Shakespeare Bay


Shakespeare Bay is a deepwater harbour just to the West of the main Picton harbour, separated by Kaipupu Point, now a wildlife sanctuary.

Although there is no record of Māori settlement in the bay, the original name, Kaipupu, (eating shellfish) shows that it was a well-known food gathering place.  The English name was bestowed by early surveyors, even before Picton was named.  The bay was settled by Pakeha fairly early - Edward and Mary Ann Clemens moved there in 1861 and raised a family of 14 children. Edward was related to the American author Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens.  Edward Clemens prospected for coal without success and turned to farming.

Shakespeare HouseShakespeare House. Picton Historical Society. Click to enlarge

Shakespeare Bay is also interesting geologically – as long ago as 1864, officers of the Mines Department found a large fracture following an earthquake fault line running along the shore of the bay. 

Although Mr Clemens was unsuccessful, coal was discovered there several times – in 1874, 1877 and 1881, and in 1907 an English company secured coal prospecting rights.  After 1884 no work of any consequence was done on the Shakespeare Bay coal, but about 1893 there was a renewal of prospecting in the locality. No tangible results followed.  A report in 1988 noted that, although coal exists in the locality, few seams are now exposed at the surface and are extensively sheared by faults.  

freezing worksFreezing works, Kaipupu. Picton Historical Society. 
Click image to enlarge

Construction of the Freezing Works on Kaipupu Neck, which was completed in 1900, resulted in Shakespeare Bay receiving the foul runoff.   During the Depression and War years the whole of Shakespeare Bay was farmed by the Henson family.  Mr Henson also worked at the freezing works as a shepherd.  Shakespeare House, the boarding house for single men, was built nearby. 

In 1965 the Edwin Fox Restoration Society was formed and Edwin Fox was purchased for one shilling.  She had been used as a coal hulk for the freezing works since 1905, and after a local battle about where she should be kept, the ship was towed to Shakespeare Bay after being emptied and refloated.  She lay there for about twenty years, gradually being stripped for souvenirs and firewood until she was assigned a permanent berth in Picton Harbour.  Volunteers worked for weeks to clear the hold and pump her out, she was inspected for damage and refloated, and on 4 December 1986 was towed to a new berth in Picton. 

The next exciting event in the bay was the police search of Scott Watson’s boat Blade in June 1988, during investigations into the murder of Ben Smart and Olivia hope. The boat was moored in Shakespeare Bay.  It was later moved to a hanger at Woodbourne Air Base for forensic examination, then returned to the family. 

Logging port developmentLogging port development, Shakespeare Bay. Picton Historical Society.
Click to enlarge

Once the Freezing Works had closed and eventually been demolished, the way became clear for construction of Waimahara Wharf, which was opened in May 2000. ‘Waimahara’ means ‘the waters of memory and recollection’, and the wharf was built for timber export on land bought by the Harbour Board years before in readiness for a deep water port.  Later that year over 300 people attended a Picton Freezing Works reunion, and unveiled a plaque on Shakespeare Bay Lookout.

A serious fire in January 2001 led to days of monitoring by volunteer fire fighters, and from 2007 on a series of protests were organised against the use of methyl-bromide fumigant on Port Marlborough land in the bay. Shakespeare Bay continues to play a role in local affairs and to attract attention.

This story is condensed from a series written by Loreen Brehaut for the Seaport News in Picton, 2010

Updated May 2020

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  • in 1976 Gary & Carolyn Moulton took me sailing throughout Queen Charlotte Sound as a 16 year old kid on their anti nuclear protest trimiran, the Phoenix. We tied up alongside the beached hulk of Edwin Fox on a sand bar opposite where the the log wharf is now. She was pretty much a wooden skeleton. Her frame was constructed of incredibly thick teak logs. The old ship still had planking. It was sheathed with copper plates nailed to the planks. A great history lesson for me, but in a way, I feel sad it was not left in situ for other kids to explore. Sitting in a shed in Picton seems to shut it off from curious kids and make it even more remote.

    Posted by Simon Gunson , 19/12/2023 8:43pm (4 months ago)

  • Edward and Mary Ann (I think he might have gone by his middle name William) were my great-great grandparents. I too think the Twain connection is a myth. The three-volume autobiography of him which was published a few years ago gives his family as having migrated from the Midlands, Leicester I think; that is from the scholarship. The only thing is that Twain himself claimed his family was known for piracy, which would tend to mean he was from Cornwall - Cornwall is known for it and Leicester is pretty much as far inland as you can get in Britain.

    Edward Clemens was born in Bradford on Avon, or so he said (sometimes a fib was necessary to get around age qualifications for jobs or entry into NZ). His parents had moved around a bit because his father, who died when he was six, was in Customs and Excise. He was apprenticed in Bristol.

    His parents came from the west of Devon near the Tamar, very rural even today. The Clemenses had been settled there for about a century, but at the end of the seventeenth a Clemens moved there from Sussex. I am inclined to suspect the family had originally come from Cornwall though because 1) St Clements is a parish on the edge of Truro; 2) the huge preponderance of people with the name (our spelling) in the nineteenth century were in Cornwall, where there were a number before most emigrated, though a very few remain today; 3) the seventeenth century had the Civil War, which moved people around, particularly smiths who sometimes moved for their job anyway; 4) the general physical type of the family appears to be Cornish.

    Posted by Joanna Clemens, 24/01/2023 2:04pm (1 year ago)

  • I am a descendant of Edward Clemens of Shakespeare Bay and have done a significant amount of tracing his lineage. There is almost no chance of a relationship between the Clemens family of St Giles in the Wood in North Devon (Edward's family) and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) whose own forebears (for at least two earlier generations) were born in America. I believe the original family of Mark Twain were from Loos in Cornwall, whereas as far back as we can research back(Edwards Great Grandfather) all came from St Giles. Edward's father was an excise man in Bradford on Avon at the time of Edward's birth in 1822. His father was from St Giles where the family had a long association as blacksmiths to the Stevenage estate (now broken up)

    Posted by Bill Clemens, 04/11/2015 5:34pm (8 years ago)

  • Edward and Maryann Clemens were my Great Grandparents. Our research on the family tree has never managed to confirm any relationship to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). I would love to hear if anyone has ever been able to come up with a positive connection.

    Posted by James Edward Clemens, 01/03/2015 10:16pm (9 years ago)

  • how do we contact kaipupu point? Ed. the website for the sanctuary is: There is a contact us form on the site.

    Posted by paul, 29/10/2014 1:51pm (9 years ago)

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Further sources - Shakespeare Bay


  • Campbell, N. (1987) New export port at Picton : a good idea or not? Rails, 17(4), p.80-83
  • Late Cenozoic thrust tectonics, Picton, New Zealand. (1990) New Zealand journal of geology and geophysics 33(3)

  • Stockpile coal plan `undercuts Lyttelton' (1999, August 19) The Press, 1999, p. 7

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