Cannon Hill has at times been a focal point in the park, and at other times an overgrown jungle. It was certainly the centre of attention on May 29, 1876, during the opening ceremony of the Recreation Ground when the townspeople gathered to begin a new chapter in the town’s history. To mark the occasion four ceremonial trees were planted on the slopes of Cannon Hill by Miss Jane Carrington, daughter of Fred Carrington, the father of New Plymouth. The trees were an Oak representing UK, a Puriri representing New Zealand, a Norfolk Island pine representing the Pacific and a Radiata pine representing the Americas. At that time there would have been a 360 degree panoramic view from the top of the hill.

Cannon Hill circa 1900 (parks dept.)

The first man-made adornment on the hill was a large circular mirror presented to the grounds by Professor Furlong (TH, Aug 30, 1882), unfortunately there are no photos of this. The next item to grace the hill was a flagstaff donated by Chew Chong in 1885. This was part of a mast recovered from the barque Australind which had beached at Moturoa on July 26, 1882, while delivering bags of cement for the new harbour. In 1886 when ladies were granted permission the use the lake for bathing from 8am to 11am the flagstaff was used to hoist a red flag, warning the local gentlemen to stay away.

To attract more people to the hill a seat was erected around the flagstaff. Mrs Dougherty’s Egmont Academy scholars raised the money to build the seat and it was erected by Mr. H Taylor.

The hill was cut back in 1887 to allow for the erection of the Band Rotunda foundation but was left in a rough state until 1892 when the southern end was neatly faced (this work was probably done by Darby Claffey), and new paths were cut to give better access. Cannon hill was named at this time after the decision was made to drag the ground’s cannons to the top of it.

Dicky Barrett's Cannon (W T Wilson)

Puke Ariki PHO2020_0014-017

There were four cannons donated to the Recreation Ground, two of which were said to have been used in the defence of Otaka Pa in 1832 (Dicky Barrett cannons), and one was said to have come off the shipwreck of the barque Harriet, which ran aground on the Taranaki coast in 1834.

Professor Furlong donated the first Barrett cannon as noted in the Boards minutes of September 1884 (TH, September 20, 1884). The stand for it was made by W. H. Skinner. A second cannon with carriage was donated by Board member W. L. Newman as noted in the Boards minutes of April 1887 (TH, April 25, 1887), soon followed by a third accompanied by a 68lb cannon ball donated by W. F. Hoskins, of Waitara as noted in the Board’s minutes of August 1887 (TH, August 30, 1887). The fourth cannon was gifted by ex-Board member Reginald Bailey as noted in the Boards minutes of August 1891 (TH, August 10, 1891). The cannons were removed from the hill in 1928 and donated to the Carnegie Library in New Plymouth. They had been vandalized and were deemed unsafe.

The bones from a whale that had beached itself near Tataraimaka became an unusual feature dressing the hill in the mid-1890s. The whale was found by employees of the National Bank Farm, Tataraimaka. The bones were bleached at the farm before being given to the Board. They arrived in New Plymouth in March 1893.  The original plan for the bones was to reassemble them as a skeleton (based on a sketch produced by Dr. Hector, Director of the Colonial Museum) and display them to the east of the band Rotunda. The attempt at re assembly was unsuccessful and someone must have come up with the idea of placing the bones on Cannon Hill, which was probably done in 1894.

Councillor E. P. Allen and Mrs. Dorothy Eliot King planting a Tilia x euchlora at the south east corner of Hatchery Lawn.
Don Saxton and Alex Brodie planting a Kauri.
Fred Parker 2nd right talking to Mrs Gale, preparing to plant a Ginko biloba ‘Fastigiata’,
Mayor Denis Sutherland planting a Norfolk Island pine

Centenary Planting photos, Puke Ariki ARC2003-859- 3

In 1976 during the 100th Anniversary celebrations of the Park Cannon Hill once again became the centre of attention. A number of trees were planted on and around the hill four of which still remain; a Norfolk Island pine on the top north edge of Cannon Hill, planted by Mayor Denis Sutherland; a Kauri on top of Cannon Hill on the west side, planted by, D. F. C. Saxton and Alex Brodie; a Tilia x euchlora at the south east corner of Hatchery Lawn, planted by Councillor E. P. Allen and Mrs. Dorothy Eliot King and a Ginko biloba ‘Fastigiata’, planted by Fred Parker by the path on the eastern side of Fountain Lake.