These Staffordshire china dogs are bold and colourful, even if they look crudely finished. They belonged to Benjamin Wood, originally from Ireland who arrived in the Bay of Islands with his family on the Westminster 17 March 1840 to be Chief Constable. He had 6 policemen and members of the 99th Regiment to help him establish law and order.
After the evacuation of the town in 1845 he went to Auckland but returned the following year staying until 1853. He moved back to Auckland to be court bailiff until his retirement in 1860. He died in 1870 and was buried in Symonds Street cemetery. As part of the Police centenary celebrations his grave stone was restored and a plaque unveiled to honour this country’s first policeman. The ceremony ended with the piping of an Irish jig.
There is a family story that the dogs were presented to Benjamin by Governor Hobson. China dogs were produced in Staffordshire mainly between 1820-50. They were often in pairs with a flat side, so they went each end of the mantelshelf. Spaniels, like our pair were common, but hunting dogs like greyhound, pointers and setters were also popular. Our dogs stand on a pink cushion base decorated with green leaves. Their coats are curly and they gaze out with rather a vacant stare. A great-great-grandson brought them to the museum as he felt this is where Benjamin first did his policing in New Zealand. Sadly the family do not have a photo of him.
Benjamin would no doubt have used truncheon and a bull’s eye lantern for night patrol – the Museum has examples on display. At the Russell Police Station just inside the front gate a plaque to remember the beginning of policing in New Zealand was placed in 1990.
Benjamin’s dogs have pride of place among our china collection.