Christ Church (Anglican)

State Highway 2, Pukehou

  • Christ Church (Anglican). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/05/2013.
  • Christ Church (Anglican). Interior. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andrew Caldwell. Taken By: Andrew Caldwell. Date: 4/05/2013.
  • Christ Church (Anglican). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/05/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1036 Date Entered 19th April 1990


City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

All DP 2648 of papaaruhe 4A Blk XVI Maraekakaho SD


Christ Church, Pukehou, built in 1859 by the founder of Te Aute School, Archdeacon Samuel Williams, is the oldest church in Hawke's Bay.

Samuel Williams was born in England in 1822. Soon after he was born his parents, the Anglican clergyman, Henry Williams, and Marianne Coldham, left to become missionaries in New Zealand. Samuel spent most of his childhood in Paihia and Waimate. At the age of 17 he became a teacher at the Anglican missionary school of St John's, Auckland. He was ordained as a deacon in September 1846. In the same year married his cousin Mary Williams, the daughter of William and Jane Williams. In the following year the couple were assigned to Otaki to help the mission established by Octavius Hadfield. Here Samuel organised a system of Maori schools and supervised the building of Rangiatea. In about 1853, at the request of Governor Sir George Grey, Samuel and his family moved to the Hawke's Bay to set up a school at Te Aute. This school had been established by an agreement between the Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti leader, Te Hapuku (?-1878), and a number of Maori from the Heretaunga region with Grey. Its establishment led to the Crown acquiring large portions of the Hawke's Bay. Samuel opened the school in 1854 with 12 pupils.

In 1859 Samuel built Christ Church at Pukehou, not far from the school at Te Aute. The church was built in an elegant Gothic Revival style - a style popular with the Anglican Church. It was constructed of native timber (totara) and a roof of totara shingles. It is believed that the oaks outside the church were planted at about the same time the church was built. The church was for both Maori and Pakeha. In that same year a disastrous fire, combined with a change in the government Maori schooling policy, forced Samuel to close the school. Christ Church continued to serve the surrounding community. The first recorded wedding in the church register was in December 1860 when John Davies Ormond (1831?-1917), runholder, politician, and, later, Provincial Superintendent of Hawke's Bay, married Hannah Richardson. In 1872 Samuel re-established the school. Te Aute College used the church at Pukehou until a college chapel was built in 1901. In the meantime the church was extended to accommodate larger congregations. In 1881 a chancel was added. In 1893 the transepts were added and the chancel extended. The vestry was also moved to where it is currently situated. Samuel died in 1907, and both he and his wife (d.1900) are buried not far from Pukehou.

Christ Church remained part of the Waiapu Diocese until 1912, at which time it became part of the newly formed Otane Parish. Over the years the church gained a number of chattels, most importantly the stain glass windows by John Bonor and Karl Parsons, renowned Arts and Crafts artist. In 1983 the Otane Parish was divided and Christ Church once again became part of the Waiapu Diocese. At this time Christ Church was closed for regular services. Since 1983 Christ Church has been run by a committee. This committee maintains the church and allows it to be used for occasional services, weddings, and concerts. In 2001/2002 a complete restoration was undertaken with the help of the Lotteries Commission and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Christ Church, Pukehou, is significant as the oldest church in the Waiapu Diocese and Hawke's Bay province. It is associated with Archdeacon Samuel Williams, a notable missionary, and J. D. Ormond. For many years, it was the centre of religious life at Te Aute College. The church has considerable architectural merit as an elegant example of Gothic Revival architecture, enhanced by the two principal stained glass windows. It is a significant picturesque landmark on State Highway 2.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The oldest church in the Waiapu diocese and Hawkes Bay province, Christ Church is significant by reason of its association with Archdeacon Samuel Williams.


Christ Church is a building of considerable architectural quality by virtue of its tasteful and elegant use of the Gothic Revival style, enhanced by the two principal stained glass windows.


Christ Church is a picturesque structure standing amid mature oaks and set back from State Highway 2.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Williams, Sammuel (1822-1907)

Samuel Williams was a son of the missionary Henry Williams. He was educated at St John's College in Waimate and Tamaki and was ordained in 1852. At this time he was working as a missionary at Otaki where he established and directed a number of schools. Governor Grey induced him to transfer to Hawkes Bay, promising an endowment of 4000 acres of Crown land, and a similar amount from a local tribe if he would establish a school for Maori youth there. The school he founded in 1854 was the well known Te Aute College. He served the church as rural dean of Hawkes Bay 1854-88, becoming archdeacon in 1888 and Canon of St Johns Cathedral, Napier, in 1889.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Christ Church was built by the Rev. Samuel Williams who was notable as a missionary and founder of Te Aute College, at the time when the church in Hawkes Bay was still a Maori institution. It is now part of the parochial district of Otane which was established in 1914 with five churches all erected before that date.

Physical Description


Probably Rev. Samuel WILLIAMS (1822-1907)


Christ Church, Pukehou is a timber Gothic Revival church in a simplified colonial form. This is emphasised in the basic rectangular form of the nave, with its steeply pitched roof. The dominant feature of the Early English style is emphasised by the appropriately slender pointed arch windows, known to the English Ecclesiologists as lancet windows. External buttresses brace the nave of the building while the interior walls of the church are clad with kauri timber panelling in geometrical arrangements to give a decorative effect. Steel rods brace the structure internally. There are three stained glass windows, two of them being designs by John Bonnor and Karl Parsons respectively.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1859 -

1881 -
Chancel constructed

1893 -
Transepts constructed

1957 - 1959
Wooden foundations replaced with concrete foundations

1959 -
Totara shingles replaced with cedar shingles

Date unknown Church tied internally with steel rods.

Construction Details

Timber framing and weatherboards; shingle roof, originally totara but replaced with cedar.

Completion Date

1st November 2002

Report Written By

Helen McCracken

Information Sources



'Pioneers' Church New Century', 11 May 1959

Woods, 1997

Sybil M. Woods, Samuel Williams of Te Aute, Te Rau Herald Print, Gisborne 1997 (1st ed: c.1981).

Pegusus Print 1981

Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune

Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune

Articles: 'Bid to Preserve Historic Te Aute Church?', 27 April 1957

Rosevear, 1960

William Rosevear, Waiapu: The Story of a Diocese, Hamilton, 1960

Green, 1920

A R Green, 'J.H. Bonnor; An Appreciation' Studio, 79, 1920

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.