Holy Trinity Church (Anglican)

12 Henui Street, Fitzroy, New Plymouth

  • Holy Trinity Church (Anglican) July 2010.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Blyss Wagstaff.
  • West Side. July 2010.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Blyss Wagstaff.
  • Interior. East end of nave, transept and chancel. July 2010.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Blyss Wagstaff.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 893 Date Entered 23rd August 2012


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Sec 91 Fitzroy District (CT TN123/84), Taranaki Land District and the grounds and the building known as Holy Trinity Church thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and its following chattels: the picture of Reverend Govett, and the needlework image of The Last Supper, the font, credence table, clergy stalls, lectern, and altar. The extent of registration excludes the Parish Hall, and vicarage buildings north of the church but includes the Norfolk pine to the north of the section, said to have been planted by Bishop Selwyn. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 91 Fitzroy District (CT TN123/84), Taranaki Land District

Location description

When travelling east along Devon Street East from central New Plymouth, Henui Street is the road to the north at the intersection of Devon Street East, Paynters Avenue and Henui Street. Occupying most of the land on the west side is the section where Holy Trinity Church and other church buildings are located.


Holy Trinity Church was originally opened in early 1845, and as such was the first established Anglican Church in Taranaki. When constructed it was referred to as Te Henui Church after its location, which is now known as the eastern New Plymouth suburb of Fitzroy.

The Taranaki region is thought to have been settled by Maori at least 700 years ago, and archaeological evidence suggests that pa were being built in the area as early as the fifteenth century. The area which would become the town of New Plymouth was populated by the people of the Te Atiawa iwi. New Plymouth was the site for New Zealand’s second European colony. In 1841 the first colonists arrived there, and George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878) was appointed the Bishop of New Zealand. Selwyn visited New Plymouth in October 1842, and set about organising buildings for the fledgling parish. Sites were chosen for Holy Trinity Church and St Mary’s Church (1846) in central New Plymouth, as well as Te Henui Vicarage (1845). Reverend William Bolland (1820-1847) was appointed to be the Deacon in charge of New Plymouth, and along with architect Frederick Thatcher (1814-1890) they began the building process, using funds from Bishop Selwyn to construct Holy Trinity Church.

This initial building was meant as a temporary structure, but because of the Taranaki Wars of the 1860s a more permanent version was not forthcoming until 1872, when board and battens and shingles replaced the existing rustic cladding materials. The period of conflict was economically and socially devastating, but the Anglican Church weathered the storm through the leadership of Henry Govett (1819-1903), the first Archdeacon of Taranaki. Govett fostered the parish for over 50 years, during which he was closely associated with Holy Trinity Church.

The current building is the result of the incorporation of the original building into various expansions. Having been altered in 1872, in 1888 the building was then divided in two to accommodate the creation of transepts. Since then three further significant projects have expanded the size of the building, transforming the small and simple initial building into a modestly sized timber church. The Gothic Revival inspired features of the building reference many other ecclesiastical buildings that Selwyn and Thatcher created together.

Holy Trinity Church is of special historic significance for its direct association with the establishment of the Church of England in New Zealand. The association of the place with Bishop Selwyn who is of national historical importance, and figures of considerable local significance, Reverend Bolland and Archdeacon Govett, has relevance as these people shaped the Church in the mid nineteenth century. The original building was a rare survivor of the Taranaki Wars, an aspect which is also historically noteworthy. Holy Trinity Church also has architectural importance because of its associations with Frederick Thatcher and significant local architects, James Sanderson and Francis John (Frank) Messenger.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This building is of special historical value. Opened in 1845, the Holy Trinity Church is the ‘oldest edifice erected for [Anglican] Divine service in Taranaki’ and is one of New Zealand’s oldest remaining churches, or remnants of churches. Just four other known examples of 1840s churches remain, all of which have since been extended. Three of these are Anglican churches that like the Holy Trinity Church were constructed through the efforts of Bishop Selwyn to a Thatcher design. Selwyn was a prominent and important member of the early Anglican Church in New Zealand and the Holy Trinity Church, whose site was selected by and its construction paid for by the Bishop, is directly linked with his work to establish and develop Anglicanism in New Zealand.

The church is also significant for surviving the 1860s Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand wars, one of relatively few buildings around New Plymouth that was not destroyed during this time. The economic hardships and social situation in New Plymouth during the decade of conflict inhibited the evolution of the 1845 ‘temporary’ building. Therefore, the eventual changes to the building’s appearance in the early 1870s are indicative of the community’s determined recovery after this turmoil. The 1870s and 1880s alterations to the building also coincide with a second wave of church building in New Zealand when many other early churches were either replaced or expanded.

Holy Trinity Church has significance for its direct historical connections with influential early local clergy, such as Reverend Bolland, and Henry Govett, the first Archdeacon of Taranaki.

Architectural Significance or Value:

There is strong evidence that Holy Trinity Church was first designed by noted pioneer ecclesiastical architect Frederick Thatcher. The corpus of religious buildings designed by Thatcher, which are associated with the architectural influence of Bishop Selwyn, were seminal in the development of New Zealand’s Gothic Revival vernacular churches. Subsequent additions to the simple original Holy Trinity Church building have included features of this style, such as transepts, an apse, high steep gables, and lancet windows. The building has local architectural importance because additions were designed by leading late nineteenth and early twentieth century New Plymouth architects James Sanderson and Francis John Messenger.

Archaeological significance or value:

The Holy Trinity Church was constructed in 1845 and is associated with the earliest period of European settlement in New Plymouth. As such the site is of archaeological significance. Although the building has been modified over time, the section is likely to contain archaeological deposits associated with its continuous use since 1845, including the possibility of unmarked graves. The section also contains a headstone dated 1857.

Social Significance or Value:

Thousands of members of the local Anglican community have had a close association with the building including the King family. Thomas and Mary King were married in Holy Trinity Church and were influential and prominent in local society and significant land owners. Among their children was Sir Frederick Truby King, who is acknowledged as an important New Zealander through his founding of the Plunket Society and other social programmes. The various donations of commemorative and dedicatory objects and fittings in Holy Trinity Church have local social value. They document the deaths and contributions of many members of the local Anglican community and its leaders. In particular, the World War One and Two memorials, in the form of plaques, a roll of honour, and windows, demonstrate the toll that these pivotal events of the twentieth century had at a local level.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

Holy Trinity Church is of spiritual significance nationally as the first purpose built structure for Anglican worship in Taranaki, which was the second New Zealand Company colony, and as one of the few remaining churches which had their foundations in the earliest period of European settlement. Since its construction Holy Trinity Church has been the scene of innumerable Anglican religious services, events, and celebrations and therefore has been directly associated with the spiritual aspect of thousands of local residents’ lives, which means Holy Trinity Church is of local spiritual importance.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

Holy Trinity Church has special historical significance for its link to the establishment of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, an aspect of this country’s history that has shaped the lives of a large sector of the population.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

The building is directly associated with Bishop Selwyn, and dates from the earliest period of his work setting up the Church of England in New Zealand. The building also has strong links to Henry Govett, a figure of great importance in the establishment of the Anglican faith in New Zealand and Taranaki. Govett was the first Archdeacon in Taranaki. He was placed in a challenging position early in this role, guiding the Anglican Church through the tumultuous period of the Taranaki Wars. As a rare survivor of the Taranaki Wars, the building is also significant for its association with this tumultuous period in New Zealand history.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

As this property was first developed in 1845, the site surrounding the church is of archaeological significance. There will be remnants of the activities associated the church which could be gleaned through archaeological techniques. The churchyard contains a headstone for an 1857 grave and there is the possibility of other unmarked graves within the grounds.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

Holy Trinity Church has been attended by thousands of local people since its construction in 1845 and therefore many have a close personal and family connection with the building. Holy Trinity Church has benefitted from generous community efforts to maintain and beautify the building and the grounds through voluntary labour and donations, which is indicative of a consistent history of local esteem for the place.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

The nucleus of Holy Trinity Church was built within a few years of the arrival of the first European colonists to New Zealand, and as such dates from the earliest period of the country’s colonial and ecclesiastical history.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

Holy Trinity Church is part of a quartet of sites in New Plymouth which were the result of the collaboration between Bishop Selwyn and architect Frederick Thatcher. Included in this historical landscape are St Mary’s Church, Te Henui Vicarage and the former Colonial Hospital known as The Gables.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, e, i, and k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place.

As the first purpose built church in the second New Zealand Company colony of Taranaki, the Holy Trinity Church is one of New Zealand’s oldest remaining churches, or remnants of churches, in New Zealand. The Holy Trinity Church is of special historic significance for its direct association with the establishment of the Church of England in New Zealand and for its direct links to figures of national historical importance, such as Bishop Selwyn, Frederick Thatcher, and Archdeacon Henry Govett. Holy Trinity Church was the first of a series of New Plymouth buildings instigated by Bishop Selwyn and designed by Thatcher, including Te Henui Vicarage and St Mary’s Church. The Holy Trinity’s 1840s construction and its history of subsequent expansions in the 1870s and 1880s makes it comparable to the few other remaining churches from this period.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Messenger, Francis (Frank) John

Francis John Messenger was a New Plymouth architect. He practised from the 1890s until his death in 1945 and was responsible for a number of prominent buildings in Taranaki which cover a variety of building types. His work includes the verandah (1909) of New Plymouth's White Hart Hotel (1886, Cat I), extensions to St Mary's Church (Cat I), Shoe Store Building, 58 Rata Street (1910, Cat II), Inglewood Town Hall by Percival & Messenger (1913, Cat II), St Andrew's Anglican Church, Rata Street by Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor (1922-23, Cat II), the Cenotaph opposite St Aubyn Chambers (1924, Cat II) and the Taranaki Savings Bank Building, 89 Devon Street by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor (1929-30, Cat II).

Thatcher, Frederick

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Sanderson, James

Sanderson’s career as an architect was primarily in New Plymouth where he was the Education Board architect. He designed commercial buildings for many important companies ‘as well as some of the principle residences.’ He designed the extensions for Holy Trinity Church, Fitzroy, and the Band Rotunda in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Taranaki region is thought to have been settled by Maori at least 700 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that pa were being built in the area, which surrounds Mount Taranaki, as early as the fifteenth century. A number of iwi hold mana whenua in the west coast of the region, including Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa and Taranaki.

The area which would become New Plymouth was initially populated by hapu of Taranaki, and then Te Atiawa. Te Atiawa affiliate with the waka Tokomaru and are said to descend from the semi-divine origins of ancestor Awanuiarangi, whose people moved south from Northland to the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki. The tribal rohe (district) occupies coastal land from Onuku Taipari north to Te Rau o te Huia, stretching inland for several kilometres to a promontory on the north-east slopes of Mount Taranaki. Te Henui, the area following the course of the Te Henui Stream, is recognised as an area of historic and ecological importance. In the wider vicinity of the Holy Trinity Church there are the remains of three former pa sites.

Tribes from Waikato raided Taranaki and Whanganui in the late 18th century, and warfare continued until the late 1830s. Also in the early 19th century, other tribes from the north raided Taranaki, armed with muskets, and enslaved some and took them north. The Ngati Toa tribe of Kawhia was also under pressure from Waikato tribes, and they migrated to the Kapiti coast and Wellington area around 1822- 1824. On passing through the Taranaki region they were joined by some people of the Te Atiawa, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama tribes. These upheavals and the depopulation of the area altered the balance of power. Between 1834 and 1837 Taranaki iwi defeated Waikato iwi in three battles in the area and finally a sacred peace known as ‘Hou-hou-rongo’ was negotiated.

European whalers initially arrived along the Taranaki coast in the first half of the nineteenth century, and generally integrated themselves relatively harmoniously with the local Maori communities. By the early 1840s, a Ngati Te Whiti pa at Ngamotu, called Otaka, was still populated but many other Maori strongholds in the region had been abandoned following the major migration of the remnant Te Atiawa population to Otaki, Wellington and Marlborough.

Organised colonial settlement at Taranaki was first instituted by the Plymouth Company in 1839-1840, who arranged to purchase land from the New Zealand Company for the settlement of immigrants from Devon and Cornwall, although this purchase would be much disputed in the future. The site of the township was chosen and laid out by Chief Surveyor Frederic Carrington in February 1841, and settler ships arrived from England from March 1841 onwards.

By this time the Plymouth Company had fallen into financial difficulties, and was formally merged with the New Zealand Company in May 1841. Settler ships continued to arrive, but disputes around the Crown’s role in transferring land out of Maori ownership, and between tangata whenua over who had the authority to transfer land were already evident.

The beginnings of Anglicanism in Taranaki:

With the European settlers also came the advent of religion to Taranaki, providing the familiar spiritual and cultural institutions of home to the settlers, and missionary services to the Maori population. Wesleyan missionary teachers had arrived in New Plymouth in 1838 to begin missionary activities for the remnant Te Atiawa population, and the region’s first mission station proper was established in 1841 at Ngamotu.

Although European settlers represented a variety of religious doctrines, many were members of the Church of England. Accordingly, once New Zealand had been proclaimed part of the British Dominion through the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Church Missionary Society was able to expand on its earlier work by seeking the appointment of a Bishop for New Zealand. This would involve the setting up of the Anglican constitution in the new diocese of New Zealand. This undivided diocese initially included the whole country as well as various islands in Polynesia. In 1841 George Augustus Selwyn (1809-1878) was appointed Bishop, arriving in New Zealand in 1842 to begin his ‘almost superhuman’ work.

Bishop Selwyn visited New Plymouth in October 1842, and set about organising the construction of churches in the parish. Sites were chosen for St Mary’s Church in central New Plymouth, and Holy Trinity Church in Weekestown. Weekestown later became known as Henui and now is called Fitzroy. Weekestown was about two miles from New Plymouth township and in the mid-1840s had a population of about 80 people. In the late 1840s the Bishop was recognised for having given up ‘literary leisure, elegant and refined society, the companionship of many devoted friends, [and] the prospect of high ecclesiastical position at home, to plant the church by the waters of the Henui...’

As well as the Anglican church, Henui also gained a Methodist one in late 1845. Indeed, the establishment of a number of ecclesiastical buildings in and around New Plymouth by the 1850s was for some a measure of the settlement’s improving social conditions and public security.

Holy Trinity Church:

The building is thought to have been opened in either March or May 1845 by Reverend William Bolland (1820-1847). The Holy Trinity Church is the ‘oldest edifice erected for [Anglican] Divine service in Taranaki.’ This original construction date places it among the oldest remaining churches, or remnants of churches, in New Zealand. Four other known examples of 1840s churches remain, three of them Anglican. New Plymouth’s St Mary's Church (Anglican) (Register no. 148) is a Thatcher design in stone that has been enlarged and modified. The timber Old All Saints Church (Anglican) & Churchyard (Register no. 11) in Auckland was built in 1847 and extended in the 1860s. Like the Holy Trinity Church, All Saints was constructed on a site selected by Bishop Selwyn and built to a design by Frederick Thatcher. Auckland’s Chapel of St John the Evangelist (Register no. 13) is now the earliest surviving example of a 'Selwyn Church'. Built from timber, it was designed by Frederick Thatcher and was consecrated by Bishop Selwyn in 1847 and extended in the mid-twentieth century. Auckland’s St Andrew’s Church (Presbyterian) (Register no. 20) was built between 1847 and 1850 from stone and modified in the 1880s and in the twentieth century.

The Holy Trinity Church is also a very early surviving example of a European settler building in Taranaki. Other examples include a relocated cottage in New Plymouth (Register no. 895) that dates from 1841, Te Henui Vicarage (Register no. 892) which was completed between March and April 1845, St Mary’s Anglican Church (Register no.148), whose foundation stone was laid in March 1845 and the building opened in 1846, and the Colonial Hospital built in 1847 (Register no. 29).

Young Reverend Bolland travelled to New Plymouth with his wife Jane, arriving in December 1843, and was appointed Deacon in charge of the parish in New Plymouth by Bishop Selwyn. Planning for Holy Trinity Church, then more commonly known as the Te Henui Church or Chapel, seems to have been underway by the time of the Bishop’s quick visit to Taranaki in late 1844. Bolland and architect Frederick Thatcher (1814-1890) were exploring the idea of an octagonal nave for Te Henui church. However, the eventual design was much more conservative, consisting of a simple rectangular gabled nave, a porch, and a belfry.

Thatcher was one of the first 15 associates of the British Institute of Architects, and was responsible for the design of a number of New Zealand’s celebrated ecclesiastical buildings, including Old St Paul’s in Wellington (Register no. 38), the Chapel and buildings at St John’s College in Auckland (Register no. 13 and 14), and Selwyn’s Bishopscourt complex at Parnell (Register no. 23). Another of his Taranaki buildings was the former Colonial Hospital (Register no. 29), and the 1845 stone extension to the Te Henui Vicarage (Register no. 892), home to Bolland and his family at a midway point between the two churches on his circuit. Thatcher is remembered as a key proponent of the influential ‘Selwyn style’ of architecture.

However, Holy Trinity Church initially seems to have had none of the refinements of Thatcher buildings such as St Mary’s Church. Holy Trinity Church was constructed with timber slabs and had a thatched roof of ferns and bracken, instead of raupo, which gave it a very rustic look. Bishop Selwyn described the building as ‘a temporary chapel of pleasing appearance.’ The thatch was not ideal as it seems to have been a breeding ground for all manner of insects. Congregants are said to have often been distracted during services due to black beetles dropping down on to them, being shaken free from the thatch through the vibrations of the bell. The building cost £50, all of which was contributed by Bishop Selwyn. This patronage was recognised with a brass plaque erected in Holy Trinity Church on the occasion of its 60th jubilee.

Around the same period that Bolland opened Holy Trinity Church, his Oxford University friend, Henry Govett (1819-1903), was ordained as a deacon. Govett eventually became the first Archdeacon of Taranaki in 1859. By this time he was the vicar of St Mary’s Church, having succeeded Bolland in this role in 1848. Govett then presided over many ceremonies at Holy Trinity Church throughout his long career. In the early period regular services at Holy Trinity Church were held every fortnight, and these were led by a combination of lay readers and local Methodist ministers. It was not until 1950 that the church had its own vicar, Reverend M. Richards, when Holy Trinity Parish was established. The Te Henui and Bell Block Parochial District had been created in 1915.

Any plans that the local Anglican community may have had to upgrade the facilities at Te Henui were seemingly stalled by the 1860s conflicts now commonly known as the Taranaki Wars. The Taranaki Wars were waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori resistance against the enforced alienation of their land. It was provoked by the difficulties caused by the demand for land for the colonists. An enquiry by Commissioner Spain in 1844 had upheld the initial European purchase of 60,000 acres, but this was re-investigated by Governor FitzRoy (1804-1865) and reduced to 3,500 acres. Over the next 15 years large blocks of land were purchased by the Governor on either side of New Plymouth, but tensions (both inter-tribal and between Maori and Pakeha) continued to escalate, erupting into hostilities.

During the wars the Church’s property was generally respected, but the parish suffered from a mass removal of European settler congregants, especially women and children, to the safety of places such as Nelson. Also, those among the population who did stay often had stretched personal finances, which in turn impacted on the parish’s resources.

The conflicts during the 1860s caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863. 185,000 acres of land within Te Atiawa’s rohe was confiscated. The devastating effects of these actions have since been acknowledged by the Crown through formal apologies and efforts of redress by settlement agreements, although the legacy of disenfranchisement continues to affect Maori.

The wars of the 1860s saw many buildings - especially those in outlying areas like Henui - fall prey to the fighting, sacked and burned. 187 settler homesteads were known to have been destroyed during the conflicts, all located outside the defensive cordon of the central township. The Holy Trinity Church is therefore a rare survivor of this significant period in Taranaki’s history. Its survival could be attributed to the general esteem in which clergy were held, as Bolland and Govett had forged good relationships with the Maori through their missionary activities.

Recovery took time after the devastation of the Taranaki Wars. However, it would appear that Holy Trinity Church’s community were determined to lose no more time in upgrading their building. A contract was advertised in 1869 for repair and restoration of the church, with fund-raising activities, such as bazaars, beginning that year as well. It seems that it was not until 1872 that the original timber slab cladding was replaced with boards and battens. The thatch was also exchanged for shingles, much to the relief of the users of the building.

The 1880s seem to have been a time of great change for the building. Increasing numbers of churches were built around New Zealand in the 1870s and 1880s as European settlement spread and early established places matured. This second wave of church building saw the replacement of some of the earliest churches, or their alteration to accommodate larger congregations, such as Holy Trinity Church’s Auckland contemporaries, the Catholic Cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph and St Andrew’s Church (Presbyterian).

Therefore it is not surprising that in 1884 Holy Trinity Church was closed while interior alterations were undertaken in order to insert a new organ, as well as rearranging the pews to form an aisle. A new bell was also installed. Then in 1888 tenders were called for a significant building programme which resulted in the creation of transepts. The architect, James Sanderson, also created a vestry and a completely new roof encased the expanded building. The extensions were said to give ‘a decidedly architectural look to the building.’ Once again Archdeacon Govett was involved and he officiated at the church’s re-opening service.

Although over 40 years after Bishop Selwyn instigated the construction of Holy Trinity Church, it seems like it was only after these extensions that the once rustic building began to look more like a ‘Selwyn style’ church. The style the building takes can be variously described as Antipodean Gothic, Colonial Gothic, Selwyn’s Gothic, or Gothic Revival. Selwyn was interested in bringing this revival of medieval Gothic architecture to New Zealand because of his own belief that it was the only style appropriate for ecclesiastical buildings, which was strengthened through his involvement with the Cambridge Camden Society. Thatcher - Selwyn’s architect of choice - was also a member of this society, and together they adapted the style to suit New Zealand conditions and building resources. This type of building had become a vernacular style of building in New Zealand by the time of the second wave of church building.

In 1903 the interior was altered again, with the cost primarily borne by Archdeacon Robert Henry Cole (d.1935). The altar was raised at this time to designs by F. Messenger. Around this time the Reverend F. G. Evans noted that there was ‘...very progressive spiritual work going on at Henui’ and that the ‘...congregations have largely increased, and the services are always bright, hearty and reverent.’ The congregation made a concerted effort to acknowledge important figures in the church’s history in the early twentieth century. Several commemorative plaques were installed, dedicated to Archdeacon Govett and to Reverend H. Handley Brown. A diamond jubilee bell had also been commissioned and hung in the belfry. There were further changes to the building made by Messenger in the 1920s.

In the mid-twentieth century Holy Trinity Church became the centre of its own parish and a vicarage was therefore required. This building is currently on the north of the church section and was constructed in 1956. The next building project of the new parish was to complete a parish hall. This building constructed in 1962 replaced a late nineteenth century church hall. The current form of the church is a result of further extension in the late twentieth century. These include additions made in 1966 and 1978 that saw the building expanded at its sides in order to boost the seating capacity to 350 people.

Thousands of divine, wedding, funeral and other Anglican services have been held in Holy Trinity Church since 1845. An early marriage of interest in November 1846 was between local resident Mary Chilman and Thomas King. The fifth child of this union was the eminent New Zealander Sir Frederick Truby King (1858-1917). His elder brother, Newton (1855-1927), became a prominent businessman through his namesake company. Indeed, the King family, who had large land holdings just outside of New Plymouth, are said to have ‘belonged to the settlement’s commercial and political elite.’ The family maintained a relationship with the church, it being the location of Sarah King’s wedding in 1878. Holy Trinity Church continues to function as an ecclesiastical building.

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

Architect (original construction): Frederick Thatcher

Architect (1888 extensions): James Sanderson (1845-1924)

Builder (1888 extensions): G. Hall

Architect (circa 1928 extensions): Francis (Frank) John Messenger

Architect (1966 extensions): R. W. Syme

Architect (1978 extensions): Laurenson Robinson and Jim Boon Architects and Engineers

Physical Description and Analysis:

Holy Trinity Church is a modest sized timber church located in the east New Plymouth suburb of Fitzroy. The building is positioned at the southern end of a large trapezoidal section and church’s apse is within a few metres of the street front. A concrete pad surrounds the building but there are grassed areas beyond this. There is a collection of mature trees and shrubs on the southern boundary. The grounds also include a headstone commemorating the 1857 deaths of Margaret Cudd and her brother William Kelly, although it is unclear whether the headstone has an associated grave. The headstone is located close to the northern side of the apse. Also positioned close to the front of the section, immediately north of the church, is the 1962 single storey rectangular Parish Hall. The complex of church buildings is completed by the 1956 vicarage at the northern end and its garage building. To the north of the site is a tall Norfolk pine reportedly planted by Bishop Selwyn in 1845.

Form and exterior of church:

Since its beginnings as an unassuming, rustic building in 1845, Holy Trinity Church has been significantly altered on several occasions. This has resulted in a modestly sized, weatherboard and board and batten clad, corrugated iron roofed church building. The collection of Gothic Revival-inspired gables and late twentieth century lean-tos combine to create a reasonably complicated roof form. The building has been gradually expanded outwards from the centre since the late nineteenth century.

The physical and historical nucleus of the building is the current nave. Initially this was a single gabled structure, dating from 1845 and renovated in the 1870s. In 1888 the increasing size of the congregation led to significant alterations to the original building. The form of the building was changed by:

‘cutting a piece off of the end of the old church and putting on a large new portion with transepts, at the same time bringing the piece cut off to the other end to serve as a chancel and a vestry.’

The subsequent history of substantial alteration to the building means it is unlikely that much original or 1870s fabric is still extant, although investigation of the building and archaeology could reveal currently unidentified older fabric. From existing plans and descriptions of the building it seems more likely that there is potential for a small amount of remaining 1888 fabric, particularly in the north transept.

Alterations to the interior, attributed to architect Frank Messenger, were completed in 1903. It seems probable that these changes included the installation of a reredos, painted on tin panels by an as yet unidentified person, which is visible in a photo from circa1910. Three of these panels were recently discovered to be well preserved intact behind later timber wall lining, and have been uncovered for restoration. The panels seem to have been covered for many decades as current congregants cannot recall seeing them before their recent rediscovery. The raising of the altar on a staging area was also undertaken at this time. This staging may have been incorporated into the design, by the same architect, when the church was extended around 1928. However while the general form seems to have stayed the same the 1903 staging may have been removed in order to widen the chancel in the late 1920s. The square-ended apse was also added at this later time. The works also saw the vestry (on the north side of the chancel) expanded, and a new baptistery added to the west end of what became the nave. It is likely that the belfry on the baptistery gable dates from this section’s construction, but it may be a reuse of the earlier one. Another change was the raising of the roofline to create a main gable form at the same height as the transept gables.

Then in 1966 lean-to sections extended the nave both northwards and southwards towards the line of the 1888 transept and slightly beyond it on the respective sides. A lean-to vestry, with external access between it and the choir, segments the façade of the north transept. The current porch, which extended the building at its southwest corner, was also constructed. Bowman notes that shingles from the 1872 roof replacement were found underneath the corrugated iron roofing at this time.

The most recent significant changes to the building took place in the late 1970s and focused on the south side of the church. These involved a large extension of the transept gable and the addition of a parallel gable adjoining it to the west, as well the creation of a new vestry off from the chancel. An attempt was made to match the internal and external linings, and the existing ventilating louvers from the apex of the transept gable were reused in the new exterior wall.

Previous additions had retained a relatively symmetrical plan to the building along its east to west axis. After the late twentieth century additions the building is now more heavily weighted on its south side. The late nineteenth century form of the building is still readable from the north, primarily because additions were single height lean-tos adjoining steep Gothic gables of the church. Lancet windows have been used throughout the building to marry the later additions with the style of the earlier building. It seems that board and batten cladding was used for the circa 1928 vestry (now choir) addition to replicate the existing 1870s or 1880s cladding on this section, and on the new baptistery section, perhaps as in homage to ‘Selwyn style’ churches.

Interior and fixtures and fittings:

The extension of the building is perhaps not as easy to read on the interior, mainly because it seems that most of the interior linings have been replaced, probably as part of one of the late twentieth century alteration projects. , However, the discovery of the tin reredos panels preserved behind the timber panelling on the east wall behind the altar suggests that other older fabric could exist behind the later linings. Timber match lining has been used throughout in order to be sympathetic to the interior character of the late nineteenth century building. Although predominantly one large open plan space, some additions are signalled through difference in ceiling height and the presence of support columns.

The height of the main central gable and transepts provide a suitably spacious feeling in the congregational area. The pews in the nave are positioned at a diagonal to the aisle, as well as extending into the 1966 northern lean-to, and also the southern transept. It is unclear when the pews date from. Impressive features of the interior are the arched roof braces of the nave, transepts and chancel. All of these, perhaps with the exception of those in the transepts, would have been created circa 1928 when the main gable roofline was made uniform. The simply styled wall brace corbels at their bases seem to confirm this, as they demonstrate a late 1920s and 1930s aesthetic rather than a more decorative Victorian one.

The chancel extends into the transept through staging. Previously the altar, donated by Archdeacon Cole in 1903, was positioned towards the rear of the chancel, but now it is located towards the intersection of the chancel and the transepts. This altar is dedicated to the memories of Bishop Selwyn, Archdeacon Govett, and early New Plymouth clergy, Reverends Bolland and Brown. The current altar rails appear to date from the late twentieth century. Other altar furniture populates this area. A late nineteenth century needlepoint work depicting the last supper is located on the back wall, the general position it seems to have held since its donation to the church in 1897.

There are few decorative fittings in the building aside from memorial windows and the recently uncovered reredos. There are two windows in the apse, both being memorials to the fallen of World War Two. The northern window depicts St George and the Dragon, while it’s opposite shows St Michael. All of these windows resulted from a bequest and were installed in 1953. Other windows in the nave and baptistery depict: St Peter in memory of Lewis George Andrews; Jesus as shepherd in memory of Archdeacon Frank George Evans; and St James and St John in memory of George and Jane Giddy.

As well as memorial windows there are a number of plaques around the church, erected at various times. These include a timber framed, embossed copper panel list of congregants who died while serving in World War One. A Roll of Honour for this war is also present, and is calligraphy on paper in a timber frame. There is a group of four brass plaques where the 1966 north additions meet the baptistery. The plaque commemorating Bishop Selwyn was first installed in the church in 1905 on the building’s 60th anniversary. Accompanying a plaque to Reverend Henry Govett is an image of Govett which is framed in timber which prominent former parishioner and noted historian W. H. Skinner attributed as being original material (pukatea) from the 1845 building. All of this group of plaques appear to have been created in the early twentieth century, and also commemorate church member and benefactor Darius Shuttleworth, and Te Henui priest Sanders Spencer.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1845 -

1872 -
Building clad in board and battens and roof shingles

1888 -
Original building dissected leaving the bulk of it for the nave. Transepts created. Chancel formed out of a part of original building

1903 -
Interior alterations including reredos and new raised staging for altar

1928 -
Addition of baptistery, height of main gable roof raised to that or transepts, apse added.

1966 -
Glass porch added and north side gable extensions; roof repaired

1978 -
Southwest gable added, south transept extended and southeast lean-to created

Construction Details

Concrete, glass, timber

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

6th June 2012

Report Written By

Blyss Wagstaff and Karen Astwood

Information Sources

Knight, 1972

Cyril Knight, The Selwyn Churches of Auckland, Auckland, 1972.

McAloon, 1997

Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997

Porter, 1979

Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island, Auckland, 1979

Stacpoole, 1976

John Stacpoole, Colonial Architecture in New Zealand, Wellington, 1976

Lambert, 1983

G & R Lambert. An Illustrated History of Taranaki, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1983.

Prickett, 1990

Nigel Prickett, Historic Taranaki: An Archaeological Guide, GP Books, Wellington, 1990

Alington, 2007

Margaret H. Alington, An Excellent Recruit: Frederick Thatcher Architect, Priest and Private Secretary in Early New Zealand, Auckland, 2007

Alexander, 1970

Alexander, A.C., Holy Trinity New Plymouth 1845-1970, Printed by Taranaki Newspapers, New Plymouth, 1970

Other Information

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

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.