Church (Presbyterian)

Apotu Road, Kaurihohore

  • Church (Presbyterian), Kaurihohore. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 7/10/2018.
  • Church (Presbyterian), Kaurihohore. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 7/10/2018.
  • Church (Presbyterian), Kaurihohore. Interior front (left) and rear (right).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Stuart Park. Date: 4/02/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 465 Date Entered 20th August 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as DP 24414 Allotment 23B Parish of Whangarei (CT NA639/31), North Auckland Land District and the building known as Church (Presbyterian) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: pulpit, communion table, pews, World War One Memorial, World War Two Memorial, memorial plaque and memorial gates. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Whangarei District


Northland Region

Legal description

DP 24414 Pt Allotment 23B Parish of Whangarei (CT NA639/31), North Auckland Land District

Location description

Adjacent to Kaurihohore Cemetery and Kaurihohore School


The Presbyterian church at Apotu Road, Kaurihohore was built by Scots settlers associated with the migration from Scotland and Nova Scotia to Waipu, which arrived in Northland under the leadership of Reverend Norman McLeod in 1854. Those who settled at Kaurihohore arrived from 1856 onwards. The date of the current church is not certain, but it was probably opened in 1871. It is one of several claimants to the title of the oldest Presbyterian church in Northland that is still in use. It was extended in 1884.

The plain and simple form of the church typifies the austere attitude to worship and to church architecture of many Scots Presbyterians. Its interior remains remarkably intact, with the traditional furniture and fittings appropriate to Presbyterian worship. The church continues to play a significant role in the life of the local community, as it has since it was built.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The church at Kaurihohore is historically significant because of its connection to the migration led by Norman McLeod from Scotland via Nova Scotia and Australia to Northland, and specifically the area around Waipu and Whangarei. It documents the development of the Presbyterian Church as an important community element in this part of Northland. Although the claimed date for the building of 1861 seems to be incorrect, the church building was probably erected in 1871 as a continuation of considerable Presbyterian worship in this area that began as soon as the Normanites arrived in the area, and continues as unbroken tradition to the present day.

Social Significance or Value:

The church at Kaurihohore has played a significant role in the social life of the community throughout its history. The church remains in regular use for worship and for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals for the community of Kaurihohore. It also had a secular community use a place for meetings and gatherings, at least until the erection of public halls in the area. The local community continues to care for and maintain the church.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

As the only Presbyterian church in the area, the church has long had spiritual significance to Presbyterians who worship there. It is also a place of reverence and respect for the descendants of those who worshipped there, those whose life milestones took place there, and for the local community.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The migration led by Norman McLeod from Scotland via Nova Scotia and Australia to Northland was a remarkable episode of persistent planned migration that is unusual even in a century of planned migration. It has inspired many historical accounts, works of fiction and even musical performances. Almost 1000 people completed this remarkable migration, and today their descendents number in their tens of thousands, all over New Zealand and the world. They set about the task of establishing a close knit and highly successful community in Waipu and sister settlements. Those connections continue to be celebrated. While it is centred on the settlement at Waipu, the Normanites settled in a number of parts of Northland's east coast, and the church at Kaurihohore is an important visual reminder of that wider settlement.

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

The community of Kaurihohore have demonstrated their high regard for this place over the many years of its existence. It has been a focus for community events, for the commemoration of the pioneers and of the war dead of the district, as well as for the celebration of its history. The community continues voluntary work and fundraising to maintain the church, and uses it as a place of worship and life milestone events.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Presbyterian churches are relatively uncommon in Northland, whose Christian settlers were mostly Anglican, Catholic and Methodist. Because of the Normanite migration to Waipu, however, there is a cluster of early Presbyterian churches on the East Coast of Northland from Waipu to Kaurihohore, including Mangapai, Whangarei and Whangarei Heads. These churches can be considered to comprise a dispersed cultural landscape related to the history of Scots Presbyterian settlement there.

Summary of Significance or Values

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


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 Kaurihohore block was purchased for the Crown on 8 June 1867 for £550. The land purchase commissioner was John Grant Johnson, and the 13 Maori signatories were Epiniha Manoriki, Wiremu Pepene, Paratene Whakaturangi, Manguwhare Wapu, Hira Wani, Tipene Hari, Hine Waru, Wiremu Pohe, Riwhi, Hirini Tipene, Rakete, Poukoura and Whare Te Puru.

A group of Presbyterian Scots under the leadership of dissident religious zealot Norman McLeod left Scotland in 1817 and settled in Nova Scotia at Pictou and then at St Ann's on Cape Breton Island. In 1851, following a potato blight, McLeod led his followers to South Australia and then almost immediately to New Zealand. The first group of McLeod's followers arrived in Auckland on the Gazelle in September 1853, and in 1854 began to settle on Government allotments on the Waipu River in Northland. Four more ships followed from Nova Scotia, in 1856, 1857, 1858 and 1860. All told, more than 800 people took part in the migration. Noted New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser has written

New Zealand has many records of the adventurous voyages and the trying experiences of its hardy and courageous pioneers. Each successive settlement has its history of early trials and vicissitudes, of tremendous difficulties and crushing failures preceding success and of great dangers from fire, flood, earthquake and war but none excel the story of the Highlanders of Waipu.

Some of the Nova Scotian Scots bought land at Kaurihohore in preference to Waipu. The Kaurihohore settlers arrived principally on the Gertrude in December 1856, the Spray in June 1857, the Breadlbane in May 1858 and the Ellen Lewis in May 1860.

One of the settlers who arrived in May 1860 on the Ellen Lewis was Hugh McKenzie, with his wife Mary, two sons and two daughters. McKenzie became the first school teacher at Kaurihohore school. He is said to have donated the land for the church and school, and to have begun teaching school in the church until the school was built in 1877.

However, a Plan of Kaurihohore as subdivided June 21st 1858 shows a School Site and a Cemetery Site in the location where the school, church and cemetery now are at Kaurihohore. Since McKenzie did not arrive until 1860, this Plan would indicate that either McKenzie did not donate the land, or that he purchased land that had already been set aside for a school and cemetery and then donated it for those purposes.

An article in the Daily Southern Cross for 4 October 1861 reads:

The Kaurihohore school room was also opened for public worship on Monday, the 23rd ult., by the Rev. D. Bruce. Notwithstanding its being a week-day service the house was crowded. This building has been erected solely at the expense of the settlers of the district. The school is now in active operation, and promises to be of great service to the community.

The day before, Sunday 22 September, Rev. Bruce had opened the Presbyterian church in Whangarei, the first St Andrew's Presbyterian Church:

Opening of the Presbyterian Church at Wangarei - This place of worship was opened by the Rev. D. Bruce of St Andrew's Church, Auckland, on Sunday, the 22nd ult. About one hundred of the settlers attended in the forenoon; the evening service was also well attended. The collection towards seating the church) amounted to £7 odd. Great credit is due to the settlers here for their efforts in this cause. The church is a handsome building of its class. From its commanding situation on Scoria hill, it forms an interesting feature in the landscape. The site was presented by Mr. Hunt, to whom the thanks of the members are due for his praiseworthy liberality. We understand that the committee hope to be free from debt by Christmas, £40 only being required for seating, painting, enclosing, and everything else necessary to the completion of the building and grounds. Steps have been taken towards establishing a day school in connection with the church.

However, it is not entirely clear what was opened at Kaurihohore in 1861. Scots settlers overseas valued both religion and education, as indeed they had in their home country. The establishment of churches and schools were a prominent feature of Scottish overseas settlements, and it is thus not surprising that a day school should be established in both Whangarei and Kaurihohore. In Whangarei it seems that the day school was to be held in the church, while the description of Kaurihohore suggests this was primarily a school that was also used for worship.

The church at Kaurihohore is described in a number of local history books as having been built in 1861. The church displays a sign at its entrance stating that it 'was built in 1861 and extended in 1884, was the first branch of the original Waipu Church and is recognised to be the oldest Presbyterian Church in Northland'.

The claim to be the oldest Presbyterian church in Northland is also made by the church at McLeod's Bay, Whangarei Heads (NZHPT Record no 464). Other Presbyterian churches were built in Northland in Whangarei (opened 22 September 1861), in Mangapai (opened 19 January 1862), at Tamaterau (opened 5 March 1865). A church was built for Rev. Norman McLeod at Waipu in 1855. The pulpit was removed after Rev. McLeod's death in 1866, to prevent anyone else from preaching there, and the church was replaced by the present church building in 1871. The first St Andrew's church building in Whangarei was moved on its site to make room for the current church, and subsequently sold for removal. The church at Tamaterau does not survive. The Mangapai Presbyterian Church was sold for removal in 1979, and is currently in private ownership at Mata, south of Mangapai. Although no longer consecrated as a church, it is probably the oldest surviving Presbyterian church building in Northland.

Reverend John Gorrie was the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in New Zealand. On 8 January 1862 he was ordained at St Andrew's Church in Auckland to the pastoral charge of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Whangarei and took up his duties in Whangarei on Friday 17 January 1862. Rev. Gorrie kept a detailed diary of his church activities from January 1861 until shortly before his death on 9 March 1869.

As well as conducting worship at St Andrew's in Whangarei, Rev. Gorrie regularly preached in the church at Mangapai and less regularly the church at Tamaterau, after it was opened in 1864 as well as in settler's houses and barns in Maungatapere, Maungakaramea and Parahaki. He records quite clearly where he held services each week, usually two services each Sunday. Baptisms of infants were often held in the parents' house.

He makes frequent mention of holding services at Kaurihohore, though only once does he refer to the building in which he held the services. His first reference to Kaurihohore occurs the week after he had been inducted at St Andrew's in Whangarei. On Sunday 26 January 1862 he

Preached at Wangarei at 11 AM and after a hasty refreshment rode to Paraheke, where I had Divine Service at 3PM in Mr Clifford's house...We arrived safely home again at 8 O'Clock. Rev Mr Bruce.. started early this morning for Kaurihohore, and preached there at 11 AM. He returned in the afternoon and conducted Service in Wangarei Church at 6.30 PM.

Gorrie himself first preached at Kaurihohore in April 1862, after a visit in late March. 'Accompanied by Mr McDonald I visited the Kaurihohore settlers today and returned safe in the evening'. ‘Preached at Wangarei this morning and at Kaurihohore in the afternoon - good attendance on both occasions'.

The only specific reference to the nature of the building at Kaurihohore is in March 1868:

Preached at Wangarei in the morning the annual Sermon to the Sabbath School Scholars...At 3PM I preached at Kaurihohori in the School-house; and at the close held another public Service at the house of Mr Sinclair when the Ordinance of Baptism was administered to three adults Mrs Sinclair, Flora McInnis and Jessie McKenzie and also to Mr Sinclair's infant son.'

Holding a baptismal service in a baby's home is a common occurrence in the diary, and was usually in addition to the ordinary services.

During his tenure in Whangarei, Rev. Gorrie officiated at the opening of two new church buildings in his parish district.

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.

On 30 November 1863 he records that at a meeting the previous day at Tamaterau (west of Parua Bay) the settlers resolved to 'proceed forthwith... erected there suitable..a church and school' [some missing words are in a form of shorthand, not currently decipherable]. On Sunday 5 March 1864 he wrote: ‘Our new church at Tamaterau was opened for Divine Service this afternoon when I preached from Isaiah XXVII.13'.

Rev John Gorrie died on 9 March 1869. His last diary entry was made on 28 February 1869.

During the 1860s, there are newspaper reports of a number of public meetings and the monthly meetings of the Kirkton Institute being held in the school, school-room or school-house in Kaurihohore.

In April 1870, the Auckland Provincial Government's Central Board of Education considered applications for financial support and grants of land for schools from Waiuku and Kaurihohore. Presumably the Kaurihohore settlers were seeking government support for what had until then been a private expense.

Kaurihohori - The committee reported that at a meeting of settlers to consider the terms proposed by the Board, subscriptions had been promised to enable the offer of assistance towards teacher's salary to be accepted; and that it had been determined to erect a building, for church and school, on part of section 23, if it could be had. - An application to the Superintendent, similar to that in the case of Waiuku, was ordered.

The reference to erecting a building ‘for church and school' is puzzling, since there would appear to have been such a building since 1861, and land set aside since 1858, or else donated by Hugh McKenzie. Waiuku was seeking salary subsidy and land for a house and garden for the teacher, not for a school building.

Following Rev. Gorrie's death, the charge at Whangarei was vacant for a period, until the Presbytery decided at its meeting in February 1870 to support the call for Rev. J. Wallace to go to Whangarei. The exact date of his induction in Whangarei is not clear, but reference is made to it in the quarterly report to the Presbytery in October 1870.

Although church services had been held at Kaurihohore since 1861 in what was described as a school room, in March 1871 a church was opened.


The kirk at Kaurihohori was inaugurated yesterday by a sermon from the Rev. J. Wallace, of Whangarei, and the psalmody was under the leadership of Messrs. Ryan and Simpson. The attendance was numerous, and the discourse was well appreciated. This district, with their Highland motto of 'Shoulder to shoulder', appears to be making steady progress, and the more aristocratic Whangarese seem at last to be roused by their neighbour's example.

Subsequently in the 1870s, both the school and the church were used for public meetings at Kaurihohore. The annual meeting of ratepayers to elect the trustees for the roads board was held in the church in July 1871, while the Kirkton Institute met in the school-house in October 1871, with Rev. Wallace in the Chair.

This conflicting information means it is not possible to be certain about the date of the church at Kaurihohore. It seems most likely that the building opened in 1861 was a school, in which weekday classes were taught, presumably by Hugh McKenzie. It is likely also to have been the venue for the Sunday church services conducted by Rev. John Gorrie and other visiting ministers. It seems likely that it was replaced by a church built in 1871, which is presumably the present church at Kaurihohore, and by a school building opened in 1877.

The church at Kaurihohore has played a significant role in the social life of the Kauri community throughout its history. The church remains in regular use for worship and for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals for the community of Kaurihohore.

Physical Description

The church at Kaurihohore is situated on the western side of Apotu Road, surrounded on three sides by the Kaurihohore Cemetery and adjacent to the Kauri School. It is a rectangular wooden weatherboard church, 14.5 metres long and 6 metres wide. A porch 2 metres square stands nearest Apotu Road at the north-eastern end of the church, while a vestry and kitchen 5.5 metres by 3.25 metres is at the south-western end. The church was originally 11 metres long, with an extension of 3.5 metres being added at the south-western end in about 1884. The vestry and kitchen, which may well have been a relocated building, is offset 1.5 metres to the south-east from the main axis of the church.

The roof is corrugated iron, presumably replacing original kauri shingles. There are simple turned finials at each apex. The church itself has four windows on each side, with four lights in a fixed rectangular frame, and an opening dropper above in a pointed arch shape, with three lights. The entrance porch has two pointed arch shape doors, on the north-east and south-west sides; the side facing the road has no apertures. The kitchen-vestry has a double hung sash window with six lights in each sash on its south-western end, a rectangular door and no windows on its south-eastern side and a rectangular door and double hung window on the north-western side. That window has two lights in each sash.

The interior has horizontal board lining, painted a dark cream colour, with the sarked ceiling and the six exposed rafters and cross braces painted pale blue. The wide floor boards have a dark stained varnish, as do the pews, which are arranged ten each side of the church. A 21st pew is against the wall near the pulpit, and three further pews, painted cream, are in the kitchen/vestry. The central aisle has coir matting, as does the area around the communion table.

The focal point on the end wall at the south-western end is the pulpit, framed by a stained timber triangular topped arch. The wall inside the arch is painted pale blue to contrast with the remainder of the yellow wall, and a plain wooden cross is suspended from near the top of the arch.

The pulpit, which is clear varnished kauri, contains a cane bottomed high backed lathe turned wooden chair with arms. The chair sits on the raised platform of the pulpit, which is reached by three steps from the floor of the church, on the south-east side. The coir matting runs up the steps and covers the pulpit floor. The front of the pulpit has a central raised ledge for the Bible, which is set on a blue velvet cushion with yellow corded trim. The Bible, which has no inscription to link it to Kaurihohore specifically, is a Pica post quarto leather bound 1870 imprint by Eyre and Spottiswoode for the British and Foreign Bible Society of the King James version of the Bible.

In front of the pulpit is an oak communion table, with two oak chairs between the pulpit and the table. The table and chairs stand on a raised square platform, painted black and covered with a coir matting square. The table itself has a raised oak platform as a base, and four arches formed along its front side, with five lobed moulding at their tops. Above them, applied to the front edge of the table, are the words 'This Do In Remembrance of Me' in raised Gothic lettering, with a square cross at each end. Local oral history indicates that the communion table and chairs were made by Rev.J.H.Allen, an incumbent Minister at Kaurihohore in the 1950s.

The raised central pulpit, Minister's chair, prominent Bible ledge with its large formal Bible and the communion table and chairs are all significant elements in the Presbyterian worship tradition. Their survival here in their original form and condition gives this church a significance it might not otherwise have, in an environment where changing worship practices have frequently caused alterations to such furnishings to be made.

Information from a member of the congregation indicates that the pulpit is no longer used in church services, with the Minister currently using a rimu lectern standing on the floor of the church to the congregation's left of the pulpit.

In the back wall of the church on the congregation's left is a rectangular door which gives access down one step the kitchen - vestry. Above this door is a varnished Roll of Honour for World War Two, while on the right side of the pulpit is another for World War One. These are described in more detail below. The vestry kitchen is lined in a variety of match lining and horizontal boards, suggesting it may have had several phases of its construction. A sink and crockery cupboards provide storage and services for the kitchen use of this space.

This place includes chattels that contribute to its heritage significance and should be included in the registration.

Identification and Significance of Chattels

Pulpit and Communion Table

These have been identified and described above. They are significant elements in Presbyterian worship, and remain in remarkably well preserved condition.


The pews are typical of the austere form of seating deemed appropriate for Presbyterian churches of this period.

Rolls of Honour

To the congregation's right of the pulpit is a varnished wooden board with gilt lettering. It is headed 'Kauri. Roll of Honour' with crossed Union Flag and New Zealand Ensign. ‘These Fought in the Great War 1914 1918'. The Roll contains 32 names, set out in three panels. The central panel contains nine names, and is headed ‘In Memory of' indicating these nine died during the war. There are 12 names on the left panel, and 11 on the right. No rank, decoration or other distinction is given.

Mounted on the wall below this plaque is the British Next of Kin Memorial Plaque inscribed to John Chisholm, presumably the J.S.Chisholm.

To the congregation's left of the pulpit above the door to the vestry-kitchen is a varnished wooden board with gilt lettering. It is headed ‘Kauri. Roll of Honour' with crossed Union Flag and New Zealand Ensign. ‘These Served in World War II 1939 - 1945'. The Roll contains 18 names, set out in two panels. Three names are under a heading ‘In Memory of' indicating these three died during the war. No rank is given, though one name has a decoration recorded, which is unusual on a memorial from World War II. There is a typographical error in ‘THOES'.

Memorial Plaque

On the congregation's right of the church, in front of the front pew, a marble plaque is mounted on the wall between the windows. It reads:









Memorial gates

On the Apotu Road frontage of the property is an ornamental brick wall and wrought iron gates, a double gate on the left giving access to the cemetery and a single gate leading to the church. Set into the wall is a black marble plaque






The gates were erected in 1936 to commemorate 80 years settlement in the district.

Construction Dates

1871 -
Opening of church

1884 -
Church extended

1936 -
Erection of memorial gates

Original Construction
1861 -
Opening of school room at Kaurihohore. Also used for worship

Construction Details

Kauri timber, corrugated iron roof (originally shingle roof)

Completion Date

24th June 2010

Report Written By

Stuart Park

Information Sources

Elder, 1940

John Rawson Elder, The History of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand 1840-1940, Presbyterian Bookroom, Christchurch, 1940.

Keene, 1978

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

McLean, 2000

G. McLean, Wellington; The First Years of European Settlement, 1840-1850, Auckland, 2000

Pickmere, 1986

Nancy Pickmere, Whangarei: The Founding Years, Whangarei, 1986

Smith, 1910

Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, Whitcombe and Tombs, Christchurch, 1910.

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

McKenzie, 1938

Norman McKenzie, The Waipu Congregation: A Unique History, Christchurch, 1938

McKenzie, 1942

Norman McKenzie, The Gael Fares Forth, Christchurch, 1942

McManaway, 1983

Diana McManaway, Whangarei Heads 125 Years, 1983

Body, 1989

E W Body, Kaurihohore to St Paul’s, Whangarei, 1989

Garrick, 2009

Jane Garrick, The McBeths of Kauri, 2009

McLean, 2010

John McLean, Sailors and Settlers: the migration of Highlanders from Nova Scotia to New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s 2010

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.