Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 28, September 1984



Born in Paeroa, and having spent my first forty-years there, I find, on Successive visits, a rapidly diminishing number of the old familiar buildings. On my most recent brief visit I was glad to rediscover what I feel could be Paeroa's most beautiful and quite historic building, its Presbyterian Church. After a hectic day, while waiting for my bus, I was happy to be able to rest and meditate in one of its comfortable pews.

It is ideally situated near the centre of the town block, a mere step from the noise of the main street traffic, on the quieter corner of Mackay and Willoughby Streets where it shares the beauty and tranquillity of the Domain with its bordering trees and open spaces beyond.

Some years ago when permitted to search the files of the Ohinemuri Gazette (now the Thames Valley News) for other information, I noted that in 1909 the wife of the then Presbyterian Minister, the Rev. A. Gow, laid the foundation stone of this fine church. The original Presbyterian Church was then situated on Bradley Street. Many of us of a later generation were unaware of this and knew it only as the "Druids' Hall" which it became when sold by the Presbyterians. The Druids' Lodge also permitted the Salvation Army to use it until their Hall was built on Corbett Street in 1915. It was later destroyed by fire.

The Gazette of those days describes the new Church as "a remarkably fine building" which it certainly remains to this day. Its designer was the well-known and highly respected Paeroa architect, Mr E.E. Gillman. "The renaissance style of architecture has been followed and everything about the building harmonises splendidly," records the Gazette.

The spacious front porch welcomes the visitor and two doors lead, one to the left, the other to the right-hand carpeted aisle, the well-designed floor sloping gently towards the choir. The tall windows, and the high vault of the roof overhead inspire feelings of uplift and peacefulness.

A quite remarkable feature of this fine edifice is its large pulpit standing high in the south-east corner, a reminder of the days when preachers with great freedom and energy, moved about their vast pulpits vigorously declaiming the lengthy content of their sermons. I was privileged, in the 1930s, to preach on a number of occasions from that comfortable pulpit, one of the finest I have occupied in New Zealand. It is artistically panelled in a variety of New Zealand native timbers and was skilfully constructed at McAndrews' timber mill which used to stand in Frances Street backing on to the railway line.

Paeroa's churches have suffered from the ravages of time; Catholic and Anglican have been replaced by modern buildings, the Methodist has gone, and the Salvation Army has been considerably remodelled.

I cannot think of a more beautiful building in Paeroa than its Presbyterian Church and it would be an historical and cultural loss to the town if it were not preserved for posterity. And from a practical point of view, its large seating capacity makes it an ideal venue for combined gatherings which have been held there in years past.

[see also in this Journal: St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Paeroa - E]