Scotts Landing

Nau mai ki (welcome to) Location 6: Scott Point

 
  • In the area; points of interest
  • Māori History
  • Land acquisition by the Crown
  • Manganui  (Casnells Island)
  • The steamer wharf and world famous regatta
  • The Scotts and Scott Homestead
  • the remarkable Rodmersham Homestead; a family dynasty and art collection that could be straight from the pages of ‘Country Life’

Kia mahara mai (please note): MERRA’s Historical Trail commentaries are draft working documents compiled by volunteers.  They will be revised through on-going consultation and research and as feedback is received.

We invite constructive feedback, wider perspectives, additional information, and suggestions for improvement.   Please be in touch via the contact form on this website

In the area: points of interest

You sit above a flat, tidal sandstone platform later roughly reclaimed with rock and fill to form a turning bay and carpark.  Ridge Road which terminates here was once a rough but sometimes busy cart track serving residents and north-bound travellers.  Prior to reclamation the earlier steamer wharf stretched from near the cliff out to the deeper water of the channel.  In times before roads, this spot was the focal point of travel, trade, day excursions from Auckland, and the historic annual Mahurangi Regatta dating to at least 1858 and possibly as far back 1832.

Looking south is Maunganui (Casnells Island) connected to Scott Point by a tidal rock landbridge.  With remnants of a commanding pā, it is testimony to a long, vibrant and sometimes turbulent Māori history.

Beyond Maunganui is the Mahurangi (Waihē) Harbour entrance bounded by Otarawao (Sullivans Bay), Pudding Island, Cudlip Point to the West (right) and Lushington’s Rodmersham homestead (1884) and Sadlers Point to the East (left).  Te Haupa (Saddle Island) lies protectively across the harbour entrance. 

Scott Point and Maunganui form the ‘middle head’ of the harbour with the Pukapuka estuary branching to the West.  Over half a dozen pā sites sculpt the landscape between here and the outer heads.

The historic Scott Homestead (1877) nestles in the bay to your left where it and particularly earlier buildings were once the hub of the Scott family’s busy shipbuilding and hospitality ventures.

Maori History: 

(With acknowledgment of Auckland Council’s Draft management Plan; see 5680456fc4a18cb6288103ee1888ea58_Scandrett_-_draft_chapter.pdf:)

Local traditions indicate that this area was once occupied by ancient peoples known as Ngāti Kui, Tūtūmaiao and Tūrehu.  

Oral history and local names also reference the famous voyager Toi Te Huatahi’s visit to Mahurangi around 800 years ago. 

Toi Te Huatahi’s descendants later settled with earlier occupants. Their decendents became the ancestors of the iwi (tribal groups) still associated with the district.

Ngāti ManuhiriNgāti Rongo and Ngāti Kahu, including their smaller sub-groupings, claim mana whenua (traditional land rights) in the Mahurangi – Matakana area. These hapu are related to the larger iwi of Ngātiwai and Ngāti Whātua, with links to the famous ancestral voyaging canoes, like the Tainui, Arawa, Moekākara and Māhuhukiterangi.

A series of conquests from the early 1600s led to Te Kawerau leader Maki dividing up the entire Mahurangi area among his three eldest sons, Manuhiri (Ngāti Manuhiri), Ngawhetu (Ngāti Rongo), and Maeaeariki (Ngāti Raupō, Ngāti Kahu and Ngati Kā).

Alliances were formed over time with Ngāti Whātua, Ngāi Tāhūhū and Ngāti Manaia (Ngātiwai) and the Mahurangi area enjoyed peace for several generations.

However a strategically important area rich in kaimoana was bound to be contested.

In a summary that helps explain the proliferation of pā sites in the area, Ngati Manuhiri’s deed of settlement documents describe it thus: 

The traditional name for the harbour originates from the fact that its resources were jealously guarded and fought over down the generations. Ko te iti o Waihē, he puta kino nui – “Even though Waihē  (the disputed harbour) is not large, it has been the cause of great trouble”. (see https://www.govt.nz/assets/Documents/OTS/Ngati-Manuhiri/Ngati-Manuhiri-Deed-of-Settlement-Schedule-Documents-21-May-2011.pdf)

In this document Ngati Manuhiri outline their “shared ancestral interest in Waihē (the Mahurangi Harbour) as descendants of Maki and his wife Rotu who occupied Te Korotangi Pa at the southern harbour entrance (Cudlip Point). 

Places of particular significance to Ngati Manuhiri include: the island pa of Maunganui (Casnell Island), Motu Kauri (Grant’s Island), Puhinui (the waterfalls at Warkworth), and Pukapuka Cemetery which remains in use at the head of the harbour… Following the alienation of most of their coastal land in the nineteenth century, Ngati Manuhiri continued to utilise the resources of the coastal marine area

Fighting between the Te Kawerau ā Maki and Marutūahu tribal confederations (from the Hauraki/Thames area) over control of the fishing resources of the eastern coastline between the Whāngaparāoa peninsula and Matakana, began in the 1720s and continued sporadically throughout the century.

The Marutūahu tribes occupied the Hauraki Gulf and did not want control of land, rather the famed tauranga mangō or shark fishing grounds …where thousands of school sharks were caught and dried in late summer for winter food. The Te Kawerau hapū (Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Rongo, Ngāti Raupō and Ngāti Kā) remained on their Mahurangi lands, but clashed with the Marutūahu tribes, who continued to harvest Mahurangi shark until the Musket Wars* stopped this, from around 1821. (* armed with muskets Ngapūhi chief Hongi Hika lead a series of bloody attacks on tribes further south that resulted in a “major redistribution of the Māori population, particularly in the North Island” see https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/hongi-hika)

Today, Marutūahu iwi still assert ancestral associations with the Mahurangi district, including through the Waitangi Tribunal.  Representatives of the Te Kawerau hapū work with Auckland Council as kaitiaki (guardians) over regional parkland in Mahurangi. 

Land ‘acquisition’ by the Crown

In a detailed 147 page 1998 report to the Waitangi Tribunal Barry Rigby (see below) documents the clumsy and protracted process by which Mahurangi Lands came into Crown ownership and how a series of Māori claims to the area were ‘bought off’.  Of course much of the land was soon on-sold to European settlers.

After Governor Hobson’s decision to move the capital from Russell to Auckland (and its purchase from Ngāti Whātua), the Mahurangi hinterland was eyed by Crown Surveyor Felton Mathew who sought further Crown acquisition.

The first step in 1841 was what Rigby described ‘as a major (Crown) blunder in seeking to purchase the entire Mahurangi area from only one tribal group…. the four tribes of the Marutūahu Confederation’.  The payment for the area between Orewa in the south to Te Arai in the North was 400 blankets, 100 Gowns, 2 Horses, 2 Cows, 200 Pairs of Trousers, 30 Coats, 100 Caps, 4 Casks of Tobacco, 6 Casks of Flour, 2  Bags of Rice, 1 Bag of Sugar, and 60 Camelot Cloaks.

However the Crown soon realised that their assumption that the Hauraki tribes had ‘conquered’ other tangata whenua and extinguished their claims to the area was ill-informed and embarrassingly wrong.   In part it was based on the fact that in the wake of the Musket Wars much of the land was uninhabited with only isolated pockets of Maori in residence.  

It seems that the 1841 ‘purchase’ set up a double jeopardy scenario for other iwi; either they forgo making a claim or alternatively they make a successful claim resulting in a pay out or the allocation of land with liability for surveying, legal and other costs.  Either way alienation of land was the general outcome.  

Thus between 1841 and 1865 a protracted series of claims from both Maori (and pre-Treaty European) purchasers whose rights had been ignored in the original ‘purchase’ (mainly Ngati Whātua, Te Uri o Hua and Te Kawerau) were addressed.   Rigby documents the complexity, overlap, pedigree and outcomes of around 40 such claims.

As Rigby succinctly summarises it before detailing the dozens of subsequent ‘purchases’ ‘Crown officials negotiated with Hauraki first, then with Ngati Whatua, and finally with a variety of different Kawerau descent groups. Some of the Kawerau groups were related to Ngati Whatua through Ngati Rongo, and some related to either Te Uri 0 Hau or Ngati Wai.

See Rigby Barry https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/Documents/WT/wt_DOC_93961548/Wai%20674%2C%20F001.pdf   THE CROWN, MAORI, AND MAHURANGI 1840-1881   (Waitangi Tribunal 1998)

Manganui (Casnells Island)

Like the Burton Wells Reserve and its pā site (see Location 3), Maunganui is also a Department of Conservation (DOC) Reserve.  It too contains the remnants of a once imposing pā.  The earthworks particularly the kūmara pits and also the deep excavations of the cross-headland ditches that formed the inland protective ramparts topped with stout palisades remain clearly visible.  The outer defenses of the pā were the imposing vertical cliffs of the island.  With expansive flat areas atop, a sheltered mid-harbour strategic location, excellent visibility of the outer heads, and proximity to sheltered beaches and fishing grounds, Mauganui would have been a sought-after location for both settlement and defence.  DOC dates this pā between 16th to 18th Century suggesting its origins may lie in the centuries of rivalry between Te Kawerau and Marutūahu over local fishing grounds.

The vibrant native bird life and absence of introduced pests (especially possums and stoats) here and at Burton Wells Reserve is the result of a quarter of a century of Mahurangi East Residents and Ratepayers Association (MERRA) volunteer trapping and tending of bait stations.  Sadly as this is drafted, DOC is imposing new trapping and baiting protocols that neither MERRA volunteers nor indeed DOC itself have the resources to meet. MERRA is keen to retain the successful (and no-cost-to-DOC) status quo.  However unless common sense prevails it seems that MERRA’s 25 years of voluntary conservation work, and with it Maunganui and Burton Well’s largely predator–free status may come to an inexplicable end.

The steamer wharf and a world famous regatta

In the days before roads, coastal sailing vessels and later steamers were the life blood of both travel and trade.  As noted at Locations 1 and 2 both Māori mariners and locally built vessels were prominent in coastal shipping.

As settlement around the Mahurangi and up-harbour at Puhinui (Warkworth) commuters and local goods including vegetables, firewood, lime, cement and timber needed to get to market.  A regular (at first weekly) via the cutter Frances and from 1870 by paddle steamer the ’Lady Bowen’ service was established to both Scott Point and Warkworth providing both passenger and freight services.  By the 1880s rival steamer companies fiercly vied for trade with allegations of ramming surfacing.  Day excursions were also popular (and it seems also offered by competing operators).  Steamer services ceased in 1936 as the road north became ‘all weather’.As settlement around the Mahurangi and up-harbour at Puhinui  (Warkworth) increased, commuters needed transport and local goods including vegetables, firewood, lime, cement and timber needed to get to market. 

New Zealand Herald 2 April 1890 p.5 (courstesy Papers Past)

Observer 4 January 1896 (courstesy Papers Past)

All tide wharves were built at Mahurangi Heads (here at Scotts Point) and in the town basin at Warkworth (Puhinui).  As described at Location 3 the builder of the steamer wharf here was William McElroy.  His successful tender was £490.  The extensive structure appears around four times the length of its more recent replacement which angles further upstream and is too shallow for larger vessels especially at low tide.

The annual Anniversary Weekend Mahurangi Regatta is an annual celebration of traditional craft, old-school kids’ beach sports (like sack races and tug of war), yacht racing, rowing.  The famous prize-giving dance is held in the grounds of Scott Homestead.  Possibly first held in the days of Gordon Browne’s spar station (1832-1836) the Mahurangi Regatta was definitely in full swing by 1858.  It was resurrected in 1977 by John Male’s Mahurangi Action (see above) after falling into abeyance after World War II.  Each year it continues to draw a huge fleet of vessels and hundreds of visitors to this small community.  Many vessels head back to the Waitemāta for Auckland’s Monday regatta.

The Mahurangi Regatta underway off the steamer wharf here in 1901 https://www.mahurangi.org.nz/2008/12/28/revival-of-a-tradition/ (Photographer Henry Winkelmann)

The Scotts and Scott Homestead

Thomas Scott (Snr) was Christened in 1803 in Stepney London.  As a young man he spent time in Nova Scotia learning the shipbuilding trade.  Various accounts have surfaced about his arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand… it seems likely he arrived via Sydney on board a whaler; possibly as a shipwright.  After a stint as a flax merchant in Tauranga, and a near fatal skirmish with local Maori, Scott again crossed the Tasman marrying Ann Russell in 1834, with son Thomas Flower Scott born in  1835.  Later that year the family was back in Aotearoa, purchasing a small holding in the Bay of Islands from Pomare II.  Here Scott and his brother in law set to boat building, constructing the 18 ton schooner ‘Trent’.

A second son George Stuart was born in 1837.  However the Māori sacking of Kororareka, rumours of a violent falling out with his brother in law, and a partial return to sea as a trader seems to have been the final straws for Ann Scott.  It seems she returned to Sydney never to return.  

A fraught and ultimately failed trading and ship-building partnership in Parua Bay near the Whangarei Heads ended with Thomas Scott back in Auckland as a shipwright by 1848.  A year later with his elder son as among his apprentices he was ship-building here.  The first cutter built was the ‘William’ which joined the coastal trading fleet with Scott’s brother in law Flower Russell as skipper. 

When lots at Mahurangi were put up for sale in 1852 Thomas purchased Lots 42 to 45, 49 and 50.  They were the picturesque and sheltered bay here and its surrounding 8 acres.  Their first homestead was erected in the bay and a slip way built; likely just up river from here on a sandstone shelf just past the present day ‘grid’.  Over the next 23 years over a dozen vessels (mainly schooners and cutters) were built.

True to his entrepreneurial bent Thomas Scott also opened his premises variously referred to as the Mahurangi Hotel (1863) or Richmond Inn/Arms (1869) and added ‘inn-keeper’ to his CV.  He retired to Auckland in 1863 aged around 60.  Thomas (Jnr) was by then a ship’s captain (SS Coromandel and Northern Steamship company) so it is likely that younger son George, partnered with brothers Thomas and Ben Short (see Location 2) to continue the business.  Thomas Short became the inn’s licensee.  The tragic drowning of Ben Short and his son in 1869 signalled the end of ship building here.  The Darrochs and Darrachs yards also closed up shop around the same time.

Both Scott brothers continued to live in the bay to your left until at least 1875. Contemporary survey shows three separate buildings. In 1861 Thomas (Jnr) married Janet Dorran whose father was an engineer at the Kawau copper mine.  Thomas and Janet had 12 children.  Three daughters died very young and sadly two sons (both retired mariners) died later in life sailing from Mahurangi to Auckland in a 14 foot cutter in 1933.

Also in 1861 George married Susannah Bennett from Dairy Bay (see below).  They later built a homestead at Opaheke Bay across the harbour where they raised their 10 children.  George died in 1917 two years after Susannah.  

Around the same time  as the Short drownings a second disaster hit with the original Scott homestead destroyed by fire.  A rebuild in 1877 resulted in the elegant Georgian-style two storied residence you see today.  A study of the exterior will show where the house was added to  (with the exterior stairway replaced by and internal one) about 1881.

The extension was made around the time that Thomas (Jnr, now a mariner) and Janet’s move to Auckland  They leased the homestead  to a member of the local Grant family (see Location 1) who offered accommodation for the many travellers and excursionists arriving by steamer.  This may account for the decision to enlarge the living area downstairs and add a further two extra bedrooms in the tighly partitioned upstairs.

At the end of the lease the home was used as a summer retreat by the wider family until Thomas retired and they moved back to Mahurangi.  Thomas (Jnr) died in 1911 aged 78.  Janet remained alone in the house for some years before moving between her daughters homes in Auckland.  She died in 1922 aged 80.  They are both buried in the local cemetery (Location 1)

Photogaphs of the homestead from this time show a beautiful vegetable garden complementing the idyllic scene and steamer passengers on the stone and timber walkway from the jetty (more recently replaced by a wooden boardwalk).

After Janet’s departure the property continued to be used as a summer retreat for the extended family.  The Baileys built a newer cottage on the headland above (now a Council Parks holiday let).  Over subsequent decades the homestead suffered a sad decline assisted no doubt by visiting boaties and other uninvited visitors. It was lucky to escape the fiery fate of its predecessor.

Scott Homestead (1877) in c 1970 after half a century of decline.

The foresighted purchase of the property as a Regional Park by the Auckland Regional Council in 1971 was a turning point in securing the homestead’s future.  The ARC leased the building (at peppercorn rates) to the Auckland Civic Trust who by 1991 had completed a painstaking restoration of the homestead.  The property is now administered by Auckland Council.

Acknowledgment (and for further reading) see https://www.mahurangi.org.nz/2021/01/05/thomas-scott-and-sons/

The remarkable Rodmersham Homestead; a family dynasty and art collection that could be straight from the pages of ‘Country Life

Looking through the gap between Scott Point and Casnells Island across to the Eastern Peninsular beyond Lagoon Bay you will see an old Norfolk Pine.  It is marks the hub of a private landholding incorporating Sadlers Point (the Eastern Head of the Mahurangi), Rodmersham homestead and Dairy Bay, it is a jewel in the crown.  Redolent with history, it must surely become part of the Regional Park in future.

Construction of the lime-cement-walled Rodmersham homestead was started by Robert Arthur Ponsonby Brooke in 1884.  Originally from Bradford, he purchased the land off William Sullivan and William Jackson (Julia Short’s second husband) earlier in the year.  Brooke set off to England to settle his affairs for emigration and source exotic building materials.  He died while away leaving the house an uncompleted shell.

Sarah Jane Lushington (nee Styak) purchased the partially completed house and 300 acres in 1888.  Her husband Charles’ family seat was Rodmersham Lodge, Kent.  He was Eton-educated and an exceptional all round sportsman.   The English estate was sold and many chattels including a fine collection of old master paintings moved to New Zealand.  Forewarned by a near-disaster stables fire at the Styak’s home Greenmount in East Tamaki, the Lushingtons sought a fire-proof home for their collection.  They found it in Brooke’s half completed home across the water and south from here (best viewed from Casnells Island [Motu Mauganui]).  Its design was even reminiscent of Rodmersham Lodge.  Pragmatically, the build was completed using local materials and craftsmen.

The extensive Lushington household incorporated the widowed Mrs Styak, her sister and a niece Ella who was treated as a daughter by the childless Lushingtons.  On the payroll were a housemaid, gardener, cook, and cleaner/skivvy.   A farmhand, Mr Trotter, occupied the ex-Sullivan cottage (1853) in beautiful Dairy Bay.  The cottage still stands in its magical setting.

The dairyman and firewood supplier (and also yacht crewman, coastal skipper, fisherman and ‘jack of all trades’) Mr George Emtage, hailed from and eventually inherited Motuora Island a few kilometres offshore.  Born in Bermuda, he went to sea at 12, ultimately jumping ship in New Zealand aged 14 in 1874.  He found work crewing for Captain Ragg (of Mahurangi) and in 1883 married his daughter Maude.  They raised 9 children.  Theirs is a story of challenge, hard work and resourcefulness.

George Emtage and wife Maude of Motuora hard at work as usual. (https://boatingnz.co.nz/the-emtages-of-motuora-island/)

An ageing George and Maude Emtage hand in hand.  A touching photograph, autographed and sent to them by Governor General Bledisloe. (https://waitematawoodys.com/tag/captain-george-samuel-emtage/)

Many vessels both workaday and impressive – such as Lushington’s Logan-built yacht Muritai – graced the Rodmersham shore and slipway.

The Lushington’s yacht Muritai on the hard.  Mrs Lushington greets Mrs Brown the cleaning woman while sitting on a pile of ballast.  Winkelmann photo (Mahurangi Magazine http://www.mahurangi.org.nz/2015/07/19/rodmersham/)

Famous photographer Henry Winkelmann was a regular visitor responsible for much of the photographic record.

Friends and family at Rodmersham, late 1800s. Note the ‘old master’ painting in the background.  Those identified are, back row, second from right, Charles Hugh Lushington; middle row, left Sarah Jane Lushington,  third from left her mother Susannah Styak;  Front row, from left, niece Ella Wynyard (née Eaton) and her mother Theresa Eaton (née Styak) with the family dog.  (Mahurangi Magazine http://www.mahurangi.org.nz/2015/07/19/rodmersham/)

Niece Ella married Harry Wynyard in 1898 and after Charles’ early death aged 43 in 1905, Sarah Jane stayed on at Rodmersham for a further 20 years.  Her eventual move back to Auckland (and a flammable home) prompted the sale of the art collection.  It was repatriated to the UK for sale via Christies Auction House.

 A contemporary report of the sale of old masters from Rodmersham.  Evening Post, 5 February 1929, (https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19290205.2.106)

When Sarah Jane Lushington died in 1933 she left the property to niece Ella’s son, grandnephew Gladwyn Wynyard.

Rodmersham homestead November 1900 already partly obscured by its now sentinel Norfolk Pine. (Winkelmann photograph (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19001110-873-1)

On Gladwyn’s death in 1973 Rodmersham passed to his daughter Lyndsay who with husband Mark Kirby continue over 130 years of family ownership.  The homestead still nests beautifully on the shore-line under its now towering Norfolk pine.

That completes the MERRA Historical Trail if you have done it in order from Location 1 through 6.  We hope you have enjoyed it.   Other URLs and map below.

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