St James Anglican Church (Former) and Churchyard

252 Red Swamp Road, Kowhai, Kaikoura

  • St James Church.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: G. Wright. Date: 1/06/2005.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1462 Date Entered 29th September 2006

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fittings and fixtures, and the land (including the graveyard) on Certificate of Title MB35/93.

City/District Council

Kaikoura District

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 102 District of Kaikoura Suburban (CT MB35/93), Marlborough Land District

Summaryopen/close

The former St James Anglican Church (1873) represents the simple faith and interdenominational cooperation of Kaikoura's settlers. As the first purpose-built protestant church in the Kaikoura area, St James received the support of the district's Presbyterian congregation, who initially also worshiped there. The humble building's unorthodox plan, the product of a substantial early enlargement, is a testament to an enthusiastic pioneer congregation in whose lives the church was pivotal. Although later eclipsed by its sister church in Kaikoura township, St James maintains a community focus today as the home of the local Art Society.

The rich waters of Kaikoura have been a favoured kai moana source for Maori since the beginnings of settlement 900 years ago. Occupation was restricted to the coastal strip, as an extensive swampy hinterland stretched through to the foothills of the Kaikoura Range. This wetland was probably used for food gathering and transit through to the wooded slopes of Mt Fyffe, where some canoe construction took place. Survivors from the sacking of Kaikoura's Takahanga Pa (by Te Rauparaha in the summer of 1827-28) also sought sanctuary in the thick vegetation of the swamp.

Intensive settlement by Europeans of the remote Kaikoura area followed the completion of the survey of the Kaikoura Township and its swampy so-called 'Suburban' hinterland (later known as Kowhai Flat) by the Marlborough Provincial Council in 1864. Land sales were initially slow, but increased from 1866 as disappointed gold miners began filtering in from the north. The following year, the Marlborough Waste Lands Act allowed for the granting of land in lieu of cash payment for public works. Twenty six small farms in greater Kaikoura were granted in this manner, but it was probably the roads and drains thus provided that proved the greatest incentive to settlement. Further growth took place after 1872 when the upset (government) price for land was reduced by 25%. Between 1868 and 1885, the population of the Kaikoura region grew from just 410 to 1,536 - half of whom dwelt on the Kowhai Flat.

The first of Kaikoura's churches, the Catholic St Michaels, opened on a Suburban site in 1868. With neither clergy nor a place of worship however, Protestant services continued to be conducted primarily in private homes. These services tended to be interdenominational, and remained so after the appointment in 1870 of the first minister to the district, Anglican vicar Rev. Thomas Porritt. As the area of Kowhai Flat became settled, attendances at services grew until there was standing room only. Consequently Rev. Porritt convened a meeting of parishioners in 1872, at which he proposed the construction of an Anglican church building. By the end of the meeting £10.13.0 had been subscribed, and four potential sites offered. The land offered by Hugh Trimble in Red Swamp Road was later selected as most central, and Porritt authorized to call for tenders. Dodimead and Westerby's tender was accepted, and the church was subsequently constructed using donated (possibly pit-sawn) timber. An unlined and unpainted St James Church opened for worship on 24 August 1873.

The interdenominational cooperation of the early years saw Kaikoura's Presbyterian congregation support the appointment of Rev. Porritt and contribute generously to the building of St James (and later another Anglican church - St Peter's - in Kaikoura township). After Presbyterian minister Rev. William McAra arrived in 1877, his congregation used St James on alternate Sundays until the construction of their own chuch in 1879.

Burials in the small graveyard at the rear of St James, the resting place of a number of pioneering Kowhai families, probably began within a short time of the church's opening in 1873. The earliest legible headstone dates from 1882. By the time of the church's centenary in 1973 however, interments had largely ceased, with most parishioners choosing the public cemetery in Kaikoura township. Although there have not been any burials since 1994, the graveyard remains open.

The population of 'The Kowhai' grew substantially in the ten years that followed the opening of St James'. Despite the construction of St Peter's in Kaikoura township in 1874, St James soon became too small for its burgeoning congregation, and was extended in 1882 with the addition of a nave and porch. The old church (probably turned ninety degrees from its likely original east-west orientation) formed the transept and altar area of the new building.

In the decades following the extension of St James, the locus of population in the Kaikoura region shifted from the rural hinterland to the township. As a consequence St Peter's became more important to the parish, and was rebuilt in masonry in 1903. The rural St James meanwhile declined in significance, and for many years maintained a congregation just sufficient to keep the church's doors open. It was not until 1946 that the seventy five year old building received its first major renovation, at a cost of £350. The floor was replaced at this time.

In the 1980s the decision was made to concentrate Anglican worship at Kaikoura on St Peter's. St James was deconsecrated in April 1987, and leased to the Kaikoura Art Society to serve as studio and gallery. At the time the Art Society took the church over, the building was in poor condition and required extensive restoration. Substantial areas of the board and batten cladding were replaced, and some decayed windows reconstructed to original profile. The rear wall of the 1873 church was leaning precipitously, and required interior bracing. A kitchen was inserted into the former vestry. The bell was removed from its belfry, and reinstalled at St Peter's. St James provided a meeting place and exhibition space for the vigorous Art Society until its sale to a private owner in 2010.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The building has historical significance as the first Anglican church at Kaikoura, and for the reminder it provides of the importance of Kaikoura's hinterland in the early decades of settlement in the area. It also has historical significance for the interdenominational co-operation of the local Anglican and Presbyterian congregations that led to the church's construction in 1873, and characterised its early use.

St James Anglican Church has architectural significance as an example of a simple gothic revival building that has grown organically in order to accommodate a larger congregation. As a consequence of additions in 1882, the church's plan is unorthodox. The 'T'-shaped church has transepts but no chancel, with the altar situated at the intersection.

St James has social and spiritual significance for its early practical ecumenicalism, and as a focus of Anglican worship in the Kaikoura hinterland for more than a century (1873-1987). The former church also has social significance for its role since 1987 as the home of the Kaikoura Art Society. The graveyard has social, spiritual and historical significance as the resting place of a number of St James' early parishioners.

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

St James represents the central role of the Church as an institution of both faith and sociability in small pioneer communities. Constructed of donated timber on donated land, the humble building provided an initial focus for Kaikoura's Anglican and Presbyterian congregations.

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

St James is held in high esteem by the community, such that it was retained in church ownership after becoming redundant in 1987, and still serves a public function as an art society studio and gallery. A significant contributor to the on-going relationship of St James with the community is its churchyard, where several pioneering parishioners lie.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

The former church has a 'T' shape rather than the more conventional cross plan as the chancel is absent. This is an unorthodox design for an Anglican church, and was the product of the growth of the building paralleling that of its congregation in the church's first decade.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

St James symbolizes the strength of the Kaikoura pioneers' faith, and commemorates the spirit of interdenominational co-operation that characterised the initial establishment and use of the church.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Dodimead and Westerby

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The former St James Anglican Church (1873) represents the simple faith and interdenominational cooperation of Kaikoura's settlers. As the first purpose-built protestant church in the Kaikoura area, St James received the support of the district's Presbyterian congregation, who initially also worshiped there. The humble building's unorthodox plan, the product of a substantial early enlargement, is a testament to an enthusiastic pioneer congregation in whose lives the church was pivotal. Although later eclipsed by its sister church in Kaikoura township, St James maintains a community focus today as the home of the local Art Society.

The rich waters of Kaikoura have been a favoured kai moana source for Maori since the beginnings of settlement 900 years ago. Occupation was restricted to the coastal strip, as an extensive swampy hinterland stretched through to the foothills of the Kaikoura Range. This wetland was probably used for food gathering and transit through to the wooded slopes of Mt Fyffe, where some canoe construction took place. Survivors from the sacking of Kaikoura's Takahanga Pa (by Te Rauparaha in the summer of 1827-28) also sought sanctuary in the thick vegetation of the swamp.

Intensive settlement by Europeans of the remote Kaikoura area followed the completion of the survey of the Kaikoura Township and its swampy so-called 'Suburban' hinterland (later known as Kowhai Flat) by the Marlborough Provincial Council in 1864. Land sales were initially slow, but increased from 1866 as disappointed gold miners began filtering in from the north. The following year, the Marlborough Waste Lands Act allowed for the granting of land in lieu of cash payment for public works. Twenty six small farms in greater Kaikoura were granted in this manner, but it was probably the roads and drains thus provided that proved the greatest incentive to settlement. Further growth took place after 1872 when the upset (government) price for land was reduced by 25%. Between 1868 and 1885, the population of the Kaikoura region grew from just 410 to 1,536 - half of whom dwelt on the Kowhai Flat.

The first of Kaikoura's churches, the Catholic St Michaels, opened on a Suburban site in 1868. With neither clergy nor a place of worship however, Protestant services continued to be conducted primarily in private homes. These services tended to be interdenominational, and remained so after the appointment in 1870 of the first minister to the district, Anglican vicar Rev. Thomas Porritt. As the area of Kowhai Flat became settled, attendances at services grew until there was standing room only. Consequently Rev. Porritt convened a meeting of parishioners in 1872, at which he proposed the construction of an Anglican church building. By the end of the meeting £10.13.0 had been subscribed, and four potential sites offered. The land offered by Hugh Trimble in Red Swamp Road was later selected as most central, and Porritt authorized to call for tenders. Dodimead and Westerby's tender was accepted, and the church was subsequently constructed using donated (possibly pit-sawn) timber. An unlined and unpainted St James Church opened for worship on 24 August 1873.

The interdenominational cooperation of the early years saw Kaikoura's Presbyterian congregation support the appointment of Rev. Porritt and contribute generously to the building of St James (and later another Anglican church - St Peter's - in Kaikoura township). After Presbyterian minister Rev. William McAra arrived in 1877, his congregation used St James on alternate Sundays until the construction of their own chuch in 1879.

Burials in the small graveyard at the rear of St James, the resting place of a number of pioneering Kowhai families, probably began within a short time of the church's opening in 1873. The earliest legible headstone dates from 1882. By the time of the church's centenary in 1973 however, interments had largely ceased, with most parishioners choosing the public cemetery in Kaikoura township. Although there have not been any burials since 1994, the graveyard remains open.

The population of 'The Kowhai' grew substantially in the ten years that followed the opening of St James'. Despite the construction of St Peter's in Kaikoura township in 1874, St James soon became too small for its burgeoning congregation, and was extended in 1882 with the addition of a nave and porch. The old church (probably turned ninety degrees from its likely original east-west orientation) formed the transept and altar area of the new building.

In the decades following the extension of St James, the locus of population in the Kaikoura region shifted from the rural hinterland to the township. As a consequence St Peter's became more important to the parish, and was rebuilt in masonry in 1903. The rural St James meanwhile declined in significance, and for many years maintained a congregation just sufficient to keep the church's doors open. It was not until 1946 that the seventy five year old building received its first major renovation, at a cost of £350. The floor was replaced at this time.

In the 1980s the decision was made to concentrate Anglican worship at Kaikoura on St Peter's. St James was deconsecrated in April 1987, and leased to the Kaikoura Art Society to serve as studio and gallery. At the time the Art Society took the church over, the building was in poor condition and required extensive restoration. Substantial areas of the board and batten cladding were replaced, and some decayed windows reconstructed to original profile. The rear wall of the 1873 church was leaning precipitously, and required interior bracing. A kitchen was inserted into the former vestry. The bell was removed from its belfry, and reinstalled at St Peter's. Today St James continues to provide a meeting place and exhibition space for the vigorous Art Society.

Physical Description

To the north and west of the isolated Kaikoura township is a fertile coastal plain known as the Kowhai Flat. Situated on 'The Kowhai' about twelve kilometres from Kaikoura township is St James Anglican Church (former). The modest timber gothic church sits in a rural landscape, isolated from any other structures. Its grounds are surrounded by a large hedge, and contain some mature trees. One of these trees, a large Douglas Fir, is listed in the district plan.

To the rear of the church is a small graveyard, containing some thirty headstones and an unknown number of unmarked graves. The earliest decipherable headstone dates from 1882, and the most recent burial took place in 1994. Nine ash interments are commemorated with plaques.

Oriented east-west, St James appears a typical small church of its era. Its plan however is unorthodox - with the unaltered (but probably reorientated) original church forming the transepts. Consequently there is no chancel, but a small vestry projects from a corner and supports a rustic belfry constructed of rough-hewn posts. The window sashes are rectangular, but given a gothic appearance by the appropriate shaping of the wall cladding over them. There are single lancets in the nave and east end, while both transepts have triple lancets. The nave and transept gables are surmounted with simple metal crosses.

Interior walls and ceiling are panelled in oiled vertical board and (moulded) batten. A simple altar and railing remain in situ. Ornate oil lamps are mounted at each of the two intersections of the nave and transept, and a third over the organ A large marble tablet graces the north transept, commemorating the work of early parishioner Mrs Ruck-Keene, who died in England in 1882.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1873 -

Addition
1882 -
Addition of nave and porch; original church becomes transept and sanctuary.

Other
1946 -
General restoration; new floor.

Other
1987 -
Deconsecration; Kaikoura Art Society takes over as studio and gallery. Substantial restoration.

Construction Details

Board and batten with a corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

26th July 2006

Report Written By

Pam Wilson / Gareth Wright

Information Sources

Boyd, 1973

A. Boyd, 'History of St James', Unpublished manuscript, c1973, Kaikoura Museum.

Sherrard, 1966

J. Sherrard, Kaikoura: A History of the District Kaikoura: Kaikoura County Council, 1966.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Southern 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.