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Meeting Hinemihi

Meeting Hinemihi

Guest Article by Thibaud Madelin: Thibaud Madelin is the lengthperson for the National Trust River Wey and Godalming Navigations, based at Triggs Lock, Sutton Green. He looks after the section of river between Bowers Lock and Papercourt Lock and controls the flood alleviation weir structures.

Working for the National Trust, I often get opportunities to visit other properties to learn about their history or experience new surroundings. For example, a few weeks back, I left the river behind and visited the Ashridge Estate in Buckinghamshire to help with the annual deer counting, walking through the ancient woods at dawn just as they woke up. It was a magical experience which was more than matched when I ventured out closer to home at Clandon Park, to learn more about Hinemihi, the Maori Meeting House from Te Wairoa that now sits next to the main house.

The National Trust had organised a day for people to discover more about Hinemihi, her significance, her past, her present and her future. The day was hosted by Alan Gallop, who literally wrote the book on Hinemihi (The House with the Golden Eyes, Running Horses Books) and Rosanna Raymond, an artist and educator who is a big part of the Maori and wider Polynesian communities.

Hinemihi was completed in 1881 after being commissioned by the head of the local Ngati Hinemihi tribe, Aporo Wharekaniwha. A Whare Nui, she was and remains a meeting house, where people debate decisions, celebrate births and marriages, entertain visitors and mourn the dead. During the night of 10th of June 1886, nearby Mt Tarawera erupted, laying waste to Te Wairoa. Hinemihi withstood the tons of volcanic debris, ash and mud that covered the settlement, saving the lives of many of the villagers that found shelter inside. However, Te Wairoa was destroyed forever and the building and settlement would lay empty until the departing Governor of New Zealand, Lord Onslow, bought it and brought it back to Clandon Park as a reminder of 4 happy years in New Zealand in 1892.

Since then Hinemihi has stood the rigour of the British weather as well as two World Wars. In 1956, the Countess of Iveagh, the oldest daughter of the 4th Earl of Onslow, offered Clandon Park to the National Trust so that it could be preserved for future generations. Since then, a gradual process of restoration has taken place as well as a realisation of the importance of Hinemihi, with descendents of the original carver and Chief Aporo replacing lost carvings in 1995.

Today, the National Trust along with the Maori and Polynesian community and other long-standing friends of Hinemihi are looking at ways that restoration work can be completed and the role Hinemihi might play for the local community around Clandon Park in the 21st Century. The team at Clandon Park have organised familiarisation sessions and are trying to consult widely about the direction this should take.

She is an amazing meeting house, full of history and significance, a living building that we are privileged to be able to have at our doorsteps. If you would like to know more, just pop in to Clandon Park and visit the old lady in the shadow of the oak trees by the main house or contact the team on 01483 226 160. You can also learn all about its history by reading Alan Gallop’s book, which informed most of the historical information in this article.

Kia ora!

Door Carving Details. Picture: Matthew Batchelor

Hinemihi today. Picture: Matthew Batchelor

Hinemihi at Te Wairoa. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Gallop and the Hinemihi Collection

Hinemihi under tons of ash, mud and rocks after Mt Tarawera’s eruption. Picture: Courtesy of Alan Gallop and the Hinemihi Collection

Contact Thibaud!

01483 561389 or
Navigations Office: