Historical Significance or Value
Although Nelson was not founded on a denominational basis, by the 1870s Anglicanism was the predominant religion in the region. The building of Holy Trinity Church coincided with a second wave of church building in the Nelson district, a phenomenon that indicated the coming of age of the Nelson province. The construction of the church is also demonstrative of the status of Richmond as the second town in the province by this time, as it was constructed as a result of the community outgrowing the first Anglican church in the town. Moreover, although Richmond was still considered a rural centre at this time its church was substantially larger than its rural equivalents elsewhere in the Waimea Plain. As such, Holy Trinity Church is of local historical importance.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Because of its elevated position within the townscape and the extended vertical emphasis typical of this style of architecture, Holy Trinity Church has been a local landmark of aesthetic significance since it was constructed in the late nineteenth century. Despite residential growth in the immediate area this has not subsided and the aesthetic value of the place is enhanced by the dignity and quiet elegance of its architecture.
Architectural Significance or Value
Holy Trinity Church has architectural value as a proponent of the Gothic Revival style of church architecture which was adapted to New Zealand conditions and materials, becoming a vernacular style through its use by leading architects such as Nelson's William Beatson. Typical rural examples of these churches are characterised by their simple designs featuring steeply pitched gables, external buttressing, and timber construction. Many also feature a chancel and vestry. However these 1885 additions were removed to make way for a substantial extension in 1984, which referenced the traditional Gothic Revival influenced features of the original structure but in a distinctly post-modern manner.
Social Significance or Value
As well as being an important seat of local Anglican worship, Holy Trinity Church was a socially significant building particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the area it served was still largely rural in character. The initial rallying together of the community to enable the construction of the building meant that it became a symbol of that society's pride in, and commitment to, their faith. When the community's efforts came to fruition the function of this building, as a place for Anglican worship and instruction, as well as being the site of other religious and social events, brought the disparate families of this rural area together on a regular basis which would only have occurred infrequently otherwise. The commemorative features of Holy Trinity Church, such as family memorial windows, also add to this social significance.
Spiritual Significance or Value
Since its construction Holy Trinity Church has been the scene of innumerable Anglican religious services, events, and celebrations. Therefore, it has been directly associated with the spiritual aspect of thousands of local residents lives, which means it is of considerable local spiritual importance.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Holy Trinity Church was constructed significantly larger than its predecessor in the second wave of church building in the Nelson province. Therefore, Holy Trinity Church is an important site because it physically represents the concurrent spread, and then consolidation, of European settlement and the Anglican faith in New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
Holy Trinity Church is important as the last church designed by William Beatson. Beatson was a prominent early architect who made an important contribution to New Zealand architecture through his residential, commercial, and religious buildings in and around Nelson. Beatson died before the construction of Holy Trinity Church was completed and as such his son, Charles, continued the work.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
Like many other church buildings, the construction of Holy Trinity Church relied on the generosity and commitment of local congregants. Innumerable volunteer hours have subsequently gone into maintaining Holy Trinity Church and some congregants have also physically left their mark on the building by donating stained glass windows and other fittings.
In the late 1970s, despite early suggestions that the church be demolished, it was decided to retain the original structure but extend it, which is a reflection of the strength of feeling towards the building. The community support of Holy Trinity Church has continued into the twenty-first century with the church being able to raise a significant amount of money within the local community to fund expensive remedial works. This project also prompted prominent local people to lobby on behalf of the building and record their identification of Holy Trinity Church's high heritage status within Richmond.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, and e.
Beatson, Charles Edward
Charles Edward Beatson trained as an architect under his father. He took over the Nelson practice following the death of his father, supervising the construction of his father's last designs including All Saints Church (1871) and Holy Trinity Church, Richmond (1872).
Beatson was appointed assistant to the Colonial Architect in 1874 and while he described himself as a Colonial Architect it is unclear whether or not he actually held this position. While working for the Government he was responsible for the tower of the Post and Telegraph Office, Wellington, additions to Wellington Public Hospital, extensions to the "Lunatic Asylum" (later known as Oakley) at Whau and has been credited with the design of the Government Printing Office, Wellington (1886). He won a competition for the design of Nelson College for Girls in 1882.
About 1888 Beatson was discharged by the Government. He then practised in Wellington for several years before returning to Nelson where he established a farm. He designed a few buildings in this late period of his life of which only his own house remains.
William Beatson (1807-1870) came from a family of ship builders from whom he gained early appreciation of timber construction. At some time before 1830 Beatson was articled to London commercial architect and quantity surveyor John Wallen and in 1832 he was admitted as a student to the Royal Academy. He appears to have practised architecture concurrently and was made a partner in Wallens' firm in 1836. He later practised on his own account.
Beatson emigrated to New Zealand in 1851 and settled in Nelson, one of the first practising architects to do so. The first building designed by him in New Zealand is believed to be the house known as "Guthrie Grange", Stoke (c1854). Beatson was initially involved with farming and appears to have returned to the practice of architecture about 1857 for financial reasons. Beatson used "Guthrie Grange" as his home and office until 1866, when the volume of work necessitated a move to the city.
He was responsible for the Wesleyan Church (1857), Christ Church Cathedral (1858-59), the warehouse and offices of Morrison and Sclanders, Hardy Street (1863), the Union Bank of Australia (1864) and Holy Trinity, the Anglican Church at Richmond (1869-72) as well as several residences.
Beatson designed timber buildings in styles commonly associated with stone, and his decorative details, carved in timber, were often reminiscent of Gothic tracery. While his designs fell within the accepted stylistic models of Victorian England, he introduced elements of some originality.
On William's death in 1871 his son Charles Edward Beatson, continued the Nelson practice.
Warren & Mahoney
The practice was founded in 1955 by Sir Miles Warren in Christchurch where he was later joined in partnership by Maurice Mahoney in 1958; the partnership went on to design buildings that are now regarded as the benchmark of New Zealand Modernism: Harewood Crematorium (1963), College House (1966), Canterbury Students' Union (1967) and Christchurch Town Hall (1972), are amongst many examples of their mid- to late-twentieth century works.
Sir Miles was knighted in 1985 for his services to architecture and in 2003 named one of ten inaugural ‘Icons of the Arts’ by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
Since 1979, the practice has expanded to Wellington, Auckland, Queenstown, Sydney and Melbourne, where they have nurtured some of New Zealand’s finest architectural talent. Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney retired in in the early 1990s. Currently, Warren and Mahoney is an insight led multi-disciplinary practice working across all disciplines of architecture.
The practice has a long association with the refurbishment and restoration of historic buildings in New Zealand and has worked closely with Heritage NZ to achieve best outcomes for these heritage buildings while ensuring the highest possible standards of modern functioning requirements are met. They are conversant with the ICOMOS New Zealand Charter for the Conservation of places of Cultural Heritage Value and the Burra Charters for the conservation of buildings.
The settlement of the Nelson region is said to have begun with the landing of the prominent early iwi, Waitaha, in the waka Uruao. This travelled from Hawaiki and the voyagers made landfall on the Boulder Bank circa 850, near what would become Nelson city. From there scouting parties set out to explore the interior while others continued their sea journey down the east coast of the South Island. The settlement of the Nelson region then ensued and was driven by the fact that the area was found to be rich in resources, such as minerals for fashioning tradable items like adzes. Food, in the form of seal, moa and shellfish, was plentiful too and the district also had large tracts of land with fertile soil, or soil whose fertility could be manipulated, suitable for growing kumara and other garden produce. It was because of this abundance of resources that the district is said to have been 'one of the most fought over in New Zealand.'
European association with the area was first established in 1642 when Abel Tasman anchored in what was to be called Murderer's, then Massacre, and now Golden Bay. The result of this first visit was a lethal exchange between the Dutch sailors and Ngati Tumatakokiri. It was centuries after this initial encounter that European interest in the area began in earnest with explorative visits from Captain James Cook and Dumont D'Urville and a few others. Then in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century flax traders and sealers began to frequent the coast around Nelson. However, because there were few whaling stations in the immediate area there was no substantive European settlement until the New Zealand Company's establishment and settlement of Nelson from 1841.
The company explored the potential of several sites for its settlement but Nelson was chosen as the nucleus, despite the generally swampy nature of the low lying areas, because of its harbour and the plentiful supplies of game and fish. It was then a matter of Captain Arthur Wakefield meeting with the various iwi of the region to persuade them to agree to the proposed settlement. This was essentially a confirmation and extension of a land sale organised by the Tory expedition in 1839. The meeting took place at Kaiteriteri and Wakefield eventually negotiated a deal with those in attendance. However, subsequent events demonstrate that in regard to this and some later transactions there were discrepancies in what each party believed they had agreed to. This led to several instances of conflict in the Nelson region during the 1840s, in particular. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence was the 'Wairau Affray' in 1843.
It was not until the 1850s that the Nelson community and other towns in the area began to coalesce. Provincial government was established in 1853, and most of the farm land from Wakapuaka to Brightwater was occupied by this date. By the 1850s all of the major Christian denominations could also boast of clergy and associated buildings in and around Nelson. Between 1853 and 1858 the European population of the district had risen from 4,587 to over 7,000 and continued to grow and prosper into the 1860s and 1870s with the aid of the local gold rushes and the nationwide demand for the area's produce. This growth in population can be seen in the coinciding increase in churches and school buildings which were necessary to supplement those already established.
Because of its reasonably close proximity and the outward movement into the Waimea Plains from Nelson it is not surprising that Richmond was one of the earliest rural settlements established outside of the nucleus of the New Zealand Company settlement. The location of the village, just a few miles from the main centre of Nelson, drew comparisons between it and Richmond-on-Thames, which is similarly close to London. Therefore, when the village was founded in 1843 it was decided that it should be named after that English town. This proximity to the nucleus of settlement, to the best farmlands, and relatively good roads meant that Richmond soon became the second town in the province.
Religion comes to town
Nelson in the 1840s seems to be what one would expect of a 'frontier' society; horribly unhygienic by modern standards and rough behaviour abounded. One solution to this, which the New Zealand Company approved off, was the influence of religion. Unlike the later settlements of Canterbury and Otago, Nelson was not founded around denominational lines and as such all the major Christian sects were able to gain a foothold, although the Church of England was the most popular. This prevalence was recognised in the early 1850s when Nelson was accorded the distinction of becoming the seat of an Anglican diocese. Anglicanism became ingrained in the city and throughout the district by the 1870s. The construction of Holy Trinity Church in Richmond, a large rural church, during this period was reflective of the strength of the Anglican Church in the region.
The Diocesan Trustees initially bought five acres of land in Richmond on which they planned to build Holy Trinity Church. This piece of land does not seem to have proven suitable though because in 1862 they acquired a further two acre section, which had been the site of the cattle market. Despite now being satisfied with their purchase, it was not until 1869 that a church building committee was formed to work towards the construction of the church on that site. The push to build the church may have been motivated by the fact that the parish required a church that would suitably reflect Richmond's status as the base of the recently established Richmond Parochial District, which also encompassed Appleby and Stoke. After it was formed the committee wasted no time in approaching local architect William Beatson (1807-1870) to design the Holy Trinity Church. The eventual construction of the church meant its smaller circa 1855 predecessor, which no longer had the capacity to cater to the growing local population, was demolished and a parsonage built on its site on Wensley Hill in 1880.
Beatson had trained and worked as an architect in London before immigrating to Nelson in 1851. As previously mentioned, this was a period when Nelson was coming into its own as a town and after a slight economic slump in the mid 1850s there seems to have been plenty of building projects in the works by the end of the decade. Beatson soon established himself as one of the premier architects in Nelson and had many commissions, including Nelson College (1859), St Barnabas' Church (1866), All Saints' Church (1868), as well as several large houses. Beatson's successful career in New Zealand, which he had built up over a period of two decades, was ended when he died in 1870, but not before he designed his last church, Holy Trinity Church.
The building committee for the Holy Trinity Church consisted of Rev. D.W. Rusz, Captain Walmsley and Messrs Barnicoat, Benfield, Canning, Croucher, Hall, Harrington, Mackay, Muntz, Nicholas, and Pickering. The ladies of the church were asked to contribute their time to help raise the necessary funds. Although they did an admirable job the amount raised could not match the ambition of the design, which had been completed to the client's original specifications. Because William's son, Charles Beatson (1846-1927), took over his father's on-going projects when he died, Charles then had to modify the original design to compensate for the financial shortfall. It was reported that: the building will be erected so as to facilitate the completion of that design when funds admit. It will, however, even in its reduced proportions, be a sightly structure, and will add very much to the beauty of the pretty rural district of which it is the centre.
The final design was essentially that prepared by William Beatson, however in accordance with possible cost saving measures pre-emptively outlined by his father, Charles excluded the planned vestry, chancel, and tower, and Charles may also have reduced the scale of the building. Of the tenders received after the committee advertised, it was C.W. Moore's which was accepted. It was not until 1885 that there were sufficient funds to construct the chancel and vestry, which were built by Mr Stead Ellis, and the tower was added in 1890.
The building of the church was greatly anticipated locally and this was reflected in the attendance of the various ceremonies which marked the progression of its construction. The first such event was the laying of the foundation stone on 9 October 1871. Rev. W.D. Rusz, who would become the curate at Holy Trinity Church, took part in the ceremony which included his presenting Bishop Suter with the trustees' authorisation to build the church. Then 'coins and papers were put in a bottle' as a time capsule and the foundation stone was laid on top of it by the Bishop. Construction of the church then began and when completed there was a consecration ceremony, the Bishop again presiding, which took place on 31 July 1872. It was at the opening of the church that what is claimed to be the first piece of music published in New Zealand, written by local residents George and Fred Bonnington, was initially performed.
Upon its completion the style of Holy Trinity was described as being 'the severest form of early English - bold, effective, and attractive.' The predominance of timber in its construction was also cause for comment. Whereas it was thought that many other churches mimicked stone constructed churches and were therefore not well resolved, Holy Trinity Church differed because its form was nicely adapted to its construction materials. The interior with its 'massy beams, trusses, braces, purlines and plates, all exposed and unpainted, speaks for itself and cannot be accused of pretending to be other than it actually is - a building of wood.'
Over the years the church has been the centre of the Anglican community's religious activities being the site of regular services as well as christening, wedding, and funeral services. Because of the church's importance to the social fabric of the local community it was maintained though their generosity whether this was financially, or through volunteer work. Many voluntary groups, mainly involving the women of the congregation, were associated with the church including the Ladies Guild which was formed in 1935. As with other churches, the purpose of the guild was to raise money to help with church expenses. Other groups included the Young Wives' Group established in 1962 who offered support and friendship to other women in the parish. This group, like the Fireside Club which met between 1950 and 1970, were also involved in fund raising.
In the early 1980s there was a move to demolish the church, or else to relocate it to somewhere like the Richmond cemetery. However, this was averted and the required additional space provided with extensive additions to the church in 1984. Prominent Christchurch architects Warren and Mahoney designed a large addition at rear of the church. The retention and continued use of the original building, albeit with significant additions, was believed to be a necessary compromise to demolition by the various parties who consulted over the matter, including the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT). However, this outcome was at the expense of the 1885 chancel and vestry which were demolished to make way for the extension.
The construction of the extension to Holy Trinity Church was completed in 1984 and the new section was dedicated on 28 July. During the construction work the foundation stone time capsule from 1871 was discovered and was later reinterred with a modern time capsule in the foundations of the additions. Originally, there was a plan to connect a large entrance and amenities block to the addition. However, this did not eventuate, although a set of prefabricated buildings was subsequently constructed for the administration centre of the parish.
Further remedial works have been carried out at Holy Trinity Church, the most substantial example of which was a project in 2003. This project included repairing some of the early stained glass windows and other maintenance, which was primarily funded by charitable trust grants. However, there was a shortfall in this amount and a fundraising campaign was launched within the local community. The response to this 'surprised and thrilled' the church because they were able to raise $20,000 in only four months. The high profile of the building within the community was also demonstrated through letters written to the NZHPT from local business people and the Bishop of Nelson, as well as politicians such as the Mayor, John Hurley, and the Member of Parliament for Nelson, Nick Smith.
Holy Trinity Church is also commonly referred to as 'the church on the hill' and it occupies a prominent central place in Richmond's townscape, within which it is one of only a few noticeably historic buildings. Although not an overly large or steep hill, the rise is sufficient enough to elevate the church above its neighbours. This prominence is particularly evident when approaching the building from the north because of the large open space created by the sports grounds at the base of the hill in front of the church. The vertical emphasis of this Gothic Revival influenced building is echoed elsewhere on the site by several large mature trees that are intermittently planted around the grounds. To the east of the church and back of the section is a series of buildings comprising of a late twentieth century prefabricated administration building and a late nineteenth century church hall, which has been significantly altered. On the opposite side of the church is a house that is separated from the rest of the churchyard with a timber-panel fence.
Holy Trinity Church is built in accordance with the Gothic Revival tradition, similar to St Barnabas' in Stoke which was also designed by William Beatson. The key difference between the two is that, whereas St Barnabas' is constructed in stone, Holy Trinity Church is built from timber which is more characteristic in a New Zealand context and also around the Nelson region. Although considered a rural centre, by the time Holy Trinity Church was constructed Richmond had cemented its position as the second town in the province and the size of the original building was reflective of this. In this way Holy Trinity Church is comparable to other churches in well established rural centres, like Rangiora and Feilding, in size, materials, and key design features.
The main features of the church include the original porch and nave, both of which have steep gables with bell cast eaves, as well as diamond latticed single lancet windows, and a broach spire. These areas were reroofed with shingles when the 1984 addition was constructed. The angle of these eaves is repeated in the series' of double tiered external timber buttresses on each elevation of the original section of the building, which form angle buttresses on each corner of the northwest façade. The stone foundations of the original church, which were built up in order to provide a level base for the structure on its slightly sloping site, are exposed on the bases of the forward most buttresses. Unlike 'Selwyn Churches,' which were another representative form of church architecture at the time but more typical of the North Island, buttressing is a common feature of churches around Nelson, and Holy Trinity Church conforms to this regional trend.
The 1890 spire has pairs of rectangular louvered ventilation cavities on each side. The decorative lancet hoods and recessed trefoil motifs that surmount each cavity reference the tracery windows common in Gothic Revival style church architecture. There is a clear central focus deliberately created on the northeast/front façade to emphasises the verticality of the building, a characteristic aim of Gothic Revival influenced church architecture, which progresses via the point of the porch gable, the nave's gable end ventilation cavity, the spire tower cavities, and then the acute pitch of the spire. The nave gable end cavity, with its decorative lancet hood, is not an original feature having replaced a decorative trefoil motif.
The substantial 1984 addition, at the southeast end of the building, forms a transept that is of abbreviated width, but is deep to the extent that it occupies approximately one third of the total length of the building. On the northeast façade the connection of the transept with the original nave is the reverse of what one might expect as it is stepped out. The transverse arm of the transept is then formed with a steep gable that has bell cast eaves similar to that of the original section. The shape of opposing side of the transept creates a distinct asymmetry within the 1984 addition. This western side of the transept forms a large solid expanse of hipped roofing down to bell cast eaves, and encompasses a vestry on its northwest corner. The asymmetry of the extension clearly distinguishes it as a product of post-modern architecture, albeit one which has taken its direction from that of the original structure and traditional components found in Gothic Revival church architecture. In this vein the addition also features instances of external buttressing, and the entire building has consistent board and batten exterior timber cladding and a stringcourse which unifies the late nineteenth and late twentieth century parts.
On the southwest end of the transept is an abrupt chancel. An unusual feature of this is that there is no glazing on the end wall. However, it features bands of side light glazing on each side, as well as a clerestory below its roof peak that wraps over top of the gable of the transept. This bathes the altar in light and creates an illusion of depth.
When the addition was constructed the chief piece of existing glazing at the church, the 'Trinity window,' was removed from the chancel before its demolition and then installed in northeast side of the extension. The 'Trinity window' has a prominent position on the gable end of the transept and consists of a group of three lancet windows which repeat the fleur-de-lys and trefoil motifs found elsewhere in the church. It was positioned here because this driveway-side façade is a highly visible place, but also because its easterly position is logical when endeavouring to heighten the visual effect of the glazing by taking maximum advantage of available sunlight. The Barnicoat (1910) and Beatson (1944) memorial windows were also removed prior to the demolition of the chancel and vestry and reinstalled into this side of the building, although the positioning either side of the transept door and beneath the eaves and verandah of the section means they do not diffuse as much direct sunlight as the 'Trinity window.' Similarly, the Hepburn memorial window was installed on the southwest side of the transept, a position which does not allow the glazing to be displayed to its full advantage.
The main access to Holy Trinity Church is by way of a set of late twentieth century concentric semi-circular concrete steps, and then through two sets of lancet doors. The outer set consists of painted timber panel doors, which appear to be original whereas the wrought iron hinges are later additions, appearing in photographs by the late twentieth century. The inner couplet of doors are stained timber and have large sections of glazing. Either side of the central hall of the porch are rooms, one of which contains toilet facilities. The lancet vault interior of the porch is lined with horizontal bands of stained timber which is contrasted with the stark white of the timber sheet lining of the entrance wall.
This theme is continued through the nave, the walls of which have stained timber string courses and diagonal bracing. The dramatic expansive ceiling features dark stained timber and rows of timber scissor braces extending from moulded timber brackets. These aspects continue into the transept, although the walls do not have any additional bracing. The rear wall of the chancel differs to those elsewhere in the church in that it creates an uninterrupted white form. The contrast of this with the dark timber of the nave ceiling, as well as the excess of light that this area has due to its side lights and clerestory, directs the eye of the viewer to the altar.
The transept has enabled additional seating within the church, as well as room for a wide sub-altar stage area, which encompasses traditional elements like choir seating, as well as aspects of modern worship, such as space for band equipment. The original pews, which feature fleur-de-lys motifs on their ends, were supplemented by new pews of a similar design after the extension of the church. The new pews are distinguished by their lighter colour and their position in the transept. The original pews have been moved forward within the nave to allow space at the entrance end of this section for congregants to gather and socialise.
1871 - 1872
Original roof shingles replaced with grey slates
Upgrading of lighting systems
New steps constructed to church door
Church renovated, reroofed and relined. Warren and Mahoney addition constructed at rear of church necessitates the removal of 1885 chancel and vestry.
Remedial work completed including work on the foundations, roof and other exterior cladding
Concrete, glass, slate, stone, timber.
21st October 2009
Report Written By
Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
J N W Newport, A short history of the Nelson Province, RW Stiles ad Co Ltd, Nelson, 1966
A. Wells, Nelson's Historic Country Churches, Nelson, 2003
Ian Bowman, 'William Beatson, A Colonial Architect', Auckland 2005
RF Batholomew, Holy Trinity Church Richmond, 1872-1972, Richmond, 1972
A fully referenced version of this 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.