Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 39, September 1995


In September 1994 St John's Church, Waihi celebrated its centenary.

The original church, built in 1894, was a small timber building on the same site as the present church. It was enlarged in 1897. At that time services were conducted by the Rev. William Katterns of Katikati, who was well known for his flock of ostriches kept near his home.

In 1896 the Rev. William Henry Wilson was appointed as the first resident Vicar of Paeroa, his area comprising Paeroa, Waihi "and all the gold mining districts between". Mr Wilson was from England. Under the London Missionary Society he had spent 4 years in Samoa, during part of this time acting as Queen Victoria's Consul and Deputy Commissioner. He arrived in Nelson in 1888, was ordained deacon and priest in 1889 and was at Te Awamutu prior to being appointed to Paeroa, arriving in October 1896.

At the Annual General Meeting in Paeroa in July 1897, it was reported that owing to an increase in the population of the District, the Vicar was finding it difficult to visit all his parishioners. It was to be another 2 years however before the Annual Meeting was informed of the Bishop's intention to divide the Parish and appoint a resident clergyman in Waihi, his district to include Waitekauri, Golden Cross and Waikino.

The first Vicar of Waihi, theRev. Thomas Eykyn, was appointed in July 1900, at a stipend of £8.6.0 a month. Mr Eykyn had been trained at Salisbury Theological College and had been ordained in 1881.

He was succeeded in 1902 by the Rev. W F Gover at a stipend of £20.16.8 a month, and he remained for only 1 year. Early Church books were unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1939 at the East School, where they were kept, but it would seem, from correspondence in the one remaining letter book possessed by the Parish that Mr Gover's brief time in Waihi was a troubled one.

The next Vicar appointed was the Rev. A S Buckland and he remained at Waihi from 1903 to 1910. During this time the present Church was built. Waihi was described as a barren, treeless landscape, dotted by straggling houses and dominated by mine poppet heads and rock tips and such a landscape gave little encouragement to early planners. Seas of mud in winter made travel difficult and in summer clouds of dust coated everything with grit. The dirt got in eyes, ears and mouths, polluted food and made everyone quickly shut outside doors. Yet, amid this desolate scene the parishioners forged ahead with plans for the new church.

Mr A Wiseman of Auckland was employed as the architect. Tenders closed on 11 April 1906 and eight were received, ranging from £1795 to £996. The lowest tender was submitted by Potts and Hardy of Cambridge and their tender was accepted. With extras, the total cost of the church was £1154, financed by £904 raised by parishioners and the balance of £250 was taken up as debentures by Messrs H P Barry and R Gooch.

The foundation stone was laid on 10 January 1906 by the Governor of New Zealand, Lord Plunkett, with a mallet specially made of puriri. A sealed bottle was placed in the cavity beneath the foundation stone with a paper saying that the former church "has proved to be quite insufficient accommodation for the growing population of Waihi". Enclosed with this were the latest copies of the Waihi Daily Telegraph, the New Zealand Herald, the Auckland Star, the Diocesan Church Gazette and the parish magazine.

On 20 December 1906 the surveyor, Mr M F Haszard, issued a certificate stating that the work had been satisfactorily completed.

Today St John's Church has a "C" classification with the Historic Places Trust but it was not built to withstand the ravages of time. In August 1992 restoration work commenced after months of preparation. Mr Robert Galloway, a semi retired Katikati architect was asked to take a realistic look at the building and list work needed to be done. The first major undertaking was the complete repiling. Total lack of stormwater drainage at any stage meant that 100 years of rain water had scoured away all earth from the foundations, causing them to sink in places and take the floor with them. Complete re-roofing has since been carried out and the exterior walls completely stripped and painted. This has been achieved with major fund raising efforts and donations, the results of which will no doubt ensure that St John's Church will serve the needs of the Waihi community into the next century.

The Centennial was celebrated 9-11 September 1994 and included a Garden Party, Dinner and Centennial Service.