The village of Russell was known as Kororareka prior to Captain Cook’s arrival. During its early days, the town was referred to as the “hell hole of the Pacific” because of widespread prostitution. By the 1830s, Russell became a lawless trading center. It attracted all types of misfits including drunks, deserters and escaped convicts because of its good anchorage and whaling industry.
Christ Church was built in 1836 and bears the musket holes from the conflict between the European settlers and the Māori people in 1845. You may have to look closely to see the holes. Limited funds resulted in a very plain church with no steeple being built. In 1840, it was used as a courthouse because it was the only building large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend the murder trial hearing. The Bishop of Auckland presided over a meeting in 1873 when the church was officially named Christ Church. It is open to the public and free to enter. Donations are appreciated.
The cemetery in the church yard was consecrated in 1838 but the first burial was of William Skinner who dies at the age of 43 in 1836. There is a burial ground on the church property that contains the graves of Ngāpuhi chief Tāmati Wāka Nene, early settlers, whalers, and sailors. Some of the gravestones do not have any markings because of their age, some are simply wooden markers, and others are made of sandstone or marble. While the church is Anglican, the cemetery is non-denominational. Christ Church and its graveyard is worth a visit.