our lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mt Carmel school, looking towards Evans Bay. Photo by Melanie Burford, Evening Post 31 Oct 1995.

On the hilltop site at 9 Arawa Road/157 Te Anau Road stood the catholic church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a church school opened on 1 September 1929 by Archbishop Redwood. The brick two-storied building consisted of the church hall on top, with the school and basement underneath. The school had three classrooms to house 130 pupils, and a kitchenette. The building and site works cost around £5000. The architect was E Price of Hataitai, and the contractor was J R Tonge of Miramar - though a local resident says the builder was William Ruston. Perhaps Ruston worked for Tonge? (Source: Evening Post, 31 Aug 1929)

At the opening of the building the Archibishop commented that "Hataitai had the reputation of always getting what it wanted. He and others had been dubious at first when the new building was mooted, but obviously the people of Hataitai had the spirit of faith in the future, and perseverence and courage had carried the day." (Evening Post, 2 Sep 1929)

The church later acquired two neighbouring sections, one of which held a two-storey, four bedroom presbytery.

In 1998 former Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys recalled his youth: "My primary school was here in Wellington at Hataitai and on the hill above us was the Mt Carmel Convent school, now demolished. We boys used to throw stones at each other, but the Catholics had the advantage of gravity, for which they could praise God, but perhaps more appropriately give thanks to the sisters who had had the foresight to build on the highest ground in the neighbourhood."

Merle Jackson was a lay teacher who taught the first and second year children from 1973 to 1980. The school's other two teachers at that time were Sisters of Mercy nuns. The hall was under the school and the children had lunch there every day. The whole school had school mass every Friday and on special feast days. In 1978 they began admitting four-year-olds because the roll was falling, but the school closed in 1980.

The church celebrated its last mass in July 1995. The property was sold to Tainui Maori Trust Board for over $1.3 million in October 1995 because the three-storey school was no longer required by the church and the brick masonry was an earthquake risk. The buildings were demolished and a 12-unit townhouse complex known as Carmel Mews was built on the site. Tainui later sold the units.

Thanks to Merle Jackson.

Sources: Evening Post and Dominion, various dates 1995-2001.