Martha King

Date of birth / Date established
Date of death / Date closed
Person/Corporate type
Martha King, along with her brother Samuel and elder sister, Maria, came to New Zealand on the 'London' in 1840. They bought land in Wanganui and within a year the sisters had opened the town's first school.

Martha's drawing skills must have been readily apparent as she was contracted to do "two sets of drawings of the most interesting indigenous botanical specimens" for the New Zealand Company and the London Horitcultural Society. Five of the Company paintings were reproduced in Edward Jerningham Wakefield's "Illustrations to Adventure in New Zealand". In 1981 40 of Martha's watercolours done for the NZ Company were purchased in Britain by Alexander Turnbull Library.

Late in 1847 the Kings left Wanganui for New Plymouth where they became prominent members of the young township. Samuel was appointed Postmaster, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and a trustee of Taranaki Savings Bank. Maria and Martha again set up school, taught music and held highly praised parties and balls for New Plymouth's social elite.

The Kings, in particular Martha, were also keen gardeners as Maria Richmond writes, "...Miss King is a wonderful woman; besides doing all the cooking and household management and assisting in the school three days a week she has found time to make a wilderness at the extremity of their garden blossom like a rose...clearing away all the ugly undergrowth from a number of beautiful fern trees, draining a little swamp and confining the water to a narrow bed and them making terraced paths and beds on the steep sides of the gully from which you can look down on the spreading fern trees and get glimpses of the flower garden, thatched cottage and see beyond."

On Martha's death, the property- in Dawson Street alongside the Mangaotuku Stream- was sold and the proceeds willed to Pukekura Park.


Subject of