Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

26 July 2009

Country Churches of NZ 13. Christ Church, Russell, Northland

I wrote and illustrated Country Churches of New Zealand. It was published in 2002 by New Holland, Publishers and is still on sale in bookshops. The publishers have kindly agreed to me re-publishing some of the book’s images and descriptions in this blog


'A profound peace. Brilliant sunlight, trees tremor lightly. A sudden arrival of tourists who fill all the spaces... and then disappear as if by magic! Alone again I sit among the stones and do a quick watercolour.' (SKETCHBOOK NOTE)

Built in 1835 by Gilbert Mair, Christ Church, Russell was unnamed until 1873 shortly after some changes had been made to its appearance to leave it as it is today. It is New Zealand's oldest surviving church.

Russell (previously Kororareka) was a wild seafarers' town in the 1830s, the only real authority being that of the Maori chiefs. But the missionaries were intent on cleaning up the moral tone. The land for the church was purchased in 1834 and public subscription of money and materials soon had the simple structure done. Unlike most Christian churches it does not face east, being built on a north/south axis.

Among many historic tombstones in the garden graveyard is that of Hannah King Letheridge, 'The First White Woman Born In New Zealand'. Not so, she was the second, the first was Dinah Hall.



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By Don Donovan