Eskdale War Memorial Church marks 100 years since its opening in the Esk Valley on December 3, 1920.
The church was built in memory of Percival (Percy) Moore Beattie, 30, 2nd Lieutenant in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, who was killed in action at Le Quesnoy on November 4, 1918 – the day of the town's liberation and a week before the armistice with Germany at 11am on November 11. It is also a memorial to all those killed in action during the Great War, especially from Eskdale.
Percy was the only child of Alfred and Mary Beattie, and had married Annie Clark at Ahuriri in August 1915. Annie's father was Thomas Clark who was the owner of Hedgeley Station in the Esk Valley.
Before being called up to serve in mid-1917, Percy farmed a 688ha block in the Esk Valley at Herepoho.
His final leave was spent at Eskdale in July 1917 and he embarked for England on the October 13, 1917, arriving on December 8, 1917.
In Percy's absence, his shepherd, Robert Bryson, became the farm manager. He was called up for service in January 1918, but an appeal on the grounds he was the only employee on the farm was heard in February 1918 by the Military Service Appeal Board.
Bryson's case was heard in February 1918 and the appeal was suspended indefinitely, which amounted to an exemption from military service.
Percy and Annie's farm was sold to the government in 1919 to be broken up as a Soldier Settlement for returned soldiers. Sheep and cattle on the farm were sold in August 1919.
Annie's father Thomas Clark provided the land for the Eskdale War Memorial Church and also the cost of the building. Future maintenance costs of the church would be provided for by Annie in a lump sum.
Architect W P Finch designed the church as a simple Gothic style building, with sharp sloping eaves and a square tower. The roof has Marseilles tiles and roughcast walls.
Inside the building had dark cement plaster and dark stained rimu with the only adornment being a marble stone remembering Percy and other fallen soldiers from the district.
Anglicans and Presbyterians administered the church, and other denominations could use it.
Three members representing both churches and four members of the Clark family acted as trustees for the church.
About 100 people attended the opening service, which was taken by the Reverend T F Taylor from Wellington.
One of the most compelling thoughts, said the Reverend Taylor during his sermon was that the soldiers never regarded their colleagues as dying, but only as having "gone West".
"It was most fitting that a church should be erected to the memory of those who had gone West."
Taylor "beseeched the congregation to remember that the church was for use" and hoped it would always be open so anyone could spend a few minutes there.
The church's roof and tower were damaged during the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake and architects Ford and Gummer from Auckland believed the building should be demolished. However, the trustees instead engaged Fletcher Construction to repair the building by inserting metal rods to support the roof and reduce the weight of the tower.
All of the church's furniture and fittings were placed in Fred Clark's woolshed at nearby Hedgeley Station. The church reopened on September 27, 1931.
Esk Valley flooded regularly, and one on Anzac Day 1938 extensively damage inside the church. The Esk River overflowed, and more than a metre of water went inside the church, floating the furniture and wrecking the organ – which never regained its former condition, despite the best efforts of Harston's in Napier to fix it.
After a working bee by 50 people from all over Hawke's Bay, the church reopened on September 4, 1938.
Eskdale War Memorial Church has been popular for weddings for many decades, and arrangements were made in the 1970s for off-street parking, because of the busy Napier-Taupo Rd it fronts.
Annie Beattie never remarried and lived to the age of 95, dying in 1978 ‒ 60 years after the death of her husband, Percy. She remained a trustee of the church until her death.
• Michael Fowler's From Disaster to Recover: The Hastings CBD 1931-35 is for sale at the Hastings Community Arts Centre in Russell Street for $30.
Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher, commercial business writer of Hawke's Bay history.