Commander Arthur Wakefield

Arthur Wakefield was born on 17 November 1799 at Redward Farm, Burnham on Crouch.

He was the third son to Edward  and Susanna Wakefield.

All of the sons were to be involved in colonising New Zealand and Australia in someway.

Edward was a farmer, landowner and statistician who wrote a successful book- Ireland, Statistical and Political.

Arthur joined the Navy in 1810 at the age of 11 years after education at Bury St Edmunds Grammar School

He sailed in the Frigate HMS Nisus under Captain Phillip Beaver seeing a lot of action in the war against France most notably the capture of the French frigate Renommee.

Future postings saw him in action in the Caribbean, American War of Independence and action against the slave trade off Africa and South America.

In 1841 he left the Navy with the rank of Commander of the Steam Frigate HMS Rhadamanthus to take a role in the New Zealand Company which was led by his older brother Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

Arthur was appointed to run the new settlement that had been established at Nelson.

The settlement was well organised by Arthur Wakefield but the land available was soon allocated.

Wakefield believed that some land nearby at Wairau had been included in the purchase from the Maoris who lived in the area and sent some engineers and surveyors to begin work in colonising the area.

This annoyed the Maoris who clearly did not accept the right on the settlers to move into this area. This was later substantiated by the Governor of New Zealand.

The surveyors were returned to Nelson and their equipment destroyed.

After the second such occasion Wakefield led a party of armed me to arrest Te Rauparaha who was the local Chief.

The two side met and at first there was a standoff. Then the Settlers advanced. Someone from the settler side fired their rifle and the wife of Te Rauparaha was instantly killed.

A short struggle ensued at which point the settlers were killed or captured. Later that day the captured settlers including Captain Wakefield were killed.

Four Maori and twenty two settlers died in the incident that became known as the Wairau Massacre.

The incident claimed headlines in newspapers around the world and in the short term affected the development of the settlements.

The Governor of New Zealand commenced an investigation which saw his blame the New Zealand Company for provoking the incident but warned the Maoris for killing the prisoners.

Whether this decision was one taken by the facts of the case or that fact that settlers were outnumbered by Maoris by 100 to 1 we will never know.

Family History of the Wakefield’s

Edward Wakefield b1750–d1826 married Priscilla Bell b 1774


Edward Wakefield b1774-d1854 married Susanna Crash b 1814


Edward Gibbon Wakefield b1798-d 1862

William Hayward Wakefield b1803- d1848

Arthur Wakefield b 1799-d1843

Felix Wakefield b1808 - d1875

Edward them married Frances Davies in 1822