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.

Picton Heritage

It’s a little-known fact that when Marlborough was established as a province in 1859, Picton enjoyed a brief stint as its capital.

Governor Thomas Gore Browne gave Picton its name that year and the town, with its single jetty and largely uninhabited valley, became the capital on November 1.

Early Picton maps show the Union Jack in the street layout and the town features British street names including London Quay, Wellington Street, Oxford Street and York Street.

The site that would eventually be Picton, Waitohi, had been bought by Europeans from Te Ati Awa in 1850, who in turn moved to Waikawa Bay. Most settlers who bought sections did so in the anticipation a road would be built to Blenheim.

And in fact Blenheim was thriving after Browne declared Picton as capital - its central location made it a more popular place to settle.

When in 1865 the Marlborough provincial council talked about shifting the capital to Blenheim, councillor Arthur Beauchamp, grandfather of author Katherine Mansfield, stonewalled the debate by speaking for 10 hours and 40 minutes before collapsing and being carried from the chamber.

He ended his speech by saying "With these preliminary remarks I will now proceed to speak to the matter under discussion."

Despite his efforts, the capital was moved.

Today, Picton is a thriving seaside town at the entrance to the Queen Charlotte Sound, and is the South Island port for New Zealand's Cook Strait ferries.

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