An early part of New Zealand's European colonisation was the introduction of religion.

It would be fair to say that a degree of tension existed between the Catholics and Protestants at this time.

Napier's first church was St Mary's Catholic Church in March 1859, and this was built on Shakespeare Rd.

As a bigger church was needed, a replacement St Mary's was opened in September 1873 in France Rd, Napier Hill.


This area was known as Convent Hill.

St Mary's could seat 150 worshippers, and was described "as handsome, with kauri timber; fine slated roof, beautiful stained-glass windows and marble altar".

However, the congregation soon outgrew this church and a bigger one was needed, and the New Zealand Tablet reported that St Mary's as being "situated on the top of a very steep hill, it is also very inconvenient for aged persons and invalids".

Land was purchased on Munroe St and St Patrick's Church opened in 1894 which was capable of seating a congregation of 700.

St Mary's sat on the hill for 15 years until it was decided to remove the building and re-establish it.

The Roman Archbishop of Wellington Empowering Act granted powers to sell land no longer used for church purposes, and the proceeds of the site were used to dismantle St Mary's in 1910 and re-assemble in Ahuriri.

The church was reopened on July 31, 1910.

It was closed around the late 1970s.


I understand it was sold by the church and for a time used as a music recording studio.

• Michael Fowler ( is a chartered accountant and heritage officer at the Art Deco Trust.