Historical Significance or Value
The Church (Former) has historical significance, representing the 130 year history of Catholic worship in the small Central Otago settlement. The building, built in 1906, illustrates the period of consolidation of settlement in Naseby following the gold rush heyday. The Church is also a physical representation of the importance of religion to the Catholic community in Naseby, and recalls the spiritual importance of the Church building in worship.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart (Former) has aesthetic significance. The Church sits on an elevated section, with its entrance marked by a picket fence and ornamental wrought iron gate. Its design with elegant detailing and its location within this historic township make it an important part of Naseby’s visual appeal.
Architectural Significance or Value:
The Church has architectural significance as an example of the work of prominent architect Frances Petre. The architect was notable for his considerable contribution to New Zealand architecture. He is renowned particularly for his designed Roman Catholic architecture. His expertise was not only sought out for imposing city cathedrals, but also for smaller local churches. The Church of Sacred Heart serves as a visible reminder of F.W. Petre’s substantial contribution to the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical architecture in this country.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart (Former) represents the history of Catholicism in small rural Otago townships. The history of the Church in Naseby tells the story of the importance of Christianity during the early years of European settlement. The building represents the efforts of the Catholic community, who were active in their faith from the mid 1860s. It was the enthusiasm of these Catholics which promoted the early establishment of the Catholic Diocese in Otago, being part of the Maniototo District of the Roman Catholic Church. More than fulfilling the religious needs of the local community, the Church also represents the religious requirements of Catholic immigrants drawn by the gold rush.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The former Church is associated with Francis Petre, pre-eminent nineteenth century New Zealand architect, whose work for the Catholic Church is particularly significant.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart (Former) has a strong association with the Naseby Catholic community (and those descended from early Catholic residents). Its deconsecration reflects the change in population and a diminishing congregation rather than lack of esteem. Its value to the community was illustrated by attendance of the decommission ceremony which saw a hundred people attended the ceremony and the dinner following. Parishioners recalled the importance of the Church for local families as a location of rituals and worship -baptisms, weddings and funerals, a place that formed the inheritance of the Naseby families who worshiped there and worked to keep the Church running.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart (Former) built on its prominent site is a significant element in the historical townscape of Naseby. Naseby is notable for its historic townscape (recognised by the Naseby Historic Area), which includes much of the historic town centre. The Church sits overlooking the town and makes an importance contribution to the town’s wider historic landscape.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Maori had settlements in Central Otago, associated with early occupation. Six were known on Lake Hawea (Te Taweha o Hawea, Mahaea, O tu Purupuru, Turihuka, Te Taumanu o Taki and Pakituhi) and one near Cromwell (Wairere). The moa-rich area was known for camps where moa were butchered and cooked (for example there were large sites in the Hawksburn and Happy Valley areas, as well as the Nevis Valley), and there were quarries used for stone tools in the region of Tiger Hills and Mount Benger. Closer to Naseby, the swampy plains in the Maniototo provided eels and other food resources. There are no recorded Maori archaeological sites in Naseby.
Naseby and the Goldrushes
The history of gold mining in Central Otago began with Gabriel Read’s discovery of gold in Gabriel’s Gully, near present-day Lawrence, in 1861. The following year Hartley and Reilly left this gully and travelled further into Central Otago. They spent the winter prospecting in the now-flooded Clutha Gorge between present day Clyde and Cromwell, finding enough gold in the area to travel back to Dunedin and lodge 87 pounds with the Gold Receiver. Gold was quickly discovered in other parts of the region, including places such as Hogburn (renamed Naseby in 1874).
There were an estimated 78 goldfields in Central Otago, boom towns sprung up to service the gold diggings, and disappeared just as quickly as the gold returns for the itinerant miners. Little remains of these places. Historian John Angus writes ‘[w]hen the miners decamped so too did the commercial section of many of the early towns. This pattern was repeated many times, often at remote locations in Central Otago. But some settlements remained, undergoing a sort of metamorphosis to become service centres for the subsequent stages of more stable mining.’
Towns developed haphazardly. Historian John Angus writes that gold mining towns were often an ‘incongruous jumble of handsome stone hotels and public buildings, ornate shop facades often masking bare corrugated iron sides, and ramshackle tin sheds.’ These were often ‘frontier towns’: ‘hotels, illicit sly-grog shops, gambling booths and what Europeans called the ‘opium dens’ of the Chinese. Over the towns there often remained an air of impermanence.’ Naseby was typical of impermanent impromptu development.
This haphazard development was particularly true for Hogburn. The site of the Mt Ida goldfields and the associated township was originally part of a depasturing license, Run 204, called the Sowburn. After the discovery of gold the Otago Provincial Council cancelled the license and proclaimed the Mt. Ida Goldfield. While the original canvas town was set up in the Hogburn Gully, when the official town of Naseby was surveyed it was situated at the mouth of the gully, about a kilometre from the original location. The nascent town was built largely of iron and canvas structures. The suggestion of a new location resulted in angry outbursts and a memorial signed by 350 miners and business people protesting the injustice of such a decision. Businessmen protested that their ability to carry on their trade was dependent on being located near the customers, and there were 150 storekeepers in the existing township, and only 40 allotments surveyed in for businesses in the new survey, let alone that the ground under the new town had not been worked and was likely to be auriferous. Despite objections the town was established in the new location.
The town of Naseby grew steadily with the fortunes of its gold miner population during the 1860s and 1870s. Even in these early years Naseby was seen as the quintessential goldfields town. A correspondent for the Timaru Herald wrote in 1874 that it was ‘one of best specimens, I should say, of a goldfield town; on all sides, in the streets themselves, round the very church which is perched up on a bit of ground only just preserved sacred from the pick and shovel, there are signs of the destructive miner. Acres of land turned over in all directions and the muddy waters of tailraces running down the main thoroughfares, present altogether a curious picture, not the less odd by the funny collection of the small sheet iron shanties which for the most part make up Naseby.’ There were eighteen public houses at this time.
The Catholic Church in Naseby
The first Catholic priest arrived in Naseby in November 1863, preaching at Kilgour’s Concert Hall. By 1865 Catholic residents were keen to build their own church, and by 1867 the first Church was built. The site was near the Presbytery on Derg Street. Father E. Royer was the first resident priest, moving from St Bathans.
A Catholic school was held in St Patrick’s Church. Religious education in a Catholic school was the only education approved by the Church and the first resident priest Father Royer emphasised the need for parents to support the school. The Church was also used for meetings of the Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, a friendly society where Catholics assisted Catholics, established in New Zealand in 1869, with a branch in Naseby.
The Church grounds were fenced off, with the Church and a small residence for the priest built on the section. A Catholic school was held in the church, with the surrounding three rood section used as a playground. There was also a grave on the site, with a child of one of the Catholic residents buried there. There was conflict with local miners who had staked a claim over the land, sinking three shafts there, with the New Zealand Tablet correspondent outraged about the lack of respect paid to the land on which ‘God’s house’ stood.
The new church was under construction by April 1874. The new church saw its first Mass in May 1874. Father Royer once again emphasised to parents the need for education. The correspondent to the Tablet pronounced himself ‘highly delighted’ with the appearance of the still to be finished Church. St Patrick’s Church was dedicated by the Bishop in April 1877. In the same year father Royer left the district with a public farewell function in his honour. The corrugated iron church held two hundred worshippers.
In 1905 Father McMullan requested the Naseby Borough Council grant the Church a small piece of land beside the church on Foyle Street so that a new building could be erected. Once the new church building was completed, the old church was to be removed. The old Church was purchased by Mr Inder and moved to his property in White Sow Valley, where it was dismantled and the materials reused.
By the turn of the century a new Church was required. Architect Francis Petre designed the church, while local builder Mr Mitchel was the contractor, with a total cost, including furnishings, of around £550.
The noted architect, Francis William Petre (1847-1918), designed the church. Petre was born at Petone in 1847, into one of England’s oldest and most influential Catholic families. This religious faith was to play an important role in Petre’s career. Educated in England, he worked for architects and engineers. This experience afforded a thorough understanding of the latest engineering techniques including the use of concrete. In 1872 Petre returned to New Zealand to work as an engineer for a contracting company. By 1875 he was based in Dunedin, and had returned to architecture. His career went from strength to strength; the first New Zealand-born architect to rise to national importance.
It was Gothic Revival architecture, however, which was his first enthusiasm. One of New Zealand’s most able practitioners in the style, he praised it for ‘the great richness and delicacy of detail, and the closer application of geometrical rules to architecture….’ This ‘delicacy of detail’ is the common denominator in his buildings. It was said that his drawings of stones, window traceries, arches and ornamentation were so precise that stonemasons could execute his intentions from one single drawing.
His passion for sculpture also showed itself in his best work, which had a strong sculptural quality. Despite Petre’s emphasis on detailed, sculptural Gothic Revival architecture, he also believed that an architectural style should be ‘treated liberally’. His designs, therefore, remained individual creations, lighter and more delicate than many who designed in the Gothic style. It has been said that ‘he can now be seen as one of our great creative artists: the man, perhaps shy and modest, but the architect, one of daring and intelligence’.
Petre’s other passion, Roman Catholicism, also directed his career. As a Catholic, he was often the architect of choice for Catholic dioceses. He designed St Joseph’s Cathedral and the Dominican Priory (NZHPT Category I, Record No. 372) in Dunedin, Sacred Heart Basilica in Wellington (NZHPT Category I, Record no. 214) and, perhaps his most imposing design, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch (NZHPT Category I, Record no. 47). His expertise was not only sought out for imposing cathedrals, but also for smaller local churches.
The opening of the Church of the Sacred Heart was reported at length in the New Zealand Tablet. The reporter described the ‘pretty new church’ in its setting with snow capped mountains surrounding the small town. The building was seen as a beacon of hope and optimism for the town with its ‘strange mingling of decay and reconstruction.’
The correspondent described the church’s ‘commanding site’, with the street leading up to it like an avenue. The interior decoration was considered a special feature, with its use of ‘stamped metal’ to produce ‘extremely effective and by no means costly means of producing striking and tasteful decorative effects.’ The metal work was topped off with a ‘neat Gothic quatre-foil frieze (also in stamped metal), which gives a ‘chaste and finished appearance to the whole, and which, picked out with gold within the sanctuary, produces a richness of effect which it would cost much to achieve in any other material.’
The writer went on to describe the details of the Gothic church, with its 20ft by 40ft nave (6m by 12m), 8ft by 8ft porch (2.5m square), a 16 ft high sanctuary (5m) with an area of 14ft by 10 ft (4m by 3m). The sacristy opening onto the sanctuary was 10 ft square (3m). The nave was lit by eight lancet windows with lead lights of ‘cathedral glass’, with two similar windows in the sanctuary, which also had a rose window 4 ft in diameter (3m), ‘cast iron filled in with cathedral glass se in lead.’ All the lancet windows had opening heads. The walls above the dado were finished with Wunderlich and Co.’s pressed metal. The ceilings were finished in herring bone match lining, with three ‘embossed steel centres’ with ventilation pipes providing air circulation. The outside walls were finished with rustic weatherboards with box buttresses at 10 ft (3m) intervals along the nave wall. The porch had a pointed arch over the entrance door, with a lead light fan window. The porch gable had a cross on the gable end, while the nave gable was finished with a hooded belfry, with ‘arched and cusped fronts’ and itself surmounted with a cast iron cross. The church had new seating. The entrance of the grounds had a ‘handsome wrought iron gate’ and new picket fence.
The Church of the Sacred Heart remained the spiritual centre of the Naseby congregation until the early years of the 2000s. The Church was part of the Ranfurly parish and gradually worship became focused on the Sacred Heart Church in Ranfurly. By 2009 the Church had not been used for worship for some time and its future as a place of worship was uncertain, though the Church building was much valued by the community.
In March 2009 the Church was deconsecrated by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin. One hundred people attended the ceremony and the dinner following. Parishioners recalled the importance of the Church for local families as a location of rituals and worship – baptisms, weddings and funerals, a place that formed the inheritance of the Naseby families who worshiped there and worked to keep the Church running. The Bishop expressed sadness about the Church’s closure but recognised that a declining but mobile population meant that worship was now centred at Ranfurly. The bell was to be given to St John’s Catholic School at Ranfurly. The interior items, including the altar remained property of the Catholic Church. The Church building was sold in early 2009.
In 2009-2010 the Church of the Sacred Heart was converted into boutique holiday house accommodation, known as ‘The Church Mouse’, while still allowing the original layout of the building to be read. A mezzanine floor was been added creating two separate bedrooms. The vestry is now a bathroom, while the kitchen and the lounge are in the large open plan space which was the nave. French doors have been installed into the rear gable end and open onto a courtyard.
The former Church of the Sacred Heart sits on Foyle Street in the small Central Otago town of Naseby. The building sits on an elevated close to Leven Street, one of the main thoroughfares in the town notable for its historic buildings. The surrounding buildings are small houses set on large sections with some mature plantings.
The Church of the Sacred Heart (Former) built on its prominent site is a significant element in the historical townscape of Naseby. Naseby is notable for its historic townscape (recognised by the Naseby Historic Area), which includes much of the historic town centre. The Church sits overlooking the town and makes an importance contribution to the town’s wider historic landscape.
The Church sits on a long narrow section oriented north/south. Next to the west side of the building is a small holiday house, while on the east is a row of small trees. A timber picket fence edges the section to Foyle Street, with the entrance to the Church through an ornate wrought iron gate and up a narrow concrete path.
The Church oriented in a north/south direction. The principal (south) elevation faces Foyle Street. The building is rectangular in plan, with a single gabled roof, and a single gabled porch on the south elevation and a lean-to vestry on the west elevation, and the sanctuary in a slightly smaller gabled section on the north elevation.
The building is constructed of timber (Rimu and Kauri): timber framed clad with rusticated weatherboards. The roof is corrugated iron. There is a belfry mounted on the gable of the roof, notable for its decorative timber work. The bell has been removed. Three metal ventilators are evenly spaced along the peak of the main gable. Ventilation grills sit at the top of the gable ends. Small ornamental timber buttresses are spaced along the east and west elevations, alternating with the Lancet windows.
The Church has leadlight Lancet windows with Cathedral glass, on the east and west elevations. There is a leadlight rose window on the north elevation. A set of Lancet-style French doors has been inserted what was the sanctuary.
The main entrance door is timber with a pointed fanlight over. The door to the vestry is a panel door without the pointed opening.
The interior walls have vertical match-lining to dado level. The walls above the dado are lined with embossed metal manufactured by Wunderlich and Co., with the junction of the ceiling marked by an embossed band with a quatre-foil pattern. The ceilings have herring bone match-lining. These details all painted white. The ceilings have three metal ventilation roses matching the position of the exterior ventilators. The floors are timber.
The ceiling trusses with their supporting corbels are a notable feature of the interior.
The interior of the Church as had a mezzanine floor added to the space over the main entrance doors from the porch. The mezzanine provides a bedroom which overlooks the Nave, and a smaller bedroom at the ground floor level.
The Nave of the Church has been converted to a kitchen and living area, with a kitchen bench and sink installed on the west elevation. The Nave remains open plan. The sanctuary is marked by a pointed arch and two raised steps to what would have been the altar.
A bathroom has been built in the former Vestry. This has a vanity unit, toilet and freestanding bath.
First Church constructed
Second Church constructed
Original construction of current building
Church converted to boutique holiday home. Mezzanine, bathroom and French doors added.
Timber, pressed metal, corrugated iron
3rd November 2010
Report Written By
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
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.