The Wanganui of 1897 is a charming spot, desirable alike as a place of residence or as a health resort. The old settlers, who bore the burden and heat of the day during the anxious days when houses were first robbed and then fired, farms wrecked and lives sacrificed, have mostly passed away. Little is known by the present generation of the hardships endured by the pioneers, who braved the dangers and endured the privations which fell to their lot, and thus paved the way for the advantages of these later times.
Situated in latitude 39°57″ south and in longitude 175°5″ east, and being distant from Wellington 151 miles by rail and 102 miles by sea, the borough is on the right (or north) bank of the Wanganui River.
The population of Wanganui, as disclosed by the census of 1896, was 5936. This would, however, be much increased by including the suburbs, not forgetting those on the south bank of the river, with which the borough is connected with a splendid iron bridge, 600 feet long, supported on seven cast-iron cylindrical piers, and constructed at a cost of £32,000.
Wanganui is about four miles from the Heads, the river being navigable for vessels of light draught for fifty-nine miles, to Pipiriki, with which there is a regular steam-service.
An important station on the Wellington and Napier to New Plymouth railway lines, there is regular communication with all parts of the North Island inland, in addition to the steamer traffic by the West Coast.
Referring to this sunny spot, a writer in the Otago Witness says:—“Suddenly sweeping round a bend of the hillside road you have been shooting down for the last ten minutes, lovely Wanganui and its stately river, spanned by the cylinder bridge, and all the spires and homes among the plantations, come into view; and after the visitor has admired the natural charms of the place his next impression is a firm conviction that Wanganui has all the elements of a vigorous, prosperous, and contented town”.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897.
The photographs, all from the Te Papa collection, were made between 1901 and 1906.