St John’s Redoubt
In January 1862, as the prospect of war in the Waikato loomed, work began on improving the Great South Road for military purposes. Immediately prior to the outbreak of the war in July 1863, the local Maori people – the nearest settlements to Manukau were the villages of Mangere, Pukaki and Ihumatoa, and Te Aparangi near Papakura - were given a choice of taking an oath of allegiance or expulsion. Most chose to leave for the Waikato, and only a handful of villagers remained at Mangere.
On 21 July 1863 a group of Auckland militia began work on a redoubt or earth fort on a ridge above Woodside, one of a series of fortifications erected along the length of the Great South Road. It was named St John’s Redoubt, after Captain St John, the commanding officer of the Auckland Rifle Volunteers.
The militia stationed at St John’s Redoubt saw little action during the war, apart from the occasional false alarm. However, they often had to endure considerable discomfort. “We are having dreadful weather here,” reported one of them in November 1863, “only now and then a few hours sunshine, and not enough in the last week to dry the fern and blankets for our beds. The tents are, under these circumstances, little better than nothing at all, the rain coming through in torrents. Many of us have not had a dry bed for several nights. The bread we have is not fit for human food, so we have refused it altogether and commenced buying our own … during the little sunshine we have we try to while away our time as pleasantly as possible with quoits, cricket, races, boxing, &c….”
By February 1864, the theatre of war had shifted to the Waikato. Those settlers who had fled to the towns now returned. It was perhaps a sign of new-found confidence that in December 1864 Charles Burton, proprietor of the Raglan Hotel, established a substantial brick and tile works near Woodside.
The war was also followed by the confiscation of much of the remaining Maori land at Mangere, Pukaki, Ihumatao, Wairoa and Kirikiri. Although some portions of the land were later returned, Maori never returned to the region in large numbers.
St John’s Redoubt, Papatoetoe, from a drawing by Lieutenant Colonel A. Morrow (originally published in James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars … Vol. I, 1845-1872, Wellington, Government Printer, 1955. Original held at Auckland War Memorial Museum).
The remains of St John’s Redoubt are today preserved as an historic site, and can be visited via a small reserve running between Redoubt Road and Boeing Place.
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