Hinemihi's time at Clandon Park

Hinemihi at Clandon Park

By 1891 William Hillier, 4th Earl of Onslow, was approaching the end of his term as Governor of New Zealand and wanted a reminder of the country he loved, to take back to his family home in England.

By 1891 William Hillier, 4th Earl of Onslow, was approaching the end of his term as Governor of New Zealand and wanted a reminder of the country he loved, to take back to his family home in England.

Hinemihi comes to Clandon Park

A sum of £50 was agreed by the son of Chief Aporo, Mika, to purchase Hinemihi. An official hand-written bill of sale was drawn up and dated 27 January 1892. Easily dismantled and transported, Hinemihi’s carvings were shipped to England.

William Hillier Onslow, the 4th Earl
William Hillier Onslow
William Hillier Onslow, the 4th Earl

Originally Hinemihi’s carvings were installed to a new structure created in Surrey, next to an ornamental lake, and accounts describe how she was moved to her present site during the First World War by soldiers from New Zealand, including Māori troops recovering at Clandon during its time as a military hospital.

The restoration of Hinemihi

During the middle of the 20th century Hinemihi underwent a significant change in her structure and by the end of the Second World War needed repair. Clandon Park was donated to us in 1956. Then, in the 1960s, we asked New Zealand’s High Commission for help with a restoration programme. Other partners from New Zealand made financial contributions, along with a supply of totara wood.

Further repairs were undertaken in 1979 by an English firm, specialists in restoring historic wooden buildings. Restorers had little visual material to copy apart from an old photograph of Hinemihi taken a few days after the eruption, her roof covered in volcanic debris. Innocently mistaking several tons of rooftop ash for traditional English thatch, they replaced the roof with a thick covering of Norfolk reeds.

A Māori visit to Clandon Park

In the summer of 1986 Hinemihi was visited by Emily Schuster, a great-granddaughter of the carver Tene Waitere. Emily recalled her experience of the visit, 'We could feel the presence of our ancestors, those who sheltered inside Hinemihi during the eruption, and those who didn’t make it to safety.'

" We could feel the presence of our ancestors, those who sheltered inside Hinemihi during the eruption, and those who didn’t make it to safety."
- Emily Schuster

By 1992, Hinemihi had stood in the grounds of Clandon Park for a century. The anniversary was marked by a visit from John Marsh, director of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute.

Back in New Zealand, Marsh thought about restoring Hinemihi’s missing carvings. He appointed two students from the institute to create new pieces. They were Robert Rika, fourth generation grandson of carver Tene Waitere, and Colin Tihi, third generation grandson of Chief Aporo. They agreed to produce the work from detailed images taken by Victorian photographer Alfred Burton on a visit to Te Wairoa in 1881.

Robert Rika and Colin Tihi create new carvings
Carvers create new panels
Robert Rika and Colin Tihi create new carvings

The new carvings were officially handed over to us at dawn on Friday 9 June 1995, almost 109 years since Mt Terawera’s eruption. The arrival of new carvings and the ceremony to accept them created a new profile for Hinemihi. For London’s Māori community, Hinemihi has become their adopted meeting house, a place to visit, remember ancestors and celebrate their culture.