Volume 108 1999 > Volume 108, No. 1 > On the erection of Maori churches in the mid 19th century: Eyewitness testimonies from Kaupapa and Otaki, by Richard A. Sundt, p 7-38
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The Maori Church of Rangiatea at Otaki, on Aotearoa/New Zealand's North Island (Te Ika a Maui), was consumed by a disastrous fire on 7 October 1995 (Royal 1997:14). Erected between 1848 and 1851 (Fig.l), 1 this ecclesiastical edifice had, until its recent destruction, the distinction of being not only the oldest and finest surviving Maori church, but also one of the country's most outstanding architectural and cultural monuments (Ramsden 1951:11,320; Anon. 1997:32; Fearnley 1977:63). Already in the 19th century the quality of the construction at Rangiatea and the nobility of its design were amply recognised. While several Maori churches received warm accolades from resident missionaries and foreign visitors, 2 Rangiatea invariably earned the highest praise. The Rev. William Williams (1800-1878), perhaps the keenest observer and critic of Anglican Maori churches, was simply echoing contemporary opinion when he declared in 1867 that “the building which now stands at Otaki never fails to excite the admiration of the passing traveller” (Williams 1989:352). Although the original Rangiatea, with all its historic, cultural and religious associations, can never be completely replaced, the tribes which assembled at Otaki in 1995 to mourn the loss of the church vowed nevertheless “to build a replica”. Work on the new edifice is already underway. This complex and ambitious venture is being overseen by the Otaki vestry, Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea. The members of this ecclesiastical organisation are drawn from Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toa Rangatira and Ati Awa, the tribes historically most closely associated with the Church of Rangiatea (Anon. 1997:64-67).

The construction of a replica has resurrected a question that has long perplexed many observers of the original structure: how was the 86-foot (26.21 m) long ridge pole (tahuhu), hewn out of a single totara trunk, raised to a height of over 40 feet (12.19 m), and then lowered into position on the crowns of the central roof-supporting posts (pou-tokomanawa) (Fig. 2), each of which was also made of a single totara log? 3 George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878), New Zealand's first Anglican bishop, had the good fortune of witnessing one crucial aspect of the church's erection when he stopped at Otaki in May 1848 on one of his episcopal visitations. In a letter written

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Figure 1: Rangiatea Church, Otaki. Interior view towards the sanctuary. Source: Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea (Vestry of Rangiatea).
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five months after his tour, he mentions having found at Otaki some 300 men labouring to raise “by their own native methods, the heavy pillars for the support of the roof of their new chapel” (Selwyn 1851a:82-83). Regretfully for us, the Bishop did not provide a description or explanation of the “native methods” used in accomplishing this engineering feat. This fact and the lack of other, more detailed eyewitness accounts dealing with the erection of Rangiatea have spawned at least two major theories on the means used for hoisting the monumental ridge pole and setting it into place. Some authors, like Hohepa Taepa (1966:36), have assumed this was done in the traditional manner, by using scaffolding and shears, while others, most notably Francis Selwyn Simcox (1952:70-71), have instead proposed a system employing tripods and pulleys (block and tackle). 4 Simcox argued that there were seamen and whalers at Otaki in the middle of the 19th century “experienced in the raising of masts and spars, and the necessary gear, pulleys, blocks and ropes would be available” (1952:70). After years of discussion and debate, neither of these theories has won universal acceptance. 5 Therefore, if neither analysis of the architecture of Rangiatea nor examination of its contemporary written documentation can provide a satisfactory answer to the question at hand, consideration of other 19th century Maori structures can, I believe, furnish us with new and valuable insights into the procedures used at Otaki. One such building is the church at Kaupapa, the first house of worship of the Turanga Mission station on Poverty Bay, near present-day Gisborne.

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of a Maori church of the Rangiatea type. Maori house terms applied to a church structure. Drawing by Robert Esau.
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The construction of Kaupapa, between 1840 and 1842, is described by contemporary observers in uncommon detail, certainly to a far greater degree than is usual for other Maori churches of the same period. While the eyewitness testimonies are not always as fulsome and as clear as we would wish, they do nevertheless offer sufficient information both for establishing the building sequence of Kaupapa and for determining some of the procedures employed in the erection of its larger timbers. Since Kaupapa and Rangiatea were close in scale, plan and structure, and were built within a decade or less of each other, it is not unreasonable to suggest that both followed similar construction paths. 6

For those familiar with architecture in New Zealand, it is obvious that the form of Rangiatea is essentially that of a fully carved Maori house, the earliest surviving example of which is Te Hau-ki-Turanga (see Fig. 38 in Starzecka 1996:59), erected originally at Orakaiapu pa, in the Gisborne district, between 1842 and 1843, and now preserved in the Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington. 7 In plan and structure, and in many aspects of its decoration as well, Te Hau-ki-Turanga simply continues, although on a larger scale, a tradition of house construction, associated mainly with Maori chiefs, that is well documented, both textually and visually, in the ethnographic sources of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 8 That Rangiatea and Te Hau-ki-Turanga descend ultimately from a common building type already well established in Aotearoa before Western contact has been demonstrated by archaeological research conducted in various North Island sites (see Davidson 1984:151-60 for a summary of recent excavations). A particularly good example of such a structure is the one excavated by B. Foss Leach at Palliser Bay 20 years ago; it dates to the 15th or 16th century, and its appearance has been creditably reconstructed (Leach 1979:67, 120-25; see Fig. 98 in Davidson 1984).

In constructing the Maori house with centrally-placed roof supports, the most difficult and delicate part of the whole operation involved the ridge beam, or tahuhu, traditionally made of a single tree trunk. If Joel Samuel Polack (1838, II:31; 1840, I:205) and Ernest Dieffenbach (1843, II:68-69), two early New Zealand visitors, are correct in their estimates that the largest chief houses they encountered were approximately 40 feet (12.19 m) long and as much as 20 feet (6.10 m) high, we can appreciate the enormous challenge posed by Rangiatea, whose ridge pole was more than double the length of these chiefly residences and had to be raised twice as high. 9 The Otaki church thus presented technical problems of a far greater magnitude than those offered by the largest and most prestigious Maori houses of the early 19th century.

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Figure 3: Drawing of the interior of the Maori church at Waikanae, 1847, by T. B. Collinson (1846-1869)., Source: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. MS copy micro 653, Folders 1-3, letter of 20 February 1847. Image reference number M-SP 1038-01.
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A detailed examination of primary sources dating to the height of the missionary period, roughly from 1830 to 1860, dispels the often-repeated claim that Rangiatea was the first Maori church to blend indigenous and European concepts of design (for a critique of this claim see Treadwell 1995, I:74). It is likewise clear from these sources that Rangiatea was also not the first of the large-scale churches built by Maori converts to Christianity. 10 Places such as Matamata (c. 1840-1844) in the Bay of Plenty region, Otawhao (1843-1844) in the Waikato, and Waikanae (c. 1841-1843) (Fig. 3), a short distance from Otaki, and no doubt Kaupapa (1840-1842) as well, all had churches rivaling Rangiatea in size, 11 and the first two aforementioned structures surpassed Otaki in length and width. 12 It is conceivable that in order to erect the capacious structures needed by the Anglican missions in the 1840s, Maori builders had to experiment and modify traditional construction techniques, a process which may well have involved, among other things, adopting Western methods of hoisting heavy and unwieldy loads. The experience and knowledge gained by Maori architects in the construction of spacious mission churches in the early and mid 1840s are not likely to have been ignored by the builders of Rangiatea, who, as more than one contemporary missionary observed, were determined to raise an edifice that would surpass the neighbouring church at Waikanae both in scale and beauty of design. 13

Figure 4: Plan of a traditional Maori house, with architectural terms. This house has a single pou-tokomanawa. Drawing by Robert Esau, adapted from Williams 1896.
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Among the early large Maori churches, Kaupapa provides us with the only detailed eyewitness testimony of its construction and some of the ways this was accomplished. For the other monuments, the primary sources inform us about size, decoration and aesthetic effects, but are either silent concerning construction operations or say nothing that can enlighten us about actual lifting procedures. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider the early 1840s accounts dealing with the construction of Kaupapa in order to see what light these sources might shed upon the erection of the ridge pole at Otaki. Before delving into these sources and the issues they raise, a basic knowledge of traditional Maori house construction is essential. This was clearly set forth in an article published by Herbert Williams (1896:145-57) over a century ago (Fig. 4). Although his informant was a member of the Ngati Porou (a tribe centred in the Waiapu), it is commonly agreed that, except for some details, the same methods of construction and decoration were followed by all the other tribes on the North Island. For these reasons and because of the clarity of Williams's exposition, his essay has been accepted as the definitive statement on traditional Maori house construction and the particular sequence by which this work was executed. 14 While the church at Kaupapa was undoubtedly similar in plan and structure to traditional Maori houses like Te Hau-ki-Turanga, the eyewitness testimony provided by the Williams family clearly indicates that in several respects the church's order and method of erection differed from those given in Williams's article. These differences in construction are, as we shall see, particularly relevant for our inquiry into the means utilised in erecting the monumental timber framework of Rangiatea.

The church at Kaupapa owed its origins to the Rev. William Williams, but it was the local Maori inhabitants who designed the structure and provided the materials and nearly all the labour for its construction. Kaupapa was the first in a succession of three churches built for the Turanga Mission station in the course of the 19th century. 15 The station was established by the Church Missionary Society in 1839 to serve the East Coast, and the Rev. Williams was given charge of this Anglican district in Poverty Bay (Porter 1974:40, n. 60). He and his wife Jane, together with their six children (out of nine to be born), anchored at Turanga on 20 January of the following year and immediately began settling into the mission headquarters at Kaupapa (Porter 1974:72). This site lies about 13 kilometres southwest of Gisborne and now forms a part of the present-day township of Manutuke.

Six days after reaching Turanga, on 26 January 1840, the Rev. Williams conducted his first service at Kaupapa before a Maori congregation of around 1000 souls. In these early days, as he notes in his journal, “[o]ur chapel was the open air…” (Porter 1974:74). And this was destined to be the situation - 14 for several months to come. Although Williams expressed his intention of building a mission chapel some three weeks after his arrival at the Turanga station (see Porter 1974:92), it was not until mid-July that we learn of Maori teams being sent out to procure timber for the construction of the mission's church (for the documentation on this edifice see the section below entitled Eyewitness Accounts of the Construction and Destruction of Kaupapa). From this point onwards we can follow the church's erection step by step until its near completion on 22 November 1842, when a violent windstorm blew it down. The devastation was total. Two years later the station was moved a short distance away to a more favourable location known as Whakato, but it was not until July 1848 that plans were initiated for the building of a house of worship on this new site (Porter 1974:497). It opened on 19 April 1863, and it too was eventually destroyed. 16

Three persons provide us with eyewitness accounts of the construction of the church at Kaupapa: William Williams (1800-1878), the missionary in charge of the Turanga station; his wife, Jane Williams (1801-1896); and their eldest son, Leonard Williams (1829-1916). Their testimony is contained in reports to the Church Missionary Society, private diaries and personal correspondence (all admirably edited and annotated by Porter 1974). The accuracy and trustworthiness of their individual observations (penned at different times and for different audiences) is confirmed by the fact that their separate accounts do not contradict one another. Moreover, remarks of visitors concerning the progress of construction at Kaupapa at precisely dated moments in time coincide with the Williams's testimony, 17 thus offering further confirmation of the latter's reliability. Below I present, in chronological order and grouped under three headings, the building history of Kaupapa, as witnessed and described by the aforementioned members of the Williams family (the page numbers following each author's initials refer to the Porter edition of their writings). After presenting these primary documents, I will discuss how the erection of Kaupapa differs from that given for traditional Maori houses and the extent to which the Kaupapa operations may elucidate the construction of Rangiatea, particularly the erection of its enormous ridge pole and lofty central pillars.

1. Gathering and Preparing Building Materials
  • 12 July 1840: Went to Werowero 18 …several of the natives from inland are there preparing timber for our Church. WW, 118.
  • 24 July 1840: This afternoon a party of our natives brought home 33 large posts for our Church with the work of which all tribes are now proceeding
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  • with spirit. WW, 119.
  • 13 August 1840: Went down the River… & afterwards walked to Raukakaka to see the timber which is preparing for the Church. I found the party hard at work and a quantity of good material ready. WW, 120.
  • 7 September 1840: Held a meeting with the natives about the erection of the Church when it was determined that the work shall be proceeded with at once. More than 100 men are at work today, some carrying the timber to the spot, some squaring the posts. WW, 121.
  • 17 September 1840: Occupied in marking the posts for the church—that is, in fixing where the windows and doors are to be. It is encouraging to see the diligence with which the people carry on the work. WW, 122.
2. Erection of the Church and Services in the Unfinished Church
  • 26 September 1840: During the week the natives have been busily employed in erecting the frame of the church, the progress of which I have been able to watch from my window. It presents an imposing spectacle being probably the largest building which has yet been erected in the country. WW, 123.
  • 28 September 1840: Parata 19 had his various parties of natives to talk in the veranda, after which I walked with him to see the progress of the church. Two sides of the frame are up and the ridge pole which is suspended by ropes till the posts which are to support it are in their places. Their machinery and mode of proceeding seems to me more curious than safe. JW, 125.
  • 10 October 1840: Tongatonga, one of the principal hands at work at the church, came while we were at dinner, with a very deep gash in his heel caused by his adze flying off the handle over his head. JW, 133.
  • 10 January 1841: Having made arrangements in our new building for the baptism of the candidates, we proceeded thither to hold the service. WW, 158.
  • 17 January 1841: Proceeded to the church before the natives and was much struck with their approach to the building, by their own arrangement they advanced in distinct tribes, first Ngaitawiri came up and occupied the centre of the building then Ngatikaipoho occupied the North side, and Ngatimaru the south…. The sun shone brightly around but the thin covering of our roof was sufficient to protect us from its force, while a refreshing breeze from the sea gently wafted through the open sides of the building and produced and exhilirating [sic] effect. WW, 159
  • 11 April 1841: The congregation large at morning service being about 1000, and in the afternoon about 700. WW, 163.
  • 28 April 1841: The natives have almost finished the roof of the Church and they are planing boards for the other part of it…. LW, 164.
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  • 16 May 1841: The day was providentially fine or otherwise our large congregation would have been put to much inconvenience from the walls of the church being yet open. 20 About 1500 persons were assembled…. WW, 165.
  • 4 July 1841: Held morning service in the Church which is still open to wind & weather. WW, 171.
  • 15 August 1841: There was not less than 1800 at Church & it was necessary to pack them as close as possible in order to make room. WW, 175.
  • 25 September 1841: Measured timber from the sawyers and paid the natives for carrying it. 21 WW, 178.
  • 1 November 1841: Engaged an English Carpenter from Port Nicholson and was occupied some time in arranging work. 22 WW, 185.
  • 10 October 1842: No school, my pupils having all gone to the Haunga 23 at Werowero. English carpenters as well as natives all away on the same errand. JW, 217.
  • 24 October 1842: Cooper came to see about the bedsteads as he could not get either natives or pakehas [Europeans] to work at the church in consequence of the cold wind. JW, 219.
3. Destruction of the Church 24
  • 19 November 1842: Cooper fetched me in the afternoon to make a rout among the native carpenters who would not go to help him take some precautions requisite lest the tremendous wind which has been blowing all day should occasion any further mischief to the frame of the church, two of the window frames having already been blown out & smashed. Had some difficulty but at length succeeded in getting them to work…. JW, 228.
  • 21 November 1842: A high wind blowing all night. JW, 229.
  • 22 November 1842: Wind blowing so strong…. It went on however increasing in a fearful degree and about 11 oclock [sic] a thrilling shout and a tremendous crash made me run to the window & I saw our poor church lying in ruins on the ground. I felt almost stupified [sic] with horror, but after a few seconds we ran out with one consent to ascertain that no one was buried in the ruins. Most thankful to find that not an individual was hurt, tho' the two new carpenters and some natives were all at work inside and they had just time to escape with their lives, in a most providential manner. 25 JW, 229.
  • 23 November 1842: Cooper having determined to go off to meet Wm. and communicate the bad news himself, was ready to start long before I was up. … On our way we met Tongatonga and Kurei coming to tangi 26 over the ruins. When we returned the latter was standing on a large heap of wood
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  • and raupo making an oration and flourishing about a broken post, as much as he could manage to wield…. After firing his gun 3 or 4 times they concluded their lamentations and sat down to gaze in silence at the devastation before them. JW, 230.
  • 24 November 1842: We were met in the afternoon by my carpenter from Turanga with the sad intelligence of the wreck of our church which had been blown down by a hurricane two days before. WW, 225.
  • 27 November 1842: Sunday. About 1000 natives were assembled on the site of the church to morning service, when the Bishop preached making a very impressive reference to the ruined state of the building before us as contrasted with the spiritual church which will never decay. WW, 225.

If we examine the erection sequence followed in Maori house construction as outlined by Herbert Williams, it proceeds according to a series of well defined stages, the principal ones being: 1) levelling the site; 2) laying out the lines for the front and back walls; 3) erecting the front and back posts (pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo, respectively); 4) hoisting and laying the ridge beam (tahuhu) on the pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo; 5) raising the side wall slabs (poupou); 6) erecting the rafters (heke); and 7) laying the thatched roofing (Williams 1896:146-52). Comparison of this order of house construction with that of Kaupapa presented in the section above reveals some significant differences. William Williams's remarks of 17 and 26 September 1840 and, most particularly, Jane Williams's observations of 28 September of the same year indicate that the erection of the church's side framework, consisting of the vertical poupou, preceded the various operations relating to its roof construction. 27 Thus, with respect to issues relevant to the analysis at hand, the sequence of Maori house construction corresponding to steps 3, 4 and 5 proceeded at Kaupapa in reverse order, with 5 (raising the poupou) being followed by 4 (hoisting the tahuhu) and then by 3 (erecting the two end posts under the still suspended tahuhu).

The best explanation for building the side framework of Kaupapa first and then attending to the roofing structure appears to lie in the method utilised in hoisting and placing the ridge pole on the central supports. In Maori house construction (Williams 1896:146-47), the tahuhu was hoisted, with the aid of shears, slowly and gradually from one level to the next on a scaffolding erected between the previously set pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo at the front and back ends of the building (Fig. 4). Once the ridge pole reached the top of the scaffolding, it was shifted onto the crowns of these two posts and then securely fastened. While construction was in progress, the span of the ridge pole between the massive end posts was braced by temporary poles (tokotoko). These were removed after one or sometimes - 18 two free-standing pou-tokomanawa, 28 of much lighter scantling than the end posts, were inserted under and then attached to the previously set tahuhu. Since the slender pou-tokomanawa were raised after the main roof framing had gone up, these vertical members were, so far as one can determine from Williams's description, slipped or wedged into place (see note 33 below). Consequently, the central uprights were apparently not sunken into the ground, at least not to any great depth. This would make sense since solid, undisturbed ground would offer the firmest base for the pou-tokomanawa, thus avoiding the problem of settlement during and, more importantly, after erection. When we take into considerations the various operations described above, it is obvious that the use of scaffolding and shears to hoist the ridge pole made it impractical to erect the outer walls first: the poupou simply would have served to obstruct the erection of scaffolding within the building's main space. Thus, postponing the erection of the side walls to the later stages of construction—once the main roofing members were in place and the scaffolding dismantled—made eminent good sense. The one disadvantage of leaving the side framework to the later phases of construction is that a certain amount of time, ideally, ought to elapse between framing and roofing, since this would permit the poupou to settle properly before receiving the rafters.

Raising the side framework early at Kaupapa, which gave the poupou plenty of time for settling, was possible because the erection of the ridge pole was accomplished, according to Jane Williams's testimony of 28 September 1840, by a method that did not involve the use of scaffolding. Her description of hoisting procedures is, unfortunately, much too brief and not very technical, but her mention of “machinery and mode of proceeding” in connection with lifting and of a ridge pole “suspended by ropes” is nevertheless sufficient to suggest that a system of tripods with ropes and pulleys was employed at Kaupapa for raising its tahuhu (Fig. 5). 29 That such methods for hoisting were being employed in some mission stations at that time is evident from a report of John Johnson, New Zealand's first colonel-surgeon. He tells us that in the mid 1840s the Rev. Spencer had supervised Maori labourers in laying a road at the Ruakareo Mission station, in the Lake Tarawera area, and that this work had been carried out by utilising “levers, ropes and pulleys…to move and lower logs on the carriage….” 30

Jane Williams's remarks of 28 September reveal yet another departure at Kaupapa from traditional house construction. According to her, the roof-supporting posts were not erected before the raising of the tahuhu as we might expect, but after it, which means that the ridge pole was suspended aloft for a certain length of time, while waiting for the erection of the uprights on which it would eventually be lowered and fixed into position (Fig. 5). 31

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Figure 5: Kaupapa: Diagram of construction methods and sequences. Theoretical model relating to the ridge beam, steps 1-3. The already-standing poupou are not shown. Drawing by Robert Esau., Step 1: Hoisting the ridge beam using tripods placed within the inner third from both ends., Step 2: Lifting of the two end posts under the suspended ridge beam., Step 3: Lowering the ridge beam onto the two end posts.
Figure 6: Kaupapa: Diagram of construction methods and sequences. Theoretical model relating to the pou-tokomanawa, steps 4, 5. Drawing by Robert Esau., Step 4: Removal of the tripods and the raising of temporary supporting poles, or tokotoko, under the now lowered ridge beam., Step 5: Lifting the three pou-tokomanawa under the ridge beam.
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If we assume that Kaupapa, like Otaki and Waikanae, did not possess a porch, and that the roof was supported primarily by the pou-tahu and the pou-tuarongo, the front and back posts, as in a traditional house (Best 1924:563), we must also assume that the tripods were probably set about one third of the way in from each extremity of the projected edifice. 32 This avoided encumbering the ends, thus facilitating the raising of the pou-tahu and the pou-tuarongo while the tahuhu was still in suspension. Under these circumstances, the pou-tokomanawa could not have been erected until after the ridge pole and the end posts were up and in place; it was only then that the tripods could be dismantled (Fig. 6), thus freeing up the inner space for raising the central supports. 33 If the pou-tokomanawa were regarded as secondary supports—a sort of permanent brace—as in the Maori house, it is conceivable that these uprights were placed either directly on the ground surface or only slightly sunken into it. 34 If at Kaupapa the method of erecting the intermediate uprights did follow the traditional construction practices described by Herbert Williams, the lack of deeply grounded central posts within the church may have been a factor in the structure's inability to withstand the great storm. The fact that Kaupapa was larger than the largest of the traditional Maori houses simply exacerbated the problem posed by the less substantial pou-tokomanawa, particularly since the broader and taller surfaces presented by the church's walls and roof were subject to much higher wind loading during violent storms.

If the eyewitness accounts of the Williams family are correct, we can conclude that new or non-traditional building procedures were being employed at Kaupapa. This was possible because customary strictures would not necessarily apply to the erection of a church, as they would to that of a house. Changes in indigenous building practices were no doubt due to the growing influence of Western technology and culture on all aspects of Maori life. The Turanga Mission station itself must have provided numerous opportunities for Maori men and youths to learn new building techniques. Several European carpenters were employed by the Rev. Williams on a variety of mission projects, including church, house and mill construction. 35 As Jane Williams's diary and correspondence testify (see the Eyewitness Accounts section under 24 October 1842, 19 and 22 November 1842), William Cooper was involved in supervising the erection of the Kaupapa church and some of his fellow English carpenters actually assisted the Maori in its construction. 36 While the eyewitness testimonies do not permit us to reconstruct in detail the procedures employed in building Kaupapa, the evidence suggests that the poupou of the side walls were erected before the roofing framework, and that hoisting with tripods and pulleys, rather than the traditional scaffolding method, was the means for raising the ridge pole.

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Figure 7: Plan of Rangiatea Church showing vertical supports along the central longitudinal axis, based on data recovered in the post-fire archaeological excavation. Drawing by Robert Esau, adapted from reports by Gumbley (1996) and Cochran and Gumbley (1995), and a plan by O'Connor (1958).

This now brings us back to Rangiatea. Given its similarity to Kaupapa in scale, structure and plan (Fig. 7), there is good reason to think that at least some, if not all, the same building procedures would also have been employed at Otaki. The possibility must be admitted that the builders of Rangiatea, faced with the evident difficulties of constructing tall and on a grand scale, would have sought out the simplest and most efficient methods then known for raising heavy and unwieldy loads. The two observations we possess of the church at the moment of the roof's construction suggest that the builders had indeed adopted such methods, and that these were similar to the lifting techniques used eight years earlier at Kaupapa. Before proceeding further, it should be noted that only one of these observations, that of Bishop Selwyn, is truly the report of an eyewitness. The remarks of Samuel Williams, 37 the missionary in charge at Otaki when Rangiatea was being erected, are not in his own words, but have been relayed to us by his son, William Temple Williams. 38

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An incident that took place at the Otaki work site on 12 May 1848 indicates, at least indirectly, that the ridge beam of Rangiatea was hoisted by a system of ropes and pulleys similar to the one employed at Kaupapa. William Temple Williams (1929:82) recounts his father's experiences on this day in these terms:

With infinite trouble, it [the ridge pole] had been levered into position, and was about to be fixed, when, to the amazement of the Maoris engaged in the work, there suddenly appeared no less a personage than the Bishop of New Zealand. Their surprise overcame them. Their hold relaxed, and down came the beam, much to the astonishment and dismay of Mr. [Samuel] Williams, who, for the moment, could not understand why things had gone wrong. The sight of the Bishop explained everything. It seems that his lordship, contrary to expectation, had landed on the beach and walked to Otaki, thus taking everybody by surprise, and unwittingly, causing a somewhat sensational incident.

If the great tahuhu did indeed fall when the builders relaxed their hold, it seems logical to conclude that it fell because there was no scaffolding beneath it, which must therefore mean that the beam was raised by ropes and pulleys, as at Kaupapa. On the other hand, it seems that the pou-tokomonawa were set up before the lifting of the ridge beam, and not afterwards as at Kaupapa. In the passage quoted above, William Temple Williams states that the workers dropped the tahuhu just as “it had been levered into position, and was about to be fixed”. Whether we interpret “levered” (which may or may not have been the word used by Samuel Williams) to mean “moved” into position, or “lowered” into position as does Eric Ramsden (1951:128), we can only conclude that on the day Selwyn arrived at Otaki the three central posts had already been raised and that the builders were then actively involved in the process of “lowering” the ridge beam on the crowns of the pou-tokomanawa.

However sensible and reasonable the construction sequence given above may be, it is contradicted by Selwyn's own eyewitness account. From his description of the labour he observed at Otaki on that 12 May we learn that the supporting pillars were not yet in standing position: “A party of about 300 men, headed by the old chief Te Rauparaha, were busily engaged in raising, by their own native methods, the heavy pillars for the support of the roof of their new chapel” (Selwyn 1851a:82-83). While Selwyn is silent concerning the tahuhu, there is nothing in his statement that would preclude us from thinking, as the Samuel Williams account so unambiguously indicates, that the ridge beam was already aloft when the Bishop came on the scene. Thus, if we (1) consider the separate reports of Selwyn and Samuel - 23 Williams (as conveyed to us by his son), (2) bear in mind the remarks of Jane Williams on Kaupapa, and (3) place greater credence on the first-hand observations of Selwyn and Jane Williams on the problematic issue of building sequence, the most likely scenario for the construction of the Rangiatea roof is as follows (Fig. 8): The monumental ridge beam was first raised to a height of over 40 feet (12.19 m) by a system of tripods fitted with ropes and pulleys. 39 Once the tahuhu was up and held in suspension by ropes, as at Kaupapa, the three supporting posts were then raised up, this being the operation that Selwyn witnessed and recorded. And finally, when the pou-tokomanawa were in their standing position, the suspended ridge piece was lowered into place, i.e., on top of these uprights. This sequence of events, which accords best with contemporary sources, could not have been realised had scaffolding been employed for hoisting the tahuhu and maintaining it temporarily aloft. The scaffolding would have simply blocked all or part of the space needed for erecting the free-standing central posts; but with tripods, perhaps one at each extremity, the area under the suspended beam would have been open, thus allowing the pou-tokomanawa to be raised before the lowering of the tahuhu atop these vertical members. 40

Figure 8: Otaki: Diagram of construction methods and sequences. Theoretical model relating to the ridge beam, steps 1-3. Drawing by Robert Esau., Step 1: Hoisting the ridge beam using tripods placed at the extremities., Step 2: Lifting the three pou-tokomanawa under the suspended ridge beam., Step 3: Lowering the ridge beam onto the three pou-tokomanawa.
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That the two extremities of the building served as lifting points is intimated by the architecture itself. In a traditional Maori house, the two end posts, the pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo, are the thickest and heaviest of all the uprights situated along the building's central longitudinal axis. Clearly, these posts (which also form a segment of the end walls), and not the slender pou-tokomanawa, are the ones principally charged with the task of supporting the tahuhu. At Rangiatea, on the other hand, while the end posts continued to be conceived as massive members, the three central posts were now given comparable or even larger dimensions (Fig. 7). 41 Analysis of the vertical framework reveals that the trio of free-standing uprights, and not the two end posts, were conceived as the primary carriers of the roofing. By virtue of their circular shape, the pou-tokomanawa were structurally superior to the pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo, whose flattened profiles made them more subject to bending under loads. The broad, plank-like form of these end posts was well suited, however, to their main task, namely to serve as segments of the wall system. 42 This then is in contrast to the situation in a Maori house, where the end posts must be both thick and broad because they are required to perform simultaneously two important roles: as principal supports for the ridge beam and as major sections of the end walls.

While the terminal uprights in a Maori house are structurally essential, those at Rangiatea were not, at least not to the same degree, and, if my reconstruction of hoisting procedures is correct, these members certainly did not have the constructional value they enjoyed in the Maori house (cf. the erection diagrams of Kaupapa in Figures 5 and 6; some of these procedures are based on traditional construction practices). Clearly, the end posts at Otaki were secondary in importance to the three pou-tokomanawa, since the ridge beam could technically be supported by this trio alone, as it no doubt was during the process of construction, assuming a tripod system was employed (Figs 8 and 9). That the builders were fully conscious of the key structural role played by the central posts—that their function was far more than that of a brace and that the building's stability depended largely on this triplet of verticals—is indicated by the nearly two-meter depth to which the pou-tokomanawa were sunk. 43

The structurally dominant role played by the three pou-tokomanawa at Rangiatea was largely a function of the church's construction system, and this is best explained by assuming that the tripods were located at the two extremities. The visual evidence from Waikanae, if accurate, reveals that similar building procedures and a similar structural system had been used at this site a few years before the erection of Rangiatea. T. B. Collinson's 1847 (Collinson 1846-1849; see also caption to Fig. 3) drawing of the Waikanae interior (Fig. 3) depicts the centre of the end wall pierced by three windows, - 25 which, if correctly rendered, demonstrates the absence of a single floor-to-ceiling vertical support at this point. 44 Thus at Waikanae, too, the principal support for the ridge beam came not from the ends of the edifice, but from within, from the free-standing posts, and this explains why both at Waikanae and at Rangiatea the central uprights were thicker and consequently more visually dominant and spatially intrusive than the pou-tokomanawa we generally encounter in Maori houses like Te Hau-ki-Turanga. The greater structural and aesthetic significance of the central free-standing posts of Rangiatea was, as intimated above, a function of the construction techniques employed. These apparently dictated that the pou-tahu and pou-tuarongo be erected last (Fig. 9), after the tahuhu was up and fastened to the pou-tokomanawa. It was only then that the tripods located at the building's extremities could be dismanded, thereby liberating the space for lifting the broad but shallow end posts centred on the front and back walls (Fig. 7). Another possibility is that after securing the tahuhu the tripods were left in place to assist the erection of the terminal posts, and only then were the lifting devices removed (Fig. 9). 45 Even if the role of the end pieces were structurally secondary to the central posts and had no function in the construction process, every effort was made to make these terminal slabs as solid and as stable as possible. Like the pou-tokomanawa, they too were sunk deeply into the ground. 46

Figure 9: Otaki: Diagram of construction methods and sequences. Theoretical model relating to the end posts, step 4, with two possibilities. Drawing by Robert Esau., Step 4, possibility a: Dismantling of the tripods and then lifting the end posts under the ridge beam., Step 4, possibility b: Lifting the end posts under the ridge beam using the tripods, after which the tripods are dismantled.
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For these building procedures, and particularly for the most challenging one of all, the hoisting of the ridge pole, formal and structural analyses of the Rangiatea Church can at best provide only a few hints. However, when these are coupled with clues furnished by the eyewitness testimony proceeding from Kaupapa and Otaki, I believe we can begin to piece together, more securely than heretofore, the way the builders of Rangiatea accomplished their most difficult task. Based on the architectural and written evidence currently known and presented above, Simcox's proposal that tripods and pulleys were used to elevate the immense ridge beam emerges as the most creditable of all the theories enunciated thus far. 47 But however this was accomplished, the Church of Rangiatea represents a remarkable feat of Maori engineering fully worthy of the admiration and praise it has elicited since the erection of its tahuhu nearly a century and a half ago.


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea (Vestry) and its chairman, André Baker, for encouraging and facilitating my work on Rangiatea in countless ways. I am particularly grateful to Mr Baker for his comments on the first draft of this paper and for furnishing me with a copy of the recent archaeological reports. I also wish to thank the Otaki Vestry for giving me permission to use Graeme Simpson's excellent photograph of the interior of Rangiatea. I am also indebted to Damian Skinner for assisting my research by obtaining and sending me photocopies of materials that were unavailable to me in the United States. The illustrations for this article are the work of Robert Esau. I very much appreciate his rendering of my rough sketches into finished drawings. I would be amiss if I did not also acknowledge the assistance and expertise of other New Zealanders, particularly Matiu Baker (Takawaenga-a-rohe) and Marian Minson (Curator of Drawings and Prints), both of the National Library of New Zealand/Te Puna Maatauranga o Aotearoa, Elaine Marland (Librarian) of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga, and Suzanne Knight (Image Library Supervisor) of the Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa.

My appointment to teach a course in 1997 in the Department of Art History, Victoria University of Wellington/Te Whare Wananga o te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, provided me with the opportunity to initiate work on this topic. I am grateful to the Department and its Head, Professor Jenny Harper, for the assistance and support they have given me, and ultimately for making it possible for me to visit New Zealand and become acquainted first hand with the country's artistic and cultural heritage.

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1   Anon. 1997:32, Dell 1979:254-55. The first great timbers for the church were felled in 1844 when the Rev. Octavius Hadfield (1814-1902) was in charge of the Otaki and Waikanae mission stations. He reported that the Maori workers had cut down “two beautiful trees”, but they splintered upon falling. In order to prevent this from happening again, Hadfield intervened and “had a bed made of branches for the trees to fall on, and they [the Maori] cut the tree for the ridge pole, which fell on the bed prepared for it in perfect condition” (Hadfield 1902:14). Actual construction was delayed by a deterioration of relations between Maori and Europeans resulting from the Wairau Affair of 1843 and Hadfield's debilitating illness, which forced him to retire to Wellington for a convalescence that lasted some five years. See Anon. 1997:32.
2   See, for example, William Williams on Whakawhitira and Whakato (Manutuke) (Williams 1989:267 and 352-53); William Colenso on Uawa (Tolaga Bay) and Matamata (in Taylor 1959:16,37); and W. Tyrone Power (1849:8) on Waikanae.
3   The central posts, with base diameters measuring between 23 and 24 inches (0.58 and 0.61 m), are themselves approximately 40 feet (12.19 m) high, thereby necessitating raising the ridge pole a few feet higher. For the commonly-given measurements of the principal timbers of Rangiatea, see, among others, Adkin 1948:332-33 and Simcox 1952:71. On the construction questions that have puzzled scholars and visitors alike, see Ramsden 1951:110 and Cyclopedia 1897, I:1093.
In this article I initially used English rather than metric units since all the primary sources and most of the secondary ones use the former. Retaining the English units is useful because it is only on seeing measurements in feet that the reader can sense whether lengths given by 19th- and early 20th-century sources are precise or, as the frequent use of round and even numbers seems to indicate, only estimates. Metric units were subsequently calculated and added parenthetically.
4   For a technical explanation of this hoisting system and a discussion of its advantages and limitations, consult Fitchen 1986:91-92.
5   In his recent survey of New Zealand architecture, Peter Shaw (1991:22) leans towards the tripod and pulleys theory. Sharon Dell (1979:255) mentions both theories but does not commit herself to either one.
6   Contemporary documents do not give measurements for Kaupapa, but its large scale is beyond question. William Williams, who was in a position to know such things (for not only was he the missionary at Kaupapa but had by then also visited many North Island stations), reports on 26 September 1840 that Kaupapa was probably the largest building yet erected in the country (at least in terms of non-commercial structures) (Porter 1974:123). Williams's statement is supported by James Stack (1935:141), who saw the church in August 1842: “The large church erected by the Maoris was the most striking object about the place. It was the loftiest building I had yet met with.” Congregational capacity is another indicator of size. Kaupapa could hold comfortably about 1000 persons. Williams records this many Maori attending Sunday service in the still unfinished church on 11 April 1841 (see later in this article the section entitled Eyewitness Accounts of the Construction and Destruction of Kaupapa). This figure for Kaupapa matches Bishop Selwyn's, who gives the same number for the congregation gathered in the ruined church during his visit there on 27 November 1842 (Selwyn, in Taylor 1959:74). The building could, however, contain even more. On 15 August 1841, Williams had a congregation of no less than 1800 persons, all of whom had to be packed “as close as possible in order to make room” (Porter 1974:175). If Kaupapa could easily shelter 1000 to 1200 persons, the building must have measured around 35 to 40 feet (10.67 to 12.19 m) in width and 80 to 90 (24.38 to 27.43 m) in length. These measurements are suggested by reference to other churches for which sources indicate both size of congregation (which may not be the maximum capacity) and/or building dimensions. For example, William Colenso reports that he passed through Whakawhitira in November 1841, and there he conducted a service for 700 Maori in a church 40 feet (12.19 m) wide and 80 (24.38) long (Colenso, in Taylor 1959:10). Some two months later, on 20 January 1842, Colenso came upon an even larger structure at Matamata, but he does not indicate congregational capacity: “I suppose it to be the largest native-built house in New Zealand. It measures 95 feet by 40 [28.96 m by 12.19], and is nearly 18 feet [5.49 m] to wall plate” (Colenso, in Taylor 1959:37). However, Selwyn (1845:27), in a letter of 26 October 1843, estimated it to be 80 by 40 feet (24.38 by 12.19 m). Matamata surely could have contained 1000 or more persons, judging from George French Angas's comments on Otawahao, which was a slightly smaller structure. Angas (1847, II: 141-42) visited this village on 7 November 1844 and says that the church measured 42 by 86 feet (12.80 by 26.21 m) and could hold 1000 or more persons.
The data presented above strongly argues that Kaupapa was a very large church and in all likelihood surpassed Rangiatea in both width and length, although perhaps not in height. We know from the Rev. John Frederic Lloyd that Rangiatea, which measured approximately 36 by 80 feet (10.97 by 24.38 m), could contain a maximum congregation of 800. On 7 October 1849 he held a service at Otaki and estimated an attendance of 700 to 800 persons. “The large church”, he noted, “was filled to overflowing” (Lloyd 1849: unpaginated). That Kaupapa also was built according to the principles used at Rangiatea and other sites (e.g., Waikanae, Matamata), i.e., with the ridge beam supported by a series of posts planted along the building's longitudinal axis, can be deduced from the observations made by Jane Williams on 28 September 1840 (quoted, under this date, in the Eyewitness Accounts section of this essay).
7   This carved house was conceived and executed by Raharuhi Rukupo (with the assistance of 18 other carvers) as a memorial to his brother. According to Bernie Kernot (1984:152), the work was not completed until 1845. Although Te Hau-ki-Turanga was built for purposes of commemoration, this apparently did not preclude its use as a meeting house as early as 1842 (Neich 1994:107, Williams 1932:88). In an essay published originally in 1971, Mead (1997) argues that fully carved meeting houses are a development of the late 19th century and that Te Hau-ki-Turanga should only be regarded as the earliest surviving prototype of such houses. The origins of the meeting house (whether pre-Western contact, early or late 19th century) has been the subject of intense debate, the main points of which are usefully summarised by Neich (1994:89-94). For the purposes of this article, it is not necessary to enter into this controversy, but I believe that Neich's position is the most reasonable: “Te Hau-ki-Turanga is better considered as just one stage in the ongoing development of the meeting-house concept” (1994:92).
8   The best and most comprehensive survey of these sources to date is the article by Mead (1997).
9   Polack (1840, I:210-11) mentions seeing flax storage buildings as large as 30 feet (9.14 m) in width, 100 (30.48 m) in length and 40 (12.19 m) in height. In these and other extraordinarily long structures, the ridge beams were probably not made of a single tree trunk, but of separate pieces, probably poles (see below); this would have made lifting, however carried out, considerably easier than at Rangiatea. Since the flax trade was in response to the Royal Navy's need for rigging materials (Salmond 1997:205-11, Owens 1992:33-34), it is possible that indigenous contacts with European mariners and others involved in flax merchandising served to make Maori builders aware of new hoisting techniques. Mead (1997:190) argues that the construction of vast flax warehouses provided Maori with opportunities for solving technical problems associated with large-scale construction. This claim is open to question, for Polack (1838, I:141) tell us that the great warehouses were built of light materials, not the heavy planks employed at Rangiatea and in chiefs' houses: “They were put together by poles and raupo, and the lower parts were open, with only poles placed across.”
10   Probably none of the larger churches were built entirely in Maori style or solely following indigenous methods of construction, as missionaries and travellers so often asserted. Such claims are made for Otaki, but the same sources sometimes contradict themselves on certain points or are contradicted by other writers (cf., for example, Hadfield 1902:14, Anon. 1853:268, Chapman 1847-48:679 and Taylor 1847-233). After perusing the primary literature of the first half of the 19th century, I find no better summary of the situation prevailing during this era than Neich's (1994:107): “The 1840s was also the period when Maori communities…began to construct large churches following the basic structure of a traditional Maori house. But while carrying on the traditional arts of painting, carving, tukutuku and plaiting, the converts were also learning the new skills of pit-sawing, shingling, weatherboarding and general carpentry.”
11   On Matamata, Otawhao and Kaupapa see note 6. The dimensions given for Waikanae vary from observer to observer (this is the case for many other churches as well): 40 x 70 feet (12.19 x 21.34 m) with a 76-foot (23.16 m) long ridge pole (Selwyn 1847:54, 1851b:3); 35 x 71 feet (10.67 x 21.64 m) (Lloyd 1849: unpaginated); 40 x 70 feet (12.19 x 21.34 m), with 15-foot (4.57 m) high walls (Taylor, journal entry of 27 August 1843, quoted in Ramsden 1951:62). These discrepancies should be sufficient warning that the dimensions given in the primary sources for nearly all early Maori structures, churches as well as houses, are most frequently only estimates rather than precise measurements (as their equivalents when given in metric suggest). (Art historians and anthropologists alike all too often take these measurements literally.) The dimensions traditionally given for Otaki (from the mid-19th century to the present) are 36 feet (10.97 m) in width, 80 feet (24.38 m) in length, side wall posts or poupou 20 feet (6.10 m) high, ridge pole 86 feet (26.21 m) long, and centre posts just under 40 feet (12.19 m) high (see, e.g., Adkin 1948:332, Simcox 1952:71). However, not all 19th century visitors to Otaki give these or the same measurements: Godley (letter of 1 October 1850, in Godley 1951:111) estimated the length of the ridge pole at 90 feet (27.43 m) and Chapman (letter of 22 December 1848, in Chapman 1847-48: 680) assigned it a length of 84 feet (25.60 m). He also gave for Otaki these additional figures: 40 x 80 feet (12.19 x 24.38 m) for the breadth-to-length ratio, 19 feet (5.79 m) for the side walls, and 40 feet (12.19 m) for the height of the ridge pole. In May 1958, Maurice O'Connor measured Rangiatea and recorded the following dimensions (these reflect the state of the edifice at that time, after several restorations and renovations): external breadth and length 37 feet 9 inches (11.51 m) by 82 feet (24.99 m); ridge beam 86 feet (26.21 m) long; central posts 39 feet 6 inches (12.04 m) tall; and side walls 17 feet (5.18 m) high (O'Connor 1958: Sheets 1 and 2).
12   Of these churches only Waikanae (Fig. 3) apparently approached the height of Rangiatea. It could have been as high as 36 feet (10.97 m) (based on a roof angle calculated at 50 degrees, taken from the drawing of the interior, left side), a breadth of 35 feet (10.67 m), and side walls 15 feet (4.57 m) high (see note 11 for the source of these dimensions). If calculations are based on a 35.5 degree roof slope (right side of the drawing), the height of the pillars drops down to 27 feet 9 inches (8.46 m).
13   Hadfield 1902:14; Richard Taylor, journal entry of 27 August 1843, cited by Ramsden 1951:62; William Williams, letter of 1 July 1848 in Porter 1974:497.
14   See, e.g., Hamilton (1901:81-90), who actually quotes most of Williams's article; Andersen 1907:27-32; Buck 1950:122-30; and Phillipps 1966:84-87.
15   The Turanga Mission was sited at Kaupapa from 1840 to 1844, at Whakato (Manutuke) from 1844 to 1857 and at Waerenga-a-hika from 1857 to 1865 (Porter 1974:144).
16   Porter 1974:589. This church, interesting for its internal carved decoration, is usually referred to as Manutuke (see Ria 1987:83-85).
17   See the comments of James Stack (1935:141) relating to the church's state in August 1842 and those of Bishop Selwyn (1847:73-74) referring to its condition on 27 November 1842.
18   Wherowhero (modern spelling) was a near-by mission outpost just south of Kaupapa.
19   Maori word meaning ‘brother’ or ‘esteemed person’; here an appellation given to William Williams.
20   Presumably the poupou, or wooden side planks, were in place, but not the windows and tukutuku panels, normally situated between the poupou (see entries above for 17 and 26 September 1840). This would explain why the walls were still “open”.
21   It is unclear if this timber is for the church or some other edifice in the mission station.
22   Here also it is unclear if this applies to the church or some other structure. The carpenter was William Cooper; he worked for a time in this capacity at Kaupapa and later served as a manual instructor at the Waerenga-a-hika Mission school (Porter 1974:185, n. 35).
23   Hahunga (more correctly) was a Maori ceremony involving the exhumation, cleaning and wrapping of an individual's bones in preparation for final burial. This solemn ritual was often followed by several days of feasting (Porter 1974:217. n.46; Best 1924:70-72).
24   The destruction occurred while William Williams had gone to Ahuriri (the Waitangi Mission station, also known as Te Awapuni) at Hawke's Bay to meet Bishop Selwyn and escort him to Kaupapa. Williams left Turanga on 5 October 1840 and met up with Selwyn on 15 November. Ten days later they both arrived at Kaupapa. See Porter 1974:220, 223 and 225.
25   However, as Jane Williams noted, the wind's destructive force took its toll elsewhere within the mission: “Harieta Huruinga came to fetch me to see some poor natives upon whom a large tree had fallen…. One child about 5 yrs old lay dead….” (JW, 229).
26   Maori word meaning ‘to mourn’ (usually in reference to the death of a person). Thus the coming together of many Maori to mourn the loss of Rangiatea on 8 October 1995, the day after the fire (Anon. 1997:64), has a clear historical precedent.
27   The erection sequence of Kaupapa was apparently not unique among churches then being built in the East Coast missionary district. William Williams's references (Porter 1974:170-71) to the church under construction at Uawa (Tolaga Bay) in 1841 suggest that the outer framework was set up first: “No chapel has yet been erected, but the building is under preparation” (27 June). “A temporary substitute for a building has been made with the timber preparing for the chapel of which the posts are put into the ground marking out the size of the future building” (29 June).
28   The number of pou-tokomanawa depended on the building's length. Most 19th century houses had two, and at least one of these was carved at the base with a figure representing an important ancestor.
29   The drawings corresponding to Figures 5, 6, 8 and 9 are, for the sake of clarity and simplicity, generalised diagrammatic models meant to convey only the principal procedures and sequences of construction. They are also not to scale.
30   Johnson, in Taylor 1959:166. The colonel-surgeon visited Spencer in January 1847.
31   One of the advantages gained by raising the tahuhu before the supporting uprights would have been the ability to lower the former vertically and thus directly onto the latter. If the posts had been erected first, this would have necessitated lifting the ridge beam from one side of the building's central axis, thus requiring the tahuhu to be shifted horizontally inwards before being lowered vertically on the posts. This lateral operation would have been the only option available for lifting had a system of scaffolding been employed.
32   It is interesting to note that the placement of the tripods and their relation to the end posts, as I have worked out for Kaupapa in Figure 5 (primarily on the basis of Jane Williams's testimony), corresponds closely to a 1936 photograph showing the meeting house Porourangi at Waiomatatini under construction. This photograph, which came to my attention after I had sketched out the Kaupapa building scheme, was taken after the tahuhu had been lowered and attached to the pou-tourongo and pou-tahu. For a reproduction of the photograph in question, see King 1984:188.
33   Before this operation, in order to avoid sagging, the ridge piece could have been braced temporarily by poles. Such a procedure, according to Williams (1896:147), was used in traditional house construction: “During the work of building, the tahu [tahuhu] was supported between the posts by one or two temporary supports, tokotoko; these, when the building was completed, were replaced by the pou-tokomanawa, a post much lighter than the pou-tahu….”
34   The lighter and more purely brace-like function of the pou-tokomanawa proposed here corresponds to the character and function of the same members in the traditional Maori house. See Williams's statement concerning these vertical elements in note 33 above.
35   See in the Eyewitness Accounts the entries under 1 Nov 1841; 10 and 24 October 1842; 19,23 and 24 November 1842. To these should be added Jane Williams's remarks about carpentry work done for the mission residence in November 1842 (see Porter 1974:226, 227). On Cooper's construction of a mill in 1845 and various mission houses, also consult Porter 1974:185, n.35; 339; 485, n.21.
36   The opportunities for Maori to learn, or be exposed to, Western techniques are too numerous to cite. Anyone reading the primary sources for this period of missionary activity will find plenty of examples. Suffice it to say that the dissemination of European technology and methods of construction was an integral part of the first Anglican missions established by the Rev. Samuel Marsden in New Zealand, beginning in 1814 (see Marsden's letters and journals, edited by Elder 1932; Porter 1974:40-42). With the arrival of the Rev. Henry Williams in 1823, greater stress was placed on the spiritual development of the Maori than on their material advancement (Rogers 1961:15-16; Porter 1974:42-46; Williams 1989:42, 67, 149), but the latter was by no means ignored (see Rogers 1961:248, 249, 252, 372 and 381; Hall 1981:148). A good case of Western involvement in the construction of indigenous churches and the opportunities which this presented for transmitting new techniques and forms to Maori builders is provided by the Rev. Spencer's Ruakareo Mission station visited by John Johnson in 1847. Johnson (in Taylor 1959:166-67) writes that “[h]e [the Rev. Spencer], in conjunction with Mr. Falun, a very ingenious mechanic who resides at the pa, arranged the plan of the building, directed the natives in shaping the various portions of the wood work, and in the finishing of the internal ornaments.” While several features were apparently typically Maori, others were not and would have required the intervention of a Westerner to construct, such as the “elliptical gothic arches” and the “tasteful ribbed arches”.
37   He was the son of the Rev. Henry Williams, the missionary in charge of the Anglican mission station at Paihia in the Bay of Islands (Ramsden 1951:80). Samuel Williams was appointed to Otaki in December 1847 when illness forced the mission's founder, Octavius Hadfield, to retreat to Wellington for convalescence (Ramsden 1951:140, Anon. 1997:47).
38   It is unclear if the younger Williams's recounting of his father's activities and thoughts is based on information the former obtained from the latter orally or from written sources, such as letters or journals. Samuel Williams's involvement with the construction of Rangiatea is treated in Chapter 8 of William Temple Williams's (1929) privately published work.
39   After the fire, the partially burnt ridge beam was drawn and measured. Its cross-section, roughly triangular in shape, has a broad, flat base measuring 0.620 m (24 7/16 inches) and a height of 0.280 m (11 inches). The apex of the tahuhu is gently rounded (Cochran and Gumbley 1995:7).
40   The location of the hoisting equipment which I am proposing for Otaki in Figure 8 would naturally limit the directions from which the pou-tokomanawa could be raised into position. In trying to figure out how this operation might have been executed, I conjectured that the three central posts were erected in a direction running obliquely to the longitudinal axis. This conjecture emerged without benefit of the recent excavation report, which came to my attention only after I had worked out the hoisting procedures described above and illustrated in Figures 8 and 9. The archaeology of the site has confirmed my theory, at least as it concerns the direction for raising the westernmost pou-tokomanawa, the only one of the central trio of posts whose hole was excavated after the fire. The report describes the post area (which was only partially excavated) as “a large rectangular feature (800-870 mm by 3100 mm) oriented Northwest by Southeast (288 degrees) with the poutokomanawa located at the Southeast extremity….The long rectangular shape of the posthole associated with the poutokomanawa is probably related to the need to simplify the effort and difficulty of erecting the long post….The posthole may have been shaped so it was sloped from the northwest down to the base of the hole. Another possibility is that the hole was stepped to assist the mechanics associated with the erection of a large post” (Gumbley 1996:4).
41   According to the post-fire investigations of Cochran and Gumbley (1995:3-5), the diameters of the three ruined pou-tokomanawa measure, moving east to west: 0.590 m (23 4/16 inches), 0.605 m (23 13/16 inches) and 0.585 (23 1/16 inches) (cf. note 3). Dimensions also vary for the two end posts. The eastern one (in front of which the altar stood, and which I call the pou-tuarongo) is 1.010 m (39 12/16 inches) broad and 0.202 m (7 15/16 inches) deep; the western end post, or pou-tahu, is 0.940 m (37 inches) broad and 0.200 m (7 14/16 inches) deep (Cochran and Gumbley 1995:2 and 6). Over the years, the original foundations of the church were altered in order to stem decay and consolidate the structure. In 1884 or 1886 new bottom plates were made for the deteriorated footings of various wall slabs. Later, between 1909 and 1910, the decayed posts were filled with concrete and each was given a concrete foundation. See Whiting 1993:4 and Treadwell 1995,1:128-29.
42   They also serve, of course, to support the ends of the tahuhu, but that is their secondary and not principal function.
43   The archaeological excavations undertaken in the southwest corner of Rangiatea after the fire revealed a depth of 1.985 m for the westernmost pou-tokomanawa (Gumbley 1996:6 and Table 1). It is likely that the other two were placed in holes of similar depth. Excavations also revealed the depth of some of the poupou and epa (posts of the front and back walls): the former ranged in depth from 1.510 to 1.680 m and the latter from 1.360 to 1.640 m (Gumbley 1996). These measurements are only slightly less than those claimed by Raukawa elders who, according to Taepa (1966:34), maintained that “each slab…was sunk to a depth of six to seven feet [1.829 to 2.134 m]”.
44   The opposite end (entrance area) may have had a pou-tahu. An 1849 drawing of the Waikanae church by William Swainson shows no fenestration piercing the wall of this façade. The drawing is illustrated in Anon. 1997:31, Fig. 7.
45   Simcox (1952:70) also proposed the use of tripods to lift the pou-tokomanawa, but has this procedure occurring before the hoisting of the tahuhu. Although I agree that raising the central posts first makes a great deal of constructional and practical sense, and that this indeed may have been the order of construction at Otaki, on balance the primary written sources appear to situate the erection of the tahuhu ahead of the pou-tokomanawa.
46   Of the two principal end posts, only the pou-tahu (designated the pou-tuarongo by Gumbley) on the western wall, was partially excavated. Analysis revealed a depth of exactly 2 m for this member, which is slightly greater than the 1.985 m depth of the neighbouring (western) pou-tokomanawa (the holes of the other two free-standing posts were not probed) (Gumbley 1996:5, 6 and Table 1).
47   Additional archaeological excavations, if conducted during the rebuilding of the church and with care not to disturb sacred sites, may reveal the holes where the tripods were placed and the orientation of the trenches used to assist the raising of the various vertical members. The site investigation undertaken after the fire was limited to the southwestern portion of the church, so the Gumbley and Cochran reports address only some of the many questions concerning the construction and structure of Rangiatea. For the investigation results and data pertinent to the present study, see notes 39-41, 43 and 46 above.