Charles Carnell: Custodian 1876 – 1878

Charles Carnell was a native of Ottery St Mary, Devonshire, England and the first custodian of the Recreation Grounds. He came to New Plymouth due to his service with the 65th Regiment, which was involved with the Taranaki Wars, and must have decided to stay on after retiring or being discharged from the service.

At the meeting of the Recreation Grounds Board on Friday 17 November 1876, it was resolved: “That Mr. Charles Carnell (being a resident adjacent to the grounds), be placed in charge thereof, in consideration of his being employed to work thereon for two days a week, and have full power to impound all cattle found trespassing thereon, and exercise the usual duties of a custodian.” (Taranaki Herald, 22 November 1876)

In his “Pukekura Park, its Origin and Development. A brief History” (Taranaki Herald 4 August 1916), Robert Clinton Hughes had this to say of Carnell: “He had a happy and placid Sancho Panza appearance, but his age and stoutness were rather against him.”  (Sancho Panza is Don Quiote’s short, potbellied squire in the novel Don Quiote.)

In the latter part of 1878 the Recreation Ground Board met and on 13 September discussed the position of Custodian. It was resolved: “That a permanent gardener and custodian be engaged at 20s per week, a three-roomed cottage being found him, and half an acre of ground rent free.” (Taranaki Herald 19 September 1878) The board advertised the position later in the month as follows: “Tenders will be received by the undersigned up to the 30th instant, for the SITUATION OF CUSTODIAN of the recreation Grounds. Salary, £1 per week, with use of a Three-roomed Cottage and Half an Acre of ground. R. Bayley, Hon. Secretary.” (Taranaki Herald 26 September 1878)

Ian Hutchinson