St Patrick's Catholic Church

St James Street, Ross

  • St Patrick's Catholic Church, Ross, West Coast. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 16/06/2016.
  • St Patrick's Catholic Church, Ross, West Coast. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 16/06/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1693 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fixtures and fittings, and land on CT WS5B/1030

City/District Council

Westland District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 2387 (CT WS5B/1030), Westland Land District

Location description

St Patrick's Catholic Church is on the northern side of St James Street, near the intersection with Bold Street. On recent maps the place where St James Street changes to Aylmer Street is located at the intersection with Simpson Street. There is some confusion and frequently St Patrick's Church and the Grimmond House are described as fronting Aylmer Street.


St Patrick's Catholic Church, Ross, was established in 1866, within a year of the founding of the Ross goldfield. Following the discovery of gold at Jones Creek and Totara River in 1865, miners flocked to the district and the township of Ross sprang into existence. Between 1865 and 1870 the field supported as many as 3,500 miners, and 47 hotels.

A significant proportion of West Coast miners were Catholic Irish. Thus Catholic priests followed promptly on the heels of the miners to provide for the spiritual needs of this new congregation. The first Catholic church in Westland, St Mary's in Hokitika (replaced in 1914), opened in December 1865.

The original part of St Patrick's, Ross, was a very basic rectangular building constructed of Baltic pine. Reputedly the timber was imported by a merchant who could not pay for it. The Irish community in Ross apparently banded together, purchased the cargo, and built a church. St Patrick's was dedicated by Bishop Viard on 21 October 1866. A resident priest, Fr. J. A. Goutenoire, was appointed in 1869, and later the same year transepts were added to accommodate the growing congregation. The two eras of the church's construction are clearly discernable with plain casement windows in the nave and more elaborately detailed lancet shaped windows lighting the transept. Some minor renovations were carried out at the turn of the nineteenth century and the front porch may not have been added until this date.

The church has remained virtually unchanged for nearly 140 years, is the oldest Catholic Church on the West Coast and the second oldest surviving in the Christchurch Catholic diocese after Akaroa. It may also be the oldest remaining building in Ross. With declining numbers of parishioners in the late twentieth century, the Ross parish was incorporated into the Hokitika parish and lost its resident priest. The nearby presbytery was sold in 1982. Now part of the South Westland parish the church remains well supported with a recent restoration programme undertaken to overcome general maintenance issues. Sited across the road from the Ross Visitor Centre the church is a much visited attraction in this historic settlement.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It has historical significance as the second oldest church in the Christchurch Catholic diocese and the oldest Catholic church on the West Coast.

St Patrick's Catholic Church, Ross, has social and spiritual significance as an expression of the piety of the (mainly Irish) Catholic mining community in Ross, and as a focus of Catholic worship in the Ross area since the establishment of the town.

(a) It is the oldest Catholic church on the West Coast.

(b) Through its association with the first wave of gold discovery on the West Coast of the South Island.

(e) It has important community associations as the centre of Catholic worship in the Ross area since the town's inception.

(h) The church also has value as a symbol of the piety of the (mainly Irish) Catholic community in goldrush era Ross, and of the significance of the Catholic church to the West Coast.

(j) It is important too as a rare survivor of the buildings erected during the first wave of gold discovery and settlement on the West Coast.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

St Patrick's is a simple 't' shaped timber church seating 150, with elements of the Carpenter Gothic style. The exterior is flush weather-boarded, with single rectangular fixed-sash windows along the nave, and paired fixed-sash lancet windows in the transepts. A small belfry with surmounting cross caps the western end of the roof.

The very original interior is lined with tongue-and-groove timber, with a (possibly later) kauri dado. The chancel is not expressed on the exterior but is set within an internal arch and lit by a small stained glass window above the altar. As this is the only stained glass in the church the interior is very light. The original altar made of silver pine has been brought forward slightly so that it remains within the shallow chancel space

The interior contains many of the original furnishings. There are plain timber pews and kneelers, painted Stations of the Cross, a lectern, and a stone font. At the rear is the organ and choir loft accessed by a steep, narrow stair.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1866 -

1869 -
Transepts added.

1900 -
Entrance porch and kauri dado.

Construction Details

Timber (mainly Baltic Pine), with an iron roof.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

Historical and Architectural Assessment for St Patrick's, Ross (1995),

Nomination of St Patrick's, Ross, seeking upgrade from Cat II to Cat I (1995); NZHPT Field Record Form

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this 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.