Frederick Tuckett 1807-1876


Chief surveyor, explorer, acting NZ Company resident agent
Frederick Tuckett (1807-1876) The Nelson Provincial Museum, OP 295095Frederick Tuckett (1807-1876) The Nelson Provincial Museum, OP 295095
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Frederick Tuckett trained as a civil engineer and was appointed chief surveyor and second-in-command of the first New Zealand Company expedition ship, the Will Watch  in April 1841.

He came from a prominent Society of Friends (Quaker) family, but in 1839 resigned from the Society. He was variously described as being dogmatic, pious, intelligent, high-minded and humane, Quaker-like in his habits and taste, and resolute in acting to the dictates of his conscience regardless of the consequences. 

On arrival in New Zealand he was soon at loggerheads with Captain Arthur Wakefield  regarding the site of Nelson, as he correctly estimated there would not be enough land to provide the required acreage for Company settlers. 

However, in February 1842, he was enthusiastic about Nelson's potential, writing to friends: "We have a thriving cheerful aspect, and most of the emigrants on arrival are pleased with the place, and the first impression is subsequently sustained." 

He also wrote about rats "they have no cunning or timidity, and are killed in great numbers, but there is no sensible diminution." Tuckett advised prospective settlers to bring good strong terrier dogs and wire traps and gins. 

Tuckett was known for his hospitality. One settler wrote: " The best dinner I have had since I landed was one I ate with Mr Tuckett, the chief surveyor; he overtook me on my road home and insisted upon my going to him - sack trousers and all. We had some New Zealand quail and I thought I had never eaten anything so nice." 

Poignantly, in February 1843, Tuckett wrote to his brother Francis: "Really if I could only meet with a good wife, I should pocket my first mortification of not being one of the founders of a future nation and be content to sojourn here for life." 

In June 1843, at the Wairau Affray, along with fellow Quaker and surveyor, J. W. Barnicoat,  Tuckett refused to bear arms and disregarded Arthur Wakefield's advice to surrender to Ngati Toa.  Following his return to Nelson, he was appointed acting resident agent of the New Zealand Company. 

During his short time as resident agent, Tuckett dealt kindly with the German emigrants from the St Pauli, writing to Colonel William Wakefield, "It is impossible however for many of the Immigrants in the present state of affairs here to obtain employment, I have promoted their entering at once on the cultivation of offering them the lease of one or two Colonial sections in the Moutere District."

However, a month later, he wrote to Nelson's resident agent, William Fox : " I need not remind you that very recently my endeavors to carry into effect the instructions of the New Zealand Company...have been defeated armed mob inflamed with alcohol attended the payment of wages at the Agency office and with threats of committing murder, endeavored to extort money." 

Frederick Tuckett was honest and conscientious and an excellent surveyor, but a poor administrator in the hurly burly of the Colony's early days. In January 1844, he left Nelson to explore and survey a site for the settlement of ‘New Edinburgh' (Otago). 

He returned to London in 1846, leaving his Nelson home to the German Lutheran church. "In his all around love of man, he made no difference between one religion and another," wrote his friend, Lutheran pastor, the Rev J Wohlers. 

This article is paraphrased from a series of columns written by Joy Stephens and published in the Nelson Mail in 2007.


 Updated April 24, 2020

Sources used in this story

  Held the Nelson Provincial Museum

  • Tuckett, F. (1807-1876) Letters: Letter to William Fox, 29 October, 1843 Letter from T to Colonel Wakefield 12 August 1843 Letter to Francis Tuckett February 12, 1843
  • Rigg, T (1888-1972)  Papers concerning Quakers in Early Nelson (unpublished manuscript) qMS Rigg:
  • Tuckett, F.(1807-1876) Reports to the New Zealand Company
  • Wohlers, J. (1811-1885) Memoirs

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Further sources - Frederick Tuckett 1807-1876


  • Allan, R. (1965). Nelson: a history of early settlement. Wellington,  N.Z.: A.H. & A. W. Reed. pp. 79-80, 276-277 etc.
  • Burns, P. (1989) Fatal success : a history of the New Zealand Company. Auckland, N.Z. : Heinemann Reed, pp.184, 238-239.   
  • Evison, H (1993). Te Wai Pounamu: the Greenstone Island: A History of Southern Maori During European Colonization of New Zealand. Christchurch, N.Z.: Aoraki Press in association with the Ngai Tahu Maori Trust Board & Te Runanganui o Tahu. 
  • Lash, M. D. (1992). Nelson Notables 1840-1940: a dictionary of regional biography. Nelson, N.Z.: Nelson Historical Society:141.
  • McAloon, J. (1987) Nelson, A regional history. Whatamango Bay, N.Z. : Cape Catley in association with the Nelson City Council
  • McLintock, A. (1949). The history of Otago: the origins and growth of a Wakefield Class settlement. Dunedin, N.Z.: Whitcombe & Tombs for Otago Centennial Historical Publications. pp. 132-139.
  • Somerville, R. (1990). Tuckett, Frederick, T108. The Dictionary of New Zealand biography 1:1769-1869. pp. 551-552. 
  • Temple, Philip (2002) A Sort of Conscience The Wakefields. Auckland, N.Z. : Auckland University Press, pp.288, 364-365.
  • Tuckett, F. (2005). Do not emigrate, until you can possess that portion of the land which should be yours: being a few remarks on the sufferings of emigrants in ships and colonies, addressed to the people. Frenchay, Bristol, England: Frenchay Tuckett Society, (Originally published 1850 in London by Gilpin.)
  • Tuckett, F. (2006). Some reports & letters written by Frederick Tuckett during his time in New Zealand from 1841 to 1844 collected by Gerald Franklin. Frenchay, Bristol: Frenchay Tuckett Society.
  • Wohlers, J. (1998 ed) My dear friend Tuckett: letters from a Foveaux Strait outpost in the 1850s. Sheila Natusch (Ed.).Wellington, N.Z. Nestegg Books Nag's Head Press.


  • Church, I. (1994, August). Frederick Tuckett: Dunedin's real founder. Otago Before (3), pp.4-5.
  • Church, I. (1994). Frederick Tuckett: the father of Otago. GRINZ Yearbook. pp.21-26.
  • Church, I. (1994, July 30). Tuckett and the Otago block. Otago Daily Times, p.22. 
  • Mackie, J. B. (1999). Early surveying and surveyors in the Nelson region. New Zealand Map Society Journal (12).pp.4-13.
  • MacKie, J.B.(1998) Surveyor heroes of Nelson's past : Frederick Tuckett. Survey Quarterly. 15 : p. 9-11





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