Imagine standing on the front porch of your house looking out over the harbour to see 400 waka beached along the shore and 4000 Maori standing in your front garden. This would have been the case had you been at the Mangungu Mission on February 12th 1840 for the largest single signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. On that day over 70 Maori chiefs signed the Northland copy of the treaty.
For those of you not familiar with the signing of the Treaty. In total there are 9 copies of the Treaty, with only one in English the remainder are all in Maori. The Treaty in it’s various forms did a travelling road show around the country being signed by Maori chiefs as it went. In total more than 500 chiefs signed one of the forms of the treaty.
Our visit to Mangungu Mission came about at the request of Landmarks Whenua Tohunga who asked me to visit some of the lessor known heritage sites around Northland and include them in my blog. To be honest I had never even heard of Mangungu and had no idea where it was. That’s where Google maps comes in handy I discovered that it’s close to the small village of Horeke as if that really helps! (just kidding)
A bit about Landmarks Whenua Tohunga and their role in this. Landmarks came together two years ago to promote some sites that where under control of Heritage New Zealand, DOC, Local Councils and Private Ownership. The aim of Landmarks Whenua Tohunga is to connect people with the awe-inspiring locations that have enriched the unique culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. Their aim is to send Kiwis as well as our international visitors on a cultural journey through New Zealand, encouraging them to visit and explore historically important sites. Currently there are 9 sites in Northland of which we will explore and blog about 5.
It turns out that the village of Horeke has quite a history in itself. When the Hokianga was first settled by Europeans the harbour was much deeper than it is today. It’s with the clearing of the native bush to create farmland than has caused all the silt washing off the land producing the numerous sandbanks that now clog the harbour.
The deeper harbour allowed for the first commercial shipyard in New Zealand that was established here in 1826 with the first boat leaving the yard in 1827. Of course building ships is thirsty work and consequently the first Pub in New Zealand opened in the village to serve the workers. The hotel is still standing on the same site today. The village also has the dubious reputation of holding New Zealand’s first murder trial. So it all happened here in the 1820’s.
There is a motorhome POP outside the hotel or if you need somewhere to stay there is accommodation inside the hotel. There is also a reserve just down the road from the mission house and although it has camping prohibited signs I was told that a number of people camped here over the summer.
We had arrived at the Mission a little early so there was the chance to explore the surrounds. It was also great to see that there was plenty of parking so no trouble finding space for the motorhome. Across the road from the mission is the jetty out into the harbour and although covered in a bit of moss and lichen still looked like it was in use.
We also had time to look through the graveyard. This graveyard has the oldest tombstones in New Zealand dating from 1829 when two crew members drowned on a ship trying to cross the Hokianga Bar. In fact a number of people buried here are listed as drowned, crossing the bar is no less dangerous today than it was then.
The graveyard is still used by the local community today. Worthy of a visit almost on it’s own just to see all the historic tombstones here.
Wandering up the driveway to the mission house takes you past the current chapel. This was shipped over by barge from Kohukohu on the otherside of the harbour and replaces the original which was large enough to house 800 people. The original chapel was dismantled after the mission closed in the late 1850’s to build cottages for the local mill workers. Profit before penance!
There is also the memorial cross that honours in both Maori and English the first mission convert as well as the Maori missionaries that went out into the field to spread the gospel. It also commemorates the establishment of the mission in 1827.
The real mission (pun intended) here was for us to meet Ianthe for a tour of New Zealand’s 4th oldest standing building. Built by John Hobbs in 1838/9 it’s the first Presbyterian mission station in New Zealand. The Mangungu Mission house.
This building is closed over the winter period however tours can be arranged for a minimum of three people at a day and time to suit both parties. During summer it’s open Saturday to Monday from 10.00am to 4.00pm.
It’s hard to believe that so many Maori were present here for the signing of the Treaty and these days it’s just a forgotten backwater in the Hokianga. I had read online that around 100,000 a year visit the Treaty grounds at Waitangi so I was interested to find out how many people end up here.
Ianthe told us that before the new Cycle Trail opened, that starts from the gate of the Mission House visitor numbers where very low. Now with the cycle trail bringing people to the area they are getting 80-100 people per day over the peak summer months.
We have some friends who have ridden this cycle trail and they loved it! You can get a shuttle to take you to Kaikohe the halfway point so you can ride back or they can collect you from there and return you to the start. The ride the whole way to Opua is just over 80kms.
Like Lindsay our guide at Clendon House, Ianthe was an absolute fountain of knowledge about this place and the history both of the building but also the surrounding districts. What amazed me here is that this is the actual table that the 70 chiefs signed the Treaty on, and yet it’s not roped off it’s a part of history that you can touch and feel. This is because visitor numbers are so low that they are easily managed, however as numbers grow you can expect this to change so we felt very privileged to have visited whilst it was so accessible.
It was interesting to learn that because most Maori where illiterate in those days most of the signatures are actually signed by John Hobbs and the other dignitaries present on the day. The chiefs then added a picture of their Tattoo and that’s why so many of the full signatures look similar.
Like a lot of older houses that you can visit this house has items from the period that can be viewed. Almost everything in the house has been donated back to the house from the local community who have really rallied over the years behind preserving local and national history.
As we continued around the house Ianthe pointed out various items of interest including a pre 1840’s Tapa mat from Tonga where a number of the missionaries rotated to and from. This Tapa mat predates the use of synthetic dyes and is awaiting restoration. You could also see the original steamer trunk belonging to Rev. Turner showing Tonga as an origin.
Also in the house but not on display, Ianthe showed us the fully restored Flax Cape that was restored by a specialist from Te Papa, we felt honoured to have seen this up close. The wool around the edges was brought with the original settlers from England in the 1830’s so an ancient piece.
One of the things we learnt is that the Mission House has not been standing here since it was built in fact in 1856 when John Hobbs moved to Auckland he took the house with him where it was rebuilt in Onehunga as part of the mission station there. Coming back to the site in 1972 thanks to the local community who banded together to save the house. At this point the house was literally cut into two haves, stuck on the back of a couple of trucks and brought north.
There aren’t probably too many houses in New Zealand that have been moved three times as whilst the house was in Onehunga it was moved a couple of hundred metres down the road to a new position. This reminded me of the Museum Hotel in Wellington that was moved to make way for Te Papa, my brother and his wife were actually running the restaurant at the time this happened. Made me feel like I had a family connection to this place.
Standing on the veranda at the end of the tour Ianthe started telling us about Cannibal Jack one of the more interesting people to have lived in the area during the early 1800’s he was apparently the first European to live amongst the Maori in this area and fought with them in various conflicts. He is buried face down on Marmon’s point across the harbour from the house in an area now considered Tapu by locals. I won’t spoil this story by telling it all here I would suggest that you visit the mission and find out the story yourself.
There are a number of places that you can stay in the area and Ianthe is shortly to open her own POP to cater to motorhome community and people riding the cycle trail. You can also stay at the nearby Wairere Boulders or as I said earlier at the POP outside the pub.
If you asked Sarah and I to rate the visit to the mission today we would give it an 11 out of 10 we really learnt some interesting things and thoroughly enjoyed the day. We absolutely recommend that you visit here.
You can keep up to date on all that is happening with Landmarks Whenua Tohunga and their site by either following them on Facebook , Twitter or clicking on their Website. Next stop on the tour will be the Te Waimate Mission.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the Ratings we have done for other camps click here