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Discover the origins of how this relic of New Zealand’s past has made its way around the globe.
At Clandon Park in the United Kingdom, there’s sits an unusual structure that is completely unlike its neighbouring buildings. Marked by unique carvings and painted wooden designs, this marae, or traditional Maori meeting house, is Hinemihi Te Ao Tawhito. Its simple structure belies a fascinating narrative originating on the opposite side of the world.
Hinemihi was built by noted Maori craftsman Aporo Wharekaniwha in 1881 and stood at the entrance to the small village of Te Wairoa, located outside of Rotorua and a just few kilometres from the Pink and White Terraces on the shore of Lake Rotomahana.
Mount Tarawera Eruption:
On the 10th June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted, destroying the Te Wairoa village and killing around 120 inhabitants of the village. Hinemihi provided sanctuary to the people of the community during the eruption and was one of a few buildings to survive.
The Journey to Clandon Park:
Following the eruption, Hinemihi stood derelict for a few years until 1892, when the Fourth Earl of Onslow, Governor of New Zealand (1889-1892) purchased, dismantled and shipped Hinemihi the 19,500km to Clandon Park, the Onslow family estate in the UK. Precise instructions were sent with Hinemihi to reassemble the meeting house as an ornamental garden building around the lakes at Clandon. Traditional New Zealand plants were carefully chosen to surround the meeting house where it stood in the open air for 124 years.
In 1956, Clandon Park was presented to the United Kingdom National Trust, a UK conservation charity that protects historic places and opens them to the public. With this development, the unique carvings, wooden paintings and cultural significance of Hinemihi are now under protection in the UK as a National Trust property.
Hinemihi Te Ao Tawhito condition has declined over the years and requires regular routine maintenance. In March 2012, a conservation group (Te Maru O Hinemihi) was set up to act as custodian of Hinemihi and to open a dialogue on the careful restoration of Hinemihi. On-going conservation efforts are working toward Hinemihi becoming a working Marae in the UK and a focal point for the global Maori community. They are seeking to preserve the history of the past and develop Maori culture in the UK for future generations.
The Buried Village of Te Wairoa is the original site of Hinemihi meeting house in New Zealand. Here you can learn more about The Pink and White terraces, the eruption of Mount Tarawera and Hinemihi Te Ao Tawhito. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the original sites where recent excavations have unearthed more of the historical significance of the Te Wairoa Village.
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