Tokomairiro Church (Presbyterian)

30-34 Union Street, Milton

  • Tokomairiro Church (Presbyterian). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 4/02/2014.
  • Tokomairiro Church (Presbyterian). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Nick Thompson. Taken By: Nick Thompson. Date: 27/12/2010.
  • Tokomairiro Church (Presbyterian).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2250 Date Entered 5th December 2008

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 82-83 Deed Plan 11 (CT OT248/286), Otago Land District, and the building known as Tokomairiro Church (Presbyterian) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: the original pews. The registration does not include the modern parish centre and Bible Class building on this land.

City/District Council

Clutha District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Lots 82-83 Deed Plan 11 (CT OT248/286), Otago Land District

Location description

Union Street is State Highway 1. The Church is at the southern end of Milton.

Summaryopen/close

The stately stone Tokomairiro Church with its towering spire, built for the Presbyterian congregation in Milton and opened in 1889, stands as a landmark building in the small Otago town.

The Presbyterian Church was established early in the history of Milton, with the first service at the home of Alexander Duthie on Christmas Day, 1851, preached by Rev. Dr Thomas Burns. As the town developed around the flour mill established by Peter McGill, which gave the town its name, so did the Presbyterian congregation. McGill donated a half acre site for the church; and the church was opened on 17 May 1863. By the end of the 1870s the congregation, buoyed by the increased traffic to the gold fields of Central Otago, had reached 4000. In 1870 the Rev. James Chisholm (1843-1916) became the minister, remaining so for 28 years, and overseeing the developing parish. The Church was known as the Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church, taking its name from the surrounding district named for the swampy nature of the surrounding land.

By the 1880s the congregation was calling for a new building and in February 1886 James Gray moved at the Deacon's Court that 'steps be taken to erect a new church.' Community fundraising provided sufficient funds to go ahead with the plans, and the new 600-seat Church, designed by pre-eminent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson, was opened on Sunday 13 October 1889.

Into the twentieth century the Presbyterian congregation performed a social as well as religious function for parishioners; socials were held, with programmes of music, uplifting addresses, and suppers. The role of women, always significant within the Presbyterian Church, was strengthened in 1915 with the appointment of the first deaconess, Sister Agnes McMillan. Tokomairiro Church remained the focus of a collection of buildings which served church functions, including a Sunday School Hall. A 150th anniversary service was held in the Presbyterian Church in October 2004, celebrating the first Presbyterian service in the Milton area. In 2008 the parish operates as the Tokomairiro Co-operating Parish which includes both Methodist and Presbyterian churches and the Church itself is used only occasionally, largely for funerals.

The Tokomairiro Church, sitting on it grassed section at the southern end of Milton, stands within the business area of the town. The Church is built of Port Chalmers breccia with contrasting limestone buttresses, quoins and tracery. The roof is slate. The interior is simply detailed with exposed trusses and decorative panels and stonework. The original pews remain. Memorial panels, to significant figures in the history of the Church (and to its Methodist parish members), as well as to those who died in the World Wars are fixed at various places around the walls. The committee room to the rear of the nave is plastered on three walls, with the fourth wall (the east wall, backing the altar) decoratively panelled from floor to ceiling. The panelling in this room is the most decorative in the building.

The Tokomairiro Church has aesthetic, architectural, historical, cultural, social and spiritual significance. The imposing structure was designed to make a strong visual impression, and does so through its decorative use of materials, both interior and exterior. The Church has architectural significance as one of the designs of prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson, and represents the cultural milieu of the nineteenth century which resulted in this kind of church building as an expression of the Presbyterianism of the time. The Church carries with it the history of the parish dating back to the 1850s and recalls the importance of the Presbyterian Church in early Otago history and shows the social significance of the Presbyterian Church for its parishioners as the centre of an active community, hosting cultural and educational events. The Church provided a significant place for women to coordinate work and contribute to community support. The outstanding esteem in which the Church is held was illustrated by the over 500 submitters in support of the registration when the proposal was notified in September 2008.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Tokomairiro Church has historical significance. The Church represents the history of the Presbyterian Church in Milton and the wider Tokomairiro District. The third Presbyterian Church, replacing an earlier wooden building, it carries with it the history of the parish dating back to the 1850s. The history of its construction and use recall the importance of the Presbyterian Church in early Otago history, and the central place which such places of worship held for the community.

The Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church has significance as a building representing the cultural milieu of the nineteenth century which resulted in this kind of church building as an expression of the Presbyterian culture of the time. The large Church, seating 600 people, showed the aspirations of the congregation and the significance of Presbyterianism in the culture of nineteenth century Otago. The change in worship practices and the reduction in Church attendance of the later twentieth century resulting in a corresponding change in church building, means that Tokomairiro Church provides insight into the culture that produced this architecture.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

The Tokomairiro Church has special aesthetic significance. The imposing structure was designed to make a strong visual impression, and does so through its decorative use of materials, both interior and exterior. The building sits on a prominent site in Milton and is considered as a landmark, both by locals, and by travellers on State Highway One. Its special landmark status was recognised by many of the over 500 individuals who submitted in support of the registration of the Church.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The Tokomairiro Church has architectural significance as one of the designs of prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson, who was known for his church designs for the Presbyterian Church. Tokomairiro Church is one of Lawson's larger parish church designs, and while relatively simply detailed in the interior, is a good representative example of Lawson's work.

Social Significance or Value:

The history of the Tokomairiro Church shows the social significance of the Presbyterian Church for its parishioners. The Church was the centre of an active community, hosting cultural and educational events. The Church provided a significant place for women to coordinate work and contribute to community support. The women were significant fundraisers, and also provided outreach and support to parishioners, particularly through the work of deaconesses.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

The Tokomairiro Church has spiritual significance, as a place of worship for over 115 years. The design of the Church, with its spire reaching to the sky, has been considered to give further spiritual importance and connection to God.

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

Tokomairiro Church demonstrates the history of the development of Presbyterianism in Otago from the 1850s into the twentieth century. The history of the Church in the Tokomairiro area tells the importance of Christianity during the early years of European settlement, and in particular tells part of the story of the wider Tokomairiro and Clutha Parishes and the individuals associated with them. The history of the Church illustrates part of the history of Presbyterianism in nineteenth and twentieth century Otago.

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

The Tokomairiro Church is associated with Robert Arthur Lawson, pre-eminent nineteenth century Dunedin architect, whose work for the Presbyterian Church is notable.

Minister James Chisholm was also a notable individual in the Presbyterian Church in nineteenth century Otago. Chisholm went on lecture at Knox College in Dunedin, and wrote on the history of the church in Otago.

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

Although the Church is currently not used for services (but is used on occasion for funerals), it has been described in the recent past as a legacy of those parishioners who raised the money for the Church and who have cared for it for over 110 years. When the proposal to register the Church was notified over 500 people submitted in support of the registration via a locally organised petition, around 375 of these arguing that the Church was worthy of Category I registration. This outstanding show of public support demonstrates the special esteem the Church holds for the local community and as an Otago landmark.

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

Tokomairiro has significance as example of nineteenth century church design. It particularly represents the work of prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson. It is one of Lawson's larger churches designed for a provincial church.

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

The Tokomairiro Church can be considered to have commemorative value as it has several memorial plaques commemorating important individuals in the history of the Church, including Reverend James Chisholm. The Church also has plaques commemorating those parishioners who fell in the World Wars.

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

The Tokomairiro Church is a significant element in the historical landscape of Milton. The Church is a landmark, visible particularly when approaching the town from the north, with the spire the most outstanding feature. It is the most ornate building located in Milton.

Summary of Significance or Values:

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

Conclusion:

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

The Tokomairiro Church has aesthetic, architectural, historical, cultural, social and spiritual significance. The imposing structure was designed to make a strong visual impression, and does so through its decorative use of materials, both interior and exterior. The Church has architectural significance as one of the designs of prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson, and represents the cultural milieu of the nineteenth century which resulted in this kind of church building as an expression of the Presbyterianism of the time. The Church carries with it the history of the parish dating back to the 1850s and recalls the importance of the Presbyterian Church in early Otago history and shows the social significance of the Presbyterian Church for its parishioners as the centre of an active community, hosting cultural and educational events. The Church provided a significant place for women to coordinate work and contribute to community support. The outstanding esteem in which the Church is held was illustrated by the over 500 submitters in support of the registration when the proposal was notified in September 2008.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

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.

Gore Bros. Dunedin

Builders

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The first Presbyterian service in the Milton area of South Otago was at Janefield, the home of Alexander Duthie on Christmas Day, 1851, preached by Rev. Dr Thomas Burns. At this time there were 20 Presbyterians, nine Episcopalians, and 13 children, noted in an anniversary publication. The next service was held on Christmas Day in 1853. In 1854 Rev. William Bannerman was appointed to the Clutha District, with three preaching stations under his care: South Clutha, Inch Clutha and Tokomairiro. In 1858 Tokomairiro and Waihola were made a separate charge, and in June 1859 Tokomairiro was made an independent parish, with Rev. Alexander Bruce Todd chosen as the first settled minister. The first Presbyterian Church in the Milton area was on Fairfax Hill at Tokoiti (now the site of the cemetery), and was opened by prominent Presbyterian Minister Rev. William Bannerman.

A town developed around the flour mill established near the main road south by Peter McGill, which gave its name to Mill-town, now Milton. Churches developed with the settlement. By the early 1870s all the main denominations had permanent places of worship: St John's Anglican Church (1867, still standing but with belfry demolished); Weslayan Methodist Church (1873, new church built 1923); and the Roman Catholic St Mary's (1863, new church built 1891). With the gold rush of the early 1860s Milton found itself on the main route to Tuapeka, and became a centre of increasing importance. McGill donated a half acre site for the Presbyterian Church. The second church was built on the site, and opened 17 May 1863. The wooden church seated 540 and cost £2,300. The bell was presented to the parish by John Gillies, after an adventurous journey on The Hanbury, where it was not delivered to Port Chalmers, returned 'Home', was re-sent, arrived at Port Chalmers again, where the ship was burnt out, and the bell sold as salvage. Gillies had to re-purchase it. The Church was known as the Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church, taking its name from the surrounding district named for the swampy nature of the surrounding land.

By the end of the 1870s the parish in the Tokomairiro district had grown to the extent that there was agitation at the synod level for the parish to be split in two, or to have two ministers. Minister Rev Todd explained that there were 4000 people looking to him as pastor, and that this was too much for one person to carry satisfactorily. With the centre at Milton, but with outlying parishioners some miles from Milton, and the expectation of services twice a day on Sunday in Milton, the job was impossible to perform. Rev Todd thought the creation of a parish vital if the church was to hold onto its congregation, as the Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists were all 'working harmoniously together' and could draw people into their ambit. In 1870 James Chisholm (1843-1916) became the minister, remaining so for 28 years, and overseeing the developing parish.

The sense of cooperation between denominations was notable, with the Right Reverend Bishop of Dunedin on his visit to his parishioners in Milton welcoming the presence of Rev. James Chisholm of the Presbyterian Church, and commenting that the Presbyterians had 'wrought hard and harmoniously together, and his aim would be to assist them in their good work.' James Chisholm replied with similar sentiments.

A manse was built in 1882, and by the 1880s the congregation was calling for a new church building, as attendance at services increased. In February 1886 James Gray moved at the Deacon's Court that 'steps be taken to erect a new church.' The wooden church was considered 'but a poor pile to represent so strong a religious body.' A buildings committee was appointed, which printed a circular declaring:

'We reckon that there are altogether about 460 members and adherents in connection with the congregation. If 250 of these give 1d each working day, 100 2d, 50 3d, 30 4d, 20 6d, and 10 1s for two years, a sum of £2500 would be raised. This, along with the grant of £1000 from the synod and accruing interest, would render £3553 available for the erection of a new church free of debt.'

John Chisholm, son of the Rev. James, recalled the fundraising:

'All the money for the new Church was raised before the building was started. I remember the monthly social evenings at the manse, when all the collectors, young and old, met, reported, and handed in their amounts for the month. That was a year of socials. They knew how to organise in those days.'

Chisholm considered it significant that the money was given freely by parishioners: 'No sale of work or bazaar was held, the money was freely given, and the building of beautiful architecture stands with its tall spire as if pointing men to God.'

After the building committee had got definite promises for £1260, pre-eminent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902) was instructed to prepare the plans. Lawson was the pre-eminent designer of Dunedin's outstanding Presbyterian churches, having already designed First Church (constructed between 1867 and 1872) and Knox Church (1876) in an ornate Gothic style. After the plans were approved, the building was tendered, and that of Messrs Gore was accepted, and James Dickson supervised the construction. A committee of '41 young ladies' then undertook the task of collecting the promised funds and over a two year period collected nearly all of that promised. A fresh appeal raised a further £500, and the synod granted £1000. The Church was erected with a debt of only £167.

In October 1888 the old Presbyterian Church was moved 'amid cheers and laughing, the church was dragged about half-way across to the new foundation, 20 or 30 men eagerly volunteering their services.' A few days later the building was set on its new foundations, with the roof still to be replaced, and the porch re-erected.

Building was well underway by early March 1889, although opinion was divided on the appearance of the new building:

'At first the public were rather disappointed with the appearance of the church, as the ground work of the facings, which are of brick, gave it rather a 'tartan' appearance. However, now that some of the gables are finished and the lower part of the spire has been commenced the whole presents rather an attractive appearance.'

The Presbyterian Church was opened on Sunday 13 October 1889 with services in the morning and evening preached by visiting minister Rev. Dr D. M. Stuart of Knox Church in Dunedin. The Sunday worship was followed by a soiree on the following Tuesday in the old church, attended by settlers from the surrounding districts.

The Otago Witness described the new building, which seated 600 worshippers:

'The most conspicuous and striking feature in the building is the spire which crowns the centrally situated tower in the front elevation. The tower is in three storeys, finishing with four angle-grouped pinnacles at a height of 68ft, and the spire rising to a height of 105ft, the whole being in good proportion, and forming a prominent object in the landscape. The principal entrance doorway is situated in the lower portion of the tower, and with its deeply-cut Gothic mouldings and characteristic emblematic burning bush and motto over archway is a very effective piece of work. The upper floor of the tower is fitted as a belfry, and the bell, which is a very successful recast by Messrs A. and T. Burt, of Dunedin, of that so long in use in the old building, is again hung in position and ready for its special duties.'

The detail of the structure was paid particular attention:

'its dimension on a plan being 74ft by 43ft interior measurement, The central projecting gables with their angle and subdividing buttresses form strong and sufficient stays and support to the massive moulded rafters which carry the slated roof in one span over the building. The ceiling is plaster finished between rafters and above line of tie beams, which, with circular ribs springing from stone corbels, are dressed and moulded; spandrils being also filled in with cut fretwork of Gothic pattern. The main portion of the exposed woodwork is varnished, but in parts colour has been introduced for contrast, and with good effect. In the ceiling, and arranged in alternating spaces, five ventilators are introduced, from the drops of which are suspended the chandeliers for lighting purposes.

The interior was considered most handsome:

'The interior effect of the building is very satisfactory. It is amply lighted through five mullioned windows on each side; windows being filled in with ground glass in centres, and having margins variously coloured. The view looking from main entrance towards the choir seat and raised railed platform, with its octagonally-domed and moulded recess, flanked on either side by the doors leading outwards towards hall at back, is, perhaps, the most effective.'

In 1890 £220 was spent fencing and laying out the grounds of the new Church.

James Chisholm resigned in 1898, and was replaced by Rev. George Miller. Chisholm has been a significant figure in the Presbyterian Church of Otago. He was a man of 'great influence', an author of a history of the Church in Otago, and a lecturer at the Knox Theological Hall.

Into the twentieth century Presbyterian congregation performed a social as well as religious function for parishioners; with Rev. George Miller recording that the Church was in 'good heart' with the congregation 'quite filling the Church.' Socials were held, with programmes of music, uplifting addresses, and suppers.

The role of women, always significant with the role of the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union in 1897 (with the Tokomairiro Church forming their own independent Young Women's Social Club in 1905), was strengthened in 1915 with the appointment of the first deaconess, Sister Agnes McMillan. The women aimed to help the church at home and abroad, and to provide a social centre for young women. They made significant contributions to the Church environment, including gifting a communion table and chairs and baptismal font.

In 1910 there was discussion about the poor lighting in the Church. The report of the Deacon's Court noted 'the inefficiency of the lighting on Sabbath evenings had become a matter of comment, and it was a question as to whether it was advisable to renew the kerosene lamps, or to connect the Church with the borough gas supply.' The unanimous vote saw the latter course adopted.

After World War One a memorial to those who fell, in the form of a brass tablet, was mounted in the Church.

In 1918 the Church building was in need of repair. The Annual Report records that 'a considerable sum' was spent 'repairing and renovating the Church, work which experts considered was imperatively necessary if the building was to be kept in proper order.'

By the end of the 1920s there was concern about the condition of the roof, and the inadequacy of the heating. The Deacon's Court commissioned Dunedin architectural partnership Mandeno and Fraser to report on the roof, and received a 'reassuring report' that the issue could be resolved for around £200. Fundraising for strengthening the roof, and for the installation of a new heating system was underway by the end of the decade. The 1930 Annual Report saw the exterior of the Church repaired and renovated at the cost of a little over £330. The clerk of the court expressed gratitude at the generosity of the congregation in their contributions to the building work. The Deacon's Court undertook to maintain the buildings in a 'good state of repair' to avoid large expenditure in any one year.

The old Church building was used as a Sunday School Hall, and was extended in the early twentieth century (it has since been demolished). In 1935 a new brick building was erected to the north and west of the Church, to house Bible classes, for the over 300 strong congregation. The foundation stone was laid in that year by senior elder James Bruce.

In December 1938 the spire suffered 'serious damage' caused by an electrical storm. While scaffolding was in place it was decided to 'completely renovate the Church externally.' Contractors Ashton and Sons carried out the work. A grant from the Synod was made because of the unusual nature of incident. Heating was still an issue in the 1940s, when fundraising for a new Tubular Heating System was underway. In his pastoral letter in the Annual Report of 1947 Rev. S.T. Nicholls, looking forward to the centenary of the Presbyterian Church in Otago, recorded the value of the Church building:

'Our own historic parish, we are reaping what others have sown. Our beautiful stone Church, a structure of architectural charm and Spiritual significance, comes to us as a priceless legacy from our fathers. A noble tradition has been handed down to us. We are pioneers of a new century. What shall we hand down to our children?'

In the early 1950s the interior of the Church was replastered and redecorated at a cost of £900, and a new Sunday School Block was built. On the opening of the Sunday School, the good condition of the Church was greeted with relief by moderator Allan Cardno, and it was 'a joy' to see 'our beloved Church looking so dignified for the occasion.' The interior walls had been cement plastered, the ceiling painted, the beams stained, and the woodwork varnished. The position of the choir was altered, with newly raised seats in the North West corner of the building, and the former position now occupied by the communion table and elders' pews.

By the end of the 1950s there was a problem with water penetration on the south wall. The cause was identified as the poor quality of some of the stones used. Dunedin architect Arthur Salmond inspected the building and suggested that it was generally 'in good order.' He considered that the greatest expense for repairs would be the replacement of windows in the north elevation, and some on the steeple, as the leadlights would need to be replaced with new material, and coloured glass was not available in New Zealand at that time. The Deacon's Court recorded that 'in order to preserve the character of the Church, it is desirable to have the new windows match the remaining windows, which are still in good order.' In 1962 the windows in the north wall were replaced.

In 1965 the front fence was removed and replaced with a concrete strip.

The costs of repairing the building were an issue for the Church. In 1966 the minister raised the issue in the Annual Report. Rev. W.B. Gilmour recalled the great contribution made to the parish by those who had gone before, and the heaviness of the loss of such support, as a community and financially. He mused:

'This is a problem that faces our Deacon's Court at the present time for with the passing of our stalwarts in the faith, we lose the generous offerings they were so faithful in making and our lack is underlined by the increasing expenses that face us in the Church as in every other field. This problem becomes a challenge when we face it squarely, and see our selves as their successors, today. We have to fill the gaps they leave, or the life and work of the Church will suffer and decline.'

Rev. Gilmour's office looked towards the Church, a view he found comforting:

'The view from my study window is an impressive one, for I look out on the building of our Church, with its spire soaring towards the heavens and as one lets one's eyes climb that architectural finger, one is drawn upwards toward God. So one's thoughts are lifted up by the very closeness of this beautiful mounting building. There is no doubt that our church is the striking feature of the whole town. People approaching Milton from either end though more particularly from the North, are caught with its striking beauty. It stands a constant witness to the farther [sic] that has been the background of strength of this district for well over a century of time.'

But there were stresses on the parish, and Rev. Gilmour's musings went on to challenge parishioners on their commitment to the church, as the budget had not been balanced for that year, and he asked that people imagine what it would be like, not only without the church building, but without the worship of God. He continued: 'After all, the Church is not this building however beautiful and imposing it maybe [sic] - it is the people who fill its pews; who worship their God there.' The financial deficit 'represent the faithful souls of the past whose work here has been done, and is represented by the stone fabric on our Church, and their love in their bequest...The parents of today's children owe it to the past generations, as well as to the future one, that they face, seriously, the questions which this building poses to them, day by day.'

In 2001 NZHPT's Otago/Southland Area Office heritage advisor Guy Williams visited the Church, noting that there were problems with moisture penetration as indicated by the efflorescence on interior walls. He recommended that a condition report and specifications for work be prepared, and there were discussions about putting in a funding application to the Lotteries Grants Board.

A 150th anniversary service was held in the Presbyterian Church in October 2004, celebrating the first Presbyterian service in the Milton area. The parish now operated as the Tokomairiro Co-operating Parish which includes both Methodist and Presbyterian churches. The condition of the Church was still a concern, with discussion continuing on funding the work required.

The fate of the Presbyterian Church has been discussed in local newspapers in early 2008. The Otago Daily Times reported in April 2008 that the congregation at Milton and Waihola had been asked to comment on a Tokomairiro Co-operating Parish council suggestion that the Church be closed. The paper reported that a decision was expected within a couple of months. Parish finance and works spokesman Graeme Flett was reported as saying that it was 'economic matters' rather than falling parish numbers that was the problem. With a congregation of 40 people attending Sunday services, it was too much to expect them to provide money every time the building needed work, added to the monthly expenses of keeping the building going. The cost of the substantial repair and maintenance work was an additional concern.

Art historian Peter Entwisle came to the defence of the building describing it as 'striking', and one of Lawson's largest parish churches. Entwisle writes 'It serves to identify Milton visibly and epitomises the Otago country town where the Presbyterian form of worship was pre-eminent. Milton without this church would not be the same. It would lose the principal signifier of its history and identity.' Many townspeople from Milton would appear to feel the same; when the proposal to register the Church was notified over 500 people submitted in support of the registration via a locally organised petition, around 375 of these arguing that the Church was worthy of Category I registration. This outstanding show of public support shows the special esteem the Church holds for the local community and as an Otago landmark.

Physical Description

Milton is a small town situated on State Highway One, 58 kilometres south of Dunedin. The Tokomairiro Church is situated on the west of State Highway One, towards the southern end of Milton. The Church sits amidst largely commercial development on the section of State Highway One known as Union Street. To the immediate south is a car sales yard, and to the north a gravelled car park, with retail premises alongside. There are houses at the rear of the section.

The Church sits on a flat grassed section, with a number of small trees providing the only landscaping. To the rear (west) of the Church a modern addition, the parish centre, links the Church with the 1935 Bible Class building which sits in a perpendicular position to the north and west of the Church. The Church, with its three storey tower, topped with the spire is a landmark feature of the Milton townscape. The tower and spire stretch skyward, raising the level of the bell above the surrounding structures, so the sound could travel, as well as giving the Church a monumental presence in the town.

The Church is oriented east/west, with the tower on the east (Union Street) elevation. The Church is built of Port Chalmers breccia with contrasting limestone detailing in the form of buttresses, quoins and tracery. The roof is slate. A carved stone Celtic cross is mounted on the gable end of the west elevation. The building was originally pointed with lime mortar, but has since been repointed with cement, and there is evidence of attempts to remedy water penetration by the application of a sealant. Some of the stone is in poor condition and is flaking off. The main entrance is through a door on the east side of the tower.

The tower is on three levels, topped with a steeple. There are no stairs to the upper levels of the tower. Above the main door is the emblem of the Burning Bush. The Burning Bush symbol is associated with the Presbyterian Church, particularly the Free Church of Scotland, and was one that was taken to New Zealand with Scottish settlers. Although there is no stair access to the tower, the levels are articulated in the architectural detailing on the exterior of the tower, with the triptych window detailing found elsewhere in the Church repeated here. The narrow lancet windows emphasise the vertical elements in the design. The spire has a slender turret on each corner, and a narrow dormer on each face of the spire. The spire itself is topped with a finial.

The east elevation (facing Union Street) is symmetrical, with the tower flanked by matching triptych leadlight windows on either side. The windows are leadlight, with the north one of plain glass, replacing the original coloured glass represented in the southern window.

The long north and south elevations have a large triptych windows with trefoils and additional tracery centrally placed in a notional transept, flanked on either side by two smaller paired lancet windows. All except the eastern two on the north elevation feature both coloured and clear glass; the eastern two have only clear glass.

The south elevation has a small brick addition to what was the porch. The addition houses the organ blower.

To the west of the Church is a large new parish centre, connected to the Church by a glass corridor, which forms a sheltered veranda between the two structures. The new building is also connected to the Bible Class building.

Concrete steps lead to the main entry to the Church through a double timber door at the base of the spire. The entrance vestibule is plastered, with few decorative features. A bell rope hangs in the vestibule. Modern aluminium glass doors have been added to provide a barrier between the porch and the nave.

The interior is simply detailed. The ceiling is coved, with the exposed trusses, and round decorative vents. The trusses, which have a fretwork panel at the base, terminate on a large stone corbel, carved with grain motifs, are a significant decorative detail of the interior. A fretwork panel runs along the top of the wall. A panelled tongue and groove timber wainscot runs around the walls. The interior walls of the Church are plastered with cement plaster and painted white. There are signs of water penetration with efflorescence evident. The nave has a raked timber floor. Steps lead up to the altar platform, the rear of which is recessed. The communion table and chair sits within the arched alcove. The original pews remain. Memorial panels, to significant figures in the history of the Church (and to its Methodist parish members) as well as to those who died in the World Wars, are fixed at various places around the walls.

There are single doorways on either side of the altar, with finely carved details. The Gothic-arched doorways have panelled doors, with trefoil and quatrefoil decorations. The doorway on the right leads to a tongue and groove-lined vestibule and exit door to the right. A further door on the east side of the vestibule leads to a room (identified as the 'committee room' on the original plans). The doorway on the left leads to a similar tongue and groove-lined vestibule, but what was the exit door now leads to a small brick addition which houses the organ blower.

The committee room is plastered on three walls, with the fourth wall (the east wall, backing the altar) decoratively panelled from floor to ceiling. There are four panelled doors leading to cupboard spaces and to the vestibules. The central doorway, now blocked off, formerly accessed the altar, and is similarly detailed to those one either side of the altar in the main body of the Church. The panelling in this room is the most decorative in the building. The west wall has a fireplace with timber fire surround, not currently used, and blocked off by a set of freestanding cupboards. There are windows on the south and north walls, the south (like those in the main body of the church, lead light, with coloured glass at the edges, the north with plain glass.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1889 -
13 October, ne church opened

Other
1890 -
Grounds fenced and laid out

Other
1910 -
Church connected to gas supply to provide lighting

Modification
1918 -
Repairs and renovation

Modification
1930 -
Roof strengthened and exterior 'renovated'

Addition
1935 -
Bible Class building erected

Modification
-
1940s Tubular Heating System installed

Modification
-
Early 1950s Interior re-plastered with cement plaster, replacing the previous lime plaster which had failed in a number of places. Position of the choir altered. New Sunday School Building constructed.

Modification
1962 -
Leadlight windows on the north elevation replaced

Other
1965 -
Front fence removed and replaced with a concrete strip

Addition
1990 - 2000
Parish Centre built.

Construction Details

Port Chalmers breccia, limestone facings, slate roof

Completion Date

5th November 2008

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Lawson, Robert Arthur, 1833-1902', updated 7 July 2005 URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz

Knight, 1993

Hardwicke Knight, Church Building in Otago, Dunedin, 1993.

Presbyterian Church Archives

Presbyterian Church Archives

20/16 Tokomairiro Church BJ813, (Annual Reports, Deacon's Court Minutes)

20/16 Tokomairiro Church, BJ813 Plans of Church (6 Sheets) Stamped R.A. Lawson (1888), Presbyterian Archives, Knox College, Dunedin

Allison, 1954

Bessie R. Allison, Our Heritage: This First Century of Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church Milton New Zealand 1854-1954, Milton, 1954

Sumpter, 1949

D.J. Sumpter and J.J. Lewis, Faith and Toil: The Story of Tokomairiro, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd, Dunedin, 1949 [Capper Press reprint, 1978]

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area 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.