The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Carrington, Frederic Alonzo

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1365386The Dictionary of Australasian Biography — Carrington, Frederic AlonzoPhilip Mennell

Carrington, Frederic Alonzo, the "father of the settlement" of Taranaki, N.Z., as he is generally called, when a young man entered the Ordnance Survey Department of England, being appointed in Jan. 1826 by the Duke of Wellington. Showing ability for topographical delineation and survey work, he soon attracted the attention of the eminent engineers of the day, and when the Reform Bill was passed in 1832, he was selected by the Parliamentary Commissioners to describe the boundaries of the boroughs in the districts from Bristol to Manchester. For his services on that occasion he received the special thanks of the Commissioners. Subsequently he was selected by the Plymouth Company as its chief surveyor to go to New Zealand to choose a site for the settlement the company proposed forming there. On Feb. 12th, 1841, Mr. F. A. Carrington and family, together with his brother, Mr. Octavius Carrington (who was his chief assistant), and the survey party, arrived off Taranaki. With great labour lines were cut through the dense vegetation, and a spot cleared; and after much difficulty the site for the town of New Plymouth was laid out and surveyed under Mr. F. A. Carrington's directions. In Sept. 1843 Mr. Carrington returned to England, and on his arrival in London he found that the directors of the New Zealand Company (which had absorbed the Plymouth Company) were thinking of ceasing their functions for a time, and accordingly Mr. Carrington retired from their service, receiving a very complimentary testimonial from the directors. Mr. Carrington was engaged in connection with railways during the time he was in England (1844-51), but he gave a good deal of thought and attention to New Zealand matters, and tried to make Taranaki better known to the British public. Mr. Carrington took with him to England a quantity of the Taranaki ironsand, and after having a very careful analysis made of some of it he had a bar of iron cast. He then entered into a lengthy correspondence with the Colonial Office, endeavouring to obtain a grant of the beach on the Taranaki shore, which resulted in a refusal, though Lord Grey offered to give Mr. Carrington a letter to the Governor of New Zealand, which on his arrival there would ensure a grant of the beach being given to him, provided it had not been leased to any one before. As it would have taken too long in those days to have visited New Zealand and return home again with the desired information, the matter was for the time abandoned; but Mr. Carrington exhibited the bar of iron and some of the Taranaki ironsand at the Exhibition of 1851, when he called the attention of the Master-General of the Ordnance Department (Sir H. de la Beche) to it. After visiting California three different times from London, in connection with mines, water-races, railways, etc., Mr. Carrington again returned to New Zealand, having been absent nearly fourteen years, his object being the utilisation of the ironsand and other matters in connection with the district; and being backed by men of capital and standing, who took great interest in the colony, hoped to start the iron industry in Taranaki. The North Island was in a very unsettled state at the time owing to the natives showing an antagonistic attitude towards the Europeans, which in 1860 ended in hostilities which lasted for ten years. In 1862 Mr. Carrington was appointed Government Engineering Surveyor for Taranaki, and in that capacity carried out in connection with the military authorities the road construction necessary in the district. On peace being restored Mr. Carrington turned his attention to local matters, and consenting to be nominated as Superintendent of the province of Taranaki in 1869, he was returned by the electors, and held that position till the provinces were abolished in 1876. He was also elected to a seat in the House of Representatives, and held the position for several years. He retired from politics in 1880. Seeing the necessity there was for harbour accommodation at New Plymouth, Mr. Carrington for years agitated in the hope of getting protective works built that shipping might visit the port in safety. It was chiefly through his exertions that a fourth of the land revenue of the district was set aside for harbour purposes and a Harbour Board created, which raised the money to carry out the work. On Feb. 7th, 1881, Mr. F. A. Carrington laid the first stone of the present structure, thus crowning his labours as the founder of the settlement of Taranaki.