#4 – St Peter’s Church

In it’s long history, there have been four different bells at St Peter’s Church in Paekākāriki. St Peter’s first bell was floral. In the first marriage service to be held in the new church on 21 October 1908, three days after it opened, Alice Irene Tilley married Gerald Stephen Smith. The floral bell was made by Smith’s aunt, Mrs Katie Kent, but its fate was not auspicious. The wedding day dawned fine, then a noon thunderstorm with strong winds and rain reputedly blew down the bell before the service started.

The bell was then placed inside the church so that it hung over the place where the couple to be married were to stand. However, instead, the vicar, the Reverend J. Edwin Ashley-Jones, stood under the bell to conduct the service. Another problem was caused by flood waters cutting off the station from the village. The wedding guests from Wellington were marooned at the station, unable to get across Beach Road.

Three years later Gerald Stephen Smith fell ill and after ten months died aged 34, but not before he had presented the church with a bell hung at the western end of the nave and rung before each service. His nephews told stories that as college lads they rang the bell because Stephen was able to hear the bell from his home and follow the service from his bed. On 24 August 1912 the bell tolled for him. His obituary noted that the bell offered him comfort in his long illness. The funeral service at St Peter’s two days later was a huge turn-out for this most beloved man. His friend, the Reverend Jones, conducted the service. He left behind a widow and little daughter. It was pledged to erect the Chancel in his memory.

On the north wall sits a grey marble tablet that celebrates the contribution of the person who substantially funded the church. Emma Tilley was the widow of Stephen Rand Smith. After Stephen died, Mrs Smith stayed with her sister Mrs Bills at the Paekākāriki Hotel. She married coach driver Charles Tilley and went to live in Palmerston North, returning about 1897 to buy out her sister’s share of the Paekākāriki Hotel.

The inscription reads

‘Emma Tilley a founder and treasurer of this church, after many years of glad labour, sleeps in Christ, ‘
15 September 1931.

Mrs Tilley joined a small group of residents raising funds for a church to replace services in the local school, where Elsie Maud Tilley was one of five youngsters confirmed in 1901. They purchased the Beach Road site and set about raising money to build the church. Mrs Tilley had a collection box on the bar, sold handiwork to patrons, held bazaars in the social hall of the hotel and wrote to friends all over the country seeking and getting donations, some as much as £5.

The church was designed by Diocesan Architect Frederick de Jersey Clere. The plans were lodged with the Hutt County on 08 May 1908.

Advert calling for tenders from Evening Post 11 May 1908

The contract was let to Dan Nees of Manukau.

Mr F.R. Holtom arrived from Lower Hutt to live in the village as successful tenderer for the work of adding the chancel and vestry from the original Clere’s plans. The work was completed in 1912 but it took until 1914 for the final church bazaar to clear the debt. Smith’s bell served for 30 years, until it developed a crack. St Peter’s next bell was another floral wedding bell for the marriage of Edna Field and H. Deihl on 26 June 1929. To avoid any problems, the vicar, the Reverend Wilson, ordered the bell cut down before the service began. Mrs Tilley was asked to name the church, which she did after her birthday saint, her childhood as a member of St Peter’s in Wellington, and the link between this famous fisherman and the sea nearby.

It was not until 1938, after the death of G Stephen Smith’s wife, Alice Irene in 1936, that a brass tablet was erected on the chancel wall to commemorate the Smiths.

As a young Paekākāriki boy, Richard Andrew would hear the cracked bell and vowed that when he grew up he would give the church a proper one. Richard was lost in Pacific operations in December 1942 and his mother fulfilled his wish. The church committee ordered a bell with a D flat tone from John Taylor of Loughborough, England, costing £300 by the time it landed here. The weight was too much for the small belfry so local man, H. Constantine, solved the problem with steel cantilevers attached to the west wall of the church. The bell rang first on Christmas Day 1947, and thereafter we hear it in memory of Richard Andrew.

On Sunday October 19, 2008, one-hundred years of Anglican Christian worship in Paekākāriki was celebrated with a special service at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Beach Road.

The venerable Archdeacon, Tony Gerritson, and the Reverend Canon, Denise Ferguson, Vicar of Kapiti, officiated at a 10.00am Holy Communion service, attended by 150 people, including the Mayor Jenny Rowan, and Jools Joslin , and members of the Paekākāriki Community Board. The hymns sung during the service were those used in the dedication service on October 1908 and were accompanied on the organ by the Reverend Dr Ross Wards.

The congregation this Sunday included several descendants of Jack Smith, who, along with the hotelier of the time Mrs. Tilley, led the fund-raising efforts for the proposed church. As well, attendants included descendants of the Andrew family who donated the bell, new altar, and altar plate as a memorial to their airman son, Richard Talbot Andrew, who died in World War 2.

The church and hall were crowded with many former vicars in the Kapiti Anglican parish; people who had taught or attended Sunday School; or attended services or were married or baptised in the church. Members of the Kapiti Anglican Parish from Raumati and Paraparaumu, and friends from the other Christian congregations and denominations in Paekākāriki also attended.

A video and audio link were made possible by Folkus Video in Paraparaumu Beach and the service was experienced in full by those in the adjacent hall, which had been hired for the occasion.

At a lunch in the hall after the service, a booklet about the history of St Peter’s Church, Paekākāriki, was launched and is for sale through the Kapiti Anglican Parish Office.

Dorothy Robinson and Cora Long, two long-time parishioners, cut the centenary cake watched by Margaret Griffiths and other guests in St Peters Village Hall.

Sources: Paekakariki Xpressed – David McGill – May 20, 2005 and June 17, 2005; and
Paekākārikiaekakariki Xpressed – Rozel Pharazyn – October 24, 2008