(1800-1913) Owen Stanley and HMS Britomart

Based on a Peake design Britomart was a ten gun brig of the Cherokee/Cadmus/Rolla- class which was introduced into the British Navy in 1807. Overall length was 90 feet, beam 24foot 6 inches, and depth 11 feet. She displaced 237 tons and was armed with two six pounders and eight eighteen pounders and crewed by seventy five men.

 

First there was a point, a blunt steep point of land that jutted out from the Princes Street ridge into the Waitemata Harbour. Then there was a ship, a two masted square rigged brig, HMS Britomart, sporting ten guns which had been captained since 1838 by Commander Owen Stanley RN. Stanley had achieved fame as a Hydrographer in charting The Grecian Archipelago, The Straits of Magellan, Antarctica, and The Arafura Sea and for his part in the founding of Port Essington nearby in Northern Australia. He was also responsible for some mapping of the Waitemata but his greatest fame as far as New Zealand was concerned was his part in the French settlement of Akaroa.

The ship’s name was given to the Auckland Point. There was another opposite it and in due course to this was given the name of the Brig’s master, Stanley Point. At first though the name was given to the next point west of Point Britomart but that became Smales point after the owner of the immigrant ship Chelydra built a five roomed cottage on it. To avoid confusion Stanley was transferred across the Harbour, displacing the tentative name Herald Point in the process. Smales Point was later quarried away. The original names, Point Britomart and Point Stanley were bestowed by Felton Mathew, Surveyor General and approved by Hobson our first Governor.

Point Britomart was highly defensible and soon on it was built a Fort which took the name of the point, Fort Britomart. Time went by and the high commanding barrier was also quarried away, pared back towards Princes Street and Emily Place in a vast colonial pick and shovel, horse and cart operation. The name remained however, the spot where it had been, now became appropriately Britomart Place. Appropriate as Britomartis, from whom the name came, was the patroness of hunters, fishermen and sailors. She was a Cretan nymph the daughter of Zeus and Carme. When pursued by Minos, King of Crete, who was desirous of ravishing her, she sprang into the sea but was saved from drowning by the nets of some fisherman. Thereupon she became a Goddess.

If Stanley Point had been settled in medieval times in all probability the peninsula almost an island would have become a fortified town, perhaps the hub of the Waitemata. In later years in 1840 soon after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi it sheltered HMS Herald which went on to make a chart of the harbour marking Stanley Point as Second Point or Observatory Point. A short time later it was tentatively named Herald Point. However in 1840 events moved rapidly. There was another vessel; a square rigged two masted brig Britomart sporting ten guns which had been captained since 1838 by Commander Owen Stanley RN. Then too there were the French and as it turned out they also had plans for New Zealand. Stanley had achieved fame as a Hydrographer in world wide charting assignments and for his part in the founding of Port Essington, Northern Australia. He was also responsible for some mapping of the Waitemata.

The ship’s name was given to Point Britomart a feature that is no longer there but the North Shore Point opposite in due course received the name Stanley Point. At first though, the name was given to the next point west of Point Britomart but that became Smales Point after the owner of the immigrant ship Chelydra built a five roomed cottage on it. Stanley was then transferred across the harbour displacing the proposed Herald Point name. Smales Point was later quarried away. The original names Point Britomart and Stanley Point were bestowed by Felton Mathew, the Surveyor General and approved by Hobson.

A fort was soon built on Point Britomart, Fort Britomart. Time went by and the high commanding barrier was also quarried away, pared back towards Princes Street and Emily Place in a vast colonial pick and shovel horse and cart operation. The name remained however; the spot where it had been now became Britomart Place. HMS Britomart was ordered to New Zealand from Northern Australia via Sydney during the delicate diplomatic manoeuvring that followed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. One of the vessels that came to these parts at that time with one of the advisers Hobson could call on. Having entered the navy aged fifteen, at twenty nine Stanley was a very able officer. He had become a Lieutenant at twenty, a Commander eight years later and had also been made a magistrate and a Commissioner of Crown Lands. Hobson as a Captain RN first visited New Zealand in command of HMS Rattlesnake 1837. However when he came as Lieutenant Governor it was on board the appropriately named HMS Herald commanded by Captain Nias.

The French connection and Stanley’s part in it revolved around a company The Societe Nanto Bordelaise which was set up on 11 December 1839 to provide transport for up to eighty colonists with the aim of colonial expansion at Akaroa, to be known as Port Louis-Philippe, after the then King of France. In exchange for certain favours the French Government was to receive a grant of one quarter of the land purchased by Langlois, a whaling captain, the founder of the expedition, who had made a down payment on it when at Akaroa two years before. This Government portion, which could have been used for any state enterprise such as civic buildings, an army camp a naval dockyard was to be a penal settlement.  The colonists were assembled. Charles Francois Lavaud, a naval officer, was given command of the heavily armed thirty two gun corvette Aube and instructed to sail for NZ as “Royal Commissioner.” He was to prepare the way for Langlois and the colonists who were to follow on a ship of five hundred tonnes the Comte De Paris which was also to be used later as a whaler.

When the Aube sailed on February 19 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was almost a fortnight old, but who in Europe knew of this? It took Lavaud four months to sail to Tasmania, Van Dieman’s Land then. Unfavourable winds baffled a direct voyage to the South Island so instead Lavaud laid a course for the Bay of Islands where at some stage in his voyage he had to deliver two priests to Bishop Pompellier, the French Representative. There at Russell when he arrived on July 10th 1840 was HMS Britomart which had preceded her by only eight days. Flying over the settlement of course was the Union Jack and Hobson who had arrived on HMS Herald was installed as Lieutenant Governor to the Governor of New South Wales Sir George Gipps.

The French clung to the hope that the sovereignty of the South Island could be questioned, in spite of the fact that Major Thomas Bunbury had proclaimed Queen’s Sovereignty over it a month before. If the French settled, in view of this, it would therefore have to be under British rule but still they nurtured a slim chance it could become French. Hobson, after attending a special dinner on board the Aube with his wife Eliza, Mathew Felton, the Surveyor General, Mr Freeman, the Colonial Secretary and Stanley, decided to send HMS Britomart south with the two magistrates she had brought from Australia. Britomart sailed on 23July, the Aube following four days later but the arrival times were closer than that. The brig only ghosted in one day before the Aube arrived off the entrance. There, baffled by contrary winds, she had to be towed into the anchorage four days later by boats from the Britomart. However the Comte De Paris and sixty three settlers had beaten them both, arriving on 9 August but anchoring at Pigeon Bay on the north of the Peninsula where they buried two.

The role of the Britomart was to enforce British sovereignty but as the settlers appeared to accept this, setting to work with a will to establish themselves, it was quickly apparent that armed force would not be required. Soon Lavaud and Langlois, not without some dissension among themselves sorted out the details with Stanley and his magistrates’ one of whom, Charles Robinson who had hoisted the Union Jack, was left there. The threat removed and with Lavaud proving himself an excellent arbiter, HMS Britomart left for Wellington on 27 August 27 just over a fortnight after her arrival. Her mission was now to install Mr M. Murphy, as Police Magistrate for the District of Port Nicholson.

Auckland, which became the capital three weeks later on 18 September to the sound of a twenty one gun salute, now received HMS Britomart and Captain Stanley with considerable satisfaction. To mark the significance of their action, the names were bestowed on the two respective land features. Indeed the Union Jack had been raised on the soon to be named Britomart point. In HMS HERALD Hobson came visiting the Waitemata soon after the signing of the Treaty. It was during this voyage that they sheltered off Stanley Point in a great storm. Hobson was too ill to come for the Sept 1840 founding of Auckland taking up residence in March the following year 1841. 18 September for various reasons was not a suitable date for celebrating Anniversary Day so it was shifted to 29 January.

Captain Owen Stanley went on to other things. With his ship he left for Hobart at the end of October. In 1846, now a Captain RN he assumed command of Hobson’s old ship HMS Rattlesnake. The twenty eight gun frigate, built in 1832, was recommissioned for more charting of the waters in the vicinity of Cape York Australia. On board were the as yet unknown Thomas Henry Huxley, marine artist Oswald W Brierly and the naturalist John McGillivray. They called at Simonstown, Mauritius, Hobart and Sydney where the tenders HMS Bramble and Castlereagh were added to the command. Stanley surveyed large areas around Cape York, the Louisade Archipelago arid other island groups, returning at various times to Sydney. Much of his activity was along the coast-of New Guinea and as a result the lofty mountain range there, rising to thirteen thousand feet at its highest point, was also named The Owen Stanley Range. . Now also a Fellow of the Royal Society he was given command of HMS Blazer surveying the North Sea. He is perhaps best known as the commander of HMS Rattlesnake during that vessels survey work of Torres Strait and New Guinea.

Captain Owen Stanley died prematurely in 1850 aged thirty nine after an adventurous life, educated at Rugby; surely he had the qualifications to become a later Governor of New Zealand. His brother A.P. Stanley, author and Dean of Westminster, was responsible for a plaque in Christchurch Cathedral to mark his passing and the Akaroa Affair. The Dean of Westminster was responsible for a plaque in Christchurch Cathedral to mark his passing and the Akaroa Affair.  Twenty one years Later another Stanley, Sir Henry Morton Stanley, newspaper reporter, explorer and author, rocketed to world fame in a clearing in the African jungle with the words “Doctor Livingstone I presume?” But Stanley Point was not named after him or for that matter after Captain Edward Stanley the commander (1845-6) of the earlier HMS Calliope. However Sandy Point became Calliope Point until it too was quarried away when the dock was excavated later.

Owen Stanley joined the British Royal Navy in 1826. He was the eldest son of Edward Stanley, who was subsequently made Bishop of Norwich and who was also interested in the natural sciences. His uncle was Lord Stanley of Alderley. After training he shipped as a volunteer in the frigate HMS Druid in Jan 1826. Two months later he became a midshipman on HMS Ganges. Owen Stanley became a surveyor whilst serving on HMS Adventure (Captain P. King) during that vessel’s operations in the Magellan Straits. He later served on board HMS Mastiff (Captain J. Franklin) in the Mediterranean and later on HMS Terrible (Captain J Franklin) during the 1836-37 Arctic Expedition where he was responsible for astronomical and magnetic observations. During 1834-46 whilst in command of HMS Britomart (the name of Cretan goddess Britomartis the patroness of hunters, fishermen and hunters the second Royal Navy ship of that name) he assisted with the maintenance of Port Essington in the far north of Australia and carried out survey work in the Arafura Sea. Said to have made the second recorded easterly passage of Torres Strait he produced drawings and had Narrative of Visits to the Islands in the Arafura Sea included in Stokes Discoveries in Australia (1846). It is said Owen Stanley took his own life whilst on board his ship in Sydney Harbour. Other sources state that he contracted an illness from which he died in March 1850 or that the exertions of the survey in an unsuitable ship greatly affected his health so that his mind could not withstand the sudden shock caused by the deaths of his father and brother. He is buried in St Thomas’s Cemetery North Sydney. An accomplished artist, some of his paintings and sketches, which 1 have examined are held in the collection of the Australian National Library, Canberra. Charles Edward Stanley his brother and a Captain in the Royal Engineers was private secretary to Sir William Dennison when the latter was Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania.

Based on a Peake design Britomart was a ten gun brig of the Cherokee/Cadmus/Rolla- class which was introduced into the British Navy in 1807. Overall length was 90 feet, beam 24foot 6 inches, and depth 11 feet. She displaced 237 tons and was armed with two six pounders and eight eighteen pounders and crewed by seventy five men. At the time they were the second largest class of Royal Navy vessels and were often fitted out for exploration, surveying and packet work. As well as the Port Essington and Akaroa incidents she also took part in events in Burma, The Burmese Campaign, for which service Stanley was given post rank of Captain in 1844 after Britomart had been she was paid off and sold out of service in Singapore in 1843