Historical Significance or Value
The construction of St Patrick’s Church in 1873 represents the importance of Catholicism in early settler life in New Zealand, and the formation of Makara as a growing rural community. St Patrick’s Church was the first Catholic church in Makara and neighbouring Karori, and it remained the only Catholic church in the Karori district until the 1920s. The construction of the church was undertaken to ensure the religious wellbeing of Makara Catholics but also as a result of the discovery of gold in 1862, and the belief that Makara would continue to grow into a thriving community. St Patrick’s Church is one of only a few historical buildings extant in Makara and within close proximity of each other.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
The simple and modest design of St Patrick’s Church has aesthetic value which is enhanced by its rural setting. The church is set on well-maintained, open grounds behind a white picket fence and the churchyard is reasonably simple and plain. There are very few plantings around the grounds, excluding the towering macrocarpa tree to the right of the church, meaning that the church building is the focus of visitor attention.
Architectural Significance or Value
St Patrick’s represents the architecture of early settler churches in New Zealand through its simple Gothic design and use of readily available materials; in this case, kauri and rimu timber. The simplicity and small scale of the church is a result of manpower, skill and materials being at a premium when it was constructed.
Social Significance or Value
For over 130 years, the Catholic Church has played an important role in the Makara community. The social significance of the church is evident by the way the Catholic community came together to raise the funds for its construction. The community was also responsible for the majority of the construction labour. Almost 120 years after the community constructed the church, the Makara community was again responsible for saving the building. As part of the restoration project, stained glass windows were installed depicting some of the early settlers and events of the area, and this in turn has meant the church has become a memorial of sorts to the early settlement of Makara. The church continues to be an important feature of the Makara community to this day and draws many visitors to the area through its attraction as a historic site, and its current use as a venue for weddings and events.
Spiritual Significance or Value
St Patrick’s Church encapsulates the strength of the Catholic faith in Makara and is representative of the faith throughout New Zealand. Throughout its history, St Patrick’s Church has been used for a great number of ceremonies such as Mass, confirmations, weddings and funerals. As a space for worship and veneration it was the spiritual centre for Catholics living in Makara.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
St Patrick’s Church is not only representative of the history of the Catholic Church in New Zealand; it is also representative of the history of rural settlements in New Zealand in that churches were often the first community buildings constructed as they were considered vital elements of a settlement.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Makara community has had a long and close association with St Patrick’s Church. The construction of St Patrick’s was the result of the determination and drive of the community. The community was responsible for not only the fundraising for the church, but also for the actual construction of the building. The public esteem for the church has in no way diminished. This is evident in the way the community supported the restoration of St Patrick’s in the 1980s, ensuring that the church was neither demolished nor removed from its historical setting.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The history of a rural church represents the history of a rural district, as it tells of the development of a community and the people who built and used the building. St Patrick’s Church helps tell the story of the settlement of Makara, through the depictions of historical events and long-time residents portrayed in the stained glass windows. These windows provide an important tool for education about the history and settlement of Makara.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The commission and installation of the eight stained glass windows has transformed St Patrick’s Church into a functional memorial to the individuals and families depicted, as well as to the development of the Makara settlement and its history.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, f and h.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The name ‘Makara’ is a Maori name originating from Ma, an abbreviated form of ‘manga’ meaning stream or tributary and ‘kara’ which is a form of stone-grey waeke (trap rock). The land around Makara was very important to early Maori, especially along the coastline; a number of different tribes were associated with the area at different times during pre-European settlement. Cape Terawhiti, on the coast, was an important site for Maori, as it guarded the whole of the northern entrance into Whanga-nui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour), controlling those who wished to cross the strait. There were Maori settlements located all along the coastline, with the westernmost range of Terawhiti being used by Maori to observe the weather and sea conditions before any decision was made about crossing the strait. Furthermore, it has been said that the discoverer Kupe dried his sails on Makara Beach during his voyages in the tenth century. To live along this coastline in the bays around Terawhiti meant control over one of the most important waterways in New Zealand.
The survey of the Wellington land district began in 1839 with the arrival of the New Zealand Company. The first surveyor general, Captain William Mein Smith, was ordered to find rural areas that would be divided into 100-acre sections for selection by holders of land orders. Smith laid out the Makara area in this fashion where there were initially 39 sections surveyed, of which four sections were designated as Native Reserves.
One of the first sections selected under the New Zealand Land Order No. 349 was at the junction of the Makara and South Makara Roads recorded as Section 23. One of Section 23’s joint owners, Samuel Revans was publisher of Wellington’s first newspaper, and his section became known as ‘Printers section’. One surveyor noted the section as having a house and two fenced gardens, one of which he recorded as ‘printers garden’. In 1847, some of Revans’ publishing colleagues took up neighbouring land on section 20, unsurprisingly with the influx of printers and publishers to the area, the land at the junction of South Makara and Makara Road became known as ‘Printers Flat’, a name that stuck for the next fifty years. St Patricks Church is located at ‘Printers Flat’ on land originally known as part Section 23, next to the boundary of Section 20.
At first, European settlement at Makara was slow. Access was a problem until the completion of a road via Karori in February 1858, when settlement began to take place. By the 1860s, Makara was becoming a thriving district. Some of the families came because of military grants made available to them. As with many new settlements in New Zealand, the first settlers cleared the bush before land was converted for farming. In Makara a number of the early settlers survived by selling timber for new houses being built in Wellington. There was a rush to the district when gold was discovered in 1862, however, it was not as prosperous as had been hoped and by 1883 machinery had been abandoned. Initially forestry and sawmilling was very productive, but as land was cleared farming became the main form of income.
In January 1838, three French Catholic missionaries arrived in New Zealand, followed by Bishop Jean-Baptiste Francois Pompallier later that same year. Pompallier, being the first bishop that Maori had seen, made quite an impression with his elaborate robes, and they soon called the faith ‘Pikopo’ from the word ‘Episcopal’, meaning ‘of a bishop’. Catholicism became a popular way for Maori to distinguish themselves from other tribes who had converted to other denominations. Furthermore, Pompallier urged his missionaries to embrace Maori tikanga and build the Catholic faith around their beliefs.
Later, as Maori began to turn away from the church and as more Catholic settlers arrived in New Zealand, the Catholic Church became less of a Maori mission and more of a settler church. The church was also moving away from its French roots, and with the appointment of an Irish bishop, Bishop Patrick Moran, in Dunedin in 1869, followed by Bishop Thomas Croke in Auckland the following year, the Church began to follow more of an Irish Catholic model.
Karori and Makara districts were part of the Basilica Parish, with the closest church being the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Thorndon which was constructed in 1851. Early Catholic pioneers in these areas would have had very little religious contact, unless they visited Thorndon, or alternatively, were visited by any Marist missionaries passing through on their way to the coastal Maori pa around Makara beach. The first Mass in the area appears to have taken place in Karori, in the mid 1850s at the home of Major Patrick Monaghan, a landowner in Karori and Makara, who was seriously ill at the time.
During the 1860s the Makara District began to flourish, especially after the road was improved, and more importantly with the discovery of gold in 1862. With the belief that the area would continue to thrive, Makara Catholics decided to build a church in their settlement. The community was greatly supported by Father Cummins, who understood the problems for Makara Catholics, ‘being almost entirely deprived of the Consolations of Religion in consequence of the distance from Wellington’. Furthermore he feared for the future generations: ‘the rising generation will become infidel if efforts are not made to secure for them early Christian training - Catholic chapel and school will be necessary’. While it was not the first church in Makara, it would be the first Catholic Church for Makara and Karori.
The Catholic community of Makara set about collecting submissions, and preparations began for the construction of their new church. An acre of land at ‘Printers Flat’ was purchased for £50 and on 15 June 1873 Father Cummins visited Makara to bless the land. Upon hearing of the imminent visit of Father Cummins, the Catholic community in Makara endeavoured to construct a ‘temporary chapel’ by which to show their appreciation for the efforts that he had made to secure the piece of land which was to be the site of the future chapel. A large tent was erected for the occasion, ‘seats were made, carpets procured and the whole ornamented with evergreens, giving it the appearance of a neat little bower. Such is the first chapel in Makara where Mass has been celebrated.’
On 7 September 1873, construction was finished and the Right Reverend Bishop Moran of Dunedin consecrated St Patrick’s Church. The Wellington Independent newspaper described St Patrick’s as being of the Gothic style, and capable of comfortably seating 150 people; its location on ‘Printers Flat’, near the intersection of Makara Road and South Makara Road, known as the Makara Junction, was admired as a most convenient location in regards to the scattered community of Makara. The Bishop travelled from Wellington, arriving at Makara at 10.30am. Ceremonies began at approximately 11.00am, which included the consecration of the new Church, Mass, the Sisters of St Mary’s singing parts of Mozart’s Twelfth Mass, confirmation, and the Bishop preached a sermon about St Patrick. The ceremonies lasted until 2pm, followed by a large lunch supplied by the congregation at Makara. On his departure, the Bishop reinforced that now the congregation had built a church they should not waste time in establishing a school. This was a large and important occasion for Makara and to some extent Karori, attended by some 300 people, including people who had travelled from Wellington.
Although the Catholic community had passed the largest hurdle of getting a church built in Makara, they now had the difficulty of getting the Parish to commit to regular visits of a priest to Makara. Makara’s greatest supporter within the church, Father Cummins, was transferred elsewhere shortly after the opening of the church. In a letter dated 4 September 1876, the Catholic Committee requested that a priest be sent to Makara every five weeks, more often if possible, and in return the committee would offer £30 a year ‘towards his sustenance’. The committee received a reply that the offer needed to be resubmitted when all Catholic families had signed it, and proposed that six-weekly might be more logical. Receiving regular visits from clergy would be a problem for the church for the rest of its consecrated existence.
Tragedy struck the small community after a fatal accident on the treacherous Makara Hill on 13 January 1889. Father Power and an acolyte from the Cathedral, Joseph Brennan McDonald, were travelling to Makara for Mass, on a carriage owned and driven by Mr Thomas McElligott. Near the summit, one of the horses was startled by what appeared to be a stone rolling down the bank and shied, and while the driver attempted to get the horse under control it walked the carriage backwards and over the edge. The carriage rolled some 300 feet down a steep bank into a creek bed. Joseph McDonald was killed; Father Power was badly injured, while the driver, who had leapt from the carriage, survived with serious bruising. The inquest found that the death was caused by purely accidental circumstances; nevertheless, it greatly shook the community.
St Patrick’s remained the only Catholic church in the Karori district until the 1920s, when St Teresa’s was built. Karori was established as a Parish in 1940, and as a result St Patrick’s held a monthly Mass, which became weekly in 1976. However, over time attendance began to dwindle. In 1982, St Teresa’s Parish Council in Karori found that it was no longer viable to hold Mass at St Patrick’s; subsequently transferring all masses to Karori. With the church no longer in use, the fate of the building was called into question. In 1982, the Parish Council saw little future for the church; and while there was mention of restoring the building it was a commonly held view that this would require rebuilding, and extremely high ongoing maintenance costs. The Parish Council agreed that the church should be demolished, voting in favour of doing so. However this caused an outcry within the Makara community from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Demolition was stalled so that a restoration plan could be formed and a committee, ‘Friends of St Patrick’s’, was founded.
Winton Holdings purchased the church for $1 with the intention of moving the building to their Ohariu Country Golf Club, restoring it, and using it as a setting for weddings and other functions. Three out of five members of the Friends of St Patrick’s agreed to this plan. However, the Wellington City Council explained that permission would be required for the removal or demolition of the building and that further permission would also be required for any future use; and therefore, plans were again stalled. After much publicity surrounding the future of the church, Mr Anderson, of Winton Holdings, gave the church to the residents of Makara in July 1983. Earlier that same month the Parish Council allowed the Friends of St Patricks a 20-year lease of the land which the church sat on. As a result of great community spirit and dedication, St Patrick’s Church is now in the final stages of restoration. The restoration project included the installation of stained glass windows depicting the early history of Makara, and some of the original families who settled in the area.
Although the church has since been deconsecrated, it still maintains a strong sense of spiritual significance and value. A sign at the front of the grounds advertises the church as a ‘Settlers church, St Patrick’s non-denominational church’ that is available for hire. Indeed this church is still in use as a popular wedding venue, and it is also a place that people passing through Makara stop, visit, and admire, as the many comments in the visitors’ book testify.
Restoration Labourers: Labourers from the Buller Unemployment Centre
St Patrick’s Church’s is situated on a parcel of land just under one acre in size. It is set slightly back from the road but is still highly visible behind a white picket fence, and it is accessible by a concrete path or via an arched driveway. The access ‘removes’ the church slightly from its proximity to the road, giving the visitor a sense of being ‘within church grounds’. The church is in front of a paddock, with hills as its backdrop, maintaining the aesthetic appeal and integrity of a small rural church in its original setting. Apart from the nearby placement of a historic cottage and stable (which were moved on to the adjacent section, circa 1988) as well as general ground improvements and maintenance, there has been little modification of the church’s original setting. This helps to ensure the church building remains the focus of the site.
One feature that might be expected but is obviously lacking is a cemetery within St Patrick’s churchyard. This is largely due to the fact that St Patrick’s is situated on a known flood plain, making it an unsuitable place for burials. Most of Makara’s local Catholics were buried close to their church however in the St Matthias’ Churchyard, approximately 100 metres away and across the road.
The architect of St Patrick’s church is unknown; however, the exterior of the church presents all of the features common to a late 1800s church. Wooden churches were prevalent in Wellington, as there was no building stone available in the area and no real tradition of stone masonry. St Patrick’s is built of kauri and rimu, and possibly totara, as these timbers were easily accessible during this period while land was being cleared for habitation and farming. Original weatherboards were pit-sawn, but these have replaced in the recent refurbishment. It is possible that St Patrick’s originally had a shingle roof, but there is little evidence to prove if the roof was shingle or the more practical corrugated iron, which is the current material. .
St Patrick’s is a single-storey church with a reasonably high stud and steeply pitched roof, appropriate to the Gothic style of architecture. It has a single gabled roof, with the vestry adjoining the side of the church to the rear. St Patrick’s is positioned along a southeast to northwest axis. The church is painted white with the window and door frames painted dark green, in keeping with the green corrugated iron roof.
The design of St Patrick’s has a number of features that identify it as being of Gothic architectural style. The Gothic style was very popular because architecturally it only required a simple rectangular design and the familiar arched windows, which were for many people a symbol of the church. St Patrick’s is regular in its design; the arched portico has arched windows on both sides and a decorative ventilator in the form of a cross under the gable. Shrubbery on either side of the entrance matches this regularity. Similarly, there are three arched windows evenly spaced along the sides of the church, which now have stained glass windows inserted. Traditional Gothic windows are long and arched, however at some point in its history the church windows were ‘closed in’ giving them a more ‘stubby’ appearance. This has been corrected in the restoration of the church. All of these features combine appropriately to create a straightforward piece of Victorian vernacular architecture.
From the entrance a red carpet runs down the aisle of the church; this is a section of the ‘red carpet’ from the ‘Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’ world movie premiere in Wellington, which was acquired from Wellington City Council following the event. On either side of the red carpet are seven rows of original pews. There is a step up from the aisle into the chancel, which is framed by a Gothic arch. In the chancel are the altar and altar cloth that were used in the church before the restoration project. On the altar, sit two silver candlesticks dedicated to the memory of locals Harry Monaghan who was killed in action on 1 August 1917, and Louis William Sievers, also killed in action on 30 November 1917. Behind the altar are two stained glass windows - the St Patrick’s window and the McDonald window. In the middle of the windows is a crucifix, one of many religious icons throughout the interior of the church. To the left of the altar is a door leading in to the vestry, which also has an external door. There are a number of religious icons decorating the walls of the church as well as the stained glass windows. The interior colours of caramel brown with dark brown and white detail complement the church’s dark wooden ceiling and rafters.
Stained glass windows
As part of the restoration project, it is planned that eleven stained glass windows be inserted into the church. At the time of this report, eight windows have been commissioned and installed, depicting early Makara life and early settler families. A local artist Jenni Bennett has used a number of different techniques including leadlight, photography, etching with sandblasting and acid, painting and pen work in designing these windows. A brief summary and description of each of the eight windows installed is outlined below.
The McDonald window was the first stained glass window installed in the church. It depicts the fatal accident that occurred on the Makara Hill Road on 13 January 1889. Joseph Brennan McDonald, an acolyte from the Cathedral was killed, while Father Power and the carriage driver Thomas McElligott were seriously injured when their carriage rolled down a step bank near the summit of the Makara hill. The window depicts St Mary’s Cathedral at the top, below the carriage is depicted falling down the bank to St Patrick’s Church at the bottom of the window. Depictions of the native Kowhai make up the window border. Ngaire Cooper, niece of Joseph Brennan McDonald, donated this window.
This window is dedicated to George and Emma Hawkins, who moved to Makara in the 1860s and lived the rest of their lives there. The top panel has the images of George and Emma surmounting a spread out net which represents the spread of the family while also binding them to their origins with the sea. The section of river that flows down the window represents the Hawkins riverside property, while the swing bridge, macrocarpa tree, cabbage tree and arum lily were all familiar features on the original homestead. The three men pictured on the bottom panel are the three generations of Hawkins, who all worked the family farm until it was sold out of the family in 1955. The window was donated by the now seventh-generation Hawkins families.
The McMenamen family was the first European family to farm Terawhiti Station. The top panel depicts Terawhiti from the north, while the panel below represents the gold mining era at Terawhiti. The next panel down shows the old woolshed near the homestead, both of which were built by James McMenamen (neither building has survived). The bottom panel shows a mob of sheep being driven and a depiction of James McMenamen’s gravestone. The window is bordered by representations of lacebark or houhere. This window was donated by Terawhiti Station.
Patrick Monaghan came to Makara after taking up his military grant of land in 1848. The Monaghans took up tree felling and sawing and later owned 1200 acres of land around Makara. The top panel shows one of Patrick’s sons and two grandsons, one of whom was accidently killed during a land burn off. The next panel depicts the original farmhouse in South Makara, which is still standing. The next panel down is a photograph of the inside of a woolshed, while the bottom panel is the ‘Officers of the Wellington Volunteer District’ of which Patrick and one of his sons were members. Shamrocks, pohutukawa and clematis border the window. The window was donated by the Monaghan family.
John Sweeny Prendeville was the head teacher at Makara from 1874 to 1888, spending half the day at North Makara School and the other half at South Makara School until they merged in 1879. Prendeville was also one of the main supporters of the construction of the St Patrick’s Church, sitting as secretary on the committee. The window depicts Prendeville’s role as teacher. There is a picture of him at the very top, and below are illustrations of school life with books, pens and pencils. Prendeville is also represented in the middle of the window, riding from the South Makara School to the North Makara School. The design is bordered by the shamrock and native manuka. This window was donated by the Prendeville family.
Wilhelm and Clarissa Sievers came to a 200 acre property in South Makara where they built a two-storeyed house which he turned into the ‘Miners Arms’ hotel in about 1882 during the local gold mining period (this building was demolished in 1977). Many of the Sievers family were involved with gold mining in the area. This window commemorates the descendants through Alfred Sievers, the eldest son of Wilhelm and Clarissa. The top panel is a picture of Elizabeth Catley the wife of Alfred Sievers. The second panel is a depiction of the Miners’ Arms hotel. The next panel down shows the Makara milk supply and the bottom panel is a picture of Alfred with his three brothers.
St Patrick’s Window
This stained glass window was inserted in 2003 and depicts Saint Patrick. In the border at either side of the window are snakes, representing the legend of St Patrick ridding Ireland of its snakes. At the bottom of the window are three panels: two contain Celtic designs and patterns and the middle panel reads ‘St Patrick, 400AD, J. Lean after Vittorias’.
This window celebrates the achievement of the Makara community in saving St Patrick’s Church from certain demolition or removal from the current site. In particular the window is dedicated to three specific individuals: Leo Monaghan, Dennis Ryan and Peggy Monaghan. These three were the main driving force behind the restoration of St Patrick’s Church, devoting a lot of time and effort to the project in order to preserve the church for posterity.
Monk Robinson Family
This window depicts the Monk and Robinson families and their relationship with Makara. Within the brightly coloured border are nine pictures. The top picture is of Phoebe who was married to John Monk. The couple moved to Makara in 1855, purchasing land for 30 shillings an acre. John was an agricultural labourer and gardener who used to walk over the Makara hill to the Botanic gardens where he was foreman. The next picture is of Ruth (nee Robinson) and George Monk (the seventh child of Phoebe and John Monk). Ruth and George Monk had eleven children and lived in the cottage that has now been relocated next to the church. Ruth and George were the first couple to be married in the first St Matthias’ Church and are both buried in the St Matthias’ Church cemetery. The next picture down depicts Richard and Ann Robinson who also came to Makara in 1855 and farmed on North Makara Road. Richard was involved with the construction of the Makara Hill Road.
The middle panel depicts farming scenes which both the Monks and the Robinsons were involved with: John Monk, grandson of Ruth and George, driving horses; Les Monk with Bill and Les Harrison cutting wood; and a picture of the Monk family. The bottom panel depicts the Robinson house which was on North Makara Road, a picture of George Monk and others after pig hunting and next to that, a picture of Joe Robinson. At the very bottom of the window is a family picture with ‘Monk/Robinson Family Makara’ superimposed.
Lower part of windows boarded over
Restoration work commenced, including re-piling, new roof, new exterior weatherboards, inside walls restored to original condition, altar restored
First Stained Glass window installed – McDonald window
Insertion and dedication of (Hawkins?) stained glass window
Insertion and dedication of McMenamen stained glass window
Mongahan stained glass window installed and dedicated
Insertion and dedication of Prendeville stained glass window
St Patrick’s Day stained glass window installed
Monk–Robinson window installed
Rimu, kauri and possibly totara timber, corrugated iron, stained glass
Public NZAA Number
6th June 2012
Report Written By
Charles Fearnley, Early Wellington Churches, Wellington, 1977
Morrison, 2003 (2)
Morrison, Catherine, Terawhiti, Arty Bee Books, Wellington, 2003.
Brodie, James, Terawhiti and the Goldfields, Karori Historical Society Inc, Wellington, 1986.
Kelly, Daniel, On Golder’s Hill: A History of Thorndon Parish, Parish of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and of Saint Mary his Mother, Wellington, 2001.
O’Conner, Myles, ‘The History of Saint Patricks Church, Makara, and its future’, The Teresian, vol. 3, no. 2, June 1983.
The Stockade – Karori Historical Society Annual Journal
The Stockade – Karori Historical Society Annual Journal
Smith, Mrs D. ‘St Patrick’s Church’, The Stockade – Karori Historical Society Annual Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, Winter 1974, pp. 4-7; Unknown, ‘St Patrick’s Church Makara and its Windows’, The Stockade – Karori Historical Society Annual Journal, no. 26, 1993, pp. 3-10.
A fully referenced report is available from the Central Region Office of NZHPT.
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.