The Duke of Marlborough

The Duke of Marlborough Buy 

Russell or Kororareka as it was once known, had the reputation of being the ‘hell hole of the Pacific.’ This was mainly due to the drinking, brawling, prostitution and general  lawlessness of the town. As the port grew to be one of the biggest whaling ports in the Southern Hemisphere, so too did the town’s reputation for unruly disorder.

One of the early drinking establishments was known as “Johnny Johnstons Grog Shop”. The owner being Johnny Johnston, an ex-convict. In the late 1820’s, Johnson purchased land which he turned into a hotel and to give the place a touch of class he named it after the richest man in the world, the Duke of Marlborough. Today, The Duke of Marlborough sits elegantly on the waterfront in Russell and holds the distinction of being New Zealand’s oldest licenced hotel.

The Flagpole At Kororāreka

The Flagpole at Kororāreka Buy 

When I was young, I always thought the story of Hōne Heke and his warriors cutting down the flagpole on the hill above Kororāreka (Russell) was something quite fascinating.  

In the years preceding the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke protested against unfulfilled British promises from the Treaty by cutting down the flagpole he had gifted to the British Crown. After his initial attack, the pole was re-erected, only for Heke to chop it down twice more, showing his displeasure against the British actions. 

The fourth attack on the flagpole came at night on the 11th March. Despite the flagpole being well guided by British soldiers, Heke and his warriors managed to secure the hill and cut the flagpole down once more. Following this, war broke out and the battle of Kororāreka took place. The battle marked the beginnings of The Northern Wars.