Barnicoat, John Wallis
Born at Falmouth, Cornwall, Barnicoat received a good education and then trained under a Mr. Thomas of Falmouth, who was a surveyor and engineer. In 1841 he was attracted by the New Zealand Company proposals to form a second settlement somewhere in New Zealand. For £300 he purchased allotments of 201 acres in the scheme and sailed in the Lord Auckland from Gravesend on 25th September, 1841. One of his fellow travellers was Thomas John Thompson, who also was a surveyor. They arrived at Nelson on 26th February, 1842. Soon afterwards, owing to the chaotic state of the settlement because the sections were not yet surveyed, Barnicoat offered his services to Captain Arthur Wakefield, the Company’s Nelson agent and was given a contract to survey a portion of the Waimea Plain. He was assisted by T. J. Thompson with whom he entered into partnership. They next received a similar contract inthe Moutere district. Next they undertook a contract to survey part of the Wairau Plains the ownership of which was the subject of a dispute between the Company and the Ngatitoa tribe led by Te Rauparaha. In the disaster that occurred on the 16th June, 1843 commonly known as the “Wairau Massacre” Barnicoat was fortunate to escape with his life. Thompson had left the ground a few days earlier.
For the rest of the year Barnicoat was engaged on further settlement surveys in the upper Moutere and Motueka districts. Early in 1844 at the request of the Chief Surveyor, Frederick Tuckett, he joined the expedition to explore the east coast of the South Island down to Stewart Island with the object of selecting a site for the “New Edinburgh” settlement. They sailed in the Deborah from Nelson on the 31st March, 1844. During the course of the expedition Barnicoat and Davison surveyed Waikouaiti harbour, part of the Otago harbour, Molineux Bay and New River harbour, (Invercargill). Crossing to Stewart Island they spent three days there before setting out on the return journey on 1st June.
Barnicoat accompanied Tuckett when, after leaving the Deborah at Molineux harbour, the party proceeded by dinghy up the river to the head of Inchclutha Island. Thence, in the depth of winter, they made the arduous journey overland to Otago harbour, where they rejoined the Deborah and returned to Nelson at the end of September.
Barnicoat took part in the exploring for the elusive “extensive plains” that were needed to complete the New Zealand Company’s obligations to supply the agricultural rural allotments. He also assisted in the exploring for a practicable route from Nelson to the Wairau Valley. In 1846 he explored the Pelorus River and the surrounding country. In 1850, with John Tinline, he sought a shorter and more practicable route to the than that via Top House which had been discovered by Cotterell. His report was published in the Nelson “Examiner” of 3rd and 15th January, 1851. However, a route over the Whangamoa Hill was preferred and Barnicoat was given the task of cutting the road line over Whangamoa to Pelorus River and thence via Kaituna to the Wairau.Barnicoat then relinquished surveying for pastoral pursuits and developed his property.
With the establishment of Provincial Government In 1853 Barnicoat entered politics and was elected to represent Waimea East in the Provincial Council. He had the unique distinction of retaining his seat continuously until the abolition of Provincial Government in 1875. He filled the office of Speaker from 1858 to 1875. In 1883 he received a life appointment to the Legislative Council He retired from the office in 1902.
He had always taken a keen interest in educational affairs and in 1843 helped to found Nelson College, one of the first institutions for secondary education in New Zealand. This College was first mooted in 1843 vide New Zealand Ordinances, 1843, but the College was not opened until 1856, when the necessary funds became available. Barnicoat was one of the original trustees and he served on the Board of Governors for more than forty years. He also served on the Nelson Education Board from its inception in 1836 until 1839. Barnicoat was a stalwart supporter of the Anglican Church and when Nelson was constituted a separate Diocesan See in 1857, Barnicoat became a lay member of synod with the office of Assessor of Bishops Court. He remained a member of synod for forty years.
One of his accomplishments was the art of pen and in sketching and there are a number of his drawings of early pioneering subjects of historic interest still in existence.
J. W. Barnicoat died on 2nd February, 1905.Date of Birth1844Date of Death1905OccupationFarmer PoliticianSurveyor