St Helier Day - 16th July
Annually, we celebrate St Heliers Day, as a link back to St Helier in Jersey.
Our St Heliers was originally called ‘Te Whanganui-o- Toi’ or Big Bay of Toi or Toi Toi. Other names pertaining to our area are ‘Waiparera’ – the low swampy area of Vale Road near the Beach [now upgraded with new drainage systems] and ‘Uruhouhi’ [Grove of Hoherias] – the area around the stream from Dingle Dell to the beach [having had total drainage reconstruction in 2009]
In February 1842 Major Thomas Bunbury bought two allotments in the first Government Auction of Tamaki Land. It is in his memory that the Bus Shelter on Tamaki Drive is named the Bunbury Shelter.
William Goodfellow purchased allotments to the north [near Long Drive] in 1843 and 1849 – thus the reference to Goodfellow’s Beach.
In 1849 Major Bunbury sold his farming establishment to Colonel Taylor for £2300. Colonel Taylor settled at ‘Alberton’ in Mt Albert. Later in the 1870’s the district was commonly spoken of as Glen Orchard – after the estate of the Kerr Taylor son who lived in the ’Glen Orchard’ homestead opposite where St Phillips Church is today.
Other sons settled and farmed in the neighbouring properties of Glen Dowie and Glen Innes.
The name St Heliers Bay was not adopted until the early 1880s when the Northcote Land Company acquired about two thirds of the region for subdivision. Major Walmsley is credited with naming the bay because of the resemblance with St Helier, in Jersey, Channel Islands – the land of his birth.
The saint after whom Jersey’s capital was called and indirectly our own St Heliers Bay, was a sixth century Christian martyr.
St Helier, born a pagan at Tongres, in Belgium, became a convert to Christianity. After his conversion he studied at the Abbey of Nanteuil, in France, until about 545AD, when he crossed over to Jersey. There he took up his abode, so the legend goes, on a rock surrounded by the sea and connected with the land by a natural causeway, which can be identified as ‘l’Islet’, a rock south of the island upon which Elizabeth Castle now stands in St Aubin’s Bay. He lived as a hermit in a cave, with part of the rock hewn out to form his couch.
For 15 years he worked among people of the island sharing the holiness of his life, including the performing of miracles [including the curing of blindness and removing a snake from the mouth of a man who had had the misfortune of having it slither in there while he was asleep]. He made a great impression on the inhabitants, who converted to the Faith.
At the end of this period Jersey was visited by a band of dreaded Viking pirates, who landed without resistance. To them St Helier began to preach the Gospel in their own language, urging them to abandon their life of pillage and murder.
The inspiring manner and imposing sight of this holy man gave great spiritual force to his words, and the pirate chief, fearing that his followers would be persuaded to give up their present life of piracy, raised his axe, struck the Saint on the head, and Jersey’s first Martyr fell lifeless to his feet.
The Saint picked up his head and walked to the shore.
The Saxons became terrified at the surreal sight of the Saint picking up his head and walking out to sea. Even though the weather was stormy, they immediately put to sea. Alas, their ship struck a rock and they all perished.
Thus the island was saved.
The spot where St Helier lived and died, with the Oratory built over the cave in the twelfth century, can still be seen today.
The crest of the Parish of St Helier is two gold crossed axes [in memory of St Helier’s martyrdom] on a blue background.
By Toni Millar
St Heliers Village- Shopping Centre
The first stores were opened after the wharf was built in 1882. As the suburb expanded once Tamaki Drive was opened in 1931 the main shopping centre was developed on St Heliers Bay Road and Tamaki Drive. By 1960 St Heliers was a busy suburban centre which included a Fruiterer, Home Cookery, Drapery, Picture Theatre, 2 Grocers, Garage, Fishmonger, 2 Chemists, Shoe Shop, Electrical Store, 2 Butchers, Hairdresser, Land Agent, Post Office, Jeweller, Bootmaker, Seedsman, Beauty Salon and Hardware. The picture theatre closed in 1966 and was rebuilt to a shopping arcade, The Mall as it is today.