Whiteley Mission House

453-457 St Aubyn Street, New Plymouth

  • Whiteley Mission House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 2/11/2002.
  • Whiteley Mission House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Blyss Wagstaff. Date: 10/09/2012.
  • Whiteley Mission House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Blyss Wagstaff. Date: 10/09/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 145 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 8535


The Whiteley Mission House was built in 1854 as a school for Maori girls in New Plymouth.

The first Wesleyan missionary arrived in New Zealand in 1822. The Wesleyan mission suffered a number of setbacks and it was not until 1838 that it was in a position to send two Maori teachers, Wiremu Nera Te Awa-I-Taia and Hahaia, to Taranaki to begin missionary activity. Three years later Charles Creed arrived to a warm welcome to establish a mission station on 100 acres [40.47 hectares] of land acquired for the purpose. Creed initially worked from a 'flea-infested hut' built next to a burial ground. Complaints over the conditions resulted in the erection of a new cob hut in 1842 on South Road [St Aubyn Street]. Yet conflict over Creed's right to occupy this land, together with a scandal involving a Maori woman, damaged the progress Creed had made in bringing the Wesleyan faith to Maori. In 1844 he was replaced by missionary Henry Hanson Turton.

Under Turton the mission flourished, despite a controversial decision by land commissioner William Spain to ratify the mission's ownership of the land in 1845. When Turton was granted funds under the Education Ordinance of 1847, he erected a boarding school on a hill near his mission house. Designed to equip Maori with a European education and provide training in farming, the school was named the Grey Institute in recognition of Governor Sir George Grey's [1812-1898] support of the project. Initial success of the school encouraged Turton to erect a similar institution for Maori girls in 1854.

The girls' school was clad in board and battens and originally had a roof of timber shingles. The two steep gables and arched windows in the front fa├žade made the building distinctive. Like the boys' school, the building was made of rimu and included elements of the Anglo-Gothic style. It was built next to Turton's cob mission house and included a dining and sitting room, a wash house and a dormitory large enough for 25 pupils. The 20 pupils attending the school in 1855 were primarily taught Pakeha domestic skills by Turton's second wife Mary Ellen Walshall, and helped reduce costs by preparing food and clothing for both schools.

Less than a year later, inter-hapu disputes over land sales forced the girls' school to close. Shortly afterwards Turton was dismissed and the Mission lands leased to a settler. Conflict over land and sovereignty in Taranaki continued to disrupt mission work. Although the boys' school resumed in 1857 under Reverend John Whiteley's care, the girls' school remained closed. It was not to be reopened as a girls' school for almost 84 years.

In 1860 the government declared war on 'rebel' Maori and the former girls' school building was temporarily leased by the government to house Maori allies. Schooling for boys and girls was resumed in the Grey Institute building in 1865. The former girls' school was converted into a dwelling house for Whiteley when an earthquake destroyed the old cob cottage three years later. When Whiteley, who had openly declared his support for the government, was shot by Maori in 1868, the school was closed permanently and the mission station abandoned.

War left deep rifts between Maori and Pakeha and afterwards, less than five per cent of Maori remained loyal followers of the Wesleyan faith. For the remainder of the nineteenth century the Whiteley Mission House was used as a private dwelling by tenants, interspersed with brief periods when Maori missionaries took up residence. Lack of funds prompted the Wesleyan Church to sell the Grey Institute building in 1878. In 1902, the majority of the original 100 acres was subdivided and leases to land were auctioned, raising controversy over the right of the Church to sell land many felt had been reserved for the benefit of Maori. Then in 1940, long after the original purpose of the building had been forgotten, the renovated Mission House was reopened as 'Rangiatea College' a school of domestic science and hygiene for Maori girls. Supported by rentals from mission land, the House served as a hostel while classes were held in a hall built close by. Initially seen as a temporary measure, the College remained at the Mission House until 1959, when new, purpose-built premises were erected at Spotswood. A proposal to use the House as a hostel for Maori trade apprentices was declined due to lack of interest and since 1960 the building has been occupied by caretakers and run as a community centre.

The Whiteley Mission House is of national significance for the insight it gives into the relationship between Wesleyan church missionaries and Maori before, during, and after the New Zealand Wars over land and sovereignty in the Taranaki area. The building is of considerable cultural significance for its association with key figures in the Wesleyan church. The building has historical significance for the insight it gives into the philosophies that shaped the first public Maori girls' schools in the area. The provision of boarding facilities indicates the missionaries' desire to immerse Maori in Pakeha culture, while the school curriculum highlights contemporary ideas about the role of females in Pakeha society. The building is architecturally noteworthy. Built in Anglo-Gothic style, the school reflects Turton's desire to promote English culture and civilisation to his Maori students. The building is similar to the now demolished Grey Institute and thus provides valuable insight into the architecture of that building. The distinctive appearance of the building also gives it some landscape significance and it remains a physical reminder of the Wesleyan presence in the area.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This house is significant as a rare survival of 1840s Wesleyan/Methodist architecture. It has been in church hands continuously for nearly 150 years. It is associated with the Rev. H.H. Turton and Rev. John Whiteley, two well known missionaries, and with the beginnings of European style education in Taranaki.


Whiteley Mission House is a simple picturesque interpretation of the Gothic Revival, a style commonly associated with ecclesiastical buildings of the nineteenth century. The exterior retains a significant portion of its original character, particularly in the front facade, and for this reason it remains a very rare example of mission-style architecture surviving from the early period of European settlement in this country.


The house and the associated chapel are on an elevated site and make a pleasing contrast to the surrounding residential area.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Whiteley Mission House stands on land which was bought from the Maori by the Wesleyan Missionary Society in January 1840. The site has remained in the ownership of Methodist Church ever since. The building is believed to have been erected in 1844 or 1845. Its original occupant was probably the Rev. Henry Hanson Turton who was appointed to the Ngamotu (New Plymouth) Mission Station in 1844. His successor, Rev. John Whiteley, lived there in his term from 1857 and, after a brief sojourn in the New Plymouth township at the height of the Taranaki war, until he was shot by the Pai Marire on 13 February 1869.

Thereafter the building became a parsonage for Maori missionaries. In the present century it was used by the Maori Division of the Methodist Church for meetings such as Kohanga Reo classes.

From 1846 to about 1869 the mission house was associated with the Grey Institute which was started by Turton as an industrial school for Maori and was carried on by Whiteley. The Grey Institute still survives as the Trust which administers the building.

Physical Description


Unknown, possibly George Robinson, (born c.1795).


George Robinson was born in North Devon and served a building apprenticeship in Plymouth before emigrating to New Plymouth in 1841. He built Frederick Thatcher's St. Mary's Church (1845-6) and the Colonial Hospital (now the Gables) (1846-48). He is believed to have both designed and built some of the principal buildings in New Plymouth following Thatcher's departure in 1848


Whiteley Mission House is in a simple ecclesiastical style deriving from the Gothic Revival.

The front (north) facade, which has apparently survived unchanged, has a vertical emphasis resulting from the use of vertical board and batten cladding and a pair of steep gables (approximately 45 degrees). The windows are divided into small panes by mullions and transoms. The uppermost panes are adorned with bars in the shape of pointed arches - an allusion to the lancet windows of the Gothic style. Label hood mouldings draw further attention to the windows that are framed by steep gables above, a further reference to the Gothic Revival.

The east facade has a lean-to verandah, which has been partly closed in. The north end is clad with vertical boards and battens to give continuity to the front facade. The detail and cladding of the east, south and west lean-to additions are unsympathetic to the original design.

The interior has been altered and relined although some original door frames and skirtings are still in place. Partially sloping ceilings echo the pitch of the roof above.


Dates Unknown:

- East verandah possibly extended and partially closed in.

- Lean-to addition to south facade.

- Lean-to bathroom addition to west facade.

- Alterations to internal partitioning, particularly in the south end.

Notable Features

The north facade which has apparently survived unchanged since the building's erection.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1854 -

Construction Details

Stud frame throughout with rimu vertical board and batten cladding, timber window frames. Corrugated iron roof sheathing.

Completion Date

5th December 2002

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908

Greenslade, 1968

W. Greenslade, John Whiteley 1806-1869, Auckland, 1968

Maclean, 1992

S. Maclean, A History of the Ngamotu Mission and the Grey Institute, New Plymouth, 1992

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

Morley, 1900

Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900

Mullon, 1969

H. Mullon, These Hundred Acres: The Story of the Whiteley Township, City of New Plymouth, New Plymouth, 1969

New Zealand Spectator and Cook Strait Times

New Zealand Spectator and Cook Strait Times

12 January 1853.

Scholefield, 1940

G. H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1940

Lambert, 1983

G & R Lambert. An Illustrated History of Taranaki, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1983.

Taranaki Herald

'New Chapel at Mangorei', Taranaki Herald, 16 Oct 1869, p. 2.

16.1.69 and 26.2.80.

'New Plymouth History Newspaper Articles', A.T.L. Vol 1, p 62, 67, 68, 156 Vol 2, pp 165-6, 1983 pp 84, 89.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central region office.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.