St David's Pioneer Memorial Church

47 Burnetts Road, Cave

  • St David's Pioneer Memorial Church. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Allison Bennet. Taken By: Allison Bennet. Date: 16/08/2008.
  • St David's Pioneer Memorial Church. Interior: Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Allison Bennet. Taken By: Allison Bennet. Date: 16/08/2008.
  • St David's Pioneer Memorial Church. Stained glass window: Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Allison Bennet. Taken By: Allison Bennet. Date: 16/08/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 312 Date Entered 28th June 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 9429 (CT CB421/142), Canterbury Land District and the building known as St David’s Pioneer Memorial Church thereon.

City/District Council

Mackenzie District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 9429 (CT CB421/142), Canterbury Land District


St David's Pioneer Memorial Church at Cave is one of a number of memorial churches built throughout South Canterbury. Specifically, St David's was erected in 1930 in memory of [early Mount Cook station runholders] Andrew Burnett (1838-1927) and his wife Catherine (1837-1914), as well as to commemorate the other runholders, shepherds and station hands who developed the Mackenzie district into one of the major pastoral areas of New Zealand.

The Burnetts took up Mount Cook Station in May 1864, in a short-lived partnership with George McRae. It was the last large holding to be taken up in Canterbury. After the partnership dissolved Burnett continued to add to his holdings, until Mount Cook Station totalled 25,000 acres (10,117 hectares). One of his sons, Thomas David Burnett (1877-1941), later took over the run. Thomas became a member of Parliament and was responsible for a major South Canterbury irrigation scheme, the Downlands Water Supply. He conceived and supervised the construction of St David's as a memorial to his parents, as well as establishing a number of other monuments to the early settlers throughout the district. Thomas also believed that 'the arrival of the Scottish shepherd...began a new era in sheep management'. After Scottish shepherds arrived in the 1860s both lambing rates and wool yield increased, and many runholders extolled their virtues. St David's at Cave, is therefore dedicated to David of the Old Testament, as he had been a shepherd in his youth.

St David's was designed by Timaru-based architect Herbert Hall (1880-1939). Hall moved to Sydney, Australia, to begin working as an architect and on his return to New Zealand settled in Timaru. He designed a number of buildings (both domestic and public) throughout Timaru and the surrounding districts in the early part of the twentieth century. These included the Carnegie Library at Fairlie, also registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga. One of his most notable buildings was the neo-Georgian Chateau Tongariro (1929), erected at the bottom of Mount Ruapehu in the North Island.

For St David's, Hall designed a small church in the Norman style with a simple nave and a square castellated tower. It was built from reinforced concrete and faced with local boulders. The main entrance is through a small stone porch built onto one side of the church. Inside the nave is dominated by the stone and plaster walls and the hand-adzed timber of the floor, pews and open roof. Hall won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1934 for his design of St David's. The church also has a significant collection of stained glass windows, which includes a set of twelve lancet windows that depict the names and symbols of the twelve Apostles. Three windows are dedicated to the memory of the pioneer women of the district, 'who, through Arctic winters and in the wilderness maintained their homes and kept the faith...'.

A number of structures within the church were constructed from material from the Burnetts' run. In the porch a slab of greywacke, inscribed with a dedication to 'the glory of God, and in memory of the Sheepmen, Shepherds, Bullockdrivers, Shearers and Station hands, who pioneered the back country of this province between the years 1855 and 1895', was once used as a table by Andrew Burnett at his mustering camp in the Jollie Gorge. The pulpit was constructed from hearth stones taken from the first homestead at Mount Cook Station while the font was constructed from three historic pieces: an ancient sandstone mortar from Scotland (once used for grinding oats and barley); the hub of one of Burnett's bullock dray wheels; and a boulder from the Jollie Gorge, used as part of a musterers' hut. Plaques around the wall bear the names of the original runholders of the area, their stations' names and sizes, and when they took them up. [In 2016 new plaques were added on the east side of the nave, detailing the Burnett generations]. As well as these physical remnants from Mount Cook Station, links to the Scottish origins of many of the early settlers were explicitly made. The service of dedication was primarily conducted in Gaelic. The use of oak for most of the fittings within St David's, the mortar bought out from Scotland and the medieval style of architecture all reflect and celebrate the British origins of the early runholders and shepherds.

St David's Pioneer Memorial Church at Cave [is] a place of worship for all [Christian] denominations. It proudly celebrates, in both architecture and words, the Scottish ancestry of the early runholders and the landscape they chose to settle in. It was built as a memorial to Andrew and Catherine Burnett and other pioneers of the district, by the Burnetts' son, Thomas, who was a notable local member of Parliament. The church also commemorates pioneer women and is included in a book of places and memorials associated with women in New Zealand, published to celebrate the centennial of women's suffrage.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Hall, Herbert W

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

St David's Memorial Church has fourteen stained glass windows, all attributed to Brooks, Robinson & Co of Melbourne. The three in the east sanctuary were donated by Thomas and Agnes Burnett in memory of Thomas's parents, Andrew and Catherine. They depict the Good Shepherd, Ruth the Gleaner and David the Shepherd. A set of twelve windows in the nave depicts each of the Apostles and their emblems. A window dedicated to the pioneer women of the Mackenzie country, also donated by Thomas and Agnes Burnett, consists of two lights depicting 'Rachel the Shepherdess drawing Water from a Well' and 'Christ in the House of St Martha and Mary of Bethany' respectively.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1930 - 1930
Opened 22 November 1930

Completion Date

9th October 2002

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Cant, 2001

Garth Cant & Russell Kirkpatrick, eds., Rural Canterbury: Celebrating its History, Wellington, 2001

Ciaran, 1998

Fiona Ciaran, Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury, New Zealand. A Catalogue Raisonne, Dunedin, 1998


Donovan, 1994

Don Donovan, 'Rugged Beauty' in Historic Places, 47, May 1994, pp. 22-23

Gillespie, 1971

Oliver A. Gillespie, South Canterbury: A Record of Settlement, 2nd edn., Timaru, 1971

Pierce, 1995

Jill Pierce, The suffrage trail: a guide to places, memorials and the arts commemorating New Zealand women, Wellington, 1995


University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury

'Arts and Crafts churches of Canterbury: School of Fine Arts Gallery, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, 12 to 30 August 1996, (exhibition catalogue)', Christchurch, School of Fine Arts, 1996, Anne Field, 'St David's Memorial Church, Cave, 1930', p.12

Other Information

NZIA Gold Award Winners 1934

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.