Historic site: Matai-taua Pa, original chapel and St. Alban's

"History is, in its essentials, the science of change. It knows and it teaches that it is impossible to find two events that are ever exactly alike, because the conditions from which they spring are never identical."

- Marc Bloch

Matai-taua pa

Image of Te Rangihaeata.
Te Rangihaeata.
The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I: 1845–1864 James Cowan, F.R.G.S. R. E. Owen, 1955, Wellington. Image of Te Rangihaeata from New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

Te Rangihaeata established a fighting pa on what is now the Pauatahanui Public Burial Ground during the 1840s. He moved here from Motukaraka Point where his pa was within range of naval bombardment. Matai-taua pa was strategically in an excellent position as it was protected on three sides by water and marshland and out of range of armed vessels.

However, no fighting ever took place at Matai-taua. When the government forces moved against Te Rangihaeata in August 1846, Te Rangihaeata found himself outnumbered and he withdrew up the Horokiri Valley, where he made his stand on a site that became known as Battle Hill.

After Te Rangihaeata's withdrawal, Matai-taua was garrisoned by British soldiers, the 65th Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers. The abandoned pa, however, proved to be unsuitable and the troops moved across to the adjacent hill, which is the site of the present Pauatahanui School.

The land was bought by Thomas Hollis Stace as part of a 113 acre purchase from the New Zealand Company covering the eastern end of the Pauatahanui Inlet.

The original chapel at Pauatahanui

Image of Pauatahanui's original chapel.
Pauatahanui's original chapel.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref D.1c.1.

On 6 December 1856, Thomas Hollis Stace donated one acre to the Pauatahanui community, to be used as the site for a Protestant chapel (which was also to be used as a school), and a burial ground.

The chapel was located on the site of Matai-taua pa for use for all denominations of Protestant Christians resident in Pauatahanui and the neighbourhood up to a 25 mile radius. It was built in 1857 by William Blackie, who operated the Horokiwi Hotel in Pauatahanui.

The chapel was also used as school rooms during the week until the Horokiwi and Pauatahanui Schools opened in 1860.

By 1890 the chapel was too small and was in poor condition. After the construction of St. Alban's in 1895, the chapel continued to deteriorate. In 1908 the building was purchased and demolished by Matthew Moynihan, publican of the Pauatahanui Hotel, who used the timber to build a shed at the rear of his hotel.

A new church, St. Alban's

The Anglican parish undertook to raise the money for a new church, and eventually the Wellington architectural practice of Clere, Fitzgerald and Richmond was commissioned to draw up the plans for the new church on the adjoining church land which had been purchased by Bishop Abraham in 1863 (Fearnley, 1977, p.171).

The foundation stone was laid in August 1895; the church was built by S.J. MacDonald with day labour for a total cost of £402 17s. Bishop Wallis consecrated the church in 1898 on St Alban the Martyrs Day (17 June). The original chapel remained standing until 1908 when it was demolished (McCracken, 2001).

The bell from the old church was moved to the new bell tower in St Alban’s. The bell had been donated by John Plimmer and came from his barque the Inconstant which was wrecked at the Wellington’s Harbour entrance in 1849. The remains of the barque were later found under the Old BNZ building on the corner of Lambton Quay, Wellington, where it had been towed after salvage. The font (a receptacle for holy water) is made from a giant clam brought to New Zealand by the Stace family and is mounted on a timber frame over the foundation block.

Continue to Pauatahanui Burial Ground and Rose Project or return to Pauatahanui, Judgeford and Whitby.