It is hardly surprising that Charles Heaphy (1820-81) excelled from an early age at painting and cartography, for he came from an artistic, well-connected, London family. His father was a professional watercolour painter and miniaturist attached to the staff of the Duke of Wellington. Charles began his working life at age fifteen as a draughtsman for the London and Birmingham Railway Company. Two years later, he joined Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s New Zealand Company as an assistant surveyor. He was part of the company’s first exploratory team, arriving in Marlborough Sound, aboard the Tory, in August 1839. He travelled much during his early years in New Zealand, including arduous expeditions across South Island wilderness regions hitherto unseen by Europeans. The Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park, which now attracts trampers from all parts of the world, is named in his honour. While travelling around the country, barely out of his teens, Heaphy painted a series of watercolour scenes that rank among the finest art from New Zealand’s early colonial period.
He moved to Auckland in 1848 to take up a position in the survey office of the colonial government. He remained in the city for four years, during which time he married the daughter of prominent Auckland clergyman John Churton and, among other assignments, drew up the plan shown here. His subsequent career was unusually diverse. He was, at various times, a goldminer, geologist, soldier (awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the field during the 1860s Waikato war), parliamentarian, commissioner of native reserves and judge of the native land court. He moved to Brisbane a few months before his death.
Thought to have been commissioned by Auckland landowner and merchant William Smellie Graham, Heaphy’s 1851 town plan provides a detailed breakdown of Crown Grant purchases up to that date. The name of the purchaser is inscribed on each allotment, but keen eyesight is required to decipher Heaphy’s tiny lettering. An index of purchasers is included on the right and an explanation of the colour coding on the left: ‘The Pink Tint indicates lands that have been sold for cash. The Green Tint indicates land which has been sold for Public Buildings. The Yellow Tint indicates land which has been sold for scrip. The Crimson Tint indicates lands which have been sold for retiring officers.’ Et cetera.
Auckland has expanded vastly since Heaphy’s time and some of the nomenclature he uses has changed. Coburg St, for example, is now Kitchener St and Customhouse St is now simply Customs St. The large scarlet-stippled area to the east that Heaphy designates ‘barren ground’ is now Albert Park and the University of Auckland. Still, much of the central business district in the plan is recognisable to modern Aucklanders.
Heaphy’s manuscript map is owned by the New Zealand Insurance Company, and it has been entrusted to the Library’s safekeeping.