St George’s Memorial Chapel, Crownthorpe

Memorial chapel Memorial chapel Memorial chapel

St George’s Memorial Chapel, Crownthorpe, stands in rural isolation on the little-travelled Matapiro Road, inland from Hastings. It is one of the very few New Zealand churches originally built as a family memorial. After the First World War the wealthy landowner John Henry Coleman commissioned it in memory of his son, Herbert Napier Coleman, who had been killed in France on 13 April 1918.

St George’s was consecrated on 10 April 1921 (‘Puketapu’, Waiapu Church Gazette, 1 June 1921, p. 283). The marble dedicatory tablet in the porch reads:

“For King and Country. / To the memory of / Herbert Napier Coleman. / [owner of the Crownthorpe Estate] / 2nd Lieu. / 28th Reinforcements. / N.Z. Expeditionary Force. / Killed in action / in France / April 13. 1918. / This chapel was erected by his / loving father. J.H. Coleman.”

The well-known architect Charles Natusch designed the Romanesque-style building (the original crenellated tower was replaced by a steeple in 1949). Some years after its dedication, the building was gifted to the Waiapu Anglican Diocese. It was rededicated, after extensive restoration work, on 21 September 2008.

Herbert Coleman’s youngest son, Lloyd Watt Coleman, was killed while serving in the Air Force during the Second World War.

The churchyard has several items of martial interest: the gravestone of 2nd Lieutenant Iris Patricia Marshall (d. 17 August 1996), “New Zealand’s first commissioned woman officers in the field, WW2”; the gravestone of James Agnew (d. 17 Februay 1977), a Gallipoli veteran; and a descendant seedling from the original Gallipoli ‘Lone Pine’ which was recently planted in the north-western corner.

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