#5 – St Peter’s Hall

The first community hall in Paekākāriki was the social hall built and situated beside the early hotel. Unfortunately, this burnt down in 1896. Following this, the Surf Club rooms had been used for community gatherings, but these were destroyed in 1916 by heavy seas.

The Anglican church was looking for somewhere to hold Sunday School sessions. The original plan was to house classrooms and an assembly room; however they were persuaded to build a hall large enough for big gatherings. The Sunday School children contributed part of their collections to paying the debt. The committee also received support from the Ladies’ Guild and a Girls’ Guild. These groups met each week at the home of the Sunday School teacher, Mrs Brien, and made gifts and other articles for sale at the bazaar. The fund-raising bazaar held in January 1916 to pay off the Sunday School section had to be held in a storeroom loaned by the Beach Road General Storekeeper because there was no other suitable site in the district.

Tenders were called on 27 October 1917 in the Evening Post. The builder Frank Bond was assisted with the building of the hall by local volunteers.

Papers Past

The Hall was completed in time for the opening on 1st April 1918.

At the end of World War 1, £400 was still owing on the hall. Mr. J.S. (Jack) Smith, a St Peters’ Church parishioner, and the largest local land owner with holdings running from Pukerua Bay to McKays Crossing, loaned the required amount to the community. Mr. Smith was a major benefactor of Paekākāriki. The money was repaid within four years by fund-raising whist drives and dances.

According to Land Transfer records, ownership of the section and completed hall were finally transferred from Emily Tilley and J.S. Smith to the Anglican Diocese of Wellington in 1924.

St Peters Hall has been a focus and the main gathering place in the village for the community since 1918. Ideally situated in the heart of the village, at the junction of Beach Road and Ames Street, the hall was well used by both the church and the general community.

A 1917 permit application by the Paekākāriki vicar to the Hutt County Council, was for the erection of the retaining wall along the Ames Street boundary. The application was accompanied by a request for assistance with the cost, on the grounds that “the hall will fill a great want in the District as there is nothing of the kind there”. The Council agreed to pay half of the cost.

In 1918, Mr. J.S. Smith once again submitted sketch plans and an application to the Hutt County Council seeking a building permit for the toilet block between the hall and the corner of Beach Road and Ames Street. Council approved the plans and assisted with the cost. The addition was built in 1919 and this extension served for many years as public toilets and a changing room for beach visitors and users of the hall basement.

These amenities, however, were the cause of continual conflict between the Council and the cleaner/caretakers they employed, because of the dank nature of the toilets and the unpleasantness of the job. In 1952, the County Council demolished the lean-to, street-level, changing room because it “projected into the road reserve.” The steps down to these basement toilets were blocked off in 1979, and the toilets closed.

The hall was opened with a ”Social & Dance” on Easter Monday 1st April 1918. Opportunity was taken to “Farewell” young men from Paekākāriki who were in camp awaiting transport to go overseas to World War 1. Among these, was Mr. Wit Smith, second son of Mr. & Mrs. J.S. Smith.

A surviving ticket to the occasion shows that entry was 1 shilling for ladies and 1 shilling and sixpence for gentlemen. This makes interesting comparison with the cost of a month’s insurance premiums recorded six years later at St Peter’s Church itself for £ 1/ 13/ 10 per month

Ladies’ ticket to St Peters Hall opening ball

St Peters Hall Conservation Plan

The Roman Catholics held their services in St Peter’s Hall for 12 years until Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Wellington Road was built in 1932. In 1920, the record states that the hall was used for divine service twice a month by “the Roman Catholic congregation” and that “T.S McGuire paid 5/- a service”. From 1925, when the residual costs of building the hall had been paid off, the Roman Catholics had the use of hall on Sundays, free of charge.

In 1925 “Hall hirers must provide their own firewood and tea towels.”

In its earliest days, the hall was lit by a Wizard Acetylene gas installation, and water for tea was heated in two-gallon Benzine tins hung over an open fire in a large chimney at the southern end of the kitchen. No record exists of when electricity was installed, but film shows began in 1924, so there must have been electric power by then. In 1945 the chimney at the end of the kitchen, which had not been used for many years, was demolished and the wall made weatherproof.

The basement of the hall remained a work in progress for nearly half a century. In 1918 the basement was unlined, and had an earthen floor, but was used as a supper room for the socials and dances upstairs that were used as fundraisers to gradually pay for the building. Finishing it was achieved gradually over a period of many years. Notes from the local St Peter’s Church committee record that by 1925 the ceiling of the supper room matched the wall linings.

Paekākāriki’s water supply was installed shortly after the hall was built. A photograph of those present at the 1922 ceremony at which it was turned on, shows the small window in the front wall of the eastern lean-to, which lights the ground floor lavatory.

In 1959, a three-inch thick concrete floor was laid in the basement, electric hot points and lights were installed and, with the assistance of parishioners, enough money was raised to install a small kitchen. The Ladies Guild, a group of senior women parishioners, which included Mrs. Tutt, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Richardson, Miss Jenniss, Mrs. Owens, held card afternoons to raise the money to pay for a Zip water heater. In 1979, carpet tiles were laid in the basement.

In 1991 the Fire Service issued a condemnation notice on the basement, requiring it to be closed off to the public. The doors were nailed shut, and for several years it was used for the storage of church pews removed from the decommissioned All Saints Church at Paraparaumu Beach.

The cinema ‘stringer’ seats, bought in 1922 from Trentham hospital, had to be lifted onto the stage each year while the Church held its annual bazaar. The old stringer cinema seats in blocks of four or six were a nuisance if you wanted to use the hall for anything else.

Throughout its 90 years of church ownership, community use of the hall on Sundays was restricted to “sacred purposes”. That this restriction was reiterated regularly over the years in the Vestry minutes suggests that the rule was forgotten or challenged from time to time: “No Sunday film screenings allowed”.

Following the economic crisis of the 1980s, Paekākāriki’s contraction in community activity echoed what was happening in other small townships throughout New Zealand. In Paekākāriki, as elsewhere, the fall-off in the volunteer activity that under-pinned local clubs and societies was directly linked to a more time consuming and pressured style of everyday life: employment became more competitive and local services disappeared to larger centres. People now had to travel outside of the village for banking and employment, and so they shopped elsewhere too. The doctor, the chemist, the draper, the post office, the bank, the butcher, the hardware store, the bakery, a grocer’s shop, the dairy, the taxi service, even the ”spacies” parlour all disappeared from the village, leaving only the pub, one grocery store and a green grocer. The other retail spaces were gradually taken up by a series of cafes, offices, second-hand books and curio retailers, and artists’ galleries. The emphasis turned to servicing the visitor population. Even the Railway Station, Paekākāriki’s backbone for over a century, lost its signal box, its ticket office and its commuters’ kiosk.

But whatever the complications of its multiple uses, the hall continued to be used by the community. Towards the end of the 1990s, however, community-use fell away. The Kapiti Coast District Council had been prevailed upon to retain and upgrade the Memorial Hall on the Parade, which it had sought to sell in the 1980s, and the upkeep on St Peter’s Hall had fallen behind after the intense effort required from a small and aging congregation to upgrade the Church itself.

Harry Leslie presented a Last Picture Show on Sunday, 22 June 1997, showing four silent movies with Gilbert Haisman on piano. Harry reminisced about the Mercury (at Paraparaumu) and St Peter’s showing the same movies. They exchanged reels at Car Haulaways during screening, which could result with as much as a 30-minute delay to proceedings. The projectors eventually were donated to the Foxton Film Museum.

In 2000, the parish vestry agreed to allow the Paekākāriki community volunteer library to occupy the back third of the auditorium and the license for its presence kept the hall ticking over financially for the next five years, until community interest was sparked again.

In 2003, when a flood event devastated the village, a new community board sought to re-open stalled negotiations with the Kapiti Anglican Parish about the future of the hall. At that time, this central public building proved its worth as a pivotal amenity in the flood recovery effort.

The Anglican Church had maintained the building for nearly 90 years, but had no further use for the hall, which was now in a poor state and at risk of demolition. To retain it as a community facility for the people of Paekākāriki, in 2007 the Anglican Church sold the building to the Paekākāriki Community Trust for $1. The church retains the land the hall sits on.

Over the intervening years the hall has been renovated to a standard that makes it very desirable for hosting events.

In the decade following acquisition, over $400,000 had been raised for renovations. These included renewing the southern exterior wall, exterior and interior repaints, upgrading the kitchen and toilets, replacing the floor, rewiring, installing new heaters and fans, purchasing a new projector, sound system and lighting (including stage lighting), installing fireproof curtains, and adding a deck and awning. The hall is now in regular use as a community facility for a variety of activities, including weddings and funerals, and a monthly market. It is a popular venue for national and international musicians.

Since 1918, St Peter’s Hall has been a focus and the main community gathering place in the village. The community’s involvement and sense of ownership continues at a high level. The majority of the 114 responses to a Community Survey carried out in 2006 were in favour of retaining and upgrading the hall.

In 2020, the upgrading and renovation has by and large been completed, and the hall boasts a beautiful recycled matai floor.

Bishop of Wellington, Tom Brown signs the Deed watched by Aline Milne, Mayor of Kapiti, Michael O’Leary Chairman of Community Trust and John Good, Kapiti Anglican People’s Warden Picture from Paekakariki Xpressed Newspaper of April 20, 2007. Photos Michael Laracy

The Trust immediately set about to provide some much-needed maintenance and upgrade work with loans from the KCDC being paid off through rates and grants obtained from many organisations to fund specific projects.

2018 Paekakariki’s much loved St Peters Hall is turning a grand hundred years old and the village is throwing a two-day party, complete with birthday cake. All events, apart from the Smallest Beer Festival, are free. Community radio station Paekakariki FM will broadcast live from the hall over the weekend and welcome you to visit and see historic photographs and chat. Former residents and others who also feel a strong connection to this historical village are especially welcome.

Photos – Sadie Coe

Sources: Papers Past
Paekakariki Xpressed Newspaper – April 20, 2007
St Peter’s Hall Conservation Plan – May 2007