What happened to the cannons that once stood at Moorefield Road in Johnsonville?
In the early settler years, when Middleton Road was the Porirua Road, a very steep part of the Porirua road was called Russell’s Folly. Russell’s Folly was named after Captain Russell of the 58th regiment who engineered it. This alarmingly steep road used to connect the end of the existing Bassett Road in Johnsonville down to Middleton Road just south of the bus stop opposite the Dairy. Sometime between 1847 and 1854 a gun-wagon drawn by four horses rolled down this incline into the stream below. In 1854 Russell’s Folly was by-passed when the main road was diverted down the east side of the Johnsonville Church.
Two cannons were recovered from the swamp and stood at Moorefield Road until after WWII. One is said to have been given to Waiouru Museum however they have no record of it. The other went to a Mr Bothamley of Gear Homestead.
A cannonball was recovered from Middleton Road several years ago and is displayed at Onslow Historic Society rooms.
If you have any information about the cannons, the Glenside Progressive Assn. would like to hear from you.
Helpful background information about the cannons has been provided by Malcolm Evans, Curator of Weapons and Ammunition at Waiouru Army Museum.
“In 1842 the New Zealand Company (a commercial company) recovered four 18 pounder ships cannon from the immigrant ship 'Adelaide' with the stated intention of emplacing them on Somes Island. New migrants began work on the emplacements but all work stopped when the Colonial Govenor refused to pay the 'fee' being demanded by the NZ Company. In 1843 the NZ Company advertised for volunteers to work on emplacements for the cannons at Clay Hill (Flagstaff Point) and at Thorndon Flat. Clay Hill was completed first and had three of the guns installed on their wooden carriages. Eventually the Thorndon Flat position was completed and it had one gun until 1846 when a second was moved down from Clay Hill. Both of these positions were used by detachments of the 58th and 96th Regiments during the late 1840's but the cannons were 'manned' by settler volunteers."
"In 1847 the Barracks at Paramata were built to protect Porirua Harbour and the Pauatahanui Inlet. It was at or about this time that the two cannon from Thorndon Flat were transferred to Paramata, after which their trail goes cold. It would make sense that the cannon you refer to would be these two, and that they were probably lost during their return to Wellington after Paramata Barracks was scaled down. As these cannon were not Government property the recovery and costs would have been the responsibility of the NZ Company, at which point they were likely abandoned. The first Government coastal defence artillery in New Zealand were not emplaced until 1885."
"Ships cannon of the early to mid 1800's were most commonly made of cast iron, which is of little value once used and would support their being left for years by the roadside.”
Further research on the cannons can be found here.