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Church History

The hill on which the Cathedral Church stands is known as Cathedral Hill Pukerangiora. The hill was a well known tribal landmark named after the native flora called Rangiora that grew on its summit in pre-European times. It stems from rangi meaning sky; ora meaning life; pukemeaning hill; thus the full name Pukerangiora can mean literally the hill of the life giving heaven.

On Victoria Street at the foot of Pukerangiora there is a plaque in Maori and English describing the story of the hill going back to ancient times. The plaque recalls many centuries of ancestral occupation by the people of Tainui. There has been considerable debate about whether there existed a Pa on Pukerangiora but there seems to be no evidence of this from traditional Maori accounts.

history-tawhaioIn the 1860’s, during the reign of King Tawhaio war broke out in Waikato due to the colonisation process. Large scale, illegal confiscation of Tainui land resulted. During this time a British Signal Post was built on this hill, the trenches of which remain under the Cathedral.

history-firstchurchThe first Hamilton Anglican church was nearly completed in 1867 when it was burnt down. Despite extreme difficulties and a world-wide depression another church was completed in about 1871. However no one was satisfied with this church and it was sold to the Waikato Times for £105 with services then being held at the Courthouse.

Therefore the Anglican congregation did not have a church and the town of Hamilton did not have a public hall and it was thought it would be both economical as well as fulfilling a common need if all parties combined to obtain one. The Hall was completed in 1881.

history-hallIn 1884 on land at the foot of the present Cathedral the church was dedicated and consecrated in 1887. A new hall which was not shared with the local community was built in 1893. The new church however was built with Kahikatea and was badly affected by borer and a fund was set up to enable a new church to be built.

 

history-firstcathedralModelled on a 15th Century Norfolk Church and designed in ferro-concrete by Warren and Blechynden of Hamilton, the present St Peter’s was completed in 1916 and was the fourth church to be built and the third on this site.

St Peter’s Cathedral is the mother church for the Anglican Diocese of Waikato and shares this role with St Mary’s Cathedral in new Plymouth. The Cathedral is also a vibrant parish in its own right with the Dean of the Cathedral as its Vicar.

Books detailing the Cathedral History

There are two books which detail the history of the Cathedral and the hill it stands on.

  • “Three score years & fifteen” was compiled by Gabrielle & Paul Day for our 75th anniversary.
  • “The Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter” written by Bishop David Moxon.

Three score years & fifteen

In 1990 forhistory-book_3score the 75th Anniversary of the Cathedral, Paul & Gabrielle Day wrote a book of our history. Called Three Score and Fifteen it tells a comprehensive story of the people and personalities; the struggles and the achievements that have created the Cathedral you see today.

The text below is part of the forward to that book written by Paul & Gabrielle:

It will be seventy-five years in October 1990 since Lord Liverpool laid the foundation stone of the Parish Church of St Peter, in Hamilton.

In a city which became a borough in 1877, 75 is a respectable enough age to have attained, even without considering the absence of great numbers of historic buildings within the city limits. In fact, the North Island volume of the Historic Places Trust’s Historic Buildings of New Zealand lists not a single Hamilton building.

For this fact, the circumstances of the town’s beginnings are largely responsible. Conceived in armed conflict, casually and negligently nurtured by business and government bodies in faraway Auckland, Hamilton was, for the first 20 years, a quagmire of deprivation, poverty and natural disaster.

Three churches preceded the present St Peter’s. One was destroyed by fire; its replacement was soon outgrown by a rapidly increasing congregation; and the third, misguidedly built of Kahikatea, lasted a mere 38 years. Parishioners of the 1900s yearned for a church in permanent materials. Led by a vigorous and devout vicar, their campaign for such a building culminated in the construction of the first stage of St Peter’s. Within a decade, destiny had pushed the church into a more important role: in 1926 it received the cathedra of the first Bishop of Waikato, Cecil Arthur Cherrington.

Since then, through many vicissitudes, St Peter’s has been completed and adorned. The edifice now carries in its fabric the tale of three-quarters of a century of local history – places, events and personalities.

This 48 page book with colour and black & white illustrations is available from the Cathedral Office.

The Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter

history-book_cathedralThe second book, written in 2002 by Bishop David Moxon is a 40 page book with colour illustrations designed as a Visitor’s Guide starting with an introduction to the Anglican Communion and then walks through and around the precincts of this Cathedral and the hill on which it stands. “A prayerful walk on a sacred hill”

 

These books are available from the Cathedral Bookshop.