Thursday, April 29, 2010

History Of The Old Church (also see previous entry)

On 28 February 1858 Father Euloge Reignier a french missionary priest came to live at the Meeanee propety he had purchased for the Society of Mary in 1856. He was accompanied by two brothers of the Society of Mary who shared his missionary work, Brothers Basil and John. They brought their house with them from Pakowhai and quickly assembled it on the property. This house became their accommodation and was used as the first church.

Their congregation grew , they needed a church so in November 1862 tenders were called for the erection of a church adjoining the residence of Rev E. Reignier. December 1863 Bishop Philip Viard from Wellington blessed and opened the church of St Mary of the Assumption at Meeanee. The cost was 348 pounds and it measured 36ft by 15ft. Despite frequent flooding of the nearby Tutaekuri River the mission prospered as the Brothers managed their farm of 326 acres as well as assisting Friar Reignier with their missionary duties.

Suzanne Aubert a french woman who wanted to do missionary work with the Maori people arrived in Meeanee in 1871. She played the church harmonium, trained the choir, decorated the church and became well known in the area for her nursing skills and later was the founder of the Order of the Sisters of Our Lady of compassion. She worked at Meeanee until 1883. There are books written about her and the work she did.

A large boarding and day school was built on the side of the church in`1872. In October 1874 the church was enlarged cutting it in two and a transpet placed between. The entrance was moved around to the east of the new section it cost 626 pounds.

A large new residence for the priests and brothers was built in 1880 which was later converted to become a seminary for the training of priests and because of repeated floods was moved the the Greenmeadows hill in 1910 where it still functions today as the Mission Estate Winery.

In 1892 it was enlarged again lengthened to 75ft by 46ft. The old sanctuary became the vestry and the nave was enlarged to 50ft by 37ft and 30ft high. It was divided from the aisles by pillars of rimu with arches filled with ornamental traceries. The gallery for the choir was completely new, the building was over six times larger than the former church.

There were attractive gardens, grape vines, crops, fruit trees and farm land. The Seminary had 23 students. There was a swimming pool, an observatory, a flourishing school, a new brothers house, and the church raised by 21 inches on new piles to escape the flood waters.

In 1910 the leaders of the Society decided to shift the entire complex to Greenmeadows, only the church and schools were left, many locals and priests were unhappy.
It continued as a much loved parish for many years with a new villa style 10 roomed presbytery being added as accommodation for the priests in 1913. The school ruined by years of flood waters was demolished and a new school opened in Guppy road in 1926.

In 1970 it was becoming too small for the growing population a new church built in Osier Road opened in 1972. The church was reconsecrated in 1972 eventually it was sold to a group of Napier businessmen who in turn sold it to its present owner who converted it to a restaurant and wedding venue, the former presbytery converted to boutique accommodation.
Many people have lived, worshipped, celebrated and worked on this unique property.


  1. This church is sooooo beautiful, I love it. I hope you are doing well!
    I want to thank you for leaving me such a nice comment!
    Your blog is beautiful. I would love to visit the places you share us on your blog!
    Take Care,

  2. Thanks for sharing all that history of such a lovely place and THANK YOU for taking me there. Great photos of the way it is now and i especially love the old photo of the original church xxx