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Kemp House is the oldest surviving European building in New Zealand.

Open: daily 10am - 5pm
tel: (09) 407 9236
fax: (09) 407 9246
  Website: Kerikeri Mission Station 

On Saturday, March 23rd 2002,  was held the 180 year anniversary of this oldest building in New Zealand. Many descendants of the original missionaries' families and of Maori chiefs associated with the area, gathered to celebrate the occasion.

Kemp House and the Stone Store are the only survivors from the Church Missionary Society's second Anglican mission to New Zealand, founded in 1819 on land granted to the Reverend Samuel Marsden by the powerful Nga Puhi chief, Hongi Hika.


Kemp House was built by the Reverend John Gare Butler in 1821-22 as a mission house. From 1824-31 the house was occupied by the lay missionary George Clarke and from mid-1832 by blacksmith and lay missionary James Kemp and his family.

 The mission was closed in 1848, but the Kemps stayed on, eventually buying the house from the CMS. Their descendants lived there until 1974 when Ernest Kemp presented the house and its contents to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.


Sole survivor of the Musket Wars of the 1820's, the Mission House is New Zealand's oldest building.

Protected by Kororipo Pa, and occupied as a fishing village and potato planting ground by Ngai Tawake, a Ngapuhi clan from inland Te Waimate, Kerikeri lay at the head of canoe navigation from the Bay of Islands. In November 1819 the Rev. Samuel Marsden of the Church Missionary Society bought 13,000 acres thereabouts from Hongi Hika and Rewa, ostensibly for 48 felling axes. Within months Hongi Hika sailed for England with missionary Thomas Kendall, leaving the other missionaries and Maori workers toiling to found a mission alongside Kororipo Pa. With the compound fenced, crops planted and the brethren housed, Rev. John Butler set about building a Mission House. Hindered at first by jealousy, he began to progress as, backed by Maori sawyers, carpenters William Bean and William Fairburn framed the carcase, William Puckey prepared sheathing, and Thomas Foster forged iron. Work was disrupted when Hongi Hika and Kendall came back from England with roughly 1,000 muskets, whereupon Kororipo became the cockpit of the Musket Wars, as Ngapuhi armies marauded southwards, outgunning, maiming, killing, or enslaving thousands.

Against this bloody backdrop rose Butler's Mission House. Double storyed, weather-boarded and just one through, it was backed by two chimneys and a detached kitchen, and fronted by a broad verandah flanked by two little rooms.

Marsden sacked Butler in 1823, so until 1830, the house was mostly occupied by George and Martha Clark. By then Hongi Hika was dead, his people wasted by war and disease, and the Ngai Tawake were gone from Kerikeri, Church Missionary fortunes rising as Ngapuhi confidence and numbers fell. In the early 1830's carpenter Ben Nesbit erected a skilling or lean-to across the back of the Butler house, with chimneys built by ex-convict stonemason William Parrot, who had come to build the Stone Store. James and Charlotte Kemp moved in in 1832, founding a dynasty which lived in the house until 1974, when Ernest Kemp left it to the NZ Historic Places Trust, packed with relics of a 142 year occupancy.

The Kemps' house changed little over time. James Kemp altered it at C.M.S expense in 1843, replacing Butler’s front verandah with one returning round the end walls. As the years passed, and Kemps farmed and traded in land and kauri gum, the verandah roof was lowered and clad in pressed zinc, then in corrugated iron, whilst some windows were replaced. In the 1920's the main roof was also clad in corrugated iron, and a bathroom was built behind the kitchen. Further changes happened in the 1950's, and again in the late 1970's, when the house was returned fairly close to its 1843 appearance, except that the 1843 verandah was slung much higher, and had a shingled rather than a leaky and historically unknown board-and-batten roof.  - NZ Historic Places Trust


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