • Taranaki Herald, 15 Jul 1901 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.