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Capturing a bygone era

A relic of the past, buried for more than 60 years, has been unearthed near Riversdale.

Builders have recently uncovered a time capsule beneath the foundation stone at St John the Evangelist church in Homewood.

The Tatham family, who have farmed in the area for several generations, bought the run-down church from the Anglican Diocese a few years ago.

It was during the renovation that they made the surprising discovery.

Jan Tatham said that nobody knew the capsule was buried there 62 years ago.

“Everyone was so surprised when we found it. The builder rang me on the phone and said you need to come down and see this,” she said.

The capsule was a welded copper cylinder buried beneath the foundation stone dated November 26 1960, laid by Reverend WN Panapa, Bishop of Aotearoa.

The inscription on the foundation read: “Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”

The capsule contained the church’s first order of service written in English and te reo Maori, New Zealand pound and penny coins, a Tinui parish newsletter, and the day’s copy of Wairarapa Times-Age with the church plans on the front page.

Tatham said the capsule revealed how important the church had been to the Homewood community when it opened.

But as the years passed and parish numbers declined, St John’s fell into disuse and disrepair.

“We didn’t really have a shared community space in Homewood.

“When we came up with the idea of opening a country cafe, we wanted to create a community hub, and by the look of the time capsule, that’s what the diocese wanted in 1960,” Tatham said.

Jan’s son Paddy Tatham and his partner Alex McKenzie are running the cafe.

After discovering the capsule, the family inserted objects from 2022, including a Times-Age [now in colour], and wrote letters for the next discoverer.

“Writing the letter was quite emotional because I know the next person who reads it will be after my time,” Tatham said.

The family has since rewelded the time capsule and replaced it under the foundation stone to be unearthed another day..

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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