Wakefield.jpg Wakefield Street sign (2009). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Colonel William Wakefield was born outside of London in 1803, younger brother to cad and coloniser, Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

William was said to be a difficult child, and heavily influenced by his older brother, although not always to his benefit. In 1825 William was betrothed to Emily Sidney, but before the nuptials could take place William and Edward were arrested for kidnapping Ellen Turner, and subsequently spent three years in Newgate prison. Edward spent his time reading and furthering his philosophical education. It isn't known what William got up to.

During his time in prison, and before their marriage, Emily died leaving William a daughter, Emily. Following his release from prison William became a mercenary in Portugal. After gaining experience in warfare, he joined the British Auxiliary Legion and was promoted to Colonel.

Upon his return to England, Edward-Gibbon made William the Commander of the Expedition to New Zealand. He left London on the Tory under instruction from Edward to purchase land, acquire knowledge about New Zealand, and prepare for the formation of settlements.

Wakefield's time in New Zealand was fraught. He clashed with unhappy Governors, the Crown and settlers who had been promised everything but received little. By 1844 Wakefield, the action-man of Imperial destiny, was thoroughly disliked by much of the population of New Zealand.  In 1848 Wakefield died after suffering a succession of strokes. It was acknowledged that Wakefield had worked as hard as he could at an insurmountable task. He was given a State funeral and achieved respect in death that he did not get in life.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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