How the Hutt Got Its Name

wm hutt
Sir William Hutt, 18? Portrait by Richard Dighton. Original print held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Without setting foot in New Zealand, Sir William Hutt (1801-1882) gave his name to the Hutt River and consequently to the Hutt Valley, Lower and Upper Hutt. From a notable English family, Sir William Hutt was British Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull in the 1830s, and one of the NZ Company’s directors who organised the first British settlement of New Zealand.

The Hutt River was originally named Te Awakairangi – “the watercourse of greatest value” by early Māori setttlers such as Ngāi Tara. Another local iwi Ngāti Māmoe called the river Te Wai o Orutu – “the waters of Orutu” (an ancestor). By the 1830s though it was known as the Heretaunga after a Hawkes Bay district of more recent Māori migrants. (‘Return to the Hutt Valley’, NZHistory)

hutt river banks
Banks of the Hutt near Mr Molesworth’s farm. / Drawn by S C Brees. [Engraved by Henry Melville. London, 1847]…Brees, Samuel Charles, 1810-1865 :Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand. London, John Williams and Co., Library of Arts ..Ref: PUBL-0020-14-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.
hutt river
Bragge, James, 1833-1908. Hutt River, looking North from the Fern Ground. Travers, William Thomas Locke, 1819-1903 :Photographs. Ref: PAColl-1574-06. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.

But in September 1839 Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, another NZ Company director,  declared it now be called the Hutt River in honour of William Hutt, one of “the most energetic friends of the undertaking”. (Evening Post, 8 March 1924)

Lower Hutt (Hutt City) was initially named Aglionby by the first settlers, after another NZ Company director,  Henry (H. A.) Aglionby. E. J. Wakefield (son of Edward G. Wakefield) describes going up river as ‘up the Hutt’, and Aglionby  became known as ‘the Lower Hutt’ (River). The Aglionby Arms was the earliest Hutt hotel, built in Alicetown in 1840, but moved in 1847.

Refering to Hutt as a settlement began in about 1841, and there were many other examples; ‘the banks of the Hutt’, ‘Valley of the Hutt’ … Likewise the ‘Upper Valley of the Hutt’ (River) became known as Upper Hutt. (Place Names of NZ, A.W. Reed)

aglionby arms
Brees, Samuel Charles, 1810?-1865. [Aglionby Arms (Burcham’s) River Hutt ca 1843]. Ref: B-031-033. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.
The Hutt County Council was established under the Counties Act of 1876. (Our History, Hutt City Council)

Sir William Hutt was also involved in arranging the colonisation of South Australia, and without leaving home the Hutt River in South Australia and the Hutt Lagoon in Western Australia were also named in his honour. The Bowes River in Western Australia was named after his wife first wife Mary, widow of John Bowes.

Full portrait of Sir William Hutt by Richard Dighton (undated), probably watercolour.  Unknown collection; Photograph National Portrait Gallery, London


William Hutt was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1801 into a well-off family of 13 children. His father was Richard Hutt of Appley Towers in Ryde, Isle of Wight, and his mother Ginny Flowers. Richard Hutt died in 1815, passing the family property to the eldest son John.

William’s brother John Hutt became the second governor of Western Australia (1839-1846), and was the first governor to provide education and protection for the Aborigines. Along with William he was involved in organising settlement of South Australia. John Hutt was briefly a member of the Canterbury Association, and Mt Hutt (Canterbury) was named after him, although he too never visited NZ. He lived an extravagant life after returning to England in the 1840s, and died unmarried in 1880.  William Hutt inherited the family estate.

John Hutt, Governor of Western Australia, 19?, National Library of Australia.

Middle Lodge, originally part of Sir William Hutt’s Appley Hall estate in Ryde, Isle of Wight. Built in the 1830s.
William Hutt was educated privately at Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, and Camberwell, and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge. He married Mary (nee Milner) in 1831, the dowager countess of Strathmore, widow of John Bowes the 10th Earl of Strathmore. When she died in 1860 William Hutt inherited mining properties worth over 18,000 pounds per year. In 1861 he married Frances Anna Jane (Fanny) Stanhope, daughter of Sir Francis Stanhope. They had no children.

Mary Milner, Dowage Countess of Strathmore,

William died in November 1882, aged about 80, and left his estate to his younger brother Sir George Hutt (1809-1889), a distinguished British Indian Army officer. Frances, Lady Hutt, died four years later in 1886. Appley Towers was badly damaged in a fire in 1904 when occupied by George Hutt and his family, and was uninsured. Most of the buildings on the estate no longer remain, but the Appley pier and the coastal folly tower built by Sir William Hutt are now tourist attractions.

William Hutt had the coastal folly Appley Tower built in 1875, calling it the Watch Tower.

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