How Brightwater got its name


"Bright water for me"

According to some sources, Brightwater was named after the bright, clear waters of the Wairoa River. In part this may be true, but it seems more plausible to attribute the naming of Brightwater to Alfred Saunders.


Alfred Saunders. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection reference 68108.

Alfred Saunders was an early settler to the region, arriving in Nelson on the Fifeshire on the 1st February, 1842.

He was an ardent supporter of the Temperance Movement, which aimed to restrict the consumption of alcohol, and formed a Nelson branch of the Temperance Society in 1842.  He also resided in Section 34, known as the ‘Teetotal Section’, due to the abstinence shown by the residents who lived there. This was located opposite St Paul’s Church. 

In 1851, Alfred Saunders purchased the Richmond Flour Mill from Mr Elliot. Alfred had ongoing problems with the Mill, which used steam power. Whilst struggling with the expensive and inefficient steam engine he would sing the well-known Temperance song

Brightwater Flourmill

The bright waters at the Brightwater Flour Mill, c1900. Waimea South Collection on Tasman Heritage.

“Bright water, bright water, bright water for me.”

When he built his own water-powered flour mill in River Terrace in 1855 he consequently named it Brightwater Mill. The area was then part of Spring Grove but by the 1880s had officially become Brightwater.

In October 1876 a new post office was opened near the Wairoa Railway Station (later to be known as the Brightwater Railway Station). It was named Brightwater Post Office, as there were already post offices in the North Island with the name Wairoa. The establishment of the post office seems to have been the deciding factor in the official adoption of the name Brightwater for the area.

Brightwater Heritage Boards 2020

Updated August 16, 2021.

Sources used in this story

  1. Brightwater School. (2013). 125th Reunion of Brightwater School 1888-2013:  Brightwater History & District Schools. Brightwater School. p. 31, 37, 85-86.  
  2. Lash, Max D. (1992), Nelson Notables 1840-1940: A dictionary of regional biography. The Nelson Historical Society. p.128-129. 
  3. Post Office notices.(1876, October 26). Nelson Evening Mail. p.2.
  4. Stringer, Marion  J. (1999). Just another row of spuds : the pioneer history of Waimea South. Marion J. Stringer. p. 123, 548-549.


  1. Nelson Provincial Museum. Saunders, Mr Alfred. Reference number: 68108 Tyree Studio Collection.
  2. Brightwater Flour Mill, c1900. Waimea South Collection on Tasman Heritage.

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  • This is historical. Thank you. I didn't knew this one until I read it today. By the way, love how the pdf are made available and accessible anytime. Cheers!

    Posted by Henray Dart, 22/07/2020 8:18pm (4 years ago)

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