Coates Memorial Church, Matakohe

Coates Memorial Church Coates Memorial Church Coates Memorial Church Coates Memorial Church Coates Memorial Church Coates Memorial Church

Joseph Gordon Coates (1878-1943) is the only New Zealand politician ever to have a church dedicated to him. Coates Memorial Church in Matakohe is a handsome brick building set in a wide expanse of lawn. Coates is buried in the cemetery.

A Northland farmer and local body politician, Coates was first elected an MP in 1911. He took leave of absence from Parliament in 1916 to serve in the NZ Army, rising to the rank of Major. He was wounded twice and decorated twice (MC & Bar). He became leader of the Reform Party and Prime Minister after the death of W.F. Massey in 1925. Although the Reform Party lost the 1928 election, Coates served as a very effective minister in New Zealand's coalition government from 1931 to 1935 and wartime cabinet from 1940 to 1943. He died suddenly on 27 May 1943.

After consulting with the Coates family, the Government decided to build a church as a national memorial. Designed by the architect Horace Lovell Massey, Coates Memorial Church was formally opened by Prime Minister Sydney Holland on 27 May 1950. The inscription on the foundation stone reads:

COATES / MEMORIAL CHURCH / THIS UNDENOMINATIONAL / CHURCH, ERECTED IN / MEMORY OF THE RT. HON. / J.G. COATES M.C., FOR 32 / YEARS A MEMBER OF THE / HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES / AND PRIME MINISTER OF / NEW ZEALAND 1925 - 1928 / WAS OPENED ON MAY 27 / 1950 BY THE RT HON. / S.G. HOLLAND, C.H., PRIME / MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND

A stained glass roundel window in the church vestibule depicts Coates as a knight in armour with a sword and a book and bears the legend: 'In war strong, in counsel wise'.  The bronze plaque beneath reads:

THIS CHURCH / WAS ERECTED BY THE GOVERNMENT ON BEHALF OF / THE PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND AS A  GRATEFUL TRIBUTE / TO THE MEMORY OF / THE RIGHT HONOURABLE / JOSEPH GORDON COATES P.C. M.C. / A DISTINGUISHED SOLDIER OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, WHO / REPRESENTED THE KAIPARA ELECTORATE IN THE  HOUSE / OF REPRESENTATIVES FROM 1911, UNTIL HIS DEATH ON THE 27TH / MAY 1943. WAS PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND FROM 1925 / TO 1928, A MINISTER OF THE CROWN FROM 1919 TO 1928 / AND FROM 1931 TO 1935, AND A MEMBER OF THE WAR CABINET / OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR FROM 1940 UNTIL HIS DEATH

Although the church is not itself a war memorial, it stands near the Matakohe war memorial and across the road from the Matakohe War Memorial Hall and has sometimes played a part in Matakohe's Anzac Day ceremonies.

See: 'Coates Memorial Church Dedicated', NZ Herald, 29/5/1950, p. 8; Coates  Memorial Church: Official Opening 27th May 1950; Paparoa,Matakohe & Districts Centennial, Paparoa, 1962, pp. 12-15, 44-5Michael Bassett, Coates of Kaipara, Auckland, 1995, p. 281; 'Coates, Joseph Gordon' (Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand).

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