Pompallier House In Russell

Pompallier House and Missionary – Buy 

When ships started stopping off at some of the more well known bays and inlets around New Zealand in the early 1800’s, they brought plenty of goods to trade with local Māori. Local iwi eagerly provided items such as fish, pork, kumara, freshwater and women for items such as guns, and blankets. 

However, when the ships were in port and their crews were set loose on shore-leave, they also brought other interests with them such as grogshops and brothels. Both of which did a roaring trade. In fact, life in some of the bays around New Zealand became fairly rough and rowdy. Nowhere was this more evident than at a place in the Bay of Islands called Kororāreka (Russell). 

In Kororāreka, such was the unruly behaviour that when Charles Darwin visited in the summer of 1835/1836 he declared the place the “hellhole of the pacific”. So, to help sort out all the miss-behaviour, Missionaries were sent to New Zealand and when they arrived they had two main goals. Firstly, to introduce christianity to Māori and secondly to try and keep law and order among the European settlers.

One of these Missionaries was French Bishop Jean Baptiste François Pompallier who arrived in January 1839. Pompallier quickly got to work and by the end of 1844 he had setup Missionaries in Hokianga Whangaroa, Kaipara, Tauranga, Akaroa, Matamata, Ōpōtiki, Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua and Whakatāne, with his headquarters being Kororāreka.  

At his headquarters at Pompallier House (built in 1842), he developed a printing press that translated church texts from Latin to te reo Māori. They were then printed, bound and distributed around the country. Producing a staggering 40,000 books, the missionary at Pompallier House had a major effect on the development of literacy around the country.

Christ Church In Russell (Kororāreka)

Christ Church in Russull (Kororāreka) – Buy 

The church on the corner of Church, Robertson and Baker Street in Russell (Kororāreka) was one of the places I wanted to visit while staying in the small town. Not only is it New Zealand’s oldest surviving church however it contains the grave sites of important Māori leaders Tamati Waka Nene, Hannah King and many other names linked to New Zealand’s history. It also has the graves of men from the HMS Hazard who died in the battle of Kororāreka which took place March 1845. What makes the church even more interesting is that as it was at the centre of the conflict between Māori and the British Army, there are bullet holes scattered around the church that remain to this very day. 

The Duke of Marlborough

The Duke of Marlborough Buy 

Russell or Kororareka as it was once known, had the reputation of being the ‘hell hole of the Pacific.’ This was mainly due to the drinking, brawling, prostitution and general  lawlessness of the town. As the port grew to be one of the biggest whaling ports in the Southern Hemisphere, so too did the town’s reputation for unruly disorder.

One of the early drinking establishments was known as “Johnny Johnstons Grog Shop”. The owner being Johnny Johnston, an ex-convict. In the late 1820’s, Johnson purchased land which he turned into a hotel and to give the place a touch of class he named it after the richest man in the world, the Duke of Marlborough. Today, The Duke of Marlborough sits elegantly on the waterfront in Russell and holds the distinction of being New Zealand’s oldest licenced hotel.

The Flagpole At Kororāreka

The Flagpole at Kororāreka Buy 

When I was young, I always thought the story of Hōne Heke and his warriors cutting down the flagpole on the hill above Kororāreka (Russell) was something quite fascinating.  

In the years preceding the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke protested against unfulfilled British promises from the Treaty by cutting down the flagpole he had gifted to the British Crown. After his initial attack, the pole was re-erected, only for Heke to chop it down twice more, showing his displeasure against the British actions. 

The fourth attack on the flagpole came at night on the 11th March. Despite the flagpole being well guided by British soldiers, Heke and his warriors managed to secure the hill and cut the flagpole down once more. Following this, war broke out and the battle of Kororāreka took place. The battle marked the beginnings of The Northern Wars.