St Peter's House, corner Spring/Selwyn Streets, Tauranga, April 2013
Courtesy of Google Earth
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The first Presbyterian service in the Tauranga district was held in 1868 and the first church, St. Peter’s, was built in 1878. The term ‘manse’ appears to be an exclusively Presbyterian name for the residence of a minister, as opposed to the Anglican vicarage, or the Catholic rectory. During the first years the congregation rented a house at £30 per annum for the minister and in 1881 the idea was raised to build a manse (1). However, by 1883 opinion had changed and it appears that the church owned two sections, lots 389 and 390 and leased them to TR Gillman for 21 years because “after carefully considering the matter and the improbability of utilising them for Manse purposes …” they were not needed (2). However, it was on lot 389 that the manse was eventually built.
The Tauranga newspaper must have raised interest again in the early 1890s when it became known that congregations looked towards building their own manses in Opotiki, Rotorua and Whangarei.
JW Gray gifted an allotment to the church and a serious effort commenced to raise funds and build a manse. By charging entry to a lecture on “Memory” and having a sale of work and produce more funds were raised (3). At the sale of work a wood sawing competition for women and a hat trimming competition for men provided entertainment as well (4). A lecture on”Japan and the Japanese” concluded with a collection for the manse fund (5). E Mahoney & Sons of Auckland designed the church but it was G Arnold Ward, a Tauranga architect who called for tenders to the erect the manse. There was an existing building on the site that needed to be removed. As well as local fundraising a loan of £360 from the Century Fund of the Presbyterian Church enabled it to go ahead. John Conway, a Tauranga builder erected the house at a cost of £497.0.0.
A version of the popular gable- and verandah-fronted villa, the Presbyterian Manse still stands today on the corner of Spring and Selwyn Streets in Tauranga. Accounts at the time record it with eight, nine or ten rooms, but even so it was considerably larger than the average villa. The Rev. W Gillies was the first occupant and the last was Rev. Hooker. For the last five or six years the building has been used as a social work centre, St Peter's House. Although not registered with Heritage New Zealand (formerly NZ Historic Places Trust) the former manse is listed in the Tauranga City Council’s Annual Plan in the heritage section. This actually provides more protection for the building than registration with Heritage NZ.
(1) Bay of Plenty Times, 10 February 1881
(2) Bay of Plenty Times, 17 March 1883
(3) Bay of Plenty Times, 7 April 1901
(4) Bay of Plenty Times, 29 April 1901
(5) Bay of Plenty Times, 30 September 1901