Christ Church (Anglican)

656 Ormandy Road, Mangapai

  • Christ Church (Anglican).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Stuart Park. Date: 20/03/2010.
  • Christ Church (Anglican). Memorial gate.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Stuart Park. Date: 20/03/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 463 Date Entered 25th June 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 1 Sec 3 Parish of Mangawhai (CT NA104/292), North Auckland Land District and the building known as Christ Church (Anglican) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: totara font, rimu pews, memorial gate. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Whangarei District


Northland Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 Sec 3 Parish of Mangawhai (CT NA104/292), North Auckland Land District


Christ Church (Anglican), Mangapai was consecrated on 4 April 1886 by the Bishop of Auckland Bishop Cowie. It was built by the voluntary effort of the Anglican settlers of Mangapai, who had worshipped for the previous twenty years in the Presbyterian or Methodist churches of the village, but who felt the need by the 1880s of a church of their own.

Christ Church is built of matai and kauri, cut locally, originally with a shingle roof, now covered in iron roof. It has a simple rectangular form, with a porch at one end.

As the population of the district has diminished, and the number of practising Anglicans has declined, the church is now used for interdenominational worship, though it remains an Anglican church.

Christ Church (Anglican) is historically significant as the oldest public building surviving of the once much larger rural Northland settlement of Mangapai. It documents the development of the Anglican church as an important community element in this part of Northland, with a direct association with this area that began with the land purchases of the first Bishop of New Zealand Bishop Selwyn. The current use of the church for interdenominational worship reflects the historical pattern of the shared use of the churches in Mangapai before the Anglican church was built. The place has social value for the significant role it has played in the Mangapai community throughout its history. Christ Church (Anglican) has had spiritual significance for many generations of local people as the principal Anglican church in the district and the focus point for local Anglican religious activities.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Christ Church (Anglican) is historically significant as the oldest public building surviving of the once much larger rural Northland settlement of Mangapai. It documents the development of the Anglican church as an important community element in this part of Northland, with a direct association with this area that began with the land purchases of the first Bishop of New Zealand Bishop Selwyn. The church was a product of the development of wealth in this part of the country and the growing population supported by agriculture, timber milling and kauri gum. Although Mangapai did not develop into the principal centre of this part of Northland as was initially projected, it was significant as a settlement on the journey inland from the Whangarei coast. The current use of the church for interdenominational worship reflects the historical pattern of the shared use of the churches in Mangapai before the Anglican church was built.

Social Significance or Value:

Christ Church (Anglican) has played a significant role in the social life of the Mangapai community throughout its history. Because of the prominence in the local community of those associated with it, it was the focus for regular worship and for milestone events for the community of Mangapai and the wider hinterland. Although its use has declined as the population of Mangapai has diminished, it continues in regular use for worship and for community events such as baptisms and weddings.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

As the principal Anglican church in this district, the church has long had spiritual significance to Anglicans who worship there. It is also a place of reverence and respect for the descendants of those who worshipped there and those whose life milestones took place there.

(c)The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The church has been an important element in the settlement and development of this part of Northland. Through its existence and the history recorded about it, it provides information about a number of aspects of New Zealand history including initial land purchases and the Crown granting of land, the development of the Anglican church and its relationship with other Christian denominations in Northland, the settlement of the Mangapai area, and the development of wealth in this part of the country. It provides a reminder of the significance of the overland routes linking the east and west coast.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

The community of Mangapai and the wider Whangarei community have demonstrated their high regard for this church on both its sites over the 120 years of its existence. That is currently shown through the community's voluntary work and fundraising to maintain the church and its ongoing use as a place of worship and life milestone events.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: c, e.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori settlers of the Whangarei area were initially Ngati Awa, and after their move southwards, Ngai Tahuhu and Te Parawhau. However, between the time of Samuel Marsden's visit in 1820 and that of Dumont D'Urville in 1826, significant depopulation of the area occurred, as a result of the conflict between Ngapuhi and the southern tribes of Waikato and Ngati Paoa further south. Te Parawhau allied themselves with Ngapuhi, and Tirarau and other Te Parawhau chiefs went south on extensive military expeditions, but that laid them open to reprisal attacks from the south. Samuel Marsden describes meeting many people in Whangarei harbour in 1820, but French explorer Dumont D'Urville in 1826 found only deserted villages. This seems to have been the result of a retaliatory raid on Te Parawhau by Ngati Paoa in 1824.

The Methodist missionary Samuel Leigh visited the Whangarei area in 1823. He is reported to have sailed up the Mangapai River, and identified 'a most delightful site for a mission station' which had twelve months previously been the site of a large Maori village, but whose inhabitants had been killed, and their village plundered and burnt.

In 1839, James Busby, the British resident in New Zealand, made a number of land purchases around Whangarei, including land at Mangapai. Busby's landholdings were subsequently threatened by Hobson's proclamation that all land purchased prior to the Treaty of Waitangi would be investigated and by the limit for each claimant of a maximum of 2,560 acres. Although Busby held deeds of sale for the Whangarei lands from the original Maori owners, the government declined to grant him the land and in spite of initial Maori reluctance persuaded them to sell the land a second time to the Crown. The government finally persuaded Tirarau to sell by assuring him that Busby had been compensated, though that was not in fact the case. Much of Busby's time over the next 20 to 25 years was devoted to seeking redress. He was involved in litigation over his Whangarei lands in 1858, 1859 and 1862, without success. In 1864 he travelled to England to plead his case with the Colonial Office, but was refused a hearing. Finally in 1868 when he received scrip worth £36,800 in compensation. But the scrip realised only £23,000 cash, and Busby had spent nearly £14,000 in legal costs.

Mangapai was part of Te Mata Block, purchased by Commissioner John Grant Johnson on 2 February 1858. 11,108 acres (4495 hectares) were purchased for six hundred pounds. The Maori signatories were Te Ahiterenga, Henare Ngakapa, Potaka, Muru, Hori Kingi Tahua, Mate, Tau Ngahuru, Parata Kai Rangatira, Hone Papita Te Hakiro, Hona, Penehamine Tahere, Pou Raraku, Karawai, Tamehana and Wiremu Wai.

New Zealand's Central and Provincial Governments developed a number of schemes to encourage emigration to New Zealand, beginning with the early settlement companies. For many years the principal inducement to immigrants was the grant or sale of land. In 1855 the Central Government promulgated regulations which remitted part of the purchase money for land to retired British naval and army officers - a concession later extended to all ranks. The Auckland Provincial Council in 1855 provided certain lands free of cost to retired members of the forces, and also to other emigrants in proportion to their outlay on emigration. By the Auckland Waste Lands Act 1858, land was to be set apart exclusively for sale to emigrants, and emigration agents were to be appointed in the United Kingdom with authority to grant land orders to persons who wished to emigrate to the Province of Auckland.

The development of Northland was seen as important to provide a source of produce and raw materials for commercial Auckland. To promote settlement the Auckland provincial government offered each settler 40 acres (16 hectares), with additional acres for family members. Many areas of Northland, including the land around Mangapai, were settled by immigrants taking up their 40 acre sections. The first 40 acre land grants in Mangapai were made in 1858, with the first grants of town sections in Mangapai village made in 1862.

During the 1850s and 1860s, Anglican Bishop G A Selwyn made a number of strategic land purchases in Northland, such as his purchase in 1859 of land at Hakaru for a church that opened there in 1861. Mangapai was considered likely to be the principal town in the Whangarei area, and Selwyn identified it in 1863 as a suitable location for a District Boarding School. He purchased a section in Mangapai village. Selwyn also purchased 40 acres on the adjacent Maungakaramea Block, which became the site of All Saints Anglican church, which Selwyn opened on 1 October 1865. However, many of the settlers in the Mangapai district were Methodist or Presbyterian. The first church to be built in the new settlement of Mangapai was a Presbyterian Church. Rev D. Bruce conducted the first Presbyterian service in Mangapai in a private house on 22 October 1860, following which service a decision was made to build a building to be used jointly as a church and a school. This church was opened on 19 January 1862.

On the afternoon of the nineteenth instant, after the induction service at Wangarei, the Rev Mr Bruce of Auckland accompanied Mr Gorrie to Mangapai for the purpose of opening the church that has recently been erected there, and of introducing Mr Gorrie to that part of his pastoral charge. The Mangapai church is built on a fine site, generously given by Mr Harrison, and occupies a central and convenient position for the settlers of that rising district. It is very gratifying that this building is entirely free of debt.

The Methodists of Mangapai made joint use of the Presbyterian church until their own joint church and school was opened on 28 September 1862. The Methodist church and school was situated in Mangapai Village, on the low land beside the Mangapai River. The Presbyterian church and school was built on the higher land where the upper settlement of Mangapai was located.

It is recorded that the Presbyterian Church Committee in 1862 consisted of six Anglicans, one Wesleyan and one Presbyterian. That use of the Presbyterian church for worship by Anglicans in the Mangapai community may explain why the Anglican church was not built until the 1880s.

In 1885, the Anglicans of the Mangapai district determined to build a church of their own, using their own voluntary labour and timber from the nearby bush.

Bishop and Mrs Cowie came on April 3 [1886] in readiness for the opening of the new church at Mangapai on Sunday 4th. The day was fine and a large congregation assembled, more than filling the building, which is large for a country place.. The building of this church has been carried out by the untiring patience and energy of a small band of settlers, who have put their hands to the work manfully, cheered by the ready help in contributions of money made by nearly all the settlers for miles around. The Bishop was greatly pleased with the building, every part of the structure giving evidence that it has been a labour of love, and indicating no small measure of skill, though no professional architect or contractor was employed. On each side are three well-proportioned lancet windows. Provision has been made for good ventilation. The frame of the roof is matai, and shows out well against the kauri boards. There is a beautiful font made of totara, the workmanship and gift of Mr Samuel Green of Mangapai, in memory of a beloved and only daughter: also a reading desk of chaste design, part totara and part kowhai.

The building stands on an elevated spot on the farm of Mr McAllister [sic], on the road midway between upper and lower Mangapai, and may be seen from a great distance.

In 1891, the population of Whangarei County was 6,120. Of these 2,511 were considered to be Anglican. Thus high proportion of Anglicans is likely to have been a factor in the determination of the Mangapai Anglican community to proceed with the erection of a church building, and the account of the opening suggest there was strong support for the initiative.

However, the location of the church in McAlister Road midway between the coastal and inland centres of the settlement of Mangapai came to be less and less convenient, as the focus of the settlement moved inland and away from the coast, with improved roads and better access to the interior. The development of what is now Mangapai Road meant that McAlister Road was no longer the direct route between the two settlements. In 1900, the Church Committee began a consultation process to consider relocating the church to what was by then a more central site. Finally in 1905, the decision was taken to move the church to its current site in Ormandy Road. This was just across Ormandy Road from the Presbyterian church.

Mr Henry Babe's large team of bullocks was engaged to do this difficult job, which meant hauling the church down a hill and up another. The pull up the hill proved very treacherous, and one bullock slipped and broke its neck. Mr Babe was furious at the loss of so valuable an animal, and refused to go any further until he had been paid in hard cash for it. Then there followed a hasty 'passing round of the hat' amongst the Anglicans of Mangapai. Eventually matters were satisfactorily settled, and Mr Babe completed an excellent job of moving the building without further mishap.

The rededication of the church in its new position was conducted by Bishop M R Nelligan at a confirmation service on 18 March 1906. The congregation at this service numbered 149; a normal congregation numbered between 20 and 50.

A bequest from Mr Percy W Boakes in the 1950s enabled the provision of new pews in the church. The Vicar, Rev P.E. Sutton (later a Bishop of Nelson) dedicated a set of eight rimu pews in a contemporary design on 28 October 1958. Subsequently, the balance of the bequest from Percy Boakes was used to erect a Memorial Gate to the memory of Mr Boakes and George McCullough.

The worshipping Christian congregation in Mangapai has declined in number in recent years. The Mangapai Presbyterian Church building was sold for removal in 1979, and is currently in private ownership at Mata, south of Mangapai. Christ Church, Mangapai continues to be part of the Anglican Parish of Whangarei, but Anglican worship has declined considerably, and the twice monthly services held in the church are now referred to as interdenominational services, conducted by a retired Presbyterian Minister as the Mangapai Community Church. Members of the Mangapai community regularly provide voluntary labour to maintain the church and grounds in good condition, which represents a continuation of the voluntary effort that built the church originally, and that has maintained it over the years.

Physical Description

Christ Church Anglican church at Mangapai is a plain, simple rectangular wooden weatherboard church, with a gable roof. It now stands on the western side of Ormandy Road, oriented south-west to north-east. An entrance porch stands at the north-eastern end. Entrance to the property is through a single galvanised iron pipe gate with wire mesh covering, set between square roughcast concrete gate posts.

Corrugated iron on the roof has replaced the original shingled roof. The original shingles remain in place and may be seen protruding under the iron at the eaves. There are no gutters.

The church has three lancet windows on each side, each with three lights. The windows open horizontally on a central pivot. The entrance porch has two pointed arch shape doors, on the north-west and south-east sides; the side facing the road has a smaller two light lancet window.

The gable ends of the building and the porch, each door and each window are surmounted by a fretwork curlicue decoration. Each main gable end is surmounted by a plain white cross.

The interior is painted white, with kauri board walls and a kauri sarked ceiling. Varnished vertical boards form the lower part of the walls. The roof is supported by timber cross braces, painted grey. The floor boards are varnished and exposed, except in the central aisle which has a carpet runner.

There is a raised platform at the south-western end of the interior, on which are a simple lectern, altar table and prayer desk. The end wall has no fenestration

Construction Dates

1886 -
Church opened by Bishop Cowie

1905 -
Church relocated to its current site

1947 -
Church foundations repaired and replaced.

Construction Details

Matai frame, kauri boards, iron roof (originally shingles).

Completion Date

19th May 2010

Report Written By

Stuart Park

Information Sources

Keene, 1978

Keene, F., Legacies in Kauri: Old Homes and Churches of the North, Whangarei, 1978

Morley, 1900

Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900

Turton, 1878

H. Turton (ed.), Maori Deeds of Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand, vol. 2, Provinces of Taranaki, Wellington, and Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1878

House, J and House S, 2006

Churches of Northland: a record of churches and places of worship including histories and photographs Whangarei 2006 Published on CD

Keene, 1966

Keene, F., Between two mountains : a history of Whangarei, Auckland, 1966

Derbyshire, 2006

N.W Derbyshire 'The English Church' Revisited Issues of Expansion and identity in a Settler Church: The Anglican Church in New Zealand 1891 - 1945 2006 M.A. History thesis, Massey University

Hall, 1960

M.F Hall Mangapai Presbyterian Church Centennial Celebrations 1860 - 1960 1960

Keene, 1960

Keene, F., Cross over kauri : a centennial history of the Parish of Whangarei, 1860-1960, Whangarei, 1960

Spehr 1988

Dulcie Spehr, The Mangapai river, Mangapai wharf and Maungakaramea wharf, 1988

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northland Area Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.