Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oruaiti Chapel

Earlier this year, I went on a Railway Enthusiasts excursion by train from New Lynn up to Whangarei. Very exciting to me, to have the opportunity of travelling along the Northern line which has been closed for so long to ordinary passenger traffic.

Once there, I went on the side-trip to the Whangarei Museum and Kiwi House. It was raining that day, a pity, as there is quite a few historical objects and buildings up there to look at -- but the rain did add a mood which wasn't entirely out of place.

A friend here in Avondale mentioned the Oruaiti Chapel, so I went looking for it. According to this site:
"One of the most remarkable Mangonui settlers was Thomas Ball, a chemist from Brigg in Lincolnshire. Born in 1809, he was the son of a bookseller. In 1834 he married Jemima Abraham who died before he left for New Zealand ... Some of the Ball Party, as it became known, remained in Auckland to seek employment and gather resources to purchase land. Those who accompanied Mr Ball to the north on the 'Dove' settled in and around Mangonui village, mainly in the Oruaiti Valley. Approximately 20 others of predominantly Wesleyan faith followed this party on the 'Phoenix', leaving England on 12 October 1859, some settling in the Mangonui area.

Methodism was alive and well when John Wesley blessed the walls of a large octagonal chapel in Heptonstall by preaching there in July 1764. Other such chapels followed at Rotherham, Whitby, Chester, Edinburgh and elsewhere. The buildings were designed as preaching houses. After attending the conventional church, dissidents covertly went to their 'preaching houses' for their preferred sermon. The logic was that the architecture dictated that the buildings could not be mistaken for churches. It was understandable that Mr Ball's group of Wesleyan adherents should set to on arrival and build an octagonal chapel for themselves in the Oruaiti Valley. This was achieved by 1861."
Quoting the museum site:
"Oruaiti Chapel, c1859
Believed to be the world's smallest Methodist Chapel, this building was moved to the property from Doubtless Bay, North of Whangarei. The octagonal chapel was built in 1859 from a single kauri log and services are still held here on special occasions."

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