Heritage, Culture & Arts

Marlborough’s rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers of the Wairau Bar to the first European pioneers who built our towns and planted our first grapevines.

These people, the way they lived their lives and how they dealt with history’s major events has shaped Marlborough into what it is today. Those stories are all here, waiting to be discovered all over again.

Marlborough has a wealth of arts and culture, from art galleries to museums through to concerts and theatre productions.

Follow the Marlborough Arts and Crafts Trail, enjoy a glass of wine while listening to live music at a vineyard or on stage at Marlborough's new ASB Theatre.

Kakapo Bay Cemetary Heritage

A small cemetery at the top of Port Underwood, eastern Marlborough Sounds, is full of fascinating stories of early European settlers.

Gravesites include the wife and sons of William Deakin, an American whaler who jumped ship in Port Underwood in 1840 and was present at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at Horahora Kakahu Island in Port Underwood.

Another is Kuika, partner of early Blenheim businessman James Wynen, who was murdered here in December 1842. Her European murderer went free, but this legacy formed part of the background to the 'Wairau Affray' of 1843. The cemetery also holds the graves of the Guard family, who were famously captured by Taranaki Maori.

John (Jacky) Guard, an English ex-convict from Australia (imprisoned for 7 years for stealing a five-shilling bed cover) established the South Island’s first whaling station on Arapawa Island. He bought Kakapo Bay from Maori chiefs Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata and began Port Underwood’s first shore-based whaling: Many others followed suit. Jacky’s wife Betty was the first female European on the South Island and their children, John and Louisa, the first born on the South island.

In 1834, the family was shipwrecked on the Taranaki coast. Ashore, they were attacked by local Maori and 12 crew were killed. Betty and the children were taken captive for five months; John was separated from his mother and baby sister. Jacky was released to obtain a ransom. He travelled to Sydney where authorities decided on a military rescue of the Guards and the remaining crew. Several Maori were killed in the rescue. Louisa died 8 months later.

In 1836 the Guards returned to Kakapo Bay, where the fourth generation still live today. 

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