Wellington remembers William Colenso

31 January 2018

William Colenso, New Zealand’s first printer and an early missionary, explorer, botanist and linguist, will be remembered in two linked events in Wellington tomorrow (Thursday 1 February).

The open plaza in Molesworth Street, opposite the Wellington Cathedral and beside the National Library, will be named William Colenso Square by Mayor Justin Lester, and a biography of Colenso, written by Ian St George of the Colenso Society, is being released.

Mr St George says that when Colenso represented Napier in the House of Representatives from 1861-66 he lived opposite Parliament, where the plaza is now, in what was then Wingfield Street.

“As he wrote to a friend, he lodged in a damp north side cottage – with its front door banging in the southerly, smoky chimney from a fire only big enough to roast a lark, and its ladder through a trapdoor to the skillion and garret where his landlord, wife and child slept.”

After the naming ceremony, at 6 pm, the book, Mr Colenso’s Wairarapa: Twelve Journeys, 1843-1852, will be launched in the National Library, where many of Colenso’s surviving manuscripts are held.

As the first missionary in Hawke’s Bay, William Colenso’s ‘parish’ extended west to Taupo and south to include Wairarapa-Bush. Mr Colenso’s Wairarapa records, from his own journals, his journeys on foot through the region.