Topic: Taylors Mistake

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Taylors Mistake or Te Onepoto (Short Beach) is a small but popular bay 17km from Central Christchurch.

The naming of this small bay between Sumner and Lyttelton Harbour has been the subject of rich debate. Who was this Taylor and what was his mistake?

 The name Taylor's Mistake is most commonly attributed to a Captain Taylor of the Volga. In 1858 Taylor beached the American ship in the bay. To add to this mistake Taylor also mistook the bay's identity.  Sources are split, with some suggesting Sumner and others pointing to Lyttelton Harbour as Taylor's intended destination. So the origin of the name seems obvious, but six years later a second Captain Taylor was guilty of a navigational mistake in the bay. In 1864 the schooner Catherine also ran aground at Taylor's Mistake. Although the Volga incident is still widely credited to be the story behind the name, neither this story nor the later case of the Catherine are likely to have inspired it.

 This is because the name Taylor's Mistake appears earlier than either of these maritime incidents. According to the 1941 title Sumner, the bay was known as Taylor's Mistake as early as 1853. This publication was written by the then Town Clerk of the Sumner Borough Council, J. F. Menzies, who cites the Southern Provinces Almanac  and its reference to Vincent's Bay* or Taylor's Mistake. *(Known as Vincent's Bay for a short period after another shipwreck)

 So where did the name 'Taylor's' originate from if not from the well known grounding of the Volga or the later misfortune of the Catherine? After discounting the Volga story, Menzies goes on to state that "it may be of interest at this stage to note that the barque Gwalior arrived at Lyttelton in April 1853. Captain Davidson, commander of the barque when it left England on it's 200 days' journey to Auckland, threw himself overboard on the 16th April, and Mr Taylor, Chief Officer, took command, and brought the barque to Lyttelton. Possible he may have been anchored off Taylor's Mistake. There seems to be more to the story than that which Menzies has outlined here. Perhaps the full story can reveal the origin of the naming of Taylor's Mistake. Certainly for now the source of the name remains a mystery. A mystery that led the author of the Guardians of the Mistake  to note, ' ...that the precise background to the naming of Taylor's Mistake will probably elude any historian'


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