Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

9137 Eton Street (State Highway 87) And Woburn Street, Hyde

  • Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hyde. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 20/03/2017.
  • Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hyde. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 20/03/2017.
  • Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Building detail. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 18/02/2013.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2253 Date Entered 10th September 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration Includes: all of the land in CTs OT3D/263 and OT3D/264 and the building, its fittings and fixtures, thereon.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Secs 19-21 Blk I Town of Hyde (CTs OT3D/263 and OT3D/264), Otago Land District


The small country church of Sacred Heart, Hyde, opened in 1894. The now tiny settlement of Hyde was founded during the gold rushes of the early 1860s. Miners poured into the district, and a thriving town developed to cater for their needs. Once the rush was over some of the miners, many of whom were Irish, remained in the district to take up farming and other businesses.

Catholic priests visited Hyde from the early 1860s, and in 1864 locals salvaged materials from a damaged building to erect Hyde's first Catholic church. By the 1880s this building had become inadequate, and services took place in the parlour of the Commercial Hotel, run by staunch Catholic John Laverty, and the school. In 1889, Hyde became part of the Palmerston parish and the priest, Father Donnelly, started a campaign to build a new Catholic church in Hyde, completed under the guidance of his successor, Father O'Donnell.

The church obtained a section on the corner of Woburn and Eton Streets, previously owned by Naseby Warden Henry Robinson (they secured the two adjoining sections some years later). They employed well-known Catholic Church architect F.W. Petre to design the building, and he produced a simple yet graceful church in his characteristic Gothic Revival style. The original plans show a larger building with spire: perhaps the cost of such grandeur was beyond the means of the small rural community, for when tenders were first called for in 1892, none were accepted. A simpler plan resulted in a successful tender of ₤630 from Strath Taieri locals Kinney and Coatsworth, who reportedly subcontracted the building work to James Robertson and James Milne. Some of the more specialized work was carried out in Dunedin, such as the belfry, constructed in Oamaru stone by Robert Kay of Roslyn. Petre selected local schist - a common material in Central Otago, where timber was scarce. The building, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, opened to acclaim on Pentecost Sunday, 13 May 1894.

Through the years, the Sacred Heart Church has served as a spiritual centre for the Catholics who formed a significant proportion of Hyde residents. It has never had a resident priest, but has been served by visiting clergy from Palmerston, Ranfurly, Dunedin and Mosgiel. For its first half century, the Hyde district formed part of the Palmerston parish, but in 1953 it was moved to the Ranfurly parish, where it still remains. From the 1980s, mass was held fortnightly at Hyde. At the time of writing, the church is used just once a year, at Christmas.

The most notable change to the original building came late in the twentieth century (possibly in the 1970s) when the church was plastered inside and out to protect it from weather damage. The added weight of the plaster required some strengthening of the foundations. Apart from this, Sacred Heart Church remains much as it did on opening - a simple yet elegant country church which stands as a testimony to the spirituality of the Catholics of Hyde through the years.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

It is the work of noted Catholic Church architect Francis Petre. It is one of his smallest and simplest works, and displays the Gothic Revival style, so characteristic of his work, on a much smaller scale than many of his other commissions.

The Sacred Heart Church is a building of architectural and spiritual significance. It has been a centre of spirituality for the substantial Catholic community of this small district for 110 years.

(a) The Sacred Heart Church is representative of the significance of Christianity in New Zealand's nineteenth and twentieth-century history. More specifically, it represents the significance of Catholicism in the settlement of Hyde. Like several towns founded largely as a result of the gold rushes, Hyde had many Irish Catholic residents. As a result, its first substantial church building was not Presbyterian, as in so many Otago settlements, but Catholic.

(g) The design of this church is significant. It is the work of notable architect F.W. Petre, designer of many important Catholic buildings, including three cathedrals. Here he has used his characteristic Gothic Revival style in a tiny country church.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Petre, Francis William

Petre (1847-1918) was born in Lower Hutt. He was the son of the Hon. Henry William Petre and grandson of the eleventh Baron Petre, Chairman of the second New Zealand Company. Petre trained in London as a naval architect, engineer, and architect, returning to New Zealand in 1872. During the next three years he was employed by Brogden and Sons, English railway contractors, superintending the construction of the Dunedin-Clutha and the Blenheim-Picton railways.

He set up office in Dunedin in 1875 as an architect and civil engineer. He designed a house for Judge Chapman (1875), followed by 'Cargill's Castle' (1876) for E B Cargill and then St Dominic's Priory (1877), all in mass concrete.

It is for his church designs and for his pioneering use of concrete that Petre is most recognised. His church buildings include St Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin (1878-86), Sacred Heart Basilica (now Cathedral of the Sacred Heart), Wellington (1901), St Patrick's Basilica, Oamaru, (1894 and 1903) and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, (1904-05), which is the outstanding achievement of his career. Petre's commercial buildings include the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Building (1881-82) and Pheonix House (now Airport House, c.1885), both in Dunedin.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This small church has a very simple rectangular plan, with a nave, a small vestibule at the front, and a sacristy as small wing on the side. There are regularly spaced buttresses. Above the front gable is a stone belfry, topped with a Celtic cross. The vestibule, which matches the gable of the body of the church, is topped with a small Latin cross.

The interior design is also simple - only the two-level platform distinguishes the sanctuary from the nave. The altar, made of painted wood, may be original, although the tabernacle has been removed. It has been moved forward from the wall in line with modern worship practices. A door at one side of the sanctuary leads to the small sacristy, which has a confessional. Two horizontal rod collar ties with central turn-buckle and hanging rod run across the sanctuary wall - these were added in the late twentieth century.

The ceiling is of timber tongue and groove "V" panelling. It has a decorative knee, with simple but elegant detailing. This curving creates an arched effect at the altar wall, which is flat and has no windows. The windows of the side walls are lead-lighted lancets, glazed with plain and coloured glass. The front gable wall has a rose window, with stained-glass forming a cross. The lancet-shaped light the front door is also leaded and glazed with both plain and coloured glass.

The pews are placed on either side of the central aisle. Around the walls hang paintings of the Stations of the Cross, present since the church was opened. At the rear of the church is a large statue of the Madonna and crucified Christ, donated in memory of Francis Kinney, who was killed at Passchendale. Two smaller statues of Christ (the Sacred Heart) and Mary stand in the sanctuary.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1893 - 1894

Structural upgrade
Exterior plastered and foundations strengthened.

Construction Details

The exterior is schist, now plastered. The belfry is stone. The roof is slate, with an iron roof over the sacristy. The interior is also plastered, with a timber ceiling.

Completion Date

7th October 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources



Hyde School Jubilee 125 Years 1869-1994, [1994].

Archives New Zealand (Dun)

Archives New Zealand (Dunedin)

Otago Land Transfer Registers

Cowan, 1948

Janet. C. Cowan, Down the Years in the Maniototo: A Survey of the Early History of Maniototo County and Naseby Borough, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Whitcombe and Tombs, Dunedin, 1948

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

'Petre, Francis William', updated 16 December 2003. URL:

Kinney, 1994

B P Kinney and B.J. Scanlan, Hyde Catholic Church Centennial 1894-1994, [1994].

Mt Ida Chronicle

Mt Ida Chronicle

New Zealand Tablet

New Zealand Tablet

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.