Kerikeri Mission House

218 Kerikeri Road, KERIKERI


Quick links:

The Kerikeri Mission House is New Zealand's oldest standing building, and an important remnant of early contact between Maori and Pakeha. Also known as 'Kemp House', it was erected in 1821-1822 by the London-based Church Missionary Society (CMS), which had been formed to provide indigenous peoples with religious and practical education in Africa and the 'East'. Kerikeri mission was the second CMS settlement in New Zealand, having been founded in 1819 under the protection of Hongi Hika (1772-1828), the most influential Maori leader in the Bay of Islands. The timber mission house was built for the Reverend John Butler (c.1781-1841), the only ordained minister in the settlement at the time and the first person to use a plough in New Zealand. Built by both missionary carpenters and Maori sawyers, the dwelling was of significantly better quality than those erected for other members of the mission, and incorporated roof shingles from Australia as well as native timbers. The two-storey structure is of simple Georgian design, with a hipped roof and symmetrical façade. Initially only one room deep, the dwelling included an enclosed front verandah with rooms at either end for guests or lodgers. It was erected close to the shoreline in full view of the Maori village at Kororipo pa, where Hongi Hika had a house of similar materials erected by missionaries in 1824. Used by other missionaries after Butler's departure in 1823, the house was occupied by the CMS storekeeper and blacksmith James Kemp (1797-1872) and his wife Charlotte (1790-1860) when the adjacent Stone Store was under construction from 1832. James and Charlotte had a large family, and while raising them Charlotte provided domestic training and other tuition for Maori children, including the daughters of chiefs Hongi, Rewa and Wharerahi. In the 1830s a series of lean-tos were added to the rear, incorporating an attached kitchen and possible accommodation for Maori girl boarders. The enclosed verandah and its associated rooms were replaced by an open verandah in 1842-1843, thus creating a more conventional family dwelling. Although the mission station eventually folded in 1848, the Kemps continued to live in the house, operating a kauri gum business from the Stone Store. The dwelling and gardens were passed down through the family until Ernest Kemp generously gifted them to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga in 1974. Little changed from its early form, the building was affected by a large flood in 1981, which damaged the interior and the garden. After a programme of repair, including extensive modification of the garden, the house was re-opened to the public and continues to be run by the Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga. Kerikeri Mission House is of national and international significance as the earliest surviving building in New Zealand, predating the country's formal foundation as a British colony by nearly twenty years. The earliest domestic dwelling and missionary structure in the country, it is a tangible link with the activities and ambitions of the CMS. It is particularly valuable for its associations with early nineteenth-century contact between Maori and Pakeha, illustrating the nature of early colonial relations through aspects such as its location, means of construction and style. It is linked with prominent personalities of the time, including Hongi Hika, the Kemp family and the Reverend John Butler, who is credited with important developments in New Zealand agriculture. The building is unique in New Zealand for demonstrating construction techniques and materials employed in the 1820s, as well as colonial domestic arrangements of the time. Its layout, appearance and functions illuminate issues of gender and race, as well as the role of family life and religion. The building is significant for its association with buried archaeological deposits and a broader historic landscape that includes nearby buildings, Kororipo pa and natural features. It enjoys high public esteem as a cradle of nationhood, due to its association with early contact between Maori and missionaries. It has considerable significance for its aesthetic and educational value, attracting large numbers of local and international visitors during nearly three decades of New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga ownership. Pavillion

Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House) on the right. Taken from drone | Grant Sheehan | 07/02/2017 | Heritage New Zealand
Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House) from the rear with the Honey House Cafe on the right | Grant Sheehan | 07/02/2017 | Heritage New Zealand
Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House) interior | Grant Sheehan | 07/02/2017 | Heritage New Zealand
Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House) interior | Grant Sheehan | 07/02/2017 | Heritage New Zealand
Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House) at twilight | Grant Sheehan | 07/02/2017 | Heritage New Zealand
Kerikeri Mission House (aka Kemp House). CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of | russellstreet | 24/10/2011 | russellstreet
Stay up to date with Heritage this month