Story of a print of New Plymouth that appeared in the British Parliamentary Papers

Gully, John 1819-1888 :New Plymouth, New Zealand. [London] Day & Son [1860].
Ref: B-051-015. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
This rare print is the only New Zealand view to appear in a British Parliamentary paper in the period up to 1875 (the period covered by Ellis "Early Prints of New Zealand").  It was re-printed by Avon Fine Prints in the 1960s and the original watercolour that the print is based on by painter John Gully is in the National Archives.

The print accompanied a despatch from Governor Gore Browne dated 13 March 1860 and appears in Command paper 2798, 1861: "Papers relating to the recent disturbance in New Zealand."

The description of New Plymouth which accompanies the view is not particularly complimentary about the new settlement.

"The town consists of a struggling village on a skirt of flat land, which is enclosed and commanded by a higher table land encircling the town in the form of a crescent. One end of this crescent is Marsland  Hill, on which the barrack stands, and on the other extreme we are about to erect a stockade. The intervening space between the barrack and this block-house is about three quarters of a mile, but the ground is broken by ravines and swamps and covered with fern, so that what is delineated in the New Zealand Company's plan as squares and streets is in reality wild land, much tormented, and well adapted to cover and conceal the approach of an enemy. Isolated cottages dotted about at intervals, the town being confined to little more than a single street on the shore.

The inland country generally is covered with high fern and dense forest, some of which is almost impenetrable to Europeans, and is everywhere broken by ravines and streams which are thrown off Mount Egmont [Taranaki]. There is a native pah in New Plymouth . . . and there are numerous pahs in every direction . . . 

The proposed blockhouses, which look so imposing in the sketch, may be described as wooden guard-houses, large enough to contain twenty men each. They are not yet constructed."

The view was redrawn for Sir James Alexander's Incidents of the Maori War, 1863

Mr John Gully
The Nelson Provincial Museum, Davis Collection: 1138
John Gully was a major New Zealand artist - according to Una Platts "Nineteenth Century NZ Artists" probably the most popular of his time.  Gully was born in Bath, England. He was apprenticed to an iron foundry and graduated next to the designing and drafting department. However this did not satisfy the young Gully's ambition and he spent periods as clerk in a savings bank and worked in his father's business. Gully took private lessons in painting during this time. In 1852 he and his wife and children emigrated on the John Phillips to New Plymouth.

In 1858 "J.G. of Omata" was advertising ready to paint "views" of properties for sending overseas. He farmed at Omata and worked as a clerk in New Plymouth. Gully took part as a volunteer in the Taranaki wars but was invalided out of the Army. In 1860 Gully and his family moved to Nelson where he settled permanently.  Gully was Drawing Master at Nelson College, then draughtsman in the Lands & Survey Office.

In 1863 two of his paintings, one a wreck of the Lord Worsley, one a view of Mount Egmont were advertised for sale. The encouragement given him by von Haast, whose "outlines" of mountains he coloured, and by the painter J. C. Richmond, then Commissioner of Crown Lands, was probably the turning point of his career. Richmond went on painting expeditions with him and used all his influence to make Gully's work known. In 1865 Richmond enlisted the help of his brother, C. W. Richmond, then a judge in Dunedin, to get his own and Gully's work to the NZ Exhibition and to see that people knew that Gully was ready to paint professionally.

By 1870 Gully was probably the most popular painter in the New Zealand. He exhibited watercolours at the Intercolonial Ex Melbourne 1866-67. In 1878 retired from the Lands & Survey Office and began to spend his full time painting and was listed as a Nelson artist in Wise's directory.  John Gully nearly always in watercolour and was greatly praised for his ''atmospheric effects". In the NZ and South Seas Ex Dunedin 1889-90, a group of watercolours by the "late Mr Gully" were shown as a special exhibit. Exhibited: Fine Arts Association Wellington 1883, NZ Academy of Fine Arts 1889, Melbourne International Ex 1880-81, Centennial Ex, Melbourne 1888-89.  Paintings included in Centennial Exhibition in Wellington1940. Represented extensively in Nelson's Bishop Suter art gallery, and Gully's paintings are in most gallery and library collections throughout NZ today.


  1. Very happy to see This rare print and i love to read this story very much. After reading this story i got lots of amazing information. Please keep sharing with us !!

  2. You may be interested to know that Archives New Zealand has digitised the original watercolour. You can view it at