Whiorau/Lowry Bay’s first British settlers, James and Emma Jackson

Walking up the track in East Harbour regional park, Lowry Bay, Lower Hutt, you will chance upon a plaque marking the Jackson house, the first house built in Lowry Bay.  It was built by English settlers James and Emma Jackson in 1841.  Lowry Bay was called Whiorau (blue duck) by Maori as before the 1855 earthquake there was a gravel bar, enclosing a swamp, where whiorau lived.  The name Lowry was given by the British for Richard Lowry, first mate on the NZ Company survey ship The Tory in 1839.

James Jackson and his workers built the substantial house from handmade bricks on the ridge on the north side of Lowry Bay.  The house was damaged in the huge 1855 Wairarapa earthquake and that led to its’ eventual destruction.

mrs jackson
Residence of Mrs Emma Jackson, Lowry Bay – Port Nicholson, N. Z. [Between 1852 and 1856].  Pearse, John, 1808-1882. [Album. 1851-1856]. Ref: E-455-f-036-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22723002E

The Jackson house, early 1850s by John Pearse, who arrived with the Wood family in 1851.  The view from behind,  looking out into Wellington Harbour and towards its’ entrance.  The house is perched on the top of the hill and bush has been cleared so there’s a harbour view.  There’s also a cleared back garden and a lawn.

Bricks from the 1841 house are embedded in the track.

Looking towards the path to Point Howard which was the main track to the house.  The view towards Lowry Bay today from the site of Jackson’s house is now obscured by bush.

James and Emma Jackson were both from Yorkshire.  They married in Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1835;  he was a schoolmaster at Manor Row Academy, Bradford.  Emma Ogden’s late father was a woollen draper.

In September 1838 the partnership between James Jackson and James Bonwell of Manor Row Academy was dissolved, with James Bonwell taking sole charge of the academy.

The next year in October 1839 James and Emma Jackson left Plymouth as cabin  passengers on one of the first emigrant ships to Port Nicholson, New Zealand, the Duke of Roxburgh.  They arrived on Petone beach in February 1840;  James was 30 and Emma 25 years old.  They are not related to other prominent Jackson settlers in the area, such as Edwin Jackson after whom Jackson Street Petone is named.  

James Jackson on Duke of Roxburgh, Pioneer Family Register, Hutt City Heritage

Petone Settlers Museum Passenger Database | Hutt City Heritage (recollect.co.nz)

The Jacksons straightaway chose land at Lowry Bay as their ‘country acres’ allocated under the New Zealand Company emigration scheme terms; whether the Company had any rights to the land over local Maori iwi is another issue.  James Jackson also had half acre shares of sections in central Wellington.  James’ younger brother Joseph Jackson followed them out, arriving in Port Nicholson in 1841.

James Jackson recruited other immigrants to work and clear land;  timber from Lowry Bay was used for the first house built in Wellington.  Charles Holland, passenger on the ship Hollard that arrived in 1841 and employed in Lowry Bay by James Jackson, recalled cabbages growing an “immense size’ and “all devouring rats” which one night consumed a gallon of peas bought by Mr. Jackson for 20 shillings.  Wild pigs also caused problems.  (Okiwi, A.G. Bagnall)

Lowry Bay was only part of James Jackson’s area;  he had two sections he cleared in Wainuiomata also.   Joseph Greenwood (employed by Mr. Jackson)  noted in March 1841 they had trudged over to Wainuiomata to view land and there “set some wonderfully large fires and burnt probably 1000 acres (560 hectares) of fern, etc”.    (Tales from the Swamp, V. Alexander).  Clearing the land for farms was high on the agenda.

Map (not contemporary) showing high-water marks before and after the 1855 earthquake and the track from Waiwhetu which rounds the foothills then climbs the ridge, descending to the Jackson buildings – marked by two dark spots.  Appears in Okiwi, A.G. Bagnall.

Until the mid-1850s (when a track was made over the Wainuiomata hill leading towards Wellington) access to Wellington was via the ridge of the Wainuiomata hill, down to Jackson’s farm at Lowry Bay, then catching a boat.  Likewise the Jacksons would have crossed the Harbour by boat.  In August 1843 James Jackson made the news by building a small, carvel-style boat on his Lowry Bay section, a 14 ton vessel he named ‘Emma‘.

Journeys across Wellington Harbour carried livestock as well as provisions;  goats, cats, sheep, dogs and cattle … In sailing boats the settlers often rowed the whole way on sometimes treacherous voyages.  Boat trips were frequent to the Hutt River mouth as the land route from Lowry Bay to the Hutt-Waiwhetu river mouth was over the hill at Point Howard, not round the waterfront.   The Waiwhetu flats was an area of conflict between settlers and local iwi who saw their land being usurped.

James Jackson played a big part in the settler community, serving on the jury several times.  He was among donors to a fund to create a memorial for ‘fellow colonists who fell’ in the 1843 Wairau incident, near Blenheim.  NZ Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 18 October 1843

An ‘agriculturalist’ on the electoral rolls James’ occupation covered farming and timber.  In March 1844 he was again in the news in a court case against a man charged with stealing his firewood.  NZ Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 13 March 1844 

Sadly James and Emma’s new life together was cut short as on September 25, 1846 James Jackson died of a burst blood vessel, the result of an earlier leg injury …. he was only 35 years old and left Emma a widow at 30 years.

James’ ‘dear wife Emma’ inherited land and property, including the house.  James also left an entitlement to his sister Eliza Wood and her children.

The schooner ‘Emma‘ was listed for sale in late 1846.

The Jackson farm was managed by fellow settler Hugh Sinclair initially.  Then to help out Emma, James’ sister Eliza and her husband John Wood and their six daughters and one son children sailed on the ‘Duke of Portland‘ to Wellington to arrive in early 1852.  Tragically for luckless Emma, John Wood died on the voyage, just days out from arrival.  Eliza and her children lived with Emma in the house at Lowry Bay,  helping with the farm and three of the Wood daughters later married early settlers;  into the Sinclair, Crowther and Dick families.

John Wood and a painting of Eliza Wood (nee Jackson, sister of James Jackson) with her youngest child, Eliza Wood.  Daughter Eliza was four years old when the family arrived in NZ.  (As the branches spread : John & Eliza Wood … images; Mrs Hazel Dawson).

jackson view
Lowry Bay. Mrs Jackson’s section.  The ‘Heads’ of Port Nicholson in the distance. [Between 1852 and 1856]. Pearse, John 1808-1882 :[Album. 1851-1856]. Ref: E-455-f-040-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22757135

This painting shows the Gracefield flat area and the Jackson foothill track before the 1855 earthquake.  Mrs Emma Jackson’s section rises steeply to the left, with a pig grazing on the road at its’ base.  Below the road to the right is a flat area, cleared and fenced, with a group of Maori seated on it, the sea to the right.  (National Library).

The Crown took over the NZ Company’s authority in 1850 and the Government had to investigate the validity of land grants made by the Company.  In February 1853 section 3 on the Wainuiomata side of the hill was included in a Crown Grant to Emma Jackson.  It was about 110 acres;  Emma later gave her sister-in-law Eliza Wood a ‘peppercorn’ lease of the land for 99 years.

map sections wainui
Plan of Wainuiomata, harbour Lowry Bay and other parts of the Hutt area.  Copy of 1863 plan.  Okiwi, A. Bagnall

Emma Jackson listed one of the Wainuiomata plots of land, section 5, for sale in January 1855, just before the January 23rd 1855 earthquake.  It is among the “choice and valuable” sections of country land for sale. Wellington Independent, 27 January 1855

jan 1855 land sale

Wellington Independent, 27 January 1855According to family, the earthquake was terrifying for the Jackson/Wood family as the house was built on the side of a hill; they moved temporarily into a punga shed.  The shoreline rose over a metre making much easier access around Point Howard by land.  But Mrs Jackson recalled the downside;  “.. the privacy of our bathing was gone forever”.  (As the branches spread,  K.J. Wood)

mrs jacksons house lowry
Pearse, John 1808-1882 :Mrs Jackson’s house, Lowry Bay, Port Nicholson, N. Z. [Between 1852 and 1856]. Pearse, John 1808-1882 :[Album. 1851-1856]. Ref: E-455-f-038-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z. /records/22890244

The top painting shows the Jackson house perched on top of the clearing.  There’s a path winding up the hill and tree stumps can be seen from the felling work.

Emma Jackson put the property, where she and James had started their new life, up for sale in 1858 and returned to England to live.  Sale day was advertised as a ‘grand steam excursion trip’ complete with a band, refreshments and a marquee.  The 360 acre property included a farm house, ‘the finest views’,  buildings, cattle and an orchard’.  There’s a landing place for boats and opportunity for timber and firewood trade.

april 1858 short
wonga wonga vic
The Wonga Wonga was the steamship passengers took for the excursion trip from Wellington to Lowry Bay for the 1858 sale of Emma Jackson’s house and land.  Built in 1854 in Glasgow it later served in the Pacific and San Francisco trade with Australia, but was broken up in Sydney in 1880.  Wonga Wonga steamship, painting by Charles Dickson. State Library Victoria, Australia.

At the auction the farm with house sold for 720 pounds to Hickson, probably acting for George Hart who became the owner soon after.  The ‘superior’ cattle sold separately, from 3 to 9 pounds a head.

By 1859 Mrs Emma Jackson was living in England again, this time in Lancashire.  In 1860 Emma Jackson sold the Wellington ‘town section’ 197 in Willis Street, originally owned both by James Jackson and Joseph Greenwood , for 120 pounds.

When Emma (‘retired farmer’s widow’) was first back in England she lived in Lancashire with her married ‘spirit dealer’ brother James Ogden.  Emma is listed in the 1871 census as a woollen draper in Chorlton on Medlock, Lancashire, interestingly the same occupation as her father.  Emma was aged 55 years and head of the household of a niece, nephews, uncle and a servant.   Similarly in 1881 Emma headed up the household of nieces and a servant.


Emma Jackson, 1871 UK Census  Ancestry.com, available in Hutt City LibrariesEmma Jackson died in 1888 at ‘the ripe old age of 75 years’.

Emma left a good-sized estate.

will emma
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar, 1858-1995 Ancestry.com, available in Hutt City Libraries

James Jackson was buried, according to Wood family history, on his Lowry Bay property in an area called ‘Four Oaks’ ;  Hugh Sinclair planted the oak trees at each corner of the large plot.  This is now the Walter Road Cemetery and the graves and cemetery are no longer marked but are part of residential property and a road, located approximately at 8 Walter Street, Lowry Bay.  Also buried there (between James Jackson’s first burial in 1846 and the last burial in 1862) are four members of the Wood family;  Emma, Kate and Ursula were all daughters of Eliza and John Wood who emigrated to start a new life. Walter Road Cemetery, Lowry Bay, Hutt City Council Cemeteries online

Images of the Whiorau/Lowry Bay area in the late 1800s/early 1900s

pt howard
View about 1900 from Point Howard, Lowry Bay, showing the hillside (foreground) that was part of the 1840s-1850s Jackson property.  The steamship Mana is berthed at the Sorrento Bay wharf.   Photographer Henry Wright.    Lowry Bay, Eastbourne, Lower Hutt. Ref: 1/1-020636-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/23032435
1900 sorrento
Sorrento Bay and Point Howard with Lowry Bay in the background, showing the hillsides cleared of bush.  The hillsides shown in the foreground would have been on the Jackson property.   Lowry Bay, from Point Howard. Ref: 1/2-050274-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/23084315
horse cart house
c.1882 photo of Lowry Bay and the house built by Duncan Sinclair for the Governor of NZ, General Sir William Jervois.  The Jackson house was on the hill behind the Governor’s house.  Mr. Sinclair’s house is behind the laundry to the right.  He owned 500 acres in Lowry Bay at one time. Creator unknown :Photograph of house at Lowry Bay, built for Sir William Jervois. Ref: PAColl-8902. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22727380
1889 98
Lowry Bay 1889-1898 with several houses (likely the Jervois and Sinclair houses) visible on the flat below the hill where the Jackson house was, and Sir George Grey’s country residence in the foreground.  Ref: 1/1-020472-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22307523
1910 lowry
Lowry Bay, c.1910.  The flat land with the hillside where the Jackson house was on the right.  Lowry Bay, Eastbourne, Lower Hutt, with the Skerrett house. Ref: 1/2-038188-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22302663
horse and cart
Lowry Bay 1920s, Point Howard end.  Photographer : Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972. Ref: 1/2-030788-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ. /records/22697124


Books ; available in Hutt City Libraries

As the branches spread : John & Eliza Wood : Yorkshire to Wainui -o-mata onward. Keith J Wood; edited by Maida J Bousfield

Okiwi : European occupation of the Eastern Bays of Port Nicholson. A.G. Bagnall.

Tales from the Swamp. Vicky Alexander.

Valleys and Bays. Alison Carey.

Other resources

Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library NZ.

Digital NZ

Papers past, National Library NZ

Greater Wellington Regional Council, East Harbour Regional Park

NZ pictures.co.nz

The plaque marking the Jackson’s house.
The plaque marking the Jackson’s house.
The plaque marking the Jackson’s house.
The plaque marking the Jackson’s house.


  1. I have been searching for all the Lowry Bay history over the past 12 years and was delighted to find all this information. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment. Hutt City Libraries also commissioned a book on Taumaru that was in Lowry Bay. “That dear little home in the Bay: a short history of the Taumaru Military Convalescent Home 1916-1919”, by Andrew Francis 1966-. It is available in our Hutt City Libraries.

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