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Village History

Early Wakefield Pioneers

Baigents – Edward Baigent arrived in Nelson and established a forestry and timber business, which survived well into the 20th century.  Edward and Mary Ann were both involved with St John’s Anglican Church, which they helped build and sustain for 45 years. Their 7th child, Henry Baigent was a Nelson mayor for two terms.


Eliab Baigent (Edward’s nephew) arrived in Nelson with his parents in 1848. At various times he worked as a shoemaker, JP, brewer, photographer, musician and tooth puller. From 1900, a huge jar of pulled teeth in his premises was a favourite stop for children on their way home from school. It was felt ‘sheer terror’ was a good anaesthetic for those who visited Eliab.


Charles Faulkner – Charles, a widower, arrived in Nelson with his two sons in the mid 1870s to farm 46 acres of land, now known as Faulkner’s Bush. His large two storied house was burnt to the ground in April 1893. The family was a well respected family in the community in church and cricket.


 Sydney and Sarah Higgins – Married in 1849, the Higgins’ bought land in Mt Heslington Valley. Sarah built the kitchen while Sydney was working and she worked as a midwife in the area for 26 years. They had 11 children, with all but one settling in the Waimeas as farmers or sawmillers.


George and Dinah Parkes – George Parkes arrived from Nottinghamshire in 1849, marrying Dinah Sutton in 1851. They came to 88 Valley and raised sheep, cattle and crops on a farm originally called Glenhope and renamed Punawai in 1918.  Some of the land in the original title is still owned by Parkes family members.


Thomas and Hannah Tunnicliffe – And finally typifying the hardy spirit of the region’s early European settlers was Hannah Tunnicliffe, wife of timber worker, Thomas. The couple, who had 11 children, settled in upper Wakefield and she carried supplies from Nelson on her back, walking the distance.


This story is taken from with photos from the Waimea South Historical Society collection.  These can also be seen at

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info Steve. Wakefield is a great place to visit, fascinating history. Can anyone clarify for me when the location of the village was moved? Apparently early in its life the location was about a kilometre further south, but after a while it was moved to the current location because that was where there was a crossroads of four or five roads leading to surrounding districts, and it seemed more logical to site the village there. The reason I ask is that I am trying to ascertain the age of an old camellia tree on the site of the original blacksmith shop. This tree, now in a paddock on the right of the main highway about a km south of the current village, is Cam. odoratissima, a rose pink, semi double/peony form flower that is fragrant. It was first listed by Guilfoyle, ann Australian nurseryman, in 1866. I remember seeing this tree, already a very large, mature specimen, in the early 1960s, and visited it again last September. From its size and girth, I would estimate it to be about 120 – 140 years old.
    There are many very old camellias in this area.I found over 50 that would be more than 100yrs old during a week of intensive searching last year.
    Just another aspect of the rich cultural history of the region, and one that should not be overlooked.None of these trees are listed as protected/noteworthy heritage trees by the Tasman District or Nelson City Council.

  2. As soon as a rural community was established small stores appeared to cater for the daily needs of the settlers — food and farm necessities would be stocked, household goods, some clothing, a few luxuries such as sweets, trimmings, perhaps even wine and spirits. This happened in the area we now know as Wakefield.


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