The hill on which the Cathedral Church stands is known as Cathedral Hill Pukerangiora. The hill was a well-known tribal landmark named after the native flora called rangiora that grew on its summit in pre-European times. It stems from rangi meaning sky; ora meaning life; puke meaning hill; thus the full name Pukerangiora can mean literally the hill of the life giving heaven.
On Victoria Street at the foot of Pukerangiora there is a plaque in Māori and English describing the story of the hill going back to ancient times. The plaque recalls many centuries of ancestral occupation by the people of Tainui. There has been considerable debate about whether there existed a Pā on Pukerangiora but there seems to be no evidence of this from traditional Māori accounts.
In the 1860’s, during the reign of King Tāwhaio, war broke out in Waikato as a result of the colonisation process. Large scale, illegal confiscation of Tainui land resulted. During this time a British signal post was built on this hill, the trenches of which remain under the Cathedral.
The first Hamilton Anglican church was nearly completed in 1867 when it was burnt down. Despite extreme difficulties and a world-wide depression another church was completed in about 1871. However no one was satisfied with this church and it was sold to the Waikato Times for £105 with services then being held at the Courthouse.
Therefore the Anglican congregation did not have a church and the town of Hamilton did not have a public hall and it was thought it would be both economical as well as fulfilling a common need if all parties combined to obtain one. The Hall was completed in 1881.
In 1884 on land at the foot of the present Cathedral the church was dedicated and consecrated in 1887. A new hall which was not shared with the local community was built in 1893. The new church however was built with Kahikatea and was badly affected by borer and a fund was set up to enable a new church to be built.
Modelled on a 15th Century Norfolk Church and designed in ferro-concrete by Warren and Blechynden of Hamilton, the present St Peter’s was completed in 1916 and was the fourth church to be built in the area and the third on this site.
St Peter’s Cathedral is the mother church for the Anglican Diocese of Waikato and shares this role with St Mary’s Cathedral in new Plymouth. The Cathedral is also a vibrant parish in its own right with the Dean of the Cathedral as its Vicar.
Last update: RH 16/05/2020
Books detailing the Cathedral History
There are two books which detail the history of the Cathedral and the hill it stands on.
Three score years & fifteen
(48 pages with illustrations)
Compiled by Paul & Gabrielle Day
In 1990 for the 75th Anniversary of the Cathedral, Paul & Gabrielle Day wrote a book of our history. Called Three Score and Fifteen it tells a comprehensive story of the people and personalities; the struggles and the achievements that have created the Cathedral you see today.
One Hundred - Not Out
(70 pages with illustrations)
Written by Ray & Ann Harlow
Like the previously mentioned book, this account of the next 25 years of the church’s history was prepared for an anniversary. In 2016, St Peter’s celebrated the centenary of the present building. Compared with the first 75 years, these last 25 years saw relatively little development of the physical building apart from a refurbishment of the sanctuary/chancel area, and the construction of a new porch, so the writers, while tracing these developments, concentrated more on the life of the parish itself over this period.
The Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter
(40 pages with illustrations)
Written by Bishop David Moxon
The third book, written in 2002 by Bishop David Moxon is a 40 page book with colour illustrations designed as a Visitor’s Guide starting with an introduction to the Anglican Communion and then walks through and around the precincts of this Cathedral and the hill on which it stands. “A prayerful walk on a sacred hill”.
These books are available from The Cathedral Shop