Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Clement Partridge of the Wai-Whau-Whau

Here’s a name which keeps cropping up from time to time in early land documents relating to Avondale: Clement Partridge. He was the original Crown Grantee (1845) for Allotment 5 on Rosebank, the farm later split between Robert Chisholm (purchased 1858) and Enoch Althorpe. He turns up as the owner of Allotment 65, the future “Stoneleigh” and Methuen Hamlet, from 1852 until he sold the property to Josiah Buttress. On the Jury list for 1857, he’s a farmer at “Wai-Whau-Whau”. Now, given the mid-Victorian habit to be vague as anything when it came to descriptions and placenames (after all, they knew what they were talking about, so the future historian’s needs wasn’t an issue), this may have been in reference to his Manukau/Blockhouse Bay Road farm. Or, he may have had land somewhere near the “Wai-Whau-Whau Creek” somewhere along the Great North Road in West Auckland. (Update 24 May 2009: As it happens, according to Vivian Burgess from West Auckland Historical Society, Wai-Whau-Whau is part of Swanson. Partridge definitely had land up there, although he didn't have close associations with the area.)

By 1860, at any rate, he was in Sale Street, Freemans Bay, still a farmer but about to have his career in colonial Auckland take a more interesting turn from simply being a farmer/land speculator.

James Busby has been well documented in many works, best known as a British Resident appointed in 1832, landing in 1833, quarreling with Lieutenant T. McDonnell, R.N. over the sale of spirits (McDonnell was an additional appointed Resident) and being replaced by Lt. Governor William Hobson in 1839. His story did not end there, however. For the next 30 years, he disputed land claims with the Crown, claiming 10,000 acres at the Bay of Islands (he received title to just over a fifth of that amount), and 90,000 acres at Whangarei and Ngunguru. He carried his grievances into a political career with the Auckland Provincial Council from 1853-1863, denounced Governor George Grey as a person who “did not know the truth,” and made it his crusade to defend the rights of other land claimants.

In 1861, he became editor of the Aucklander, and used that as a means of putting his protest across to the reading public. He employed Clement Partridge as sub-editor, in charge of advertisements – but this may not have been a wise move. Two court cases are on record where Partridge handled advertising accounts rather badly. One, with auctioneer Stannus Jones in 1863, for unpaid advertising, arose because Partridge failed to stop the advertisements after Jones’ staff made all attempts to tell him to. 1863 was when Busby left the editorship of the Aucklander, perhaps understandably so, and it reverted to being a weekly.

Busby was still connected with the Aucklander in 1866, however, as Partridge sought to get advertising money from James Copland of the Waitemata Hotel (Copland had for a brief time also been a publican at the Whau Hotel previously). This time, it was down to what we would call these days “false invoicing” – Partridge charging Copland for advertisements he never ordered. Once again, Partridge lost the case. By now, Partridge was in financial trouble. Perhaps he’d personally invested in the Aucklander? Whatever he did, he put his 8-roomed house on Wellington Street up for sale in July 1866 (no takers), was taken to court in September for the dishonouring of a promissory note he endorsed, and had his house sold from under him by order of the registrar of the Supreme Court in September 1867. Despite all this, and in the middle of his own financial woes, he still backed Busby to the hilt, organizing petitions to support Busby’s land claims. He was declared bankrupt in October 1867, and died on 30 April 1869 aged 62, after what was described as a long and painful illness, and buried on 2 May.

As for Busby, he was awarded hefty compensation in June 1868 (Partridge must have felt satisfied during his last illness to hear that), but still had to fight the Auckland Provincial Superintendent over the payout until he finally received most of it in 1870 -- £23,000, after forking out £14,000 in legal costs.

Journeying to England the following year for an eye operation, Busby caught a chill and died there on 15 July.

Clement Partridge’s brief obituary in the Southern Cross of 3 May 1869 reads:

“Mr. Clement Partridge, who died on Friday last, was interred yesterday. The deceased was a very old settler, and was well known to the public from his former connection with the press; and also the author of two works which have been published in Auckland, one of which, a theological essay [Essays on Theology and Metaphysics, printed by W. Atkin] was written during his last illness, and has only recently been issued.”
Update: 7 February 2009 -- another link on James Busby, this time from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, providing much of the backstory from across the Tasman.


  1. Very Cool. I just came over from the email onto the link. What a botchup!!!Patridge was not a good advertising rep. Busby and Mcdonnell weren't very happy with each other over that spirits business. McDonnell as you know resigned as additional British Resident then spent years trying to take people to court over land he had never even owned. People used to call him McDiddle.

  2. Clement Partridge was one of three signatures on a very good article about the new governments land issues in the Bay of Islands Gazette 13th Aug 1840. Of course it was too strong for the government and I think the paper was shut down soon after.

  3. Yeah, sounds like him. One of the really interesting early personalities in our colonial history. Cheers, Lyn.

  4. Hello from the UK. I am a descendant of a Clement Partridge, born 1897 in the UK, and in the process of tracing his family back, I am coming up blank with his grandfather. I wondered if anyone knew where this the Clement Partridge above was born please. (curiously, my uncle moved to NZ in approx 1939 and never came back, and my brother lived most of his life out there until he died aged 71) thankyou, Linda Phillips

    1. Hi there, I'm a colleague of Lisa's in NZ and have been looking at the Clement Partridge story re my area of local history research. I found a notice in the New Zealand Herald, 16 November 1892 re relatives in Gloucester, UK, wanting information about Mrs Partridge nee Heague as they had heard nothing since the death of her husband, Clement Partridge. Mrs. Partridge's death had been reported in the NZ Herald, 21 November 1877, aged 64 years. I'm pretty sure her name was Mary as came across Mary Partridge and Clement Partridge in another newspaper, 'New Zealander' 23 October 1850. They were passengers on the Brig 'Fanny' on a journey from Auckland to Honolulu. Perhaps some of this may help in your search though you may have already solved this one in the last 5 years! Cheers, Vivien

  5. Clement was the owner of a block in Soldiers Bay. This was occupied by Mr George Skey, brother-in-law. George Skey appeared at Manganui in late 1839. He was a Unitarian pastor. Skey left for California in 1849 where he perished in the wilderness of the goldfields. The Partridges visited the Skeys in California then (evidently) returned to NZ. Although the Skeys had 4 sons and they have no living descendants. I could not find any evidence of the Partridges having descendants in NZ but they might have left them in England. I wonder whether Partridge's bankruptcy was due to his illness - in those days if you had loans and couldn't work you were in trouble.

  6. I note looking at the old land claims documents Vivien Burgess has provided me with, that Clement Partridge's claims at Waiwhauwhau consisted of Allotments 14,15 and 23 Parish of waipareira. 15 first appears in Partridge's name, 14 first appears in Owen's name, and a later plan shows all three belonging to clement partridge. 14 and 15 were purchased in the 1860s by James Freeman,(curiously coincident with Partridge's financial woes in your article) Freeman farmed this land at what is now Ranui until well into the twentieth century. Allotment 23 I do not know the history of, but Vivien has pointed out that it was farmed by Insley in the 1920s.

  7. Sorry Edwin Freeman not James, my bad