St Mary's Church (Anglican)

174-176 Karori Road And Fancourt Street, Karori, Wellington

  • St Mary's Church (Anglican).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Vivienne Morrell. Date: 1/10/2011.
  • St Mary's Church (Anglican). c1960s. Architectural photographs. Ref: DW-0179-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image .
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Taken By: Duncan Winder.
  • St Mary's Church (Anglican). Clere, Frederick de Jersey 1856-1952: Proposed additions 1917. Ref: Plans-79-0505. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1351 Date Entered 25th November 1982


City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 7120 (CT WNE4/1454), Wellington Land District


The present St Mary’s Church (Anglican), Karori, dates from 1911 and was designed by well-known architect Frederick de Jersey Clere (1856–1952). Clere had become the Wellington Anglican diocesan architect in February 1883, and designed over 100 churches in Wellington and the lower part of the North Island. St Mary’s was one of Clere’s early reinforced-concrete churches.

A wooden church designed by Frederick Thatcher had been located on the site since 1866. Early in the twentieth century a larger building was needed and Clere’s concrete and timber building opened on 1 November 1911, but was smaller than intended due to funding difficulties. It was paid off and consecrated in 1916 and Clere produced a design for an extension in 1917. However, no action was taken until Samuel Marsden Collegiate opened across the road in 1926, providing a rapid increase in the number of parishioners. The extension was built to Clere’s design in 1926-1927. The 1866 church was demolished in 1925 as it was going to be in the way of the extension. The present parish hall was built in 1923.

Another extension, designed by Lewis Martin of Porter and Martin in 1965-66, almost doubled seating capacity to about 480. A further extension designed by William (Bill) Alington in 1993 rearranged the porch area and added a kitchenette, toilets and car port. All the changes have occurred to the west end, leaving the east end (the side approached from Karori Road) as originally built. The church also has a graveyard amongst mature trees on the north-west side.

The building stands on a prominent rise and its tall tower makes it noticeable from parts of Karori (although the tall trees in front now partially obscure the view). It is characterised by the tall square tower capped by an open timber framework, the long, low-pitched gable roof, deep overhanging eaves, and small round-headed windows in groups of twos and threes. The main structural material is concrete, finished on the outside in thick stucco plaster, painted white; and the roof is now concrete tiles.

The style of the building has been described as Italian Romanesque, particularly with the square bell tower; however author Susan Maclean believes the low-pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, exposed rafter ends, and recessed round-headed windows show more of a Spanish influence as it was then being expressed through the Californian Bungalow. Margaret Alington notes that while the debate over the style and influences is an ‘interesting academic exercise’, even in its original truncated form St Mary’s was an elegant and harmonious building, which Clere’s son considered one of his father’s best works after St Mary’s of the Angels (Register No. 36, Category 1).

St Mary’s, Karori has architectural and aesthetic significance as one of Frederick de Jersey Clere’s more important church designs and subsequent additions have carefully preserved the integrity of the original. The church also has social and spiritual significance to the many parishioners who have used it over the last 100 years.


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.

Alington, William

Alington was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in 1929. He began his career as an architectural cadet in the New Zealand Ministry of Works (MoW) in 1949, before studying architecture at the Auckland University College School of Architecture (Auckland, New Zealand) from 1951-1955. Early influences of this time include Gordon Wilson, who was the Government Architect at the time, MoW cadet supervisor James Beard, who was to become something of a mentor to Alington during the early part of his career, and Professor R H Toy of Auckland University College School of Architecture. Upon returning to the MoW after his graduation, Alington was assigned to the Hydro-Electricity department where he worked for a short, but influential, time under Chris Valenduuk.

In 1955 he married Margaret Hilda Broadhead. They have three children: Elisabeth Hilda (1959), Giles Hildebrand (1961), and Catherine Beatrice (1962).

In 1956 Alington left New Zealand, travelling to London, Europe, and on a Fulbright Travelling Scholarship, to Illinois in the United States. During 1956-1957 he worked in the London office of Robert Matthew and Johnson-Marshall on, among other projects, New Zealand House (London, England). During this time he and his wife Margaret embarked on a tour of western Europe, fulfilling his desire to see firsthand the large mediaeval cathedrals, as well as key works of Modernist architecture including Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel and Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. From 1957-1959 Alington studied towards a Masters Degree at the University of Illinois' School of Architecture (Urbana, United States). While in the United States Alington took the opportunity to visit buildings by Frank Lloyd-Wright and Mies van der Rohe, and had occasion to meet with Mies van der Rohe.

On his return to New Zealand Alington resumed work as an architect with the MoW, with notable buildings of this time including the Gisborne Courthouse (Gisborne, 1962), the Alington house, and the Meterological Office (Wellington 1965). His design work since moving into the private practice of Gabites and Beard consists largely of institutional work for civic authorities and educational institutions (including: Upper Hutt Civic Centre, Upper Hutt, 1966, NZIA Silver Medal; Waipa County Offices, Te Awamutu, 1976 NZIA Bronze Medal; Massey University Halls of Residence, Palmerston North, 1970, NZIA Bronze Medal; Wellington High School, Wellington, 1978; NZ Anglican Chinese Mission, Wellington, 1978).

In 1972, Alington was appointed Honorary Lecturer and Tutor at Victoria University of Wellington's School of Architecture & Design, lecturing in architectural history. He also taught at Auckland University as a Visiting Lecturer in 1982.

Other professional posts held include: NZIA Branch Committee Executive Member (1961-1969), NZIA IA Councillor, Vice President, Branch Chairman (1977-1979), and Architectural Centre President (1970-1972).

Meyer and Illingworth

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Martin, Lewis

A biography of Lewis Martin was published in the Dominion Post on 8 Jun 2013, p.3 - 'Ardent architect helped shape postwar capital'

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1911 -

1926 - 1927
Extension – one and a half bays and baptistery added

1966 -
Extension – three bays, porch and car port added

1993 -
Extension – porch re-arranged, courtyard, kitchenette, toilets added

Completion Date

19th November 2012

Report Written By

Vivienne Morrell

Information Sources

Fearnley, 1977

Charles Fearnley, Early Wellington Churches, Wellington, 1977

Maclean, 2003

S. Mclean, Architect of the Angels; the churches of Frederick de Jersey Clere, Wellington, 2003

Onslow Historian

Onslow Historian

Maclean, Susan, ‘Eight Wellington Churches designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere’, Onslow Historian, 28(3-4), 1998, pp. 17-21

Alington, 1998

Alington, Margaret, High Point: St Mary’s Church Karori Wellington 1866-1991, Parish of St Mary & Karori Historical Society, 1998

Other Information

A fully referenced proposal summary 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.