Saturday, March 29, 2014

FSO Oldest Building

I spent most of Friday and Friday night in Kerikeri so will post about that area's oldest buildings, which also happen to be amongst New Zealand's oldest buildings.

Kemp House, sitting beside the pretty Kerikeri Inlet, is New Zealand's oldest building.  It was built by Maori sawyers and missionary carpenters from the London-based Church Missionary Society in 1820-21 and predates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by almost 20 years.
The house is the sole survivor of the Musket Wars of the 1820s.  It was built for the missionary, the Reverend John Butler, and used by other missionaries after Butler left in 1823 and was occupied by storekeeper and blacksmith James Kemp and his wife Charlotte when the adjacent Stone Store - now the oldest stone building in New Zealand - was built from 1832.

The Kemps continued to live in the house after the mission station folded in 1848, operating a kauri gum business from the Stone Store. The dwelling and gardens passed down through the family until it was gifted to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1974.

The building is significant for its association with buried archaeological deposits and a broader historic landscape that includes nearby buildings, Kororipo pa and natural features. It enjoys high public esteem as a cradle of nationhood, due to its association with early contact between Maori and missionaries.

Sign outside Kemp House front door

The Stone Store was constructed to hold mission supplies and wheat from the mission farm but the building was mainly leased as a kauri gum trading store.   Is it NZ's oldest stone building. It was designed by Wesleyan missionary John Hobbs, and built by Australian convict William Parrott.

But before the English got busy building houses and stone stores they were very active missionaries.  The first sermon was preached on Christmas Day 1814 by the  Reverend Samuel Marsden.

This monument stands at Marsden Cross where that sermon was preached,  New Zealand’s first missionary settlement (after the chief of Rangihoua pa, Ruatara gifted Marsden the land for the settlement).  The photo is taken from a pitching boat on the sea so is not all that clear.  From a little further out to sea you can see the terraces on this slope today, where the missionaries’ homes were and also the country’s first school house.

The 1830s saw a great increase in shipping in the Bay of Islands, and a corresponding increase in the number of undesirable characters who chose to make their homes here.  There was no law enforcement and Kororareka, where Russell stands today, became the wildest, most wicked and disorderly community in the entire Pacific and was known as The Hell hole of the Pacific.

Naturally, this was a bit of a thorn in the flesh of the conscientious missionaries and they decided to build a church in Russell.  The little building bore little resemblance to the church as it is today but still it retains the title of New Zealand's oldest church.  Not its first church, not its first place of worship, but its oldest surviving church.

Look carefully and you will see musket holes still visible in the side of the church, a reminder of the lawlessness of the times.

The missionaries were busy saving souls but eventually there was law and order to punish the worst of the sinners.  The police station was completed in the late 1860s and first occupied in 1870, New Zealand's first police station.  For a time it served as a custom house but is still in use today as the local policeman's residence.

I'm a bit late getting this posted, have just enjoyed a great week in the north.  To see other Oldest Buildings in the towns of the Friday My Town Shoot out crowd, pop over here.


  1. Pauline I have absolutely no idea how you manage to work so quickly! I arrived home at 5.30 this evening and, having been up at The House having dinner and catching up, I have now managed to download all my photos. I haven't even started to think about writing a post yet! That must be the most desirable location for a police residence in NZ! What your readers can't see is the view and the location!

  2. A great collection of old NZ buildings. Interesting to see Samuel Marsden left his name in NZ as well as Australia.

  3. nice series for this weeks theme. love the sign by the door.

  4. I like the idea of taking off the shoes before you enter. We from Malaysian and Singaporean background do it all the time.

    We as a family intended to go up North, first Cycly Luci, then my husband not feeling well. I hope to go before my daughter goes away.

  5. Very informative, Pauline. Excellent pictures, too.

  6. the mission house is great but the stone store really got my heart started in pitter-patter. love your travels.


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