Pompallier

5 The Strand, Russell

  • Pompallier and garden.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Date: 5/02/2001.
  • Pompallier.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Stuart Park.
  • Pompallier and flagpole.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Stuart Park.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4 Date Entered 23rd June 1983

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Far North District

Region

Northland Region

Legal description

Allot 13 Town of Russell Sec 13 (Historic Reserve NZ Gazette 1967 p 858), North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

Pompallier was originally constructed in 1841-1842, and is one of the earliest French colonial buildings to survive in New Zealand. Its varied history includes use as an industrial building, a dwelling and an historic monument. The building was erected by French missionaries from the Society of Mary - also known as Marists - as part of their headquarters at Kororareka (renamed Russell in 1844). Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier (1801-1871) had founded the station in 1839, as a focal point for spreading the Catholic faith among Maori and throughout the western Pacific. The building housed a printing press to ease the dissemination of religious literature in the Maori language, and a tannery for the production of leather items. It was a large structure of two storeys with an additional attic floor lit by dormers. Its French identity was proclaimed through its distinctive hipped roof and vernacular construction techniques that included a rammed earth (or 'pise de terre') lower storey and timber-framed ('pan de bois') upper floor with earth panels. Building work was supervised by Louis Perret (1802-1882), a lay missionary volunteer who had studied architecture in Rome.

The building was one of many structures crowded inside the mission compound, which included a church, missionary dwellings and a further rammed earth building that housed pupils and 'native canoe paddlers'. Its subsequent development reflects the broader history of Kororareka, which declined from being a major port for the Pacific trade to a quiet seaboard town. In 1845 the Marists made Sydney their base for mission work in the Pacific, in the same year that Kororareka was attacked by Hone Heke's forces during the first New Zealand - or Northern - War (1845-1846). Sold by the Marists in 1856, the complex was then owned by James Callaghan (?-1869), an Irish immigrant, who continued to use the building for tanning. Although Callaghan carried out some alterations, more substantial changes were made in the late 1870s when the well-to-do Greenway family converted the building into a grand dwelling. Its transformation into a house of substance was completed when most of the surrounding mission buildings were demolished and replaced by extensive gardens. The structure was last used as a residence when military officers occupied it during the Japanese invasion scare in the Second World War. It became a public monument in the late 1940s, after one of the first major restoration projects carried out by the Ministry of Works. Falsely presented as Bishop Pompallier's residence, the building has since been restored with greater accuracy after its true origins were clarified through detailed historical research and the systematic investigation of its physical fabric. It is currently in the care of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga and is open to the general public.

Pompallier is of national and international significance as the oldest surviving building associated with the Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand. It is similarly valuable as an early structure connected with evangelical Catholic activity in the western Pacific. It has important links with the conversion of Maori to Christianity, the development of Maori literacy and the dissemination of a written Maori language. The building has considerable significance as the oldest existing industrial building in New Zealand, being linked to the early colonial introduction of printing and tanning. It has great value as an expression of French colonial aspirations in the Pacific, and early French involvement in New Zealand. The building is architecturally important as a rare surviving example of 'pise de terre' and other vernacular French techniques of construction. It is the only building to survive from the Catholic mission at Kororareka, and one of only two structures in the town to pre-date the conflict between Hone Heke (?-1850) and the British Army during the first New Zealand War, the other being Christ Church, Russell. The building has considerable significance for its association with well-preserved buried archaeological deposits, and enjoys high public esteem for its historical associations, aesthetic setting and longevity as a public monument. The building is important for its association with early large-scale restoration by the government, and demonstrates the value of detailed historical and physical investigation in understanding our built heritage.

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Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications. The building is associated with widespread buried archaeological deposits.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1841 - 1842

Modification
1858 - 1864
End verandahs walled in and other alterations

Modification
- 1871
Chimney added to lean-to wall pre-1871

Modification
1877 - 1885
Major alterations during conversion to a dwelling

Modification
1890 -
Part of building converted into a flat

Modification
1944 - 1949
Major alterations during restoration, including a rebuilt roof and lean-to

Modification
1990 - 1993
Major alterations during conservation work, including new roof and removal of c.1880 chimney

Completion Date

29th October 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

Fergus Clunie, 'Mission Printery', No.44, November 1993; Fergus Clunie, 'A Fine Home', No.44, November 1993; Fergus Clunie, 'A Town's Pride', No.44, November 1993; Fergus Clunie, 'A House That Never Was', , No.44, November 1993; Michael O'Meeghan, 'The French Connection', No. 44, November 1993

Ross, 1970

R. M. Ross, A Guide to Pompallier House, Wellington, 1970 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Salmond Architects, 'Pompallier Project, Russell: a conservation plan', Auckland, 1990 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Other Information

NZIA National Architecture Award Winners 1995

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.