A Hampden History

by Jan Wheeler

Hampden celebrates 130 years since being proclaimed a borough at Labour Weekend in October 2009.
Hampden was proclaimed a borough of the colony of New Zealand on September 8, 1879 and a local mayor and councillors governed the district until 1967. The district was 603 acres or approximately one square mile in size, and had a population of 539(in 1881).
Hampden was unique in that it was the second smallest borough in NZ and was for a time expected to develop as a commercial centre for the port at Moeraki.
The wider district of Hampden would have included the villages of Herbert, Waianakarua, Hampden, Moeraki and Shag Point. Hampden grew quickly and by 1862 had two hotels, the Hampden and the Clyde. Moeraki was a sheltered and prosperous fishing port and Shag Point had a large coal mine. Herbert and Waianakarua were farming areas with settlers in the villages employed on the road and railway construction.
Hampden’s village was surveyed and planned by John W Thompson and the streets were drawn up on a grid map in England and named after towns in English counties such as Liverpool St, London St, Lincoln St, Norwich St and Ipswich St.
The town plan was completed in 1863 with an English style square and commonage.

Moeraki was settled in 1836 by whalers and sealers who married into the local Maori families. Captain Haberfield, an early whaler, settled in Moeraki and is buried in the Hampden cemetery. His descendants, the Colloty family, are still in Moeraki. John McHugh was another whaler who settled in Moeraki and and was one of the first farmers in the area.

The original Hampden Accommodation House, complete with stables and four coach houses, was established in 1852 on Bagdad Rd by Mr. G.B.Wright. It was the only stopover for travellers between Dunedin and Rangitata at that time.

The main North Otago harbour was ultimately developed at Oamaru and it later became the centre for trading and shipping produce and goods.

Hampden for generations had an old fashioned ‘common’, the subject of frequently revised by-laws which at first allowed ratepayers to ‘graze three head of great cattle’. The annual fees for horses were 15s. and yearlings 5s. Residents were given the right to cut firewood for which they paid the gateman 1s. a load. The common was sold in 1951 to raise money for the Hampden Public Memorial Hall.

There was a butcher, baker, blacksmith, shoemaker, milliner, draper and a hotelier in early Hampden.

In 1864 the Hampden Constable was Mr Frank O’Brien.

Some of the names associated with the early settlers in the district included Murcott, Fisher, McKay, Leggett, Horner, Marshall, Parker, Joyce, Trotter, Prosser, Newey, Drysdale, Hughs, Munro, Fraser, Hastie and Familton.

In more recent times the families of Nicolson, Lockerbie, McCone, Purvis, White, Johnston, McMaster, McWilliams, Inkersell, Caldwell, McKerrow, McMillan, Matheson, Thomas, Davonport, Saxton, Pankhurst, Johnson, Duncan, Hollows, Moore, Gilles, Bowmar, Mosley, Barr, Foley, Sutherland, Pile, Muldrew, and Ross have all contributed to the Hampden Community.

The Hampden school with four classrooms opened in 1864 and was one of the earliest schools in the North Otago district. The first teacher appointed was Mr Donald Munro. In 1875 Mr John Watt was appointed head teacher.

In 2009 the principal of the Hampden school is Mr John Laing who has taught here since 1998, a total of 11 years. The school has 28 pupils and two classrooms. There are many family stories to tell such as the following one about John Laing.

Mr John Laing has strong family connections to Hampden as Lieutenant Colonel John Joyce, an esteemed member of the Hampden community was Mr Laing’s great grandfather .

John Laing’s family, the Joyce family, have been very prominent citizens of Hampden and New Zealand for the past 100 years. John Laing’s great grandfather Lieutenant Colonel John Joyce was from Hampden and served in the army in World War 1 and World War 2. He received the DCM - Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1919. He served with the British army and then the NZ army. During WW1 Lt Col John Joyce fought at Gallipoli and then during WW2 he served in the Pacific. Between the two world wars John Laing’s great grandfather took over the post of local constable at Hampden for some years. The Hampden police station was then situated east of the war memorial in the village square. In 1936 Lt Col John Joyce was appointed Aide de Camp to the Prince of Wales Edward 8th when he visited NZ on a tour.

Lt Col Joyce was somewhat dismayed at the news of King Edward 8th's abdication in order to marry Wallis Simpson. He was said to have removed the signed photograph he had on display in his home at that time.

After WW2 Lt Col Joyce was asked by the government and army along with other distinguished soldiers to select a suitable place in the country to train soldiers. Waiouru was chosen.

As part of the celebrations we are gathering together family information because Ken Miller of Hampden is putting together a book ’A history of Hampden District’. We hope people will bring their photos and family stories to the 130 year celebration at Labour Weekend so they can be included in the book which will be published in 2010. If you have a Hampden connection do join us for this special celebration and share your stories and photos with us. Please contact Ken Miller or Ken Bridge on 4394 228.

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