The development of Queen’s Redoubt as a major visitor and educational facility will be carried out in conjunction with a programme of archaeological investigations to maximise knowledge of the site for site development and interpretation purposes. At the same time, historical research will continue into the role of Queen’s Redoubt, the Pokeno district, the Waikato Campaign of 1863-64 and the wider New Zealand Wars.
Three archaeological excavations have been carried out so far at the Redoubt. A two-week excavation directed by Dr Nigel Prickett, then Curator of Archaeology, Auckland War Memorial Museum, took place in February 1992 as a condition of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust granting an authority to the then land-owner to modify the archaeological site. The investigation included a small area of the redoubt interior, two trenches excavated across the defensive ditch, and some exploration of the southeast corner bastion. This work wash reported in, ‘The history and archaeology of Queen’s Redoubt, South Auckland’ (Records of the Auckland Museum (2003), Vol. 40, pp. 5-37).
The second excavation took place after the acquisition of the property by the Queen’s Redoubt Trust in 2001. In April 2004, the Trust commissioned Warren Gumbley, a Hamilton-based archaeological consultant to excavate the area in the southwest corner of the redoubt, the eventual site of the visitor centre. Approximately 425 m2 of interior of the redoubt was stripped by machine and then hand excavated, between the house on the property and Great South Road. Two trenches were excavated across the nearby defensive ditch. An unpublished report to the Queen’s Redoubt Trust describes the work (Warren Gumbley, ‘Queen’s Redoubt; report on the 2004 archaeological excavation’, Hamilton, 7 pp. plus illustrations and table of finds).
A third week long archaeological investigation was undertaken in January 2007 adjacent to the SE corner bastion. This involved visiting students from the University of Wyoming under the direction of QRT Chairman Neville Ritchie.
The three excavations have encompassed c600 m2 of the interior of the redoubt, plus four trenches across the defensive ditch, and the 1992 work at the east bastion. The interior is characterised by rectangular patterns of shallow postholes from the numerous barracks and storage buildings which were erected in the redoubt. In the areas excavated so far some drains and sparse scatters of broken glass, ceramics and other items have been uncovered. Exploration of the defences has confirmed the size of the massive defensive ditch 8 ft (2.4 m) deep and ca 18 ft (5.5 m) across. The spoil was used to create an embankment, approximately the same height, on the inside of the ditch. Bullets, military uniform buttons, bottles, ceramics and other items were found on the bottom of the original ditch and in the material with which it was filled in the 1920s.
Archaeological excavations help provide a more detailed and accurate plan of the layout of the redoubt, and the defensive works. Archaeological exploration of the area outside the actual redoubt is also needed prior to any development, to fully interpret the site. It is anticipated that for some years excavations employing volunteers will be a feature of the development of the site.
Two recent archaeological reports are also relevant: ‘Pokeno Flour Mill Archaeological Assessment’ by Beatrice Hudson, CFG Heritage (2010), and ‘Interim Report on Archaeological Work at S12/23, Queen’s Redoubt, Pokeno (from monitoring of trenching required for sewage connection) Simmons & Associates 2017.
A start with historical research was made in the report of the 1992 excavation referred to above. Queen’s Redoubt is a major historic place in the historic landscape of the period, which includes Maori settlements and other pre-and post-war European farming and settlement sites as well as the associated military sites dating from the early and mid-1860s. Some of these are shown on a May 1862 map by Captain George Richard Greaves (70th Regiment).
Maori settlements prior to the war were Mangatawhiri and Pokino (the current spelling of ‘Pokeno’ is incorrect). Near Mangatawhiri was a flourmill of which archaeological remains are still visible on Tani Te Whiora (Leatham’s) Stream, a tributary of Mangatawhiri River. Three pre-war European farmhouses in the district belonged to Sagg, Selby and Austin. Camp Pokino, on today’s Helenslee Road, was the first British Army military establishment in the district, and dates from construction of the Great South Road in early 1862. The original Great South Road traversed the high ground west of today’s Pokeno township to reach the Waikato River at Te Ia, where Bluff Stockade was erected to protect the landing place. At the Mangatawhiri River crossing were more camps and defensive works dating from July 1863. For some weeks before the war moved to the south three redoubts defended an extensive camp at Koheroa, on the terrace above today’s road and railway.
The new Visitor Centre, completed in 2015, will enable two new initiatives. The first is the creation of a series of displays which, while centred on Queen’s Redoubt, will reflect the total history of the Land Wars and early settler period. The second is the establishment of a small research centre with a collection of information about Queen’s Redoubt and the Land Wars.
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