Historical Significance or Value
After World War One, British countries generally agreed that the sacrifice of those who had lost their lives should be matched by the sacrifice of communities in raising funds to erect memorials. It was seen as a slight to that sacrifice to erect a functional war memorial, something a community would benefit from. There was a strong and explicit preference for memorials whose only function was to be a memorial. School gates were perhaps the most functional such memorials generally got, since these were seen as an appropriate way to remind the next generation of that sacrifice as they passed through the gate. This matter was the subject of considerable national debate, in New Zealand as elsewhere. The views of the Minister of Defence, Sir James Allen, were very influential in determining the national pattern.
After World War Two, there was a reaction against the erection of 'useless' memorials, and a feeling that a memorial that was used would serve as a much better reminder of those who had died. So World War One memorials tend to be statues, obelisks, columns or school gates, while World War Two memorials tend to be memorial halls, swimming pools, libraries, gardens and so on.
While that pattern is true in Northland too, a survey of Northland War Memorials indicates that there seems to be a higher than normal number of exceptions to the pattern. There are only seven World War One Memorial Libraries in the whole country, yet Northland has two. There are only a few World War One war memorial churches in the country, one of which is in Northland. Dargaville has World War One Memorials in the form of both a band rotunda and a clock. The World War Two Memorial obelisk on Parihaka hill in Whangārei is a splendid example of a non-functional memorial, as is the World War Two memorial in Whirinaki. Just how valid this observation is, and why it should be so are questions that remain to be explored.
However, Kohukohu did follow the national pattern. An Arch of Remembrance for the whole of the Hokianga was erected at the Kohukohu wharf, as well as the School Memorial Gate at the school.
The Kohukohu School World War One Memorial Gate has historical significance as a reminder of the significant contribution made by small local populations to the conflict of 1914-1918. Kohukohu School was influenced by and therefore closely reflects the development of the town, and the Hokianga more generally. The significant impact on the town of the loss of eighteen young men is documented in the Memorial Gate. The loss, together with the loss of buildings in major fires contributed to an economic decline in Kohukohu that was only reversed in the 1970s, with the influx of new settlers into the town.
Spiritual Significance or Value
The War Memorial Gate was erected to commemorate the considerable sacrifice of its young men that Kohukohu made in World War One. The continuing spiritual significance of the Memorial Gate to the community is shown in the fact that when the new school was built in the 1970s the Memorial Gate was relocated there. The Gate continues as a reminder of the deaths of those former pupils of the school.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Kohukohu School is representative of the experience of many New Zealanders in rural schools in small country towns. The significant contribution made by small local populations to the sacrifice New Zealanders bore in the conflict of 1914-1918 is brought to mind in its relocated Memorial Gate.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The considerable loss of life experienced by many New Zealand communities in World War one has been argued to be one of the most significant events in the formulation of New Zealand national character. The War Memorial Gate in Kohukohu is one of very many memorials erected in New Zealand after World War One. Each has considerable significance to its local community. Together the memorials form a dispersed cultural landscape that testifies to the significance of the impact of the losses of in World War One on the whole nation. The Kohukohu Gate also documents the significant proportion of this town's school pupils who lost their lives in the war, and the high proportion of those who died at Gallipoli.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Kohukohu community has shown its high regard for the school over its entire history, as the centre for the education of its young people, and more recently as a centre for community events and activities. The erection of the War Memorial gate was an expression of community sorrow at the sacrifice its young men had made and community pride in their memory. The community valued the Memorial Gate sufficiently highly to ensure that it was relocated to the new school when that opened in 1972.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
Like all War Memorials the Kohukohu War Memorial Gate has symbolic and commemorative value.
The Polynesian explorer Kupe returned to Hawaiki on his canoe Matawhaorua from Hokianga, providing one possible explanation for the name of the harbour, from the full name Te Hokianga-nui--a-Kupe, the great returning place of Kupe. In preparation for the return voyage his people made a hangi on the harbour shore, but they opened the oven before the food was cooked, and the food was cold. Kupe cursed them, and this place was named Kohukohu ('curse'). 'Place of mist' is another explanation of the name.
Nukutwahiti re-adzed Kupe's canoe, which accordingly was renamed Ngatokimatawhaorua, and in company with Ruanui in the canoe Mamari sailed to New Zealand. The descendants of Nukutawhiti are Ngapuhi, while Ruanui's descendants are Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri. Te Rarawa occupied the northern side of the lower Hokianga, and land further north, while Ngapuhi occupied the southern side of the harbour, and expanded to the east. Whiria pa near Omapere was the birthplace of Rahiri, from whom Ngapuhi trace their descent.
The first Pakeha to visit Hokianga were the missionaries Thomas Kendall and John King, who came overland from the Bay of Islands in June and July 1819. Lee comments that the only identifiable places they described are on the southern side of the harbour, which were more accessible than the settlements on the Kohukohu side of the harbour, and thus attracted more attention. ‘Kohukohu gained prominence only after its occupation by Europeans'.
The first Pakeha settler at Kohukohu was Captain David Clark, who bought a small parcel of land from Wharepapa of Te Ihutai hapū in 1830, after the shipyard at Horeke which he managed was sold to Thomas McDonnell by its owners Raine and Ramsay. Clark drowned in 1831.
Frederick Edward Maning bought Clark's land from Wharepapa in 1834. In quick succession Maning sold the land in 1837 to Dr Ross, who sold it to the Wesleyan missionary Nathaniel Turner, who sold it in 1839 to George Frederick Russell.
George Frederick Russell came from Sydney in 1830 to manage the shipyard at Horeke, a successor to Captain Clark. Russell bought Turner's land in June 1839, established a trading station in opposition to McDonnell who owned Horeke. Russell's business at Kohukohu soon eclipsed the Horeke business, and Kohukohu went on to achieve considerable prominence as the principal town of the Hokianga.
Andrew Cooke Yarborough came to Hokianga in 1871, and in 1873 set up a partnership in trading stores with Alfred Spry Andrewes. Yarborough's son and his daughter (who was later to become Andrewes' daughter-in-law) were later pupils at the Kohukohu School in the first decade of its operation. In 1874 Yarborough moved to Kohukohu and bought out Webster. Yarborough and Andrewes came to have substantial stores in several Hokianga towns.
The first hotel in Kohukohu opened in 1882, as the facilities of the town expanded. In 1881 Yarborough and Andrewes took over the timber mill that had been established at Kohukohu in 1879 by Greenfield and Stewart of Sydney, operated as the Hokianga Sawmill Ltd. The depression of the 1880s created hard times - the mill closed in 1886, but only briefly. In 1888 a group of Melbourne financiers bought out most of the surviving kauri mills in New Zealand, including Kohukohu, and formed the Kauri Timber Company, which became the dominant player in the industry from that time on. With the mill back in full production, Kohukohu experienced a growth in population, employment and town facilities. 1907 was the peak year for production and export of kauri timber, after which a steady decline set in.
The Kauri Timber Company's Kohukohu Mill closed down in 1909, and was demolished in 1912. Many of the surviving kauri buildings in Kohukohu were built at that boom time from 1890 onwards. But prosperity continued. Kohukohu historian Eric Harrison has written:
Kohukohu had grown from a village of perhaps fifty people in 1870, into the major commercial centre of the harbour, with over six hundred people in 1910. Kohukohu was built on the timber trade, but when the mill pulled out, it grew fat on butter. A new and more reliable industry was replacing the timber. The Hokianga Co-operative Dairy Factory opened its factory at Motukaraka in 1908. Hokianga now had two legs to stand on.
The mills processed not just kauri but also kahikatea, puriri and totara. In a succession that was followed in many parts of the North, the land that had been cleared of its timber was converted to growing cows. The Hokianga Cooperative Dairy Company was established at Motukaraka in 1908. To export butter, it had to be packed in containers that would not taint it on its long sea voyage to London. Kahikatea was found to be an ideal timber for butter boxes. So King's mill opened in 1924 on the former Kauri Timber Company mill site - making kahikatea butter boxes for Northland dairy companies, and others elsewhere.
Kohukohu suffered significant losses of its young men in World War One. It suffered significant losses of its commercial buildings in major fires in 1922, 1937, 1954 and 1967. Eric Harrison wrote:
Kohukohu was in decline, a trend that was not reversed until the early 1970s. Several businesses had closed down even before the dairy factory closed in 1957. Most of the younger people were leaving town. Kohukohu was becoming a place for middle aged and elderly folk.
The first Kohukohu School building opened in 1883. By 1902, the average attendance at the school was 86 pupils, but it was estimated that there were 112 school age children within three miles of the school. Accordingly, the Auckland Education Board applied to the Government for a grant to build another classroom at the school.
By 1914, the school roll had again increased substantially, reaching 139. By August 1915, an extra room had been built, together with additional outbuildings. As school historian Eric Harrison has commented ‘Kohukohu was never cramped for room space again'.
However, while classroom space was not a problem again, space on the site certainly was. The location for the school had been selected and the school built on a small site on a steep hillside, before playgrounds were considered a relevant aspect of a school.
Parents began urging the necessity for improvements to the grounds. In August 1919 the school made application to the Education Board for a 1:1 subsidy on voluntary contributions raised at a concert, a dance and through sports subscriptions, to the value of £10. Sketch plans dated 12 December 1919 of ‘Proposed Improvements at Kohukohu School' outline proposals to excavate the bank at the rear of the school, provide drainage, relocate a toilet, and provide a concrete wall along the Yarborough St frontage, surmounted by a fence. Contrasting sketches of the situation ‘as it is now' and ‘as it is proposed to be when built up' show a concrete retaining wall replacing an earth bank and wooden shuttering, with a fence with four rails on top of the concrete wall. What is probably a representation of the wooden gate shown in a 1920 photo (‘as it is now') is replaced by a more elaborate single gate, with round balls on top of the gate posts. This has a resemblance to the War Memorial gate, but does not seem to show the War Memorial gate, which must have been a later idea. Records do not indicate whether this work was approved, or when it was implemented, but a distant photo of about 1928 indicates that the work had probably been carried out by that time.
Movement of the hillside site caused problems both for the grounds and for the building. By 1937 the school was unsuitable in several respects. Only two rooms were being used of what was described as a ‘rambling old structure of three large rooms and two large porches'.
In 1959, in spite of strong local advice, the Education Board bulldozed a new playing ground at the rear of the school. An enormous landslide resulted, filling the grounds with soil, trees and mud, and causing a substantial clean-up bill. Between 1940 and 1969, there was protracted and continual lobbying to get agreement on a new school in Kohukohu. In 1969, as the Education Board appeared ready to renege on an agreed new school, a successful media campaign was mounted to embarrass the Board into action.
Within a month of the campaign, repairs were undertaken, and negotiations started on a site for the new school. The site proposed was the ‘Kohukohu Memorial Park', whose World War Two Commemorative wrought iron gate remains in place at the corner of Beach Road and Kohukohu Road. This site had originally been part of the harbour, the location of two timber mills, and consisted mostly of decomposing sawdust. It had to be raised seven feet with earth fill to allow the new school to be built. The new school in Beach Road was officially opened on 16 December 1972.
Iron Railing Fence
Photographic evidence suggests that the original fence around the school was a wooden picket fence. The circa 1920 photograph in the Kohukohu Library shows this particularly well in its dilapidated state at that time, while both the Vic Gurney photograph of about 1890 also in the Kohukohu Library and the Henry Wright photograph of 1894 in the Turnbull Library show it in good condition at those dates, albeit from a distance. There are a number of references in the Education Board files in Archives New Zealand to fund-raising for improvements to the school grounds between 1919 and 1924, and these include a 1919 drawing of a pipe fence. This sketch shows four rails in the fence, whereas the fence as built has only three.
In February 1972, the Auckland Education Board's Building Supervisor wrote to the Board listing items at the old Kohukohu School that might be recoverable for reuse. He includes ‘Item 9: Ornamental pipe front fence on top of roadside retaining fence (hacksaw off as complete unit and relocate at new school if desired).' Clearly this action did not occur, since the fence remains in place, but the Memorial Gate does appear to have been removed by hacksaw.
World War One Memorial Gate
Consideration of the nature and form of appropriate war memorials began in Great Britain and other British Empire countries while World War One was still being fought. There is a considerable body of literature internationally and nationally on the commemoration of the fallen in a range of conflicts. The (now) Commonwealth War Graves Commission has had a special role in maintaining both cemeteries of service personnel from British Commonwealth countries and memorials to those for whom no grave is known. In New Zealand, the authoritative book ‘The Sorrow and the Pride' provides the standard account of New Zealand war memorials. The first World War One War Memorial erected in New Zealand was dedicated in Kaitaia on 24 March 1916.
After World War One, British countries generally agreed that the sacrifice of those who had lost their lives should be matched by the sacrifice of communities in raising funds to erect memorials. It was seen as a slight to that sacrifice to erect a functional war memorial, something a community would benefit from. There was a strong and explicit preference for memorials whose only function was to be a memorial. School gates were perhaps the most functional such memorials generally got, since these were seen as an appropriate way to remind the next generation of that sacrifice as they passed through the gate. This matter was the subject of considerable national debate, in New Zealand as elsewhere. The views of the Minister of Defence, Sir James Allen, were very influential in determining the national pattern, especially a presentation he gave at a town planning conference in Wellington in May 1919, when he argued that no building could represent the lessons of the war. Newspaper editors and other opinion makers picked up this theme – the Christchurch Press condemned the suggestion of a war memorial town hall as being a way of saving taxpayers' money, and of exploiting the war. It would be ‘a form of meanness'.
After World War Two, there was a reaction against the erection of ‘useless' memorials, and a feeling that a memorial that was used would serve as a much better reminder of those who had died. So World War One memorials tend to be statues, obelisks, columns or school gates, while World War Two memorials tend to be memorial halls, swimming pools, libraries, gardens and so on.
While that pattern is true in Northland too, a survey of Northland War Memorials indicates that there seems to be a higher than normal number of exceptions to the pattern. There are only seven World War One Memorial Libraries in the whole country, yet Northland has two, in Kaeo (Record no. 7393) and Kawakawa. There are only a few World War One war memorial churches in the country, one of which is in Northland, at Maungatapere. Dargaville has World War One Memorials in the form of both a band rotunda (Record no. 3851) and a clock (Record no. 3827). The World War Two Memorial obelisk on Parihaka hill in Whangarei is a splendid example of a non-functional memorial, as is the World War Two memorial in Whirinaki. Just how valid this observation is, and why it should be so are questions that remain to be explored.
However, Kohukohu did follow the national pattern. An Arch of Remembrance for the whole of the Hokianga was erected at the Kohukohu wharf, as well as the School Memorial Gate at the school.
However, until very recently, in spite of considerable searching, no reference had been found in any source, published, photographic or archival, to the World War One Memorial Gate that clearly formed part of this fence, before it was relocated to the present school, presumably in the 1970s. In response to newspaper publicity about this registration proposal, Joe Wilson of Taipa, who was a pupil at the school between 1936 and 1940, has produced a photograph his mother took in 1940 showing the Memorial Gate in its original position. There is no mention in the records of fund-raising for a War Memorial Gate, no mention of the opening or dedication of the War Memorial Gate (presumably in the 1920s), nor any reference to the relocation of the Gate to the new school in the 1970s.
The two marble panels on the gate pillars contain the names of eighteen pupils of the Kohukohu School who died in World War One. Four were killed in action at Gallipoli, two of them on the day of the landing on 25 April 1915, and a fifth died of wounds at Gallipoli. The others were killed in action or died of wounds or disease in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918. Two of those listed, J. Moka and W. Moka, have not been located in either the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph database or the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. It seems likely this results from confusion over the spelling of Maori names, either in the original enlistment records or in the databases. In 1902, when many of these young men would have been at school, the roll at the Kohukohu School roll was 86. Eighteen deaths from among 86 classmates represents a high mortality rate, and the impact of that number of deaths in such a close community is hard to imagine. It is also revealing that of the eighteen, only one was a sergeant; all the others held the basic rank of private, rifleman or trooper. It was the labourers from the mills at Kohukohu rather than the more educated or better off who paid such a high price. Kohukohu historian Eric Harrison has written:
In the naïve days of 1914, the announcement of war was greeted with great excitement and enthusiasm. Young men saw it as something like the ultimate international rugby match. Gallipoli taught them the rules of that particular game.
Five of the eighteen Kohukohu deaths in World War One were suffered at Gallipoli. The Kohukohu deaths at Gallipoli are nearly double the New Zealand average. Of the 18,000 New Zealand deaths in World War One, 2700 occurred at Gallipoli, or fifteen percent. The five Gallipoli deaths from Kohukohu represent 27 percent.
‘Kohukohu never recovered from the First World War. Every family seemed to lose one or two boys (Mrs. Kenning)'.
At the current Kohukohu School, opened in 1972, some two hundred metres from the original Kohukohu School gateway in Yarborough Street and near the intersection of Beach Road and Church Street, is a World War One Memorial Gate. This comprises two square concrete gate pillars, each supporting a wrought iron gate. The pillars are 14.5 inches (37 cm) square and 44.5 inches (1.13 metres) high. Each has a pyramidal concrete cap surmounted by a concrete ball. The total height of the cap and ball is 15 inches (38 cm), and the balls are 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. Each pillar is set on a footing 17.5 inches (44 cm) square.
The wrought iron gates are supported at the top by a collar mounted on a pin set into the concrete post, and at the bottom by a pivot set into the concrete footing. The gates are each 2 foot 6 inches (76 cm) wide, and are mounted 2 inches (5 cm) from the post. There is a latch to fasten the two gates, but there is no pin at the base of either gate, nor any hole for a pin, so the gates cannot be securely fastened in the closed position. On each of two visits they have been found in the open position. When they are closed, they do not form a straight line, since the pillars have been set too close together. The gateway is thus too narrow for the gates.
The posts are pebble dashed. Set into the face of each of them is a rectangular plaque, in white marble with grey veining. Each has the dates 1914 - 1918 and below them nine names. The engraved numerals and letters are detailed in black. The engraving on the plaques reads:
1914 - 1918
Phillips F E
Smith H M
Te Whata P
Williams F H
Ward A G
Wright G C
1914 - 1918
Begg K H
Donelley R E
Convention usually requires that alphabetical lists begin on the left and continue to the right, which might suggest these posts have been installed the wrong way round.
On the right hand side of the right hand post, set into the concrete, are three sawn off ends of galvanised iron pipe, three quarters inch (2.3 cm) in diameter, at 10 inch (25 cm) centres. This coincides precisely with the dimension and spacing of the horizontal pipe rails in the iron railing fence at the original school site. That indicates that this right hand pillar was once attached to the southern (left hand) end of the iron railing fence at the former school. The dimensions of the base of both pillars also correspond with the dimensions of the concrete footing observed in the gateway at the old school. The footings at the original school site are 2 inches (5 cm) further apart than the footings at the current school. That increased spacing would have allowed the iron gates at the current school to close properly if they had been positioned at the original school site.
The left hand pillar does not have equivalent sawn off pipe ends on its left hand side. However, it does have four of these at its rear, again at 10 inch (25 cm) centres. That indicates that this pillar was formerly the left hand pillar at the original school site, where it was connected to an iron railing fence running at right angles to Yarborough Street, along the southern boundary of the school site. No evidence of that fence has been found; it may have been removed in the 1970s. The fence is however apparent in the 1940s Wilson photograph.
Thus although no documentary or photographic evidence had been found of the presence of the World War One Memorial Gate at the original Kohukohu School, physical evidence demonstrates that the gate once stood there, attached to the iron railing fence. It also demonstrates that the apparent left -right dislocation of the two lists of names at the current school is an accurate reflection of the way the gate was originally installed. The list on the left hand pillar has always started at 'M', while that on the right side has always started at 'B'.
1920 - 1930
The World War One Memorial Gate is erected at the Kohukohu School.
1970 - 1980
The World War One Memorial Gate is relocated to the new Kohukohu School.
Pebble dashed concrete, wrought iron.
25th February 2010
Report Written By
E Harrison, Kohukohu, 1983 [Kohukohu Historic and Arts Society]
Jack Lee, Hokianga, Auckland, 1987
Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990
E Harrison, Kohukohu 1881 - 1981: the District and the Schools, 1981
Julie Summers, Remembered: the History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Merrill, 2007
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.