Volume 3

The Hauraki Mission Station (HMS) Parawai Site

David Wilton

This update records a house, located at 124 Grafton Rd, which is another possible mission house, and is still largely intact. The update also provides additional information on the large, old tree at 200 Mountsea Rd (a mission house site covered in the October 2007 site record), and records the grave of the original Head of Mission at Puriri and Parawai, James Preece, JP, who was buried at Coromandel Town in 1870.

Possible Mission House at 124 Grafton Rd

A photo held by The Coromandel Heritage Trust shows the two mission houses at 106 and 200 Mountsea Rd, which were recorded in the original SRF, plus another house further to the south (Figure 1).

Figure 1: View of HMS Parawai area, taken from high ground to the east, above Mountsea Rd, with key locations marked.
(MC 109 Merv Cunningham collection,
The Coromandel Heritage Trust Treasury)

Figure 2: Photo of HMS house at 106 Mountsea Rd
c. 1867 showing another building on the ridge to the south.
(G-96135-1/2, D M Beere Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ)

Placing a date on this photo is not easy. The earliest possible year would be 1880, the year of the formation of the Thames Jockey Club and the selection of the existing racecourse site at Parawai (Williams 1987 51, 56-57). A new grandstand was completed in 1882 (Williams 1987 59) and in the photo above, the racecourse looks well established, suggesting that it was taken possibly five years after that date. The original Kauaeranga road bridge (built 1877) and Bridge Inn are shown in the photo, and, as the bridge was washed away in a flood in 1925 and not rebuilt at that site (see SRF T12/1295), that would be the latest possible date for Figure 1. It is therefore concluded that the likely date for Figure 1 is 1900 +/- 15 years.

Another photo, by D.M. Beere c. 1867 (Fig 2), shows a building on the ridge now traversed by Grafton Rd. A close-up of the building on the far ridge shows it is not the same as the house shown in Figure 1 (marked '124 Grafton Rd?') but it could be one of the outbuildings, or an earlier building (there are two sets of foundations in the vicinity of the existing house).

Local anecdotal information provided to the author at the time of the original HMS survey (2007) suggested that the house at 124 Grafton Rd (see Figure 3) was related to the mission station, but Fig 1 is the first historical evidence to be found indicating that this is the case. The three houses in Fig 1 look as they were part of a farm or garden complex. Fig 1 also shows the Thames water race (opened 1876) in close proximity to the southern-most house. The TUMONZ map at Fig 6 shows the water race passed approximately 70m east of the house at 124 Grafton Rd. Also, survey records show that the current property at 124 Grafton Rd was originally CMS land (according to TUMONZ property information: 'CMS Grant Allotment 27').

On 10th April 2010, the author visited the property and met the current owner, Mr Don Jonson, and his wife. According to Mr Jonson, he bought the property from a Mrs Cowles in 1974. Apparently Mrs Cowles had done some research on the house and claimed it was 120-140 years old (at that time). There was a pear tree (still standing in 2010) in the garden that was also that old. The house had been modified in 1973, and Mr Jonson has modified it since; however, there remain kauri weatherboards (which look pit-sawn) on the exterior of the house and on two walls of an outhouse, kauri ceilings in the house (since lowered to save heating bills) and a hand-carved kauri fireplace. The roof was corrugated iron when Mr Jonson bought it in 1974 (I forgot to ask if there were still kauri shingles underneath the iron). There are several old fruit trees in the garden (as well as the pear mentioned previously). There are two sets of foundations in the back garden which were apparently both glass-houses; one of which was originally a pigsty. According to Mr Jonson, another, older, house was situated on the far southeast corner of the property, which is now gone, but remnants have been seen at various times over the years. Although there are obvious modifications (notably the roof) and extensions, the weight of evidence suggests that the existing house at 124 Grafton Rd was the third house shown in Fig 1 and was probably part of the HMS Parawai site. Anecdotal evidence puts its age at c.120 years in 1973 (i.e. built c.1853). However, the year of its construction and exact history were not able to be confirmed.

Figure 3: Possible HMS house at 124 Grafton Rd.

Figure 4: Outbuildings at 124 Grafton Rd
(view looking south west)

Figure 5: Foundations at 124 Grafton Rd,
approx 50m east of existing house (thought to
have originally been a pigsty, then a glass house)

Figure 6: TUMONZ property map of Parawai area,
showing three probable HMS house sites
and two church sites. The route of the Thames water
race is marked in gold
(as determined for SRF T12/643).

Large Tree at 200 Mountsea Rd

Part of the archaeological evidence indicating that 200 Mountsea Rd was the site of a mission house is the two large, old trees in the front yard. One of these is obviously an English oak, but the other was unable to be identified at the time of the survey (2007). Local information now suggests that the other tree is a Moreton Bay Fig, which was apparently a species frequently planted at Church Missionary Society sites in NZ.

Figure 7: Large trees at 200 Mountsea Rd.
The one on the right is apparently a Moreton Bay Fig.

Grave of James Preece in Coromandel Town

A chance visit to a cemetery next to a small church located at NZMG 27334E 64902N (on the left side of the road, coming into Coromandel Town from the south) revealed the grave of James Preece, who was the Head of Hauraki Mission Station when it was established at Puriri (1833), and then, initially, after it moved to Parawai (1837). Preece was transferred to the Ureweras in 1847, and the Parawai post was vacant until Thomas Lanfear arrived in 1849 (Monin 2001). An interesting aside is that James Preece's son, George, played a prominent part as a junior officer (Lieutenant) in the campaign against Te Kooti in the 1860s and 1870s (Crosby 2004). It is likely that George would have been born while his parents were at Puriri or Parawai.

Figure 8: James Preece's grave
at Coromandel Town.


Crosby, R. (2004). Gilbert Mair: Te Kooti's Nemesis, Reed, Auckland.
Monin, P. (2001). Hauraki Contested: 1769-1875, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington.
Williams, J. (1987). Racing for Gold, Williams Publishers, Thames.


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