Monday, July 12, 2010

Clendon House, Rawene

Between visits to churches in Rawene Chris and I visited Clendon House.  It’s a shame we weren’t there on a day it is open to the public but we enjoyed wandering around outside. 

When I looked up Clendon House I became fascinated with James Reddy Clendon and wondered how the United States Consul at Okiato (the first capital of NZ) from 1839-41 came to settle in Rawene. I presumed he had been American but no, he was born in England. He started out as a ship owner (how does a young man get to be a ship owner?) married in Sydney, Australia and their first child was born in London. There’s a story there for sure, he married in October, 1826 and the child was born in January, 1827.  By 1830 he had bought property in the Bay of Island (on the other coast from Rawene) and returned to London.

In 1832 he purchased a schooner and sailed back to NZ. He settled in Okiato, I guess that’s where all the action was as it was the capital back then, and started up a successful trading station supplying whaling ships working in the Pacific Ocean. He backed the winning party in a argument over sovereignty and witnessed the signing of the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand in 1835.

Five years later, despite representing the US, he assisted in negotiating the recognition of British sovereignty over New Zealand and was a witness to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We went on to be a member of New Zealand’s first Legislative Council and a magistrate.

His first wife died in 1855 and in January 1856 (mmm), aged 55, he married an 18 year old girl named Jane. After six children with his first wife he then had eight children with Jane and they settled and built the house in Rawene in 1862. He died in 1876, leaving the still young Jane to pay off a mountain of debt in order to keep Clendon House in the family. In 1972 their descendents sold the house, complete with its contents, to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, who have maintained it and opened it to the public.

I’ve looked but can’t find a book about him. Surely there must be one!

clendon house

As is befitting an historic place, an historic tree is helped to stay upright:

clendon house tree

I’d love to go inside for a look around next time I visit the Hokianga.  As it was I could only take photos of the old clothes wringer  and meat safe on the back verandah.

clendon house clothes wringer 

clendon house meat safe


  1. Just love your photos! Thankyou cheers teri

  2. Wow! Prolific little devil he was. First he has 6 children and then 8 more with his second wife. No wonder they all died young. Just wore each other out.
    It's a beautiful home. So glad to see these lovely homes preserved.
    Thanks for a bit of New Zealand history.

  3. So much explored but so much to explore. So much learned but so much still to learn.

  4. Wow, that's a bunch load of kids. I love historical buildings and old things. I would love to find a box of old letters or some other kind of imprint of past owners if I ever bought an old house.

    I went to Nelson,a ghost town over the week-end. I took a few photos of the old buildings but it was so hot outside. It got up to 118 degrees at Lake Mohave in Searchlight, NV

    I like your post. It is very interesting.

  5. I love the clothes ringer. reminds me of my youth. my mom used a washer that you had to wring the clothes on top. wow, how far we have come!

  6. Hello Pauline, I love that safe on the back verandah. Interesting story, he certainly was a busy man.
    Happy days.

  7. Hi Pauline, when Mum & I first visited Clendon House she bought me a little booklet called "Clendon House Rawene" by RM Ross, published by the NZ historic Places Trust in 1978. I have just searched & found it in my bookshelves.
    It is interesting to note that Jane, the second Mrs Clendon, was the daughter of Dennis Browne Cochrane of Mangamuka and his wife Takotowi. Also interesting is that in 1864 all the white settlers in the Rawene district, except one, were married to native women or women of Maori decent.
    Jane was a very, very resourceful woman, who was left in a frightening financial position when her husband died.
    I will lend you the booklet.

  8. Lovely photos, Pauline! And a fascinating history as well! I am enchanted by that clothes wringer. It looks like, once upon a time, it did a fine job.

    So nice for me to be able to see such photos that you share. I have never been to New Zealand, so that makes my visits her extra special!


  9. Don't you love those old stories of the early settlers? The graveyards here are full of first and second wives - life was hard on women. Beautiful house!

  10. I love that you research places you visit. I love to know the history of people and places. I want to know how they came to be there and what they used to look like. I love that clothes wringer. If I had a big house, I would buy one for show. As a piece of art.

  11. Hello! What an interesting post.Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment!Much appreciated! S


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