Jane Takotowi Clendon

Jane Clendon was a strong woman of Hokianga Māori descent who had the odds stacked against her.

Born in 1838, Jane Takotowi Clendon was the daughter of Northland trader Dennis Cochrane and his wife Te Whata, a rangatira of Mangamuka. Jane grew to be an accomplished young woman who operated confidently in both Māori and Pākehā society.

Jane Clendon holding a baby, circa 1860s

At 17, Jane married James Clendon, a prominent English settler and local politician who was 40 years her senior. Widowed at 34, with eight children under 17 years old, Jane was confronted with the fact that while the house was insured for a few hundred pounds, James was thousands of pounds in debt.

Her home and a decent future for her children were threatened. Jane set about using her standing in both Māori and Pākehā communities, and knowledge of commerce and relationships to pay the debts and educate her children, all whilst remaining in their family home.

Jane was unrelenting in her efforts. She paid some debts with small amounts of land and cash. She wrote persuasive letters to her creditors. She traded in gum, bark, firewood and garden produce – anything that would enable her to stay in her house. Amazingly, she managed to clear the debt and lived in the house until she died in 1919 at the age of 81.

Visit Jane’s home, Clendon House at Rāwene, Hokianga, in Northland. Proudly cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, Clendon House is recognised by Tohu Whenua as one of our best heritage experiences.

Clendon House contains many of the family's original belongings. Image: Grant Sheehan

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