Gift to mu­seum has a sil­ver lin­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABA­DIA

Have you ever won­dered who Wyn­yard was in the scheme of things?

Land­marks named af­ter Colonel Robert Henry Wyn­yard in­clude Wyn­yard Rd in Mt Eden and Wyn­yard Quar­ter on the wa­ter­front along with Wyn­yard Cross­ing, the bridge which lifts to al­low large boats to pass.

Wyn­yard was English-born and held mil­i­tary and ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices in New Zealand from 1845 to 1858, in­clud­ing colonel of her Majesty’s 58th Reg­i­ment and the first su­per­in­ten­dent of the Auck­land Prov­ince.

He also be­came pa­tron of Auck­land War Me­mo­rial Mu­seum when it opened in 1852.

Ba­si­cally he was a bit of a troubleshooter for the Bri­tish govern­ment, his great-great­grand­daugh­ter Lind­say Kirby says.

‘‘They sent him to places where there was a bit of trou­ble go­ing on.

‘‘He was a good leader and he got on well with the Maori as well as the Euro­peans at the time.’’

In 1845 he led 200 troops to strengthen the forces de­ployed in the Bay of Is­lands against the Maori chiefs Hone Heke and Te Ruki Kaw­iti and he was among those who stormed Ruapekapeka Pa on Jan­uary 11, 1846.

At the end of his post­ing the pop­u­lar colonel was pre­sented with 300 gold sov­er­eigns by the in­hab­i­tants of Auck­land. Back home he used the money to buy a sil­ver ta­ble cen­tre­piece ti­tled the Wyn­yard Tes­ti­mo­nial Epergne from renowned Lon­don mak­ers Smith and Ni­chol­son.

It’s char­ac­ter­is­tic of the ro­coco-re­vival style pop­u­lar in the mid-19th century and fea­tures a Bri­tish sol­dier as well as a Maori man, woman and child stand­ing around a ponga.

Af­ter Wyn­yard died in 1864 his wife Anne re­turned to Auck­land and the epergne was kept in the fam­ily for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions.

It was se­cured in a bank vault for many years rather than be­ing on dis­play.

‘‘At the time sil­ver was very valu­able, more so than now,’’ Mrs Kirby says.

‘‘The worry was that some­one might have stolen it and melted it down.’’

The fam­ily twice had to pay hefty in­her­i­tance tax on it, once when their fa­ther died in 1973 and again when their mother died 15 months later.

In the end they de­cided to lend it to Auck­land Coun­cil about 25 years ago.

From there it was loaned to Auck­land War Mu­seum in 1988.

On March 13 the fam­ily per­ma­nently gifted it to the mu­seum, a de­ci­sion Mrs Kirby is happy with.

‘‘It was quite a lot of money we had to pay to re­tain the thing which I’ve al­ways felt should be on pub­lic dis­play rather than hid­den away in a vault.’’

As­so­ciate cu­ra­tor in ap­plied arts and de­sign Finn McCa­hon-Jones is thrilled with the gift.

It talks about the New Zealand land wars and MaoriPakeha re­la­tion­ships but it also helps tell the story of Auck­land as a Vic­to­rian town, he says.

‘‘It would have been lovely as a cen­tre­piece. Know­ing the Wyn­yards were en­ter­tain­ers this would have taken pride of place in the mid­dle of the ta­ble and would have per­haps had nuts and dried fruits in the bas­kets. It’s show­ing one’s wealth but it’s also adding fun to the ta­ble.’’

Me­mo­rial

His­tor­i­cal link: Colonel Robert Henry Wyn­yard pur­chased The Wyn­yard Tes­ti­mo­nial Epergne with money gifted to him by the people of Auck­land in 1858.

Photo: KA­RINA ABA­DIA

Im­por­tant ac­qui­si­tion: Auck­land Mu­seum as­so­ciate cu­ra­tor Finn McCa­hon Jones is ex­cited to have the epergne on per­ma­nent dis­play.

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