Church and Community

For the first few decades the Trentham parish was preoccupied with its own survival. Its preliminary focus was on the building of St John's church and finding places for worship in the upper valley, including homes and local halls. The parish then went through a bad patch of internal dissension when vicars didn't stay long and a few faithful lay people such as local farmer Mr Cottle and school headmaster Frank Connell held things together. Any spare cash in the annual accounts went to missions; the Melanesian Mission was the main beneficiary but Maori Mission also received donations.

Things settled down in the early 20th century, especially when the Revd Joseph Smith and his wife Mabel arrived in 1903. As part of rebuilding the parish, Mr Smith provided local entertainment by giving 'lantern lectures' (at which he took up a collection to help pay for church maintenance). By now the parish had a couple of useful halls of its own, used mainly for Sunday School but used regularly during the week for community activities (at a low rental for non-profit activities such as the clinic run by the Plunket nurse), and this set a pattern which continues to this day.

As new industries arrived in the upper valley, the growing population brought new opportunities for church and community interaction. In 1910 new vicar Mr Sykes reported his concerns about the stable lads at nearby Trentham racecourse, and was planning activities for them to attend in the Sunday school hall. With the huge expansion of Trentham Military Camp, attendance increased at church socials and also saw an increase in social need; a family who lost everything in a fire benefited from a Men's Evening run by the church where the admission fee was a 'kitchen utensil' and cash proceeds were used to buy them blankets.

Another social and a Children's Dance Recital took up collections for the Anglican Boys' Home in Lower Hutt where £15 [over $1250] was given for an 'Upper Hutt bed'. The vicar was also voted £5 for 'any sick or needy person'.

Vestry minutes also reflect social concerns of the time. In 1922 they recorded a letter asking vicar Mr Barnett to have prohibition songs sung at Sunday School. After much discussion it was decided 'that we could not do anything like that at the Sunday School on the Sabbath'.

The post-war baby boom put huge pressure on local facilities and once again the church came to the rescue. School children from Upper Hutt school and Trentham Side School had classes in the parish halls at both St Hilda's and St John's. 'We had a tin shed on the southern side of the Anglican Church' said Norman Lanham in the Trentham school history. 'We had one teacher Miss Fletcher who boarded with the Vicar and his family. There was one tap outside we used to drink from and wash under'. Others recalled 'the boys who could toss their pens into the rafters and leave the nibs in the wood.'

Income from the weekly rental of 25/- boosted finances and soon negotiations were under way to buy a 'whole hutment' from Featherston Military Camp, transport it across the Rimutaka hill road and use half of it in Upper Hutt and the other half at Trentham. This greatly improved the facilities available to the community though they were still quite spartan - even in the 1950s Ida Roil recalls each person bringing a piece of firewood to winter meetings to keep the stove going.

The arrival of Mr and Mrs Kendrick coincided with the depression of the 1930s and the vicarage became a centre for school meetings and also for relief work. Trentham school children were offered a hot midday meal (for one penny) served on the vicarage verandah. 'Owing to the distress obtaining in the district and the number of little ones attending school obviously underfed, Mrs Kendrick not only kindly promised to make the soup and cocoa, but she generously placed the vicarage kitchen at the school's disposal. The first day there were 25 children but soon this number doubled.' (The History of Trentham School 1979 p.18)

With the second World War looming, Trentham Camp was bursting at the seams. In 1939 the vicar was asked by Mrs Balcombe Brown if the parish hall could be used as a clubroom for the 'womenfolk' of the soldiers of Trentham Camp; it served this purpose on weekdays for the duration of 'the dark and anxious times' that lay ahead.

Rebuilding both the parish and the community was the focus after 1945. Soon St Hilda's Upper Hutt became a separate parochial district, and with industry, housing and population all expanding, the church facilities were stretched. A big funding push in 1957 using the controversial Wells canvass methods emphasized the need for better community facilities at both Trentham and Silverstream (as well as a commitment to regular and realistic giving for on-going parish needs).

Playgroup in the parish hall in the 1980s

Playgroup in the parish hall in the 1980s

Five years later the new parish hall at Trentham, with stage, basketball and badminton courts, indoor toilets and a big kitchen, was opened with great rejoicing and has provided a base for community activities, ever since. The Scout and Guide troops were based there, badminton and bowling clubs formed, and church-run children and youth activities, including a big playgroup in the 1980s and 90s, after-school and holiday programmes, and the Youth Worker Trust in the new century, maximized hall use.

The parish has also been involved in a number of ecumenical and community social services such as Christian Love Link in the 1990s. As part of the Upper Hutt Refugee Committee in the 1970s, St John's sponsored a Cambodian refugee family, supporting them through resettlement including job hunting, furnishing a home, finding schools and general support. Industrial chaplains worked at local businesses and big employers, and parishioners visit the aged care rest homes taking services and providing pastoral support.

In the new century the parish hall complex, now known as the Community Centre, was used for the teen parent school Titiro Whakamua (return-to-school classes for young mothers with babies until they moved to Heretaunga College). With the Scout Hall converted to a comfortable lounge, the complex continues as a meeting place for various activities, including Ezee-meals, regular community lunches, with Twinkletoes, a musical activity for young families, having upwards of 50 attending each week.

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Developed by Diverse Digital Directions,Upper Hutt, New Zealand.
Last updated June 2012