In the 1840s a pa stood on Matai-Taua, the low hill at the head of the Pauatahanui arm of Porirua Harbour on which St Alban’s church now stands. In 1846 there was conflict in the Hutt Valley as local Maori and their relatives from the upper Whanganui River contested the occupation by Pakeha settlers of land which Maori claimed had never been sold. Matai-Taua was at the crossroads of supply routes from the west and north. The Ngati Toa chief Te Rangihaeata occupied the pa and strengthened its defences.
On 1 August 1846 hundreds of armed police, militia and Wellington Maori allied with the Pakeha approached Matai-Taua from Hutt Valley. They hoped to take the defenders by surprise, but were seen from the pa. Te Rangihaeata’s force withdrew north up the Horokiri Valley towards Battle Hill.
Traces of a ditch that formed part either of Matai-Taua or of the British fort that replaced it can still be scene at the edge of St Alban’s cemetery, in which a number of soldiers who died in the district in the 1840s are buried.
Image attribution: David Green.