Town of Petre on the Wanganui River, in September 1841

William Mein Smith, Artist;  Avon Fine Prints, Printer; 

This is one of the Reproduction in our collection. It was made in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand in 1841.
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About the Work
“I like the fact the hills are bare and the river has a slight tinge of blue to it. Petre has been something I have heard lots about as Whanganui's original name, but had never seen a picture of the time Whanganui was known as Petre. The two people on the roof make me smile, as if they are friends helping each other out getting a "weekend" job done!” – Ritesh Verma, ‘My Choice’ December 2021

Original label on the back of a 1918 copy of this print states:
"The Town of Petre on the Wanganui River, September 1841
The city of Wanganui was established largely by the New Zealand Company, being first named Petre after Lord Petre, one of the directors of the company. His second son, Henry William Petre, was one of the early settlers of Wellington, arriving in 1840 and remaining in this country until 1860. He was a leader in both the pastoral and political life of the new settlement. In 1854 the infant town of Petre was re-named Wanganui.
In his book 'Adventure in New Zealand' (London 1845), Edward Jerningham Wakefield describes several visits he made to Wanganui in 1840 and 1841. In September 1840 Kuru, a leading chief there, presented him with the large native-built house shown in the print. E.J. Wakefield was the only son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who was instrumental in founding the New Zealand Company, and was the nephew of Colonel William Wakefield, the company's Principal Agent at Wellington.
A large volume of fine engravings "Illustrations to Wakefield's 'Adventure in New Zealand' " was published in London in 1847. One of the plates from this work is the scene now reproduced. There are a few copies of the volume in contemporary hand-colouring and the print has been made from one of these by courtesy of the Auckland Institute and Museum Library. The view is taken from Churton Creek, in the vicinity of Churton Street, looking up the river.
Captain William Mein Smith, Royal Artillery (1798-1869), was appointed in 1839 as first Surveyor General to the New Zealand Company. He was in charge of the surveying of the city of Wellington in 1840, first at Petone, and subsequently at Thorndon. He had a distinguished career in this country, turning to politics in his later life. Mein Smith was a capable artist, and the sketches he made for the company are now of much historical value. This view is accepted as having been drawn by him in September 1841 when he visited Wanganui to superintend the selection of land there by New Zealand Company settlers."

In a letter dated 15/1/1918 written by John Leech of picture framers in Auckland addressed to the secretary of the Sarjeant Gallery discussing the possible purchase of this picture, he states
..."We have an old print entitled "The Town of Petre on the Wanganui River, in September 841", showing Shakespear's Cliff in the distance. The settlement shows Dr. Peter Wilson's house, Police Office and Police Magistrate's house, Mr. Henry Churton's house, and Mr. E. Wakefield's house (Ware Wikitoria). This is a good print and is in a fairly good state of preservation and should be interesting to your city. We have mounted and framed it appropriately and it looks very well. Our price is 45 complete.
Auckland have, as an addition to their Gallery, a collection called the "Old Colonists' Museum", in which they show anything of interest to or connected with the early history of the place, such as engravings, prints, photograph, and curios generally." ...
Image 280 x 380mm
colour lithograph on paper
Reproduction of a painting of an early scene of the Whanganui township, then known as 'Petre'. Shows the Whanganui River on the right with hills in the background. In the foreground are an array of wooden buildings with thatched roofs and wooden picket fences. Printed by Avon Fine Prints Ltd.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
19 Aug 2021



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