The name Miranda first appeared in 1611. It was one of the many words created by William Shakespeare when he gave it to the heroine of one of his last plays 'The Tempest'. He took name from the Latin word ‘mirandus’ which means 'to admire or wonder at'.
Three British battleships have been named Miranda. The first HMS Miranda was built as a sloop in 1851 but converted to a corvette in 1862. She was then sent to the Australian Station and took part in the NZ Land Wars. She was both steam and sail powered. It was this Miranda after which Miranda Redoubt was named.
There can be little doubt that the name Miranda, from HMS Miranda, was given to the redoubt built in Dec 1863.
The Maori kainga of Pukorokoro was named long before 1863 but, as there is no record of the redoubt being built on the site of the kainga, it was probably in a different place. Pukorokoro was known as an important place on the route between the Hauraki Gulf and the Waikato River.
The earliest record in a newspaper of the name Pukorokoro was in the Daily Southern Cross on the 20 November 1863 but it had been earlier used in a published report to Governor Gore-Brown on 5 June 1857. There will probably be earlier published references.
In the latter part of 1863, General Cameron was concerned to eliminate the guerrilla attacks against his troops. They were taking place from the Hunua Ranges, especially along the Great South Road, and he could not begin the invasion of the Waikato until the supply line for his army was secure. On 4 November 1863, the General attended a meeting of the Executive Council in Auckland, where an expedition was organised to the Gulf of Thames, with a view to establishing a line of posts from the west coast of the Gulf to the Queen’s Redoubt. (Gamble)
Called the Thames expedition, it consisted of 44 officers and 922 men from the 12th and 70th Regiments, Waikato Militia, Auckland Naval Volunteers and 54 cavalry of the Colonial Defence Force. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carey -18th Regt and Deputy Adjutant General (Lennard). The troops departed on 16th November on the HMS Miranda, HMS Esk, the steamship Corio and the Colonial gunboat Sandfly with three weeks of supplies carried on the cargo vessels Jessie, Doady, Harrier, Sydney and Diamond. An impending gale caused the fleet to shelter in Man -of- War Bay, Waiheke until the 20th when they moved down the Firth, disembarking at a site just south of Whakatiwai on Monday 23rd November. This was done at some distance from Pukorokoro because the deep draft of the two warships meant they could go no further. Men and supplies were landed by ship’s boats, with some trans-shipped to the Sandfly for landing at Pukorokoro. The horses were unloaded by sling into the water and swam to shore behind the boats. From Whakatiwai the troops marched along the beach to Kaiaua, crossed several streams and swamps and ascended a fern ridge before descending to Pukorokoro, the journey taking over 7.5 hours. The naval detachment, under Captains Jenkins and Hamilton went by boat, landing on the beach at the mouth of the Pukorokoro Stream. They found the area had recently been occupied by a considerable force of Maori who had decamped leaving their equipment and with fires still alight. Tents were pitched and scouting parties sent out. Later they fired the considerable area of fern around the camp, clearing several 100 acres of land.
The redoubt was established near the Pukorokoro kainga and a commissariat store built just below on a flat spot around which the creek ran. Stores were landed by the Naval Volunteers, and by Monday 30th November, the Miranda Redoubt was complete. (WN; 5 Dec 1863)
By mid-December, the objective of the Thames Expedition had been attained by establishing the line of posts from the Firth of Thames to Queen’s Redoubt and causing the Maori to leave the area. Accordingly, the strength of regular troops (the 70th and the Waikato Militia) at each redoubt was reduced to 70. Captain Downing (12th Regt) was the Officer-in-Charge of Miranda Redoubt. (Gamble)
By January 8th, Captain Tighe (70th Regt) was Officer-in-Charge at Miranda. On the 5th January, he led a group comprising 40 men of 70th, Waikato Regt and Auckland Naval Volunteers on a scouting expedition across the Hauraki Plains towards Thames. From the hills on the western edge of the plain, they saw a large kahikatea forest at the north end of which was a Maori village. They advanced on this, expecting some resistance but found it abandoned. The village also contained large cultivations of potatoes, maize, taro and peach trees. After firing the village, they returned to Miranda. (DSC; 11 Jan 1864)
Miranda Redoubt was retained as a post, possibly manned by Colonial Troops, because it was used as a telegraph station. It was still occupied in June 1866 when a report of a fire there was reported in the news. A hut occupied by Mr Kirk and his family was destroyed and they lost most of their belongings. The alarm was raised by 'the sentry on duty within the redoubt.' (DSC: 14 June 1866)
A little known activity of the Navy and Naval Volunteers at this time was to maintain a blockade of the Firth of Thames led by the Colonial Gunboat 'Sandfly'. Just as the redoubts on land prevented the movement of Maori forces between the south and Auckland, so the blockading ships in the Firth prevented the movement of boats. In an incident in late December, a cutter carrying a cargo variously described as maize or pigs and wool and with ten Maori men, 3 Maori women and one Frenchman was detained trying to leave the Piako and was taken as a prize. In another incident, at the end of February 1864, Captain Jenkins had given permission for a canoe of friendly natives to visit another hapu in the Thames Valley. However they appear to have absconded to join the rebels, leaving behind some large war canoes. Capt Kemp, commander at Miranda took possession of the canoes and burnt them. (DSC: 1 March 1964)
There is little doubt that the name of the redoubt later came to be used for the district and how this happened is significant. There were some 25 redoubts and similar structures built by the British army between Auckland and Ngaruawahia in the 1860’s. Most were given English names –usually after a person, regiment or ship. Only 3 were given Maori names – Meremere, Whangamarino and Lower Wairoa. Today only two redoubt names are in use as names of defined places; Meremere and Miranda. Queen’s Redoubt was retained as the name of the settlement which grew up around it until about 1910, after which it was gradually replaced by the name of the original Maori kainga, Pokeno; although spelt differently from its original Pokino.
The transition of Pukorokoro to Miranda did not happen suddenly and worked in reverse to the Queen’s Redoubt / Pokeno situation, taking some 20 years to evolve. Seven different combinations of names (Pukorokoro, Miranda Redoubt, Miranda Point, Miranda, Pukorokoro/Miranda, The Miranda, and Miranda District) were originally used for the area now called Miranda.
There appears to be two reasons why the name changed. First, although the kainga of Pukorokoro remained in existence for some time, it was apparently almost deserted by 1911, when only two people remained. (Thames News: 21/1/1911) The second reason was that the Miranda Redoubt appears to have remained in commission as an army base for longer than any of the others. For example, Queen’s Redoubt, built in 1862, was closed and most buildings sold at auction in March 1867 although the redoubt was still used for some years by local militia units who occasionally camped at the site until at least 1869. (WN: 31 Jul 1869) As far as is known, Miranda Redoubt was still in operation over this time and probably continued to be manned because of its importance to communications between Shortland (Thames) and Auckland.
The Miranda Redoubt was presumably abandoned between 1875 and 1878 when the name disappeared from the newspaper record.
A measure of usage of the different names was made by analysing material found on the Papers Past website. A search was made for the relevant names between 1863 and 1941. 104 instances of one of the names for the area were found (an estimated 10% sample), from 11 different and mostly local newspapers. The various names were then grouped by decade.
During the decade 1860 to 1870, the site was called Pukorokoro in 70% of the records seen. In the following decade, it dropped to under 40% and by 1880 -1890 it was used only 6% of the time. Conversely Miranda rose from 4% in the 1860’s to 85% in the 1880’s.
On 14th December 1874, a telegraph office was opened at Pukorokoro (Miranda) and became known as the Miranda Post and Telegraph Office. (Auck Star: 14/12/1874) It operated for 61 years, finally closing on 12 December 1936. (NZ Gazette: Apr 1879) One account suggests that the house of the telegraph operator, which probably included the telegraph station, was located in a hollow below the redoubt.
The naming of small country districts such as this is often determined by usage of the name, possibly influenced by local newspapers. It is my opinion that the name of Miranda became increasingly used and eventually became the name of the area, partly because of its importance for telegraphic communication between Auckland and Thames and partly because the Maori kainga, Pukorokoro was slowly abandoned.