Gate Pā memorial church

Gate Pā memorial church

St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial St Georges Chruch Memorial

St George’s Memorial Church, Gate Pā

The Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina), fought near Tauranga on 29 April 1864, was notable for the ferocity of the fighting, the repulse of the British forces, and an act of chivalry by one of the defenders, Hēni Te Kiri Karamū, who at some risk to her own life gave water to a dying British officer and other wounded men. There are several memorials to the participants in Mission Cemetery in Marsh St, Tauranga. These include the Tauranga 1st Waikato Militia NZ Wars memorial, Tauranga 43rd Regiment NZ Wars memorial, Tauranga Naval NZ Wars memorial, individual memorials to Hōri Ngātai and Rāwiri Puhirake, and the Tauranga Māori NZ Wars memorial.

The pā site was garrisoned by men of the 68th Regiment after the battle, and by the colonial Armed Constabulary in the late 1860s. In the 1870s the redoubt was abandoned, Cameron Rd was cut through the site, and the remaining trenches were filled in.

In 1880, Canon Charles Jordan asked that part of the Gate Pa Domain be made available for an Anglican church that would be a memorial to the officers and men who had fallen in the battle. Fundraising was undertaken and part of the pā site was obtained through an exchange of land between the government and the church.

The governor, the Earl of Ranfurly, laid the foundation stone for the church on 10 February 1900. A statement read during this ceremony noted that it was to be erected ‘in memory of those of Her Majesty’s Forces who fell on and around this spot on Friday, April 29th, 1864, in the assault on the Gate Pa, held by the Maoris under Rawiri Puhiraki, and in other engagements in this neighbourhood’. The building was first used for worship on Easter Sunday, 15 April 1900, and it was consecrated on 2 December 1900.


A marble tablet commemorating nine members of the Tauranga and Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry Corps killed by Te Kooti’s force at Ōpepe, near Taupō, on 7 June 1869 was installed in the church soon after it opened. The tablet had been in storage since the deomilition of the Opepe Commemorative School, which had opened at Te Papa (downtown Tauranga) in 1872.

On 14 November 1920 a First World War roll of honour was unveiled in the church. This listed nine men from Gate Pā who had given their lives. It was accompanied by a brass plaque commemorating one of their number, Herbert Pengelly Mansel, who had died of malaria in Palestine on 23 October 1918. After the Second World War Mrs F.W. Baker donated a candlestick for the altar in memory of her son, Richard Maurice Baker.


Between the world wars, there were several proposals to relocate the church and restore Gate Pā. Nothing came of these suggestions, and after the Second World War the remnants of the site diminished further when part of the reserve on the western side of Cameron Rd was used for sports facilities.


On 29 April 1964, the centennial of the battle, a Gate Pā memorial erected by the Tauranga Historical Society in the historic reserve adjacent to St George’s was unveiled. On the following Sunday, 3 May, the Anglican Bishop Wiremu Panapa dedicated the church’s new entranceway and porch as a memorial to the Māori who had died in the battle. He also unveiled a plaque: ‘To commemorate the chivalry / based on the Christian faith / of those who defended the Gate Pa / April 29th, 1864 / this tablet is here affixed.’ A second plaque acknowledged the presence of unmarked graves: ‘Where they rest / Records state that 29 Māori warriors / were interred in graves now unmarked / opposite this memorial church somewhere / west of Cameron Road quite possibly / down the slopes behind the bowling greens.’ Nigel Prickett has shown that in fact about 20 Māori were buried in this area on Sunday 1 May 1864.

A further plaque was installed in the porch on 29 April 1967. This honoured the memory of Hēni Te Kiri Karamū (later known as Jane Foley), who at some risk to her own life had given water to wounded British soldiers during the battle: ‘To the Glory of God / a tribute to the memory of / Heni Te Kirikaramu / Jane Foley / for her womanly compassion / to Lt. Col. H.J.P. Booth and others / at Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864’.

On 4 June 1967, Rear Admiral J.O’C. Ross presented the ship’s bell of the submarine HMS Acheron to the church. This was dedicated to the memory of the officers and men of the Navy and Royal Marines who died on 29 April 1864. In 1972 a new font inside the church was blessed. This bore carvings representing both Hēni Te Kiri Karamū’s deeds and the interaction of Māori and Pākehā cultures. In 1982 a memorial garden was planted outside the church. This incorporated a rock pool and a bronze plaque that also commemorated Hēni Te Kiri Karamū’s compassion.


The original church building was badly damaged by fires in 1982 and 1992. Only the entrance and the children’s area survived the second blaze, and a new church was opened in 1993. This was dedicated as a memorial to all who had fought and died at Gate Pā, with these words placed above the entrance to the nave: ‘All who enter here be reconciled’. The nave incorporated a stained-glass window by artist Rita Haagh depicting Hēni Te Kiri Karamū’s actions. In 2011 three tukutuku panels woven by parishioner Lee Netana were installed in the church; these represent conflict, transition and goodwill. The Pukehinahina centennial cross in the foyer, carved by James Tapiata, has a pounamu fishhook twined around it, another representation of the ties between Māori and Pākehā.

The Ōpepe and First World War memorial tablets, which survived both fires, have been moved from their former position on either side of the chancel to a walkway between the church and the church hall.

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