Chapel History 2017




James Henry Coleman was born in the United Kingdom at Crownthorpe, East Anglia in 1833.

He emigrated to New Zealand at age 26 and in 1865 he purchased 3844ha of land at Longlands near Hastings, which he farmed until 1872.

He married widow Hannah Watt in 1880, inheriting a son and two daughters. The couple’s first son died at 3 days, then Herbert Napier Coleman was born in December 1884. Another son followed thereafter.

Herbert Coleman always wanted to be a farmer and while at the Te Aute Estate in 1910 he met and married Blanche Mary Swinburn, the daughter of the Rev Canon and Mrs W Swinburn from Ballarat in Australia. The following year, James Coleman purchased 1257ha of Whakamarumaru Station on what is now Matapiro Road and named the property Crownthorpe in memory of the small village of his birth in England.

Their original homestead was only six years old when it was destroyed by fire and a large new bungalow was built and replaced it in 1915.The Crownthorpe Estate is immediately adjacent to this chapel and now farmed by Mrs Anne Magill and her son Matthew.

Of course, in 1915 war was raging in Europe and although over 30 years of age, Herbert left his wife and four children and enlisted in the war zone in August 1917. Sadly, he was killed on April 13 1918 along with thousands of other Allied

soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in that horrific First World War.

When the war ended in 1918, the NZ Government requisitioned land for returning servicemen and as Crownthorpe Station was one such property, Blanche and her family moved to Havelock North. Two of Herbert’s sons later became farmers, while the youngest, a decorated RAF bomber pilot, was killed during the Second World War.

With the death of Herbert, James Coleman was devastated and commissioned a memorial church to be built to honour his son’s memory.

St George’s Chapel is that church and it was consecrated on April 10 1921 and gifted to the Waiapu Anglican Diocese some years later.

It is a building typical of early 20th century church architecture, characterized by a steep-pitched gable roof soaring over the rectangular plan form of the nave.

Designed by renowned architect Charles Natusch, St George’s is just one of a number of local church projects he created including Te Aute College Chapel, St John’s Cathedral Chapel in Napier and St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Hastings. He also designed a number of fine rural homesteads including Matapiro Station, also on Matapiro Road and 6km east of this Chapel.

St George’s has a strong Romanesque or Norman character, especially in the square tower, the round-headed window openings and in the layered semi-circular mouldings over the main doors. In its original form, with a crenelated top of the tower, the Norman origins of the design were

even stronger. The crenelated top was damaged in the 1931 earthquake and replaced with the existing steeple in 1949.

In 2008 three long years of major conservation work was completed to correct the rigors that time and weather had imposed during the eighty plus years of the Chapel’s existence.

Inspired by a determined Vestry team the project was also supported enthusiastically and financially by the local Crownthorpe/Matapiro community. Additionally, generous contributions from the Eastern and Central Community Trust, the JN Williams Trust and grants from the NZ Lotteries Board enabled a comprehensive works list to be undertaken and completed to ensure this unique house of worship will continue to serve its local community for a long time to come.

Thus, St George’s Chapel has not only been restored to its original condition but it is now also compliant to recent regulations regarding building and earthquake codes.

St George’s Chapel is available for weddings and baptisms if approved by the Waiapu Board of Diocesan Trustees.

For further information in the first instance contact Ian Littlejohn 1844 Matapiro Road, telephone 06 874 2722.

(as at 2017)

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History of St George’s Chapel on noticeboard at entrance to chapel grounds, Matapiro Road, Crownthorpe

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St George's Chapel

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