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Mark Adams’s photograph is an unforgettable image of a Māori taonga existing in a British classical garden. Using the romantic devices common to 17th century classical landscape paintings by Claude Lorrain, Adams shows how seamlessly Hinemihi sits within a halcyon English view of a summer country afternoon. Hinemihi is not treated as an artefact but a living incarnation of the Ngati Hinemihi and their close friends the Ngati Terawhai. Mark Adams’s photograph reminds us that Māori taonga have travelled throughout the world and in some instances are treated with the reverence and respect which they deserve. Hinemihi is the only near-complete 19th century wharehui in the United Kingdom.
In 1880 Chief Aporo Te Wharekaniwha commissioned and paid for the construction of Hinemihi o te Ao Tawhito at Te Wairoa in Rotorua’s volcanic lake district. The wharenui was completed in 1881 by the renowned Ngati Tarawhai tohunga whakairo (master carvers) Wero Taroi and Tene Waitere. Hinemihi was planned as a cultural centre for Ngati Hinemihi and for Maori cultural performances where tourists paid to view the carvings, attend dances and to enjoy refreshments.
On Thursday June 10 1886, Mount Tarawera exploded, destroying Te Wairoa and killing 153 of its inhabitants. Yet, Hinemihi was one of the only buildings to survive the volcanic eruption and sheltered over 50 people. The village was abandoned and Hinemihi stood empty for six years. She was purchased for 50 pounds from Mika Aporo, son of the deceased Chief Aporo Te Wharekaniwha by Sir William Onslow, 4th Earl of Onslow GCMG, Governor of New Zealand from 1889 to 1892.
The house was dismantled and shipped to England, with instructions for reassembly, in 1892. Of the 23 carvings originally sent to the Onslow ancestral home of Clandon Park, 21 can still be identified. Hinemihi was reassembled during the mid-1890s by Lord Onslow’s estate labourers. At some point during dismantling and reassembly (Hinemihi has stood at two sites at Clandon) the building’s length was shortened and some carved elements were incorrectly reaffixed.
In 1917 restoration work was conducted by recuperating World War I soldiers, including Maori National Expeditionary soldiers (Maori Pioneer Battalion) being cared for at Clandon House in Surrey which had become a temporary auxiliary military hospital. These repairs resulted in a shift of location for Hinemihi from near the park’s stream and it was placed much closer to the mansion at the edge of the eastern lawn. In 1956 the Onslow family gifted Clandon Park to the National Trust. Clandon House (1721) is considered one of the United Kingdom’s finest country mansions built in the style of Andrea Palladio. Its formal classical garden is renowned for its parterre, shrubberies, fields and woodlands.
In 1978, Hinemihi was repaired by English craftsmen and builders and re-roofed with thatch. This turned out to be a misinterpretation of a photograph, taken immediately after the eruption, showing her covered with thick volcanic ash. While historically, Hinemihi had a traditional reed roof, in her original position at Te Wairoa she had a wooden shingle roof, which Maori were using at that period in imitation of colonial buildings made in a European-style
While Clandon Park remained in the ownership of the Onslow family, Hinemihi remained an important reminder of the fourth Earl and his family’s links with New Zealand. In being removed from Te Wairoa, Hinemihi lost her original cultural purpose. During the last 15 years Hinemihi has become a focus for Maori culture in the United Kingdom. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic team visited there and an active group of Māori living in the United Kingdom now organise annual festivities that are well-attended.
An informative website is dedicated to Hinemihi, its histories and the activities that are organised around it:
Alan Gallup, the National Trust curator, has prepared a video about Hinemihi:
Other useful links to the history of Hinemihi can be found at:
A view of Hinemihi seen from the east lawn of Landon House can be seen by virtual tour:
- Hinemihi, Clandon House, Surrey, United Kingdom 2000
- Production date
- C-type prints
- 920 x 730 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery, 2014
- Accession no
- Copying restrictions apply
- New Zealand Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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