Pompallier Mission and Printery

Situated in a beautiful waterfront setting in the Bay of Islands, this French-style printery and tannery was the hub of the Catholic mission in the country, its ground-floor printery producing prayer books in te reo Māori by the thousands.

Pompallier Mission
Pompallier Mission printeryexpand/collapse

The property is just five minutes' walk from the wharf at Russell, formerly known as Kororareka and infamous as the ‘hell-hole of the Pacific’ for its drunken and raucous behaviour. It was against this colourful backdrop that a group of French Marist Brothers – including Jean Baptiste Pompallier, after whom the property is named – arrived to set up a Catholic Mission in the settlement.

Built in 1842, Pompallier Mission originally housed a printery where Church texts were translated from Latin to te reo Māori, then printed and bound. It is just one of several buildings, including a chapel and various outhouses, which once stood in this crowded enclave. Today the Printery stands as New Zealand’s oldest industrial building, as well as the oldest of rammed-earth construction, distinctly French in style and making use of local materials including sand, rock and timber.

Pompallier Mission offers one of New Zealand’s most enjoyable heritage tours, starting at the gatehouse beyond which lie the glorious gardens that surround the Printery. A guided walk through the building reveals its unique architectural features and provides a fascinating step-by-step insight into nineteenth-century printing and bookbinding. 

The Mission’s original printing press, fully restored to working order, provides just one of many opportunities to experience hands-on the curious printery and tannery equipment. Such old-fashioned fun is a great distraction for younger visitors while the adults absorb the nationally significant pioneer history recounted in museum displays.

NZ Gardens Trust

Visitors are welcome to enjoy the award-winning heritage garden. Landscaped in 1879 in Victorian and Edwardian style, its many glories include resplendent lawns, colourful borders, a fragrant orchard and a hillside woodland with various specimen trees. 

The upper reaches offer wonderful views across the bay to the popular tourist town of Paihia, and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds ­– 'the birthplace of the nation'.

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Step back in time through this saintly sanctuary in the once-sinful southern seas.
  • The garden setting at Pompallier

    Experience a truly memorable heritage tour at Pompallier.  Image: Heritage New Zealand

  • Gaveaux press

    See the original press that produced beautiful religious books.  Image: Steve Burgess

  • Tea and Tour

    Guided tours offer a fascinating insight into early New Zealand life.  Image: Heritage New Zealand

  • Printery tools

    Learn the fascinating step-by-step process of old-fashioned bookmaking.  Image: Steve Burgess

  • Pompallier Mission and Printery

    Relax and explore the glorious Victorian and Edwardian garden. Image: Heritage New Zealand.