Saturday, 13 October 2012

Waimate Mission, Northland, NZ

Kia Ora from downunder!

I have now been in NZ for nearly three weeks! Apologies for my lack of blogging, but I have had so much to see, do and get used to.

I am now up in Kerikeri, the country's most northern town, where I will be working for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust at Te Waimate Mission House on the property's collections and mill remains.

Te Waimate was built in 1832 when the first European Settlers landed in NZ to set up a Christian Mission house in order to educate the local Maori population.

It is the only one of three surviving missions to survive and I have to say, it is in relatively good condition. It was severly worked on by conservators in the 1960s and there are three main phases to the site. 

The first was from 1831 - 40 when the Clarke family travelled from the UK and set up the first residence here. It took a long time to construct and the surrounding land was not as good for farming as originally thought. In 1842, the Selwyns came over, again from the UK. It took 109 days by boat. For the first 10 days they were  allowed to get used to sea sickness and the living conditions, then it was a full day's work and study. George Selwyn became the first Bishop of NZ, however, on arrival, his wife, Sarah, complained of the unfinished and drafty house that had become her home.

The Mission was not as successful as originally hoped and by the end of the 1800s, the once flourishing community which had a church, school, village houses and mill had dwindled. However, throughout its successful years, the mission did receive famous visitors such as Charles Darwin who commented on the wide range of vegtables that were able to be grown here due to the more pleasant climate.

The church is a later addition to what originally stood here. This one was built around 1880 and is very much of the English Gothic style.

In the work done in the 1960s it's internal appearance was taken back to the time of the Clarke's inhabitants, walls were stripped of wall paper and are not predominantly unpainted wooden slats. The upstairs originally had one main 6 pane Georgian sash window in the centre, instead of the three that exist today.

Though by English standards it is not very old, this building records some of the first steps that Europeans took on NZ soil, their contact with the land, the Maori indigenous and their attempts to survive so far from home and everything that was familiar. It holds a very important part in the history of NZ as part of the Western World and for that reason, it is absolutely stunning. If not rather chilly.

1 comment:

  1. It never fails to amaze me what an incredible journey our European ancestors went on to settle so far away from home. Simultaneously brave and terrible.