The naming of Udy Street in Petone pays homage to the enduring legacy of an early Cornish settler, Hart Udy, whose life and work were deeply interwoven with the development of the area.i Hart Udy, alongside his wife Jane, arrived in New Zealand aboard the Duke of Roxburgh in 1840, marking the beginning of a series of trials and tribulations that would underscore their resilience. Initially settling on the banks of the Hutt River, the Udy family’s first home was short-lived, as they were soon displaced by flooding. Their subsequent abode in the flax and toi toi cottages of ‘Cornish Row’ also met a grim fate, succumbing to fire mere months later. These early setbacks, including the birth of their fifth child amidst the chaos of natural disasters, did not deter the Udys; instead, they laid the foundations for a legacy that would shape Petone’s history. Given their Cornish heritage, it’s likely that the pronunciation of Udy is “OO-dee”.
Hart Udy’s profession as a builder found its demand in the burgeoning settlement of ‘Britannia’, later known as Thorndon in Wellington, where he contributed to the construction of the first house made of New Zealand wood. His daily commute by boat from Petone before the construction of the 1841 road between the two locales speaks to the industrious spirit that characterised the early settlers. The Udy family’s move to Thorndon was a strategic one, allowing Hart to work closely with prominent figures such as Sir Francis Molesworth.
Despite the challenges faced in the Hutt Valley, including skirmishes with local Māori iwi and the tragic loss of their son Joseph, the Udys persevered. Hart’s craftsmanship graced the area with the second St James’ Anglican church and several houses on Victoria Street, Petone, which he anticipated to become a central thoroughfare. Although these houses were later demolished, their location is a testament to Hart’s vision for the area, now part of the contemporary landscape as the Petone Pak’n’Save carpark.
The Udys’ journey took them through various landscapes of New Zealand, from their farming endeavours in Waiwhetu to pioneering the first sawmill in Stokes Valley. Their move to the Wairarapa, following the significant 1855 earthquake, marked a period of prosperity, with Hart diversifying into farming, building, wheelwrighting, and sawmilling. The legacy of the Udy name continued with Hart Udy (junior), who not only followed in his father’s footsteps in the sawmilling business but also established himself as a blacksmith in Greytown.
Returning to Petone in the 1880s, Hart Udy (senior)’s contributions to the community were further cemented. He served on the first Petone Town Board and was instrumental in the establishment of the Nelson Street, Petone, Wesleyan (Methodist) Church, reflecting his deep-rooted connection to both the land and the spiritual life of the community. In addition to his local contributions in Petone, Hart Udy also played a significant role in the wider region, serving as the mayor of Greytown twice.
Certainly. Hart Udy (senior) and Jane Udy’s later years saw them return to Petone, where they lived in one of the Victoria Street houses that Hart had built decades earlier. Hart was an active member of the community, serving on the Petone Town Board and contributing to local infrastructure, such as supplying timber for the Nelson Street Wesleyan (Methodist) Church. After a period of community engagement and local service, Hart and Jane eventually moved back to Greytown. Hart Udy (senior) passed away in 1890, and Jane followed six years later in 1896. Their deaths marked the end of an era for the Udy family, who had been among the early settlers to shape the Petone area.