Richmond Street in Waitara is named after Christopher William Richmond, Minister of Native Affairs from 1858 to 1860.
Born in England in 1821, Christopher was known to his family as William. His father, a barrister, died when he was ten, leaving four children in the care of their mother Maria. William suffered from severe asthma throughout his life and was later described as “a powerful mind enshrined in a frail body”. After spending several years in France, he entered the legal profession in 1844.
William married Emily Elizabeth Atkinson in 1852 and just a few months later the couple immigrated to New Zealand. William’s brothers, James and Henry, had arrived in the colony in 1851 and walked south from Auckland to Taranaki where they purchased land near other relatives.
William and Emily, his mother, sister and Emily’s brothers Arthur and Harry (who would later become Prime Minister) all sailed on the Sir Edward Paget, arriving in New Plymouth in 1853 after an eight month journey. The Richmonds bought land on Carrington Road and William established a law practice in town, becoming a prominent member of the local community.
In 1855 William was elected to represent the Town of New Plymouth electorate in parliament. The following year he became Colonial Secretary (forerunner to the modern Minister of Internal Affairs) and later Colonial Treasurer (Minister of Finance). In 1858 he became New Zealand's first Minister for Native Affairs. William believed in strong central government and “civilising” the Māori. He made little effort to understand Māori culture and was extremely pro-settler in his views of land tenure. However William did not enjoy politics and resigned in 1862 to practice law in Dunedin and Nelson. He was later appointed a Supreme Court judge.
Christopher William Richmond died in Wellington on 3 August 1895 at the age of 74, survived by his wife and nine children.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.