Silver Stream Floods 18 January 1858

Extracts from The New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator


An Inquest was held at Mr Robert Blade's, the Traveller's Rest Inn, Taitai in the Hutt district, on Wednesday, 20th January, by Dr Buck, Coroner for the Hutt, upon the bodies of Mrs Hagan and infant son, Mrs Price their nurse, Charles Sollars, blacksmith, his wife and child, and two children named Fanny and Jane Stanaway, residents of the Upper Hutt, who had been drowned by the flood on January 18th.

It was stated in evidence that on Monday morning, 18th January, in consequence of the heavy rains of the previous day the river rose rapidly, and soon overflowed the whole valley, and as the rain continued to fall incessantly the same day, the water rose to an alarming height. The greatest injury was done near the Silver Stream, where the deceased parties resided, the water gradually rising in their houses until they had to betake themselves to the roofs, the current being strong around them, and the ground lower than where they were situated, their escape was cut off. Charles Hartley, who was residing with Sollars, swam from one house to another, and assisted the inmates in getting onto the roof, and as the water still rose, he endeavoured to get them to land by means of a rope without success, and was at last obliged to save himself by swimming, The houses were at length carried away. On the roof of one was Mr Stanaway, a carpenter, his wife and five children, and on the other Mr Sollars, blacksmith, his wife and one child, and Mrs Hagan, her infant son, and the nurse Mrs Price.

The houses were carried down the stream some distance before they broke up, and then all perished. The eight bodies were found on the previous day, January 19th, between Mr Dew's and Mr Dalgety's.

An inquest was held at the same place on January 21st, on the body of Mrs Stanaway, which had been found on the evening of the previous day, January 20th. Verdict, accidental death by drowning.

The jury at the same time wished to express the high opinion they had of the conduct of Charles Hartley in his strenuous endeavours to save the sufferers at the risk of his life.



In our last we gave such details of the disastrous flood which had occurred at the Hutt as had reached us, we now furnish the following particulars which we believe may be relied upon, as being substantially correct.

The number of bodies at present actually recovered is nine, Mrs Stanaway and two children, one 4 years old and the other 6 years, Mr Sollars, his wife and child; Mrs Hagan and infant, and Mrs Price; the other persons known to be missing are the husband of Mrs Stanaway, and three more of his children, who were all seen to be washed away together.

The particular locality where this fearful loss of life occurred was near the "Barley Mow Inn", at the Upper Valley of the Hutt. When the flood was at its highest [about 1 o'clock a.m. Tuesday morning] the force of the water at this point is described by an eyewitness as having been terrific. The water was seen rushing along like an immense wave, crashing and roaring, carrying everything before it; huge trees, portions of buildings, timber, furniture, and debris of every description, were borne away by the force of the current. To witness the havoc and destruction which the flood has caused is most painful and baffles all description. Many acres of land, which only a few hours before to all appearances promised a plentiful crop, are now covered with sand and shingle, and not a particle of vegetation remains. The quantities of drift timber, in many instances large solid trees, which have been deposited by the flood is perfectly incredible, and will take many months to remove.

The unfortunate persons who have lost their lives by this sad calamity are mostly late arrivals in the country, Mrs Hagan [a daughter of Mr Dew, an old settler at the Hutt] was living in a small wooden building near the first gorge; Mrs Price and a man named Charles Hartly were also residing in the house. Upon seeing the water rising so rapidly some fear was entertained for the safety of the building, and the survivor Hartly proposed to go for a rope to secure the house; when he left the water was up to the window, and the house was actually shaking. He almost immediately lost his footing, and was swimming with the current for nearly half a mile, until he succeeded in getting up a tree, where he remained for 14 hours until rescued by some passers by on the following day. From the position he occupied he could see everything around him; he states that he soon after saw the house borne away with the current; the inmates Mrs Hagan [who was only confined that morning] and the nurse Mrs Price, were climbing on to the roof of the house; they passed close to where he was in the tree, and he describes the shrieks of the women as fearful; a minute after, the house turned over nothing more was seen of them. The bodies were recovered about a mile from the spot on Wednesday morning, the infant was found firmly in the dying grasp of its poor mother, the nurse was found close to her, the body was much mangled.

The bodies were removed to the house of Mr Dew, and an inquest held on them, when a verdict of accidentally drowned was returned. The husband of Mrs Hagan is absent in the country and of course is ignorant of the desolation of his home. Mrs Price who was much respected, and who arrived here by the `ANN WILSON', leaves a family of young children behind her, her husband was absent from home at the time. The other family, Mr Stanaway, wife and five children, were all seen together on the roof of their house, the water rose rapidly and submerged the whole of them, and they were seen to sink one after the other. The Blacksmith Sollars with his wife and infant perished in a similar manner, they imagined themselves secure, but the house was borne away with the current, and he was heard by persons on the hill to say "good bye." The bodies were found together, one completely buried in the sand. A man and his wife named Smith living near to Mr Dew were saved after remaining on the top of a building for many hours whilst nearly all around them was borne away.

To give anything like a detailed account of the losses sustained by the residents at the Hutt would be impossible, we may however state a few of the more important particulars of individual losses of which we have been informed, Mr Riddiford had lost about 100 sheep, Mr Barton has also lost a large number of sheep; Mr Thomas Mason a number of cattle; Mr Arnott cattle and sheep; Mr John Leverton has lost entirely 50 acres of crops, and a large number of cattle; Mr C. Mabey lost a number of sheep, and also a large quantity of fenced and cropped land; Mr Buckridge of the Albion Hotel, has had his crops destroyed and the river has taken a course completely through his property; at Mr Wm. Tandy's, the river now runs through his ground and has destroyed a large amount of property; Mrs Speedy's land is completely cut up in all directions by the different channels the rain has made, in many cases large fissures 12 feet deep have been formed; Mr Still has lost a number of sheep; Mr John Russell 10 head of cattle; Mr Dew, an old settler, estimates his loss at not less than 500 Pound; a property which a week ago was worth many hundreds of pounds is now comparatively worthless, five acres of grass land have been completely swept away. A large number of men had volunteered to assist in removing a shingle bed which had been thrown up, and which prevents the River from taking its old channel, and nearly all residents at the Hutt were endeavouring to contribute either in labour or otherwise to this project.

The destruction of the roads between Poad's public house and the Taitai is almost incredible, scarcely a vestige remains at some places of the original road, at one place [a bridge near McDonald's creek] the river runs right through the road making it very dangerous for passengers at night; the banks descend abruptly to the depth of 15 feet; other dangerous places occur along the whole line of road. The Waiwetu and Second River bridges have been carried away. It is to be hoped that the Provincial authorities will lose no time in moving the large quantity of drift timber lying along the roads, and in making it again passable.


Jan. 25th. -The body of Richard Stanaway was found this morning near Mr Ebden's, leaving now three bodies unfound, viz., Mr Stanaway and two more of the children.



A Public meeting, called by notices posted in the most public places within the District was held at the Hutt Mechanics Institute last night, to consider the best steps to be taken under the circumstances. About 200 people were present at one time during the evening. Mr Braithwaite was in the Chair. Great regret was expressed at the non-attendance of any person to represent the Provincial Government. Mr Ludlam, as one of those who had signed the notice calling the meeting, opened the proceedings by explaining his objectives in so doing. The following Resolutions were unanimously carried, after considerable discussion, in which, beside the movers and the seconders, Messrs. Lynch, McHardie, McDowall, Corbett, W.Milne, Jillett, Renall, Bruce, and D.Hughey took part. The meeting ended at about eleven o'clock.

Moved by Mr Ludlam, seconded by Mr Hart,-That this meeting is of the opinion that immediate and energetic action is required in order to repair the serious public damage done by the recent inundation of this valley, and in order also to guard against the recurrence of the attendant calamities as far as human means can avail.

Moved by Mr Wakefield, seconded by Mr Jillett, That the following gentlemen be requested to act as a Committee for the purpose of communicating with the Government on the subject, of obtaining accurate information as to the causes of the damage and means of remedy, and of collecting the subscriptions towards the necessary expenses, viz: - Messrs. Ludlam, Hart, Corbett, Phillips, Wilcock, David Hughey, Lynch, Mason, and Wakefield.

Moved by Mr Hart, seconded by Mr Riddiford, -That the committee is requested to open a separate Subscription List for the purpose of relieving serious cases of private distress among the sufferers by the recent inundation.