Pirongia Village

Pirongia is the centre of much historical significance and Maori warfare. Please take a read through the following historical summary of the area.

 
 
 
Pirongia Village

Early History

Pirongia has a long and interesting history with most of its development centered around the Waipa River.

From the days of early Maori occupation at Matakitaki Pa (confluence of Waipa/Mangapiko) to the arrival of Anglican Missions in the 1830's, one at Mangapouri (Waipa/Puniu) there followed the Militia in the 1860's, and European settlement a few years later.

Boats such as the 'Avon' carried the militia, and the 'Oputea' towed barges carrying timber, coal, stores and bricks.

Later when the creamery opened, the cream was sent down the Waipa to Ngaruawahia, then to Hamilton. Maoris paddled their canoe loads of wheat and flax down the river with the 'Caesar Roose' taking up to a dozen of these in tow at a time - for a price.

When one of the several bridges built was washed away in 1875, Mr Tom Garmonsway ran a ferry across the river at 6 pence per ride.

Alexandra
It was in July 1864 that Colonel Haultain, Commander of the 2nd Waikato Regiment brought his men to a place overlooking the Waipa River chosen by Lt. General Cameron of the British Army as a military base and with the idea of making it the capital of the region.
This base became known as Alexandra, named in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, wife of King Edward Vll.

By the late 1860's, Alexandra had become a busy frontier town with at least two hotels, a bank, bakery, saddlers shop, forge, coach builder, pharmacy and several stores. Alexandra changed its name to Pirongia at the turn of the Century.

Matakitaki Pa
Situated at the junction of the Mangapiko Stream and Waipa River, the Matakitaki Pa is known to be pre-European. In 1822, it was attacked by Hongi Hika and his Ngapuhi warriors using double-barrelled shotguns. Over 2000 Waikato Maori lost their lives in the engagement, with many wounded. The Pa site is marked with a Historic Places Trust plaque and visitors are entitled to walk through to view the entrenchments and strategic battle site.

Alexandra Racing
Established in 1866, the Alexandra Racing Club is claimed to be the second oldest racing club in New Zealand. The course is also the site of the Pirongia Golf Club. Boxing Day sees a large crowd gather for the traditional annual racing event.

The Alexandra Cemetary
The first recorded internment was in 1875. It is well worth a visit to see record of old identities. The old coach route followed around the base of the Cemetery hill.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church
First church built in 1872 on present site with first divine service held May 12th. The dedication service was taken by the Most Rev. Dr. Croke from Australia in 1873.

Monies came generously from the Armed Constabulary as well as from locals. Messrs Hughes and Thompson of Cambridge designed and built the Church with most of the timber being donated by the O'Shea's.

40 years later in 1912, the present church built out of heart rimu and hauled by bullock teams, was opened by Bishop Clearly on the same day May 12th.

St Joseph's closed in 1993 after 121 years of service to the community and a final Holy Mass was held by Father Leonard Danvers.

The building is now in private ownership and is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Bell Homesteads
The original home is located in Beechey St., adjacent to Pirongia School. It continues to be occupied by a Mr Bell and the adjacent tennis court once belonged to the home.

A second Bell homestead stands on the corner of Belcher & Franklin St. within the same grounds as the early Aubin & Co store.

St. Savour's Church
The present Anglican Church was built in 1959. Previous Anglican Churches were located on the Alexandra Redoubt, Bellot St.

 
 
 
Pirongia Village

Pirongia Library
It is believed that the Library was originally erected as a school room for the military settlement of Alexandra. It was built mostly of kauri with hand forged nails.

In 1871 it was handed over by the Minister of Defence to the settlers and moved to its present site.

At one time, the building was used as a Court House and Army & Land Department Office. In 1963, the Library was repaired and renovated with contributing finance and served the community up to the early 1990s.

It is now used as a Craft Centre and shop by the many gifted people living in and around Pirongia. (A plaque commemorates the founding of Pirongia in 1864 and the peace that came to the District after a laying down of arms by King Tawhiao in 1881).

Pirongia Playcentre
The Pirongia Playcentre is housed in the original Pirongia School, which was built in 1873. 105 years later, after concentrated fundraising, it was shifted in 1977 to its present site on council owned land.

Now classed as an Historic Building, it is still involved in education, providing services under the control of the King Country Playcentre Association, to 45 families and 65 children, 5 days a week. The building is open to tbe public on Craft Days held annually in September.

Pirongia Village Stores
The first store was built by John Aubin in December 1864 near the early Bridge. Owing to flooding Mr Aubin was forced to build a new store (Belcher/Franklin St.) and in 1874, declared it open for business under the name of Aubin & Co.

By 1910 the second store was showing signs of deterioration, so another was built on the corner of Crozier and Franklin St., where it remained till 1982. The stores were operated by John Aubin and his descendants, the Bell's until 1972.

Alexandra Hotel
A hotel has been on this site ever since Alexandra was founded. As with all hotels it has had a succession of proprietors and been rebuilt several times (1882, 1930). The name Alexandra was given in 1870, but it has been known as Finch's Hotel. The Alexandra Lodge had a room in the Hotel and held meetings there (1877).

At this corner in 1881, Tawhiao accompanied by Wahanui (Maniopoto) with over 500 followers, met with Majors Gilbert Mair and Jackson. He with 80 of his men laid down their arms with a statement that it meant peace for all time between the Maori and European .. . an act of dignity which ended the Waikato conflict.

Shamrock Hotel
In 1883, Patrick Connell transferred his licence from Royal Exchange Hotel to the Shamrock, but he lost this after 1 year. By 26th June 1888, Jesse Sage, Proprietor, advertised that she "kept a first class table, and the hours will be found convenient and pleasant for visitors".

Wines and Spirits, Best Brands. Buggies and Saddle Horses for Hire. "The Mail Coach leaves the Hotel for Te Awamutu 3.am. daily returning on the arrival of the train from Auckland."

The Hotel was later purchased by Matewai Wickham who converted it into a boarding house.

Crozier Street Known in 1874 as Queen St. A number of establishments were operating. Yeats, Chemist and Druggist and Dentist, J D Hill Stores, Bank, a Bakery and the Constabulary Hall purchased by the Methodist Church in 1920, and demolished in 1959.

At the bottom of the road, Bendix had a blacksmith's shop. (NB: An Esplanade Walking track is being developed along the river bank to give access to the river once more).

Royal Exchange Hotel
Built in the days of the militia, with Samuel Bright as the proprietor. It is recorded in the Waikato Times 17 March 1874, that a Mr Mathias Asmuss 'wishes to dispose of his business'. From 1875-1880 Hugh Kirkwood was mine host, when it was purchased by Patrick Connell in 1882. By 1883 he had transferred the licence.

Redoubts
Two Redoubts were completed in June 1864 by the 2nd Waikato Regiment under the command of Colonel Haultain and were described as being "Two beautifully built and strongly entrenched redoubts (which) were thrown up, commanding both sides of the Waipa".

The location of the East Redoubt can be seen from the newly formed road to be called Aubin Place in recognition of John Aubin who built the first store on the banks of the Waipa River.

Alexandra Redoubt (off Bellot St), was built on the site of Pirongia's first Anglican Church, which was removed in 1871. The settlers prior to this were uneasy with the close proximity of Tawhiao and his warriors, who were camped across the Waipa river at Whatiwhatihoehoe, a Kingite stronghold which they occupied for many years.
The blockhouse inside the Redoubt had two storeys and was carefully built, being 21 feet in height and contained commissariat stores. The Redoubt was garrisoned until 1881 but continued to serve the community whilst small skirmishes continued.

In 1900 the 2nd St. Saviours Church was built in the Redoubt and served the Anglican's needs until 1959 when a third St. Saviours was built in the village. In 1960 the Redoubt witnessed a second moving away of an old church in its precincts - it being moved to service the congregation at Waikeria.

The church has since been uplifted and moved back to Pirongia. It is now located on Franklin Street, in the centre of the village, and serves as the village information centre.

This information is kindly supplied by New Zealand Travel King Country.

Photos: The Pirongia Clydesdales outside the Alexandra Hotel (top).
Pirongia Mountain on a glorious summer's day (below). Photo by Steve Reekie.

 
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