Home » Human Life » The Story of Hellyers Creek – Coral Rutterford

The Story of Hellyers Creek – Coral Rutterford

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Hellyers Creek

Anyone reading the British newspapers would think  the British people were obsessed with immigration into the UK,  however migration has been an important part of British life since prehistoric times.

At various times it has been British people who have migrated in large numbers to all four corners of the globe for various reasons.

Many Londoners have joined this migration, in a previous post Coral Rutterford  who was bought up in Poplar told us a little bit  about her childhood and how in the 1960s she made a successful new life for herself and her family in New Zealand.

Coral has kindly written a short story about another Londoner who went to New Zealand  over a 100 years  earlier than she did whose migration did not have such a happy ending.

In the upper reaches of Auckland Harbour, also known as Waitemata Harbour ( which is Maori for sparkling waters), it divides and becomes streams and creeks as it hugs the coastline.

One such creek, Hellyers Creek is some 7 kms long and has tree and bush clad hills on one side and some pine trees and mangroves and a sandy beach on the other. Here one can set nets and catch flounder, which is  a flat fish and snapper and both are good eating fish. Stingrays and orcas have been sighted in these waters too, but it is considered safe and is used by many for swimming, boating or jet ski riding.

The story of Hellyers Creek begins when Thomas Hellyer met James George in Tasmania where they both disliked the convict settlement and so they later decided to move to Adelaide but they found the climate was too hot and they  became tired of the flies. They heard from a sea-captain that New Zealand was a green and pleasant country and decided to see for themselves.

Both men came from London originally and they noted as they sailed into Auckland that there were a few shacks on the coastline and therefore decided to go to one of the islands that are within Auckland Harbour.

There they built a hut or shelter until they decided what to do. The local Maori would bring food to Waiheke Island where they stayed there for some 8 months. Over this time there is evidence the two men were considered to be rough, loud and uncouth and disrespectful to the Maori, name calling and ill-treating them.

Thomas Hellyer had bought some Maori land from a man he met on the voyage from Adelaide by the name of Bully Webster who was a successful trader in 1840 and  it was some 320 acres of Kauri forest and fern, he paid 160 pounds, sight unseen. Hellyer and George later asked the local Maoris to take them to the site in their paddle boat and they were very pleased with the purchase of forest and fern land and soon they built a shack or “whare”  made from materials found in the bush and called it  “The Retreat”

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Whare (Maori hut or house)

Hellyer and George were among the first white men to buy land on Auckland’s North Shore. This was before Auckland was founded later in September of that year.

Hellyers Creek pics-card 010

In November 1840, Hellyer returned to the creek and took with him 4 sawyers and built a saw pit, a hut and a workshop and fresh water was available in a nearby lagoon and so opened a brew house which became popular amongst the sailors who rowed across the harbour for a beer even though it was quite a distance by rowing boat.

One of the sawyers went on a spree on Christmas Day stealing timber and selling it and was recognised as a New South Wales  escaped convict and was later sent back to Sydney where he was hanged.

The tall kauri trees grow straight and very tall and are now a protected species and the timber is prized for hand carving. Explorers like Captain James Cook who was the first white man to set foot on NZ soil used these tall trees for spars and masts on his tall sailing ship as did others who followed in later years.

Settlers in New Zealand were prevented from selling off trees immediately by the Superintendent of Public Works and officers who marked and measured the kauri trees by the water’s edge and so locked up the industry. Thereby curtailing the felling of the trees as Hellyer was keen to start up with what he considered a profitable business in the growth of Auckland as a new town at that time and settlers arriving.

James George moved to the now Auckland district and opened a bakery. He relied on firewood that Hellyer sent across the harbour to heat the ovens. As a new colony the price of provisions was high, a 2 pound loaf cost 1/3d, flour was 40 pounds a ton and butter cost 3/6d a pound. Other items available at that time were eggs at 2/6d a dozen and beef sold at 1/4d a pound by Jones the rat catcher. Beer cost 4 pounds 10 shillings per hogshead which is at least 63 gallons, possibly more.

A year later on 22nd December 1841 Thomas Hellyer was found dead at “The Retreat” supposedly killed by a tree falling on him while he was in his boat. The fact that his watch, boots and brandy were stolen indicated that it was not an accident.

An inquest was held at the Exchange Hotel, Auckland,  a man was held and questioned, but strangely runaway sailors on the property were not questioned and no one was ever charged with his murder. Hellyers younger son took over the business but it later failed.

In 1845 William C  Daldy a man born in Essex bought the property and later became an entrepreneur and traded around the New Zealand coast. He lived with his family at “The Retreat” site and gradually built a home over many months. He sailed around the coast in trading ventures and used dungaree as his sails. He later took part in local politics and was outspoken and became a Member of the House of Representatives and became first chairman of the Harbour Board and founder of an insurance company.

My house overlooks Hellyers Creek and it is a peaceful, gentle spot, the bushland across the creek is a bird sanctuary and a large collection of birds can be seen in our garden daily, grey heron nest in the tree lined bank, colourful rosella parakeets chatter as they fly overhead or feed on new leaf shoots in the spring.

Sparrows by the dozens, blackbirds, starlings and thrush all live at our place and its hard to believe that a murder could have occurred in such a beautiful place. Bush walks alongside the creek today are popular and many such tracks are available around the Auckland coastline.

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Coral’s Garden 

Other posts you may find interesting

Memories of Poplar in the 40s and 50s – Coral Rutterford

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2 Comments

  1. norman says:

    well done sis always enjoy your stories,look forward to reading more as you post them. Love norm xxx

  2. Catherine says:

    Hi Coral,
    We’re Hellyers from Sydney, Australia, and are descendants of Thomas Hellyer (through his first wife and their son William). My Dad has been researching our family history, particularly what happened to Thomas after he left Tasmania, and stumbled across this post. We will now be visiting Hellyers Creek when we visit Auckland later this week and would love to find out any other details of Thomas, including his burial site, if you know of anything.
    Thanks for posting this story, which we really appreciated reading!

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