Boulcott is a central Lower Hutt suburb, situated about 1 km north-east of the CBD on the eastern bank of the Hutt River. The suburb is named after Almon Boulcott, who arrived in New Zealand in 1842 and farmed contested land in the area during the 1840s.
This memorial stands on the corner of High Street and Military Road in eastern Boulcott. It commemorates eight British soldiers of the 58th and 99th regiments who were killed in action or died of wounds received during a Ngāti Hāua-te-rangi raid on the military post at Boulcott’s Farm on 16 May 1846. It also records the names of two colonial troops who were accidentally killed around this time.
The six men killed in action at Boulcott’s Farm were buried where they fell. Their remains were exhumed and reinterred when the river changed its course – it is currently unclear exactly where. Lance-Sergeant Edward Ingram was one of the two men who died later of their wounds. On 26 May 1846, Ingram was buried with full military honours in Wellington’s Bolton Street – also known as Sydney Street – Cemetery.
Nearly 80 years later, Lower Hutt Mayor W.T. Strand generated a flurry of activity that led to the creation of this memorial. In the early 1920s – probably 1923 – Strand discovered a commemorative stone in the Bolton Street Cemetery chapel. Erected by Lieutenant George Page and surviving men of the 58th Regiment, this was dedicated to the memory of Ingram and six comrades who had fallen at Boulcott’s Farm.
Wellington City Council granted Hutt Borough Council permission to remove the 58th Regiment memorial stone from the chapel. It was intended that the stone be renovated before being re-erected in Lower Hutt as a memorial to Boulcott’s Farm. Local people apparently subscribed £60 for the purchase of just over 25 sq m of land on the corner of Main Road (now High Street) and Old Camp (now Military) Road.
In a letter to the editor of the Evening Post on 31 December 1923, W.A. Edwards condemned the removal as ‘almost sacrilege’. ‘If they [Hutt Borough Council and Hutt residents] wish to mark the spot where those brave men fell’, the Secretary of the Early Settlers’ and Historical Association asked, ‘could they not do so without removing a stone erected in the manner this one was?’ Those he had spoken to were also ‘emphatic in their denunciation of the whole business’.
Edwards did have his supporters. L.E. Scott, the officer in charge of the War Graves Division of the Department of Internal Affairs, agreed that the 58th Regiment memorial stone should be returned to the Bolton Street Cemetery chapel. Scott recommended that a new memorial in the form of a rough granite block be erected on the site of Boulcott’s Farm.
The project to erect the new memorial became a partnership between the War Graves Division, the Early Settlers’ and Historical Association, and the Lower Hutt Borough Council. On 22 April 1924, a committee comprising Scott, Edwards and Strand was set up to oversee the process.
The granite for the Boulcott’s Farm memorial came from William Cottle’s farm in nearby Belmont. H. Glover of Wellington submitted the lowest tender for inscribing and erecting the stone, and apparently went on to complete the work.
The memorial eventually cost just over £100. Some £65 was provided by Internal Affairs, while the Hutt Borough Council and the Early Settlers’ and Historical Association contributed £25 and £10 respectively.
Although the Boulcott’s Farm memorial was erected in 1925, the date of its unveiling is currently unknown. The ceremony, planned for mid-1926, was postponed because Edwards was ill. On 9 October that year, the Evening Post reported that it ‘may now be held quite soon’. It was expected to be ‘a pleasant occasion for many surviving pioneers to recollect again the early, stirring, hardy days which will never come again’.
Despite the inscription, the memorial does not stand on the site of the Boulcott’s Farm stockade. Frequent flooding and changes to the course of the Hutt River have considerably altered the contours of the land. In 1923, Edwards challenged the Hutt Borough Council about the ‘true location’ of the engagement. ‘I have an idea they will find it is outside their borough, and in a place only visited by … fishermen’. His insight may well have come from the historian James Cowan, the first volume of whose New Zealand Wars was published in 1922. Cowan noted that the scene of the engagement was now part of a golf course (today this is the Boulcott’s Farm Heritage Golf Club). The site of the stockade itself had become ‘a gorse-covered waste of gravel’.
This memorial also commemorates two colonial soldiers who were killed elsewhere in the Hutt Valley. Sergeant Hicks of Wellington’s new Armed Police Force (not ‘Armed Constabulary’, as stated on the inscription), an ‘active, industrious settler’, died on 28 April of wounds suffered when a comrade marching behind him stumbled and discharged his firearm accidentally. Two months later, on 20 June, 22-year-old Hutt Militia Private James Swan was killed when a musket accidentally fired while being cleaned by a comrade. The press criticised the use of muskets that had ‘been condemned as unfit for use before they were sent to this colony’; they had also misfired during the battle at Boulcott’s Farm.
Despite Edwards’ wish, the 58th Regiment memorial stone was never returned to the Bolton Street Cemetery chapel. In October 1926, the Evening Post reported that the stone would remain in the Lower Hutt Borough Council Chambers until the chapel had been restored. Instead, on 13 August 1933, the stone was formally handed over to St James’ Anglican Church on Woburn Road in Lower Hutt. It was destroyed during redevelopment work after the Second World War and replaced by a new tablet set into the ground on which the same wording was engraved.
To the glory of God and in / Memory of men of the Imperial / and Colonial Forces who fell / in the Hutt Valley during / the Maori War – 1846.
This stone marks the site of / Boulcott’s farm stockade, / the most advanced post of / the regular troops in 1846. / Here 200 natives on the 16th May / under Rangihaeata’s orders and led by / Te Karamu of the Ngati-Haua-Te-Rangi / Upper Wanganui / were repulsed by a garrison of / 50 men of the 58th Regiment. / The bodies of six imperial men who fell, rest nearby.
Killed in action at Boulcott’s Farm / 58th Regt. / L/Cpl Jas. Dockrell. Pte Thos. Bolt. / Pte Wm Allen. Pte J. McFadden. / Pte Robt. Brett. Pte T. Sonham. / Died of wounds and buried at Wellington. / L/Sgt E. Ingram. Pte Jas. French. / 58th Regt. 99th Regt. / Accidentally killed. / Sgt – Hicks. Pte J. Swan. / Armed Consty. Hutt Militia.