The Church has historical significance. As noted above it is one of Dunedin's earliest surviving churches. Through its history it tells the story of the establishment of the congregation and its subsequent role in the Dunedin community. The Moray Place Congregationalists were noted for their missionary and educational zeal, and began an inner city mission and a self improvement programme as early as 1865. Their mission work continued well into the twentieth century. The history of the Congregationalists and their later merge with the Presbyterian Church is a significant chapter in the history of the church in New Zealand.
The former Moray Place Congregational Church has architectural significance. It was designed by prominent Dunedin Architect David Ross (1827-1908), who was responsible for other important buildings notably the Otago Museum (1877), Fernhill (1867) and the Union Steam Ship Company Building (c.1880s). It has been stated that the Church may have been Ross' first major commission in Dunedin, and is one of the earliest surviving churches. Its later additions were designed by the even more distinguished architect Robert Arthur Lawson, which adds to its architectural significance.
The Church has cultural significance. Through its long association with the religious life of its congregation, and its role as a centre of community life it has cultural significance. Although the Church has been deconsecrated, and no longer serves its traditional purpose, the community care and use over a long period instils a sense of value to the building.
The former Moray Place Congregational Church reflects an important aspect of New Zealand history, namely the history of the religious life of the colony, and the development and role of the congregation in the Dunedin community. The history of the Congregationalism in New Zealand is an important element in religious thought and debate, focusing on the autonomy of individual congregations.
The Church has an important association with architects David Ross and Robert Arthur Lawson. The Church was also associated with prominent Dunedin figures including the Shacklocks (of Shacklock industries), and Judge Bathgate. In addition its association with the ideas of congregationalism are also important.
The design of the Church is significant. It is the earliest work by David Ross in Dunedin, and as such is an important element in his oeuvre. Its later additions by Lawson add detail and refinement to the original design, with its striking street presence illustration of the effectiveness of the both the design and setting.
The Church is an important part of the historical landscape of central Dunedin. It is a block from the Octagon, which includes a number of important buildings such as St Pauls Cathedral (1915) and the Town Hall (1929), its near neighbour is the former Methodist Trinity Church (1869), designed by R.A. Lawson, and Lawson's First Church (1873) is also nearby. The cluster of historic buildings in the centre of Dunedin is a significant historic landscape.
Lawson, Robert Arthur
Born in Scotland, Lawson (1833-1902) began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in goldmining and journalism before resuming architectural practice. In 1862 Lawson sailed for Dunedin, where his sketch plans had won the competition for the design of First Church. This was built 1867-73. Lawson went on to become one of the most important architects in New Zealand. First Church is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the finest nineteenth century churches in New Zealand.
He was also responsible for the design of the Trinity Church (now Fortune Theatre), Dunedin (1869-70), the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870), and Knox Church, Dunedin (1874). He designed Park's School (1864) and the ANZ Bank (originally Union Bank, 1874). In Oamaru he designed the Bank of Otago (later National Bank building, 1870) and the adjoining Bank of New South Wales (now Forrester Gallery, 1881).
See also: Ledgerwood, Norman, 2013. 'R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin'. Historic Cemeteries Conservation NZ.
David Ross (1827-1908) was one of a significant number of architects who came to New Zealand from Australia in the early 1860s prompted by the news of the Otago gold rushes. Born in Scotland, Ross worked in Victoria in the late 1850s before settling in Dunedin in c.1862, whereupon he entered into a brief partnership with William Mason (1810-97). After establishing his own practice, Ross designed the Congregational Church (1863-64), Dunedin's oldest ecclesiastical building, Fernhill house (1867) which is now home to the Dunedin Club, and the central wing of the Otago Museum (1876-77).
In the mid-1860s Ross worked briefly in Hokitika (1866) before returning to Dunedin and in 1870 he applied for a patent for the frames and apparatus required for the construction of works in concrete. This application lapsed but it is nevertheless significant as it places Ross at the forefront of the development of mass concrete construction in this country. In addition to his professional responsibilities David Ross was also a member of the first Dunedin City Council (1865-66) and in 1876 he became the first president of the joint Institute of Engineers and Architects in Otago. Ross may have returned to Australia in the early 1890s and it would appear that he spent the rest of his life living in the United States and Japan.
Brick with bluestone foundations, originally with contrasting stone facings.
The former Moray Place Congregational Church is one of the oldest churches still standing in Dunedin. The Church occupies a prominent corner site in the centre of Dunedin. It was designed by prominent Dunedin architect David Ross and was opened for worship in July 1864. For over 100 years it served the Congregationalist Church congregation as a place of worship.
Discussion about the building of a church for a Congregational Church began in October 1862 with a meeting at Clark's Temperance Hotel, George Street. The first service was held the following Sunday in the Oddfellows Hall on George Street. The section on the corner of Moray Place and View Street was purchased in August 1863.
As the result of assistance of visiting Australian clergyman Rev. J. L. Poore in 1863, a call was made to the pastorate for a clergyman, with Rev. Richard Connebee answering. Connebee arrived in October 1863 to find that plans for a church were underway. With Rev. Connebee's arrival, plans pushed forward.
The foundation stone was laid on 22 March 1864. The church was opened for worship on 3 July 1864. The preachers were Rev. J.L Parsons, a Baptist Minister, and Rev. Dr Stuart Knox (from Knox Presbyterian Church).
Rev. Connebee resigned in 1868. It was not until 1871 that another settled pastorate was arranged for. In that year Rev. Dr Roseby was appointed and held the position for 14 years, playing an influential role in the growing community - he was a member of the Senate of the University of New Zealand, and lectured on astronomical subjects, he suggested to congregation member Mr Shacklock, the name 'Orion' for his new stove. Toward the end of 1885 Rev. Dr Roseby moved to Ballarat.
In the mid 1870s the American organ was replaced by a pipe organ.
In 1876 the entrance was shifted from View Street to Moray Place, and a stone steps, balustrading and handrails, designed by Robert Arthur Lawson was constructed.
Dr Roseby was succeeded by Rev. J.E. Kelly, who resigned after only two years because of ill health. Rev. W. Saunders replaced Kelly in 1890, holding this position for thirty eight years.
On the retirement of Rev. Saunders, Rev. Albert Mean was appointed in 1928. Mead had served as a chaplain on the Western Front, and was a Cambridge graduate.
Prominent early church members included Mr and Mrs J.W. Jago. Mr Jago was the manager of the Evening Star for 30 years, and a well known campaigner for prohibition, Mr and Mrs Shacklock (the stove maker), and Judge Bathgate. Peter Barr, an accountant and prominent member of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, managed the Church's finances. Church membership reached its peak about 300 in around 1912. By the 1930s membership stood at around 200. The congregation was noted for its devoted band of women workers. The Church focused on the intellectual as well as spiritual needs of the congregation, forming a Mutual Improvement Association which lasted over 25 years, and began under Rev. Dr Roseby's ministry.
The Church was also characterised by its evangelical zeal and sense of responsibility for its inner city mission. A town missionary was first appointed in 1865, Mr James Macfie held that position till his death 18 years later, visiting the inner city area, the Hospital and Benevolent Institution, as well as fund raising for relief of poor conditions. A honorary sister was appointed in 1906, and later a deaconess. In the 1930s Sister Lillian undertook to distribute goods and funds to needy families, and the hall was opened as a reading and rest room for unemployed, with light refreshments provided. The church was a strong supporter of the Presbyterian Social Service Association. By the 1930s the church was faced with problems common to other city churches - a scattered population in the widening suburbs.
In the twentieth century the Congregationalist church declined, partly because it had no rural base. The congregationalists were involved in negotiations for union involving Methodists, Presbyterians and the Associated Churches of Christ from the 1950s. In 1969 two-thirds of the New Zealand Congregational Churches formally joined the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Moray Place congregation merged with First Church in 1964-66 - with membership of about 100 worshippers at that time.
By the 1980s the Seventh Day Adventist congregation no longer found the church building fitted their needs, and parking in the central city was becoming a problem. In 1992 the church and hall were put up for sale, with the Seventh Day Adventist congregation planning to relocate to larger premises.
Through the 1990s the building housed commercial premises, including a café, and an interior design business. The building is currently used as for residential purposes.
13th December 2005
Report Written By
Charles Croot, Dunedin Churches Past and Present, Otago Settlers Association, Dunedin, 1999
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905
'Seventy Fifth Anniversary of Moray Place Church', 22 October 1937
Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin
K. Furniss, 'Moray Place Congregational Church, Dunedin' Thesis, 1975; T. Gilray, Moray Place Congregational Church 1862-1912
Jubilee Souvenir of the Congregational Union of New Zealand, 1883-1933 [Hocken Library]
Hardwicke Knight and Niel Wales, Buildings of Dunedin: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to New Zealand's Victorian City, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1988
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)
New Zealand Historic Places Trust
NZHPT File 12004-393
Otago Daily Times
Otago Daily Times
13 July 1985; 23 October 1937
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office