In 1853 Sir George Grey, Heretaunga Chief Te Hapuku and his Ngāi Te Whatuiāpiti people, met at Roto-a-Tara to discuss developing an endowment for a school to be established at Pukehou.
Samuel Williams, an Anglican missionary, and his family, prominent in the Church of England and well-known for their support of Māori projects, were to assist with the erection of buildings for the proposed school.
In 1854 the Ahuriri Native Industrial School (later to be renamed Te Aute College) opened as a government school with 12 pupils, under the leadership of Samuel Williams. In 1857 the Te Aute Educational Trust was established with 4014 acres of Crown land and the gift of 4273 acres from Ngāi Te Whatuiāpiti.
In 1857 the endowment was vested in George August Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and in 1862 he conveyed it to the Trust.
The School Motto
The college crest and motto were developed in the 1890s under Williams and Thornton in association with the students and old boys. They were both finalised in 1896 (Alexander, 1951). The arms have been adapted from those of the Diocese of Waiapu whose Bishops have administered the Trust for over 150 years (see Chapter Four). The motto ‘Whakatangata kia kaha’translates as ‘Quit ye like men be strong’. This is taken from the New Testament of the Holy Bible, Verse 13, Chapter 16 of the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. The motto also appeared on the badge of the 31st reinforcements to the 1st NZ Expeditionary Force in World War I and was also the subject of the final hymn sung at the opening of the Churchill Block in 1922 (Wehipeihana, 2005).
On 9th September 1922, the Archbishop of New Zealand, Churchill Julius, laid the foundation stone for the new college buildings. Other dignitaries at this ceremony included Reverend Pine Tamahori, Apirana Ngata and Maku Ellison, granddaughter of Te Hāpuku who spoke on behalf of the local Ngai Te Whatuiāpiti people (Alexander, 1951). The Julius Wing was opened on 10th April 1923 and later in the year the next foundation stone for the second new building was laid by Lord John Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet of the British Royal Navy. Again, this occasion marked that of the first with large numbers of people and speakers including, Hori Tupaea of Ngāi Te Whatuiāpiti and Reverend Frederick Bennett. Both the Julius (South Wing) and Jellicoe (North Wing) Blocks were built in an ecclesiastical style of architecture with the college’s arms, crest and motto ‘Whakatangata Kia Kaha’ bearing each wing.
On March 27th 1926, Governor General Sir Charles Fergusson laid two foundation stones for the third and last of the new brick buildings; the main block or Fergusson block. This housed the general assembly hall, a library, clerical rooms and offices and was the most prominent of the three impressive brick buildings. Nearly one year later on March 10th 1927, the Governor General Sir Charles Fergusson who returned to Te Aute to preside, officially opened the new building. The Reverend H.W. Williams took the service, Mr Russell of the Te Aute Trust Board spoke and Hori Tupaea once again spoke on behalf of Ngāi Te Whatuiāpiti, while Apirana Ngata translated his speech for the hundreds assembled. The Prime Minister Joseph Coates also had a telegram read out at the ceremony to honour the new building, which was labelled a ‘great landmark’ by the Governor General. Ngata also made a plea for Māori help with the carvings and artwork to adorn the interior of the assembly hall. These were later installed for the centennial celebrations in 1950