Alexandra Redoubt: One of the Waikato’s most historic places
Quite often I get asked what I miss about not living in the UK anymore, but I’m not a whingeing pom and don’t begin to rhyme off a list of groceries.
I’m a very happy honorary kiwi, however if pressed on the subject I would have to say I miss the history and the architecture of old buildings.
And I especially miss castles.
But… I have to reinforce that I totally love the old New Zealand buildings.
I love the colonial style of many towns and buildings here and really enjoy visiting and learning about historic places.
So although it isn’t a castle I was very happy to visit Alexandra Redoubt which is listed on the NZ Historic Places Trust and is one of the best preserved earthworks of the New Zealand Wars.
The village began its European life with the name of Alexandra, in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, wife of King Edward Vll. Its name was changed to Pirongia at the turn of the century to avoid confusion with the town of Alexandra in the South Island.
In 1864 Alexandra, situated next to the navigable Waipa River, was set up as a British army military base.
It was the end of the Waikato Wars and it was intended that Alexandra would become the capital of the region.
A busy frontier town soon developed with two hotels, a variety of shops, a bank, a blacksmith, a library and a school.
Due to the proximity of Whatiwhatihoe, the settlement of the Maori King Tawhiao and his Kingitanga followers, the Armed Constabulary built two redoubts in Alexandra as places of refuge for local families.
Alexandra Redoubt, off Bellot St, was built on the site of Pirongia’s first Anglican Church, which was removed in 1871.
In 1881 Tawhiao and 500 of his followers came to Alexandra where they laid down their weapons before the resident magistrate, Major William Mair.
It was a formal act of peace made by the King movement but Tawhiao could not be persuaded to take the oath of allegiance (he was later to lead a deputation to England to petition Queen Victoria for an independent Maori parliament and an inquiry into land confiscations.)
The redoubt was never attacked, but the Armed Constabulary continued to guard it till 1886 when it was abandoned.
By the 1890s river transport was in decline and Alexandra lost much of its business to nearby Te Awamutu and other settlements on the new main trunk railway.