The Church Missionary Society (CMS) established the original Hauraki Mission Station (HMS) on the banks of the Puriri Stream in 1833. However, this site was wet and swampy, and unpleasant to live in. As a result, the station was moved to Parawai (Thames) in 1837, and was established on the high ground above Herewaka Stream (between what is now Mountsea Rd and Herewaka St) overlooking the Kauaeranga River. Various locations in this vicinity were associated with the mission station, including two church buildings, other building sites and old trees. Most of these locations, at Puriri and Parawai, are now private property, and permission should be sought before entry.
The CMS established the original HMS on the banks of the Puriri Stream in 1833 (Monin 2001, Phillips 2000). The establishment was in line with CMS plans to develop missions further south of the original Bay of Islands station, and followed a fact-finding visit by Rev Henry Williams and catechist William Fairburn in January 1833. This visit included likely sites around Auckland, and further south to the Hauraki district. Williams and Fairburn were particularly impressed that Maori they visited along the Waihou river already knew hymns and prayers in Maori, the result of the teaching of three locals who had undergone training at the Bay of Islands mission. In April 1833, Henry Williams sought approval from the CMS parent committee in London for the society to expand south to Hauraki. Reasons given were as follows:
'...the natives so numerous, the navigation so easy up the Thames [Waihou River], leading as far as the Waikato the heart of NZ, with not only the willingness, but the entreaties of the natives themselves to have missionaries amongst them, they wish to be taught, they are tired of their wars...'(Monin 2001 p.77).
In October 1833, an advance party consisting of Williams, Fairburn, Rev A.N. Brown and catechist John Morgan set out in small boats, accompanied by the cutter Karere to select the actual site for the new station. The one they chose was on the banks of the Puriri stream. They left behind tools and instructions for local Maori to build three raupo whare. On 19th December 1833, catechist James Preece, selected as head of the Puriri mission, John Morgan and their families, set out for the site in the schooner Fortitude and arrived four days later to a joyous reception from three hundred people.
In the first six months, the missionaries completed a weatherboard store and the frame for a weatherboard chapel, as well as conducting visits to many parts of the Hauraki area. The wet, swampy nature of the area took its toll, however; particularly among young children, some of whom were born at the station. As the Hauraki Plains weren't drained until c.1910 (Gavalas 2005), the Puriri site was particularly unpleasant to live in. As a result, the station was moved to Parawai (Thames) in 1837. The site chosen was on high ground above the Kauaeranga River, on the north side of the Herewaka Stream (Monin 2001, Isdale 1992a, Isdale 1992b). The site was chosen for its access (by river), and close proximity to the large Kauaeranga Pa. Over a period of time, from 1837, several buildings, including at least one house, were constructed on the hillside site. However, by the mid-1840s, the head of the mission (James Preece) had been transferred elsewhere and the station was falling into a state of disrepair.
In December 1849, Rev Thomas Lanfear was sent to resuscitate the Kauaeranga station. According to Lanfear:
'We reached the mission house which is prettily situated on a steep rise of about 150 ft. from the head of the Mataparu Creek [now apparently called Herewaka Stream]. It is a fine roomy wooden house, but in a sadly neglected state, the verandah being in fact in perfect ruins, windows broken, and bearing all the evidences of a long unoccupied house...The chapel ... situated about 300 yards from the house, is a large raupo building with glass windows, but is falling to pieces, almost roofless and all the windows broken. It contains a very neat pulpit and communion table.' (Monin 2001 162).
In 1853, arrangements were made to build a wooden church at the HMS, but there was a dispute over the timber, and the project was not completed until 1863. Lanfear reported to the CMS in December 1863: 'I have completed the building of a new chapel for my station at Hauraki. Total cost £140. Of this, my friends and I have contributed £102.' (Monin 2001 165). This church was built on the site of the existing house at 300 Parawai Rd (the south side of the intersection between Parawai and Mountsea Rds). The church site and the small cemetery behind it are recorded in site record T12/898. The church was apparently dismantled in 1910 and moved to another site (location unknown) (Twohill 2001, NZAA site record T12/898). However, according to notes attached to T12/898: '... for about 20 years before being pulled down in 1910, was not used for Christian worship and was allowed to go to ruin.'
Another church, named Holy Trinity, was built further south along Parawai Rd in 1886 and is still in situ as at June 2007. (It is known locally as 'the Maori church'.) It was consecrated by Bishop William Cowie on 18th May 1886 (Hays 1968 p.41) and was also part of the HMS. A building date of 1886 would roughly coincide with the cessation of worship at the 300 Parawai Rd site. The Holy Trinity church is also mentioned in site record T12/898. Hayes' chronology of events (1968 p.54) records the following relating to the church at 300 Parawai Rd:
'1898: £26/4/- paid on first installment to the purchase of the old Maori Church at Parawai. 1900: Sunday School at Parawai gains the use of the old Maori church. It is not recorded where they met before this.'
What happened to this church after it was demolished c.1910 is not recorded.
The Puriri site is the subject of NZAA site record T12/340. This gives the mission station site as GR 429381, which is on the north (true right) bank of the Puriri Stream. The record states: '.. reported site of Puriri Mission, established Nov/Dec 1833. No definite evidence save for [acacia] trees, and for location just above tidal limit.' The T12/340 record was based on a visit by Simon Best in 1978 and recorded 12 April 1980. However, Stuart Bedford (1994) and Caroline Phillips (2000) both believe the site was on the true left bank of the Puriri Stream, close to the existing Station Rd/Wharf Rd junction.
The author visited the area on 6th May 2007, with Mr Warner Hunter (resident of Bond Rd, Matatoki) who has lived in the area for over 60 years and spent his early life (to age approx 15 years) living in a house next to the Puriri Stream. This visit was an attempt to clarify the location of the T12/340 site, and view some other interesting features in the area. According to Warner, the Puriri Stream and its tributaries have changed course many times during his lifetime, and flooding has resulted in large quantities of silt being deposited. It is therefore very difficult to establish how the landscape would have looked in the 1830s.
The T12/340 site, as recorded by Simon Best, is marked by a grove of acacia trees. According to Warner Hunter, this is where locals always thought the mission site was (e.g. Clark 2003 25-26). Warner stated that in his childhood, the 'acacias' site consisted of a complete rectangle of acacia trees, with a raised platform of earth in the middle, indicating it was a significant site of European origin. However, Bedford states: 'Also extensively surveyed and test pitted was the area of the 'acacias' ... an area which according to some local identities was the site of the Mission Station ... Through both the historical and archaeological evidence this area can safely be discounted as the site of the Mission Station.' (Bedford 1994 90-91).
The main historical evidence indicating the Mission was at the Station Rd/Wharf Rd site appears to be the 1836 Wade sketch (see Figure 1 below), which shows the station located on a prominent loop in the Puriri Stream. This probably corresponds to the loop that was adjacent to Station Rd prior to being 'straightened out' by the Waihou Flood Protection Scheme in the 1990s (see Figure 3 below). However, in view of the natural changes in the area since the 1830s, it may not be prudent to completely discount the acacias site as the location of the Mission (nor others for that matter).
Several site visits were conducted in the Mountsea Rd - Herewaka St area during the period April-July 2007, based on photographic evidence and information provided by local property owners. According to locals, there was a mission building on the land at 200 Mountsea Rd. The site was visited on 29th April 2007. There are no signs of the HMS remaining, apart from the two large trees in the front yard. According to current owner Mark Millington, there was another HMS building further down the hill from his property, towards Parawai Rd (distinct from the church). He was unaware of the nature and exact location. However, Figures 5 and 6, which show a side-on view of a portion of the church in relation to the mission house and yard, would seem to indicate that there was a house close to the edge of the escarpment. That is, somewhere near NZMG 273745E 644709N, indicated on the TUMONZ map in the next section.
The 300 Parawai Rd site, owned by Craig and Cathy Bell, was also visited on 29th April 2007. They pointed out the location of the original HMS wooden church and a few remaining gravestones in a small cemetery at the back of the property. They also supplied a copy of a photo of the original wooden church (Figure 8 below).
On 3rd June 2007, a search was conducted around the escarpment area at the back of 300 and 302 Parawai Rd. Some debris was found, including iron sheets and charred timber, and a small section of old picket fence. Signs of a shell midden and a pit partially covered by sheets of iron were located at WP 323.
A brief search was also conducted at 106 Mountsea Rd on the same day. This is at the top of the escarpment, and the likely site of the mission house featured in Figures 1-3. The current owner of 106 Mountsea Rd (Mr Trevor Schon) stated that he had only owned the property for approx 18 years and couldn't provide any information about the Mission. A search was conducted of the small sheep paddock surrounding the house but no remnants of the mission house were found (no digging was undertaken). However, there is a set of old concrete steps that leads diagonally across the escarpment towards Mountsea Rd, which could have been a route down to the church from the area of the bell in Figure 6.
On 1st July 2007, discussions were held with Mr Earl Cox and his wife, residents of 108 Mountsea Rd. Earl and his sons assisted the then owner to pull down the remains of an old house at 106 Mountsea Rd, which was destroyed by fire around 1960. After viewing the 1867 photo of the original mission house (Figure 4), Earl believed that the old house he helped pull down was the old mission house. The house had been extended, apparently using recycled timber from another old building in Thames. He recalled that there were shingles under the corrugated iron roof. He stated that the current house at 106 Mountsea Rd is built on the site of the house that was demolished c.1960. This adds weight to the photographic evidence that 106 Mountsea Rd (WP 324) is the site of the main house at HMS Parawai.
The following waypoints relate to the HMS sites at Puriri and Parawai, and other relevant locations in the vicinity.
Bedford, S. (1994). Tenacity of the Traditional: A History and Archaeology of Early European Maori Contact, Puriri, Hauraki Plains, MA Thesis, University of Auckland.
Clark, R. (2003). Puriri: a History of the School and District, Deed Printing, Waiuku.
Gavalas, M. (2005). Coromandel Landmarks, Reed, Auckland.
Hays, R. B. (Ed.) (1968). St George's Thames: 1868-1968, Thames Star, Thames.
Isdale, A. M. (1992a). Major Isaac Rhodes Cooper and Laura C., Thames.
Isdale, A. M. (1992b). The Rev George and first Mrs Maunsell, Thames.
Monin, P. (2001). Hauraki Contested: 1769-1875, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington.
Phillips, C. (2000). Waihou Journeys: the Archaeology of 400 Years of Maori Settlement, Auckland University Press, Auckland.
Twohill, N. (2001). Nineteenth Century European Cemeteries in Thames, Archaeology in NZ, 44, 108-123.