St Matthew's Anglican Church

207 Lyndon Road West, Hastings

  • St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Helen McCracken. Date: 18/06/2002.
  • St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andrew Caldwell. Taken By: Andrew Caldwell. Date: 6/05/2012.
  • St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings. Interior. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andrew Caldwell. Taken By: Andrew Caldwell. Date: 4/07/2013.
  • St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings. Stained glass window. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andrew Caldwell. Taken By: Andrew Caldwell. Date: 4/01/2013.
  • St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings. Pew decoration. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Andrew Caldwell. Taken By: Andrew Caldwell. Date: 4/01/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 179 Date Entered 19th March 1986


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the land described as Lot 267-269 Deeds Plan 67 Hawkes Bay Land District and the building known as St Matthew's Anglican Church thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lots 267-269 Deeds Plan 67 (CT HB56/50), Hawkes Bay Land District


St Matthew's, Hastings, the oldest portion of which dates to 1886, is a skilful blend of the work of two notable New Zealand architects Cyril Mountfort and Frederick de Jersey Clere. The first Anglican church services in Hastings were held at Frimley, the residence of J. N. Williams, in 1869. By 1874 services had moved to the Provincial School, St Aubyn Street, and were conducted by the Rev. William Marshall, Vicar of Havelock North. In August 1877 the first Anglican Church in Hastings was opened. This church, located in what was then called Main Street (later named Heretaunga Street), was named The Hastings Church but known by locals as 'Westminster Abbey' due to its two prominent towers. However, the church soon proved to be too small and the location unpopular. In 1878 permission was given by the Anglican synod to build a new church and vicarage. Land was donated on King Street for the purpose. The Hastings Church was eventually partially dismantled and used as a schoolroom for several years until destroyed by fire in 1898.

The second (and present church), St Matthew's, was completed in 1886 to the designs of Cyril Julian Mountfort (1852-1920), the second son of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898), Canterbury's first provincial architect and New Zealand's pre-eminent Gothic Revival architect. Cyril assisted in his father's practice during the 1880s and 1890s and eventually took over the practice after 1898. Cyril's design for St Matthew's was a simple wooden Gothic church. Mountfort was later called upon in 1893 to design the lychgate as a memorial to Rev. John Townsend and covered way extending out from the main door in memory of Mary Hobbs, wife of Rev. John Hobbs.

By the first decade of the twentieth century the congregation, since 1895 the parish of Hastings, had again outgrown the church building and in 1904 an Enlargement Fund was started. In 1906 Mountfort submitted a plan and estimates for an addition in the same style. The extension was put on hold as the Vestry decided that it needed to clear all debts before embarking on any building programme. A Building Sub-Committee was formed in 1911. In the following year Frederick de Jersey Clere, since 1883 Diocesan Architect for the Anglican Church, visited St Matthew's and drew up plans for an addition in Ferro-concrete. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction in New Zealand and his first ecclesiastical building built of Ferro-concrete was St Mary of the Virgin, Karori (1911). Clere's design for St Matthew's, which was eventually accepted by the parish, is, almost certainly, the first Ferro-concrete Gothic church in New Zealand. The addition included transepts, chapel-chancel, vestries and tower. Clere's design also gave the parish the option to one day replace the Mountfort portion with a Ferro-concrete structure. The tender of £5250 by J. C. Monk was accepted by Clere and the construction was supervised by William Busby, a young architect in working with Clere. Busby was later to die in 1917 on the Western Front and a plaque in his memory was placed on a pew at St Matthew's. The foundation stone of the addition was laid by the Rt. Reverend Dr. Averill, Lord Bishop of Waiapu on 28 January 1914, and was officially opened on 7 February 1915.

On 3 February 1931, a massive earthquake struck the Hawke's Bay region. At 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake did huge damage and is considered to be the largest natural disaster to have occurred in New Zealand in the twentieth century. A total of 258 people died. Damage to St Matthew's was substantial, particularly to the tower and part of the roof where the addition joined the original building. Services immediately after the earthquake were held on the vicarage lawn. By April the services had returned to the church and a restoration fund was launched. The repairs, plans for which were prepared by architect H.G. Davies and estimated to cost £1750, were completed by May 1932. The tower was lowered by seven metres and the four central columns and roof arches were rebuilt.

Over the years the external appearance of the church has been altered with the concrete portion sealed with a paint system and the wooden portion stuccoed in order to blend the two portions together. In 1985 there was an extensive refurbishment and reorganisation of the interior, which included the construction of wooden screens in the Lady Chapel. The church has also acquired a number of chattels donated by members of the parish including well-known Hawke's Bay families, the Williams' and the Russells. Perhaps the chattels with the greatest significance are the four stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel by British Arts and Crafts artist, Karl Parsons - four of only seven such windows existing in New Zealand. Elsewhere in the church are fine examples of carvings carried out by Bridgeman and Son of England. Today the church continues to serve the Anglican community of Hastings. Since the opening of the St Matthew's Diocesan Primary school in 1995, the church has been utilised by the school for drama, music, school services and break-up ceremonies.

St Matthew's, one of New Zealand's largest parish churches, is a significant landmark in Hastings. Historically the initial portion of St Matthew's is a rare nineteenth century survivor within Hastings and the building as a whole is one of the few remaining large non-residential buildings to survive the Napier earthquake. Architecturally it is an interesting amalgamation of the work of two of New Zealand's ecclesiastical architects, Cyril Mountfort and Frederick de Jersey Clere. The church has technical significance for the use of ferro-concrete.

Assessment criteriaopen/close


St Matthew's Anglican Church is an historically important building in Hastings, since the structure itself dates back to the 1880s and the church had its origins in the late 1860s, in the earliest years of the establishment and growth of the town.

It has been the focal point for Anglican worship in Hastings and the Hawkes Bay, for regular and special services for over 120 years. A wide variety of people, from all walks of life, have been parishioners, and this diversity has contributed to the richness of its history. The building continues a tradition of worship in the region which stretches back to the 1860s, providing a tangible link with early European settlement of Hawkes Bay.

Hastings has few major buildings pre-dating the Hawkes Bay earthquake, and fewer still from the 19th century; St Matthew's Anglican Church has strong rarity value as one of these buildings. There is strong physical evidence of the earthquake in the building in the reduced height of the tower.

AESTHETIC SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE (This assessment was prepared in August 2007 with reference to the criteria of the Historic Places Act 1993):

The townscape value of St Matthew's Anglican Church is high, with its distinctive, decorative timber and concrete form being prominent in the central business district of Hastings. The church sits amid open space and trees that contribute considerably to its aesthetic value and that of the city.


The building has great architectural significance as the work of three very important New Zealand architects - B.W. and C.J. Mountfort and Frederick de Jersey Clere, each of them working in the style, and with the materials, that they are best known for. The church is a dramatic example of the Colonial Gothic Revival style of the 19th century in timber, and the Perpendicular Gothic of the early 20th century in concrete. It is a convincing example of both these styles, both in its exterior form and detail, and in the interior, where the richness of the timber roof structure and furniture of the nave contrasts with the simplicity, even austerity, of the transepts and chancel. The church, most unusually, can claim national importance as an important representative example of ecclesiastical architecture of two important New Zealand architects, two distinct periods and two styles.

The stained glass windows make a significant contribution to the aesthetic qualities of the interior. Some of them, especially those by Karl Parsons, are important works of art in their own right, with international significance.


The technological value of the building derives from the main construction and finishing materials, both for the timber post and beam construction, and for the reinforced concrete. The concrete has particular value, as it is an early use of this material for a large church, which was pushed to its structural limits especially in the construction of the tower. The survival of the original drawings, which show all reinforcing details, greatly aids understanding of the structure, providing a benchmark in concrete construction in New Zealand in the early 20th century.

The building is in relatively unmodified form, and a significant amount of original fabric survives. (The main change in its long history has been the reduction of the height of the tower by some seven metres.) The building is therefore the repository of information about materials, techniques and building trade practice of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


St Matthew's Anglican Church has played a pivotal role in the social and spiritual life of the community since its construction in 1883. It is an important place to many people who have an association as parishioners, sometimes through the association of several generations of the same family. Some have the special connection of having been christened or married there, and have had family members committed for burial from the church; some are commemorated by bequests or plaques in the church.

The church is an important building in the public consciousness, and continues today in active use. It has symbolic and cultural value because of its role in the spiritual and social life of the community.


St Matthew's Anglican Church remains the focus of Anglican worship in Hastings and the Hawkes Bay and is therefore a place of great spiritual importance for the regional Anglican community. That importance is exemplified by the great care with which the church is treated and the respect it engenders.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Clere, Frederick De Jersey

Clere (1856-1952) was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to R J Withers, a London architect. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Feilding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church; he designed more than 100 churches while he held this position. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction; the outstanding example of his work with this material is the Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), Wellington.

As well as being pre-eminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including Wellington's Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store (1891) and Overton in Marton. Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington City Council until 1895, and from 1900 a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Mountfort, Cyril Julian

C J Mountfort (1852-1920) was the second son of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898), the notable nineteenth century Gothic Revival architect in New Zealand. He assisted in his father's practice in the 1880s and 1890s before taking over the practice after 1898.

C J Mountfort's architecture tended to resemble that of his father, although it was usually less successful. Two of his important ecclesiastical designs were those for the Church of St Luke The Evangelist, Christchurch (1908-9) and St John's Anglican Church, Hororata (1910).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

St Matthew's Anglican Church stands in the central business district of Hastings in a mixed area of commercial buildings. Its grounds provide generous open space in this context, as the church is set back from both street boundaries of its corner site. There are mature trees, and an important monument at the corner of the site, the memorial cairn honouring those parishioners who lost their lives during the two World Wars.

The church is a significant local landmark in Hastings, being very visible from surrounding streets and the tower appearing in views from further afield.


St Matthew's Anglican Church is a rare building in New Zealand, one constructed in two distinct stages, each designed by a different architect, of different style, and of quite different materials. The early timber part of the church is Colonial Gothic, a common style for 19th century timber churches in New Zealand. Its true character is disguised somewhat by the exterior now being finished in stucco, giving some textural similarity to the concrete part; it would originally have been sheathed in timber. But the steep pitched roof over the nave, the tall, narrow lancet windows, the timber barge boards and bracketing are clear indicators of the style. A particular elegance is imparted by the flare at the bottom of the roof slopes.

Inside, the nave is fully in timber - all structural elements (posts and beams, scissor trusses supporting the roof, rafters, purlins and braces) and tongue and groove linings are naturally finished timber, generally heart rimu. These elements combine to make a particularly rich and warm interior.

The later concrete part, 1914/15, is a revival of the Perpendicular Gothic style, the last phase of the Gothic style in England which ran from about the year 1360 for two centuries. 'The style is characterised by the stress on straight verticals and horizontals, by slender ... supports and by large windows... The signature tune is the panel motif, which is simply an arched panel with the arch cusped.'

On the exterior, the columns rise from the ground through and above the parapet, giving a castellated appearance, enhanced by the bands of fluting to the parapet. The large windows in the chancel and the ends of the transepts have tall slim mullions and simple tracery, while the small lancet windows elsewhere have trefoiled heads, all these elements being in accordance with the Perpendicular style. The strong verticality of the style is particularly evident in the attached columns, while the tower, now reduced in height, was a very ambitious vertical element that acted as the focus of a strong geometric composition. Its reduced height gives a more compact feel to the building today.

Graphic interest is added to the exterior by symbols inscribed at the parapet of the sanctuary - alpha and omega, the first and the last, and two crosses.

The interior stands in stark contrast to its timber counterpart, the walls and ceiling being plain grey plaster on concrete; this surface has never been painted. Detailing is simple, with plain square vaulting to the ceilings and simple moulded trim to openings. This part of the church has a raw beauty and a soaring, open quality, quite different (and yet strangely compatible) with the nave. Its austerity is softened by oak timber panelling in the chancel, the colours of stained glass windows, and warm red carpet.

Concrete was a material particularly well suited to the Perpendicular style, since the simple, undecorated forms and plain wall surfaces were possible to cast in in-situ concrete, as were the unbroken full height columns.


Despite the differences in the two parts of the building, the plan nevertheless functions as one and follows the traditional pattern of nave with aisles either side (the nave has porches on either side, taking the form of minor transepts, at the west end); crossing and transepts, and chancel and sanctuary. There is a Lady Chapel on the north side of the chancel, while on the south side is the tower, vestry and other ancillary spaces, with a choir vestry on the first floor above.

The tower houses the organ at ground floor level, and has two more floors above the level of the choir vestry, these spaces being accessible via a concrete staircase, integral with the structure, with the bell hung in the top space. Finally there is a ladder and a door out onto the roof of the chancel.

The main entrance is from King Street South, through the lychgate and covered way to the west end door. The door in the north transept is in frequent use too.


The main structural elements of St Matthew's Anglican Church are timber and concrete. Very simply, the timber portion of the church is a post and beam structure resting on concrete foundations; the nave is spanned full width by scissor trusses; infill panels and joinery are also timber.

The concrete portion is cast in-situ concrete, with steel reinforcing; roofs are concrete diaphragms (now mostly covered over with timber framing and corrugated iron cladding), while the floors are timber supported on concrete piles. Window tracery is executed in concrete, and doors are timber. The patterns of the 'off the boxing' concrete can be seen inside the top levels of the tower - in most places the concrete has been smooth plastered.

Notable Features

The church has a number of notable chattels - some of the most significant being the stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel by British artist Karl Parsons (1884-1934) - four out of the seven works attributed to this artist existing in New Zealand. The large window over the altar of the Lady Chapel dates to 1914 and depicts the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi with Minstrel Angels was the first of Parsons' commissions. It was donated by Lady Hariette Russell in memory of her husband Major-General Sir William Russell, and six of their sons. The remaining three Parsons windows were the result of donations by the family of Margaret Candy (dated 1930) and Harold Russell in memory of his mother Lady Hariette (both dated 1926). Sir William and Lady Russell had donated the first font in memory of a daughter who had died as an infant. This font was destroyed in the earthquake in 1931 and Major-General Sir Andrew and Lady Russell donated a new font, carved by Bridgeman & Son England. Bridgeman & Son were also responsible for the oak panelling of the Sanctuary and the reredos above the main altar. The latter was a gift from the Beamish family. Henrietta Kelly, the first organist of St Matthew's, donated the reredos under the large window over the altar in the Lady Chapel.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1885 - 1886
The first, timber part of the church (the nave, aisles and porches), built and consecrated by the Bishop of Waiapu. Architects, B J and C J Mountfort; builder, Robert Holt of Napier.

1893 -
Lych-gate designed by C J Mountfort, a memorial to Rev John Townsend, and the covered way, a memorial to Mary Hobbs, wife of Rev John Hobbs.

1906 -
Plans prepared for extensions to the church by C J Mountfort, but not proceeded with.

1907 -
Organ (built by Norman and Beard) installed.

1913 -
Plans prepared for extensions to the church by architect F de J Clere.

1914 - 1915
The foundation stone for the concrete part of the church (transept, crossing, chancel, chapel, vestry and tower), laid by the Rt Reverend Dr Averill, Lord Bishop of Waiapu, on 28 January 1914.

1914 - 1915
Designed by the Diocesan Architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, it was built by J W C Monk for a cost of £5,250. The church was re-dedicated on 7 February 1915.

1914 - 1915
Karl Parsons window installed above the altar of the Lady Chapel.

1914 - 1915
Timber part of the church had stucco applied over the timberwork, to improve the visual compatibility between the parts. (1913/14?). Choir loft removed from the west end of the nave.

1926 - 1930
Three Karl Parsons windows commissioned and installed on the north wall of the Lady Chapel.

1929 -
'Church re-roofed in iron', although which portion is not defined. (Note from Minute Book.)

1931 -
Church sustains damage in the Hawkes Bay earthquake. Tower lowered by seven metres, and the concrete structure strengthened at the crossing; estimated cost of the work £1,750. Church re-opens in 1932.

1933 -
The screens between the arches dividing the chapel from the sanctuary installed.

1949 -
Oak panelling (by Bridgeman and Son, Lichfield, England) installed in the sanctuary.

1957 -
Drawings prepared for re-roofing the nave and aisles; architect R R Fish.

1966 -
Transept roofs re-clad in corrugated iron.

1978 -
Gunac coating applied to exterior of church.

1985 -
Extensive refurbishment and re-organisation of the interior of the church was carried out. The timber screen between the chancel and Lady Chapel were installed.

1990 - 1991
Earthquake damage and strengthening work carried out at a cost of $2,648.

1992 -
Exterior of the church painted.

1996 -
Major restoration of the organ undertaken at a cost of $124,000.

Completion Date

24th March 2008

Report Written By

Helen McCracken/Michael Kelly/Chris Cochran

Information Sources

Carding, 1995

Betty Carding, Hang on a minute - a history of St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings, Hawkes Bay 1895-1995, Wanganui, 1995

Carding, 1995 (2)

Betty Carding, A guide to the building and interior furnishings of St Matthew's Anglican Church, Hastings, unpublished, 1995

New Zealand Historic Places

New Zealand Historic Places

Stephen Estell, 'The Glow of Controlled Fire', February 2002, pp.17-20

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.