Holy Trinity Church (Anglican)

1 Scotia Street And Grey Street, Port Chalmers

  • Holy Trinity Church (Anglican).
    Copyright: Advertising & Art. Taken By: Stewart Robertson.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2320 Date Entered 2nd July 1982

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

The extent includes the land described as Sec 81 Town of Port Chalmers (CT OT226/191), Otago Land District, and the building known as Holy Trinity Church (Anglican) thereon.

City/District Council

Dunedin City

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 81 Town of Port Chalmers (CT OT226/191), Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

Port Chalmers’ Holy Trinity Church, designed by prominent Dunedin architect R A Lawson, and opened in 1874, has special architectural significance. It is one of only a handful of New Zealand churches built in an Early English Gothic style according to the principles of the Academic Gothic Revival. A small group of special parish churches in New Zealand were designed in this style during the High Victorian Gothic Revival. They are special because they are academic renditions of the style built in the same stone masonry materials as medieval English churches, and distinct because there are so few.

Port Chalmers, some ten kilometres from Dunedin, grew up around the busy harbour. During the gold rushes an influx of ships brought hopeful miners and huge quantities of provisions. The population of the settlement grew too and many men worked at the port. Churches grew with the community. After sharing space with worshippers of other denominations for twenty years, in the early 1870s Port Chalmers’ Anglicans set about establishing their own place of worship. They selected a ‘commanding site’ overlooking the port, and chose the Early English Gothic style design put forward by R.A. Lawson.

The Bishop of Dunedin, Samuel Nevill laid the foundation stone on 7 June 1871, with full Masonic ceremony. The stonemason was Mr Borlase, and the carpenter Mr Bauchop. Soon after, the first vicar, Reverend T.L. Stanley was ordained. Building was slow, and the church did not open until 1874. On its opening, the Otago Witness reported that the ‘early Gothic’ style building was cruciform in plan and that the ‘very beautiful’, ‘very substantial and somewhat imposing structure’ was a ‘credit to the Port.’

The architectural style has been termed Academic Gothic Revival as it draws on nineteenth century studies of surviving medieval buildings made by revivalists such as A.W. Pugin. The style links New Zealand’s pioneer church building with that of the medieval English church. Holy Trinity is built of Port Chalmers breccia, and the coursed rubble replicates more or less exactly one of the building forms of original Early English Gothic churches. Adding to the beauty of the church are several memorial stained glass windows.

The congregation later set about building a Sunday school hall, a vicarage, and a bell tower but struggled to repay the debts incurred by these building projects. Adding to the financial burden, the church itself was not without problems. The roof leaked, causing ongoing maintenance expenses. In 1906, Reverend Tewsley provided funds to re-roof the church and restore the chancel, among other improvements. Marseilles tiles replaced the original shingles in 1909. The tiles have since been replaced by long run profile steel roofing. In 2014, the Holy Trinity Church remains the place of worship for Anglicans in Port Chalmers and the surrounding communities.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Architectural: Holy Trinity Church was designed in the Victorian Country Church, Early English Academic Gothic Revival style of the period 1840-1890. Typical style indicators are:

- Steeply pitched roof.

- Parapeted gable.

- Excellent stone masonry.

- Latin Cross plan, with:

- Nave,

- Transept,

- Chancel,

- Porch.

- Lancet or narrow opening windows.

- Wall buttresses.

- Gabled coping atop buttresses.

- Trefoil windows in gables.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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

DATE: 1871-74

ARCHITECT: Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902).

Born in Scotland, Lawson began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in gold mining 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).

STYLE CODE: 20: Victorian Country Church, Early English Academic Gothic Revival style of the period 1840-1890.

DESIGN: Holy Trinity Church conforms to the mature Victorian Academic Gothic revival style, which, in the cause of 'authenticity', drew heavily on the scholarly nineteenth century studies of surviving medieval buildings. A preference for the Early English style of church building dating from the twelfth to fourteenth century (1189-1307) was particularly marked in New Zealand since the Ecclesiologists considered that a pioneer colony had a cultural, religious, and historical affinity with the Early Church establishment in England during the Norman period and immediately after. This preference was encouraged by Bishop Selwyn who was a member of the Camden Society of Ecclesiologists at Cambridge, and received its most vigorous expression in the 'Selwyn Gothic' style churches, most of which are found in the North Island.

The quality of Selwyn Gothic churches in New Zealand, as outstanding examples of Victorian Academic Gothic applied to the country parish church genre, paradoxically brings out the contrast between the original historical models of the style, as found in England, and the colonial versions of the same style. The majority of the New Zealand examples are built of timber (a fact that was eventually acknowledged and encouraged by the Ecclesiologists in the 1860s), whereas the style itself is in fact essentially a masonry style. In New Zealand the interpretation of the style and genre in its original masonry form was taken up and developed by parishes in the South Island, employing

architects who were basically Otago or Canterbury based professionals - architects such as (in the 19th century) Robert Lawson, William Mason, George Mallinson, B.W. Mountfort, M. Bury, Nathaniel Wales, and in the 20th century architects such as R.S.D. Harman, Herbert Hall, K.W. England, Cecil Wood and J.H. Menzies.

Some architects, like William Clayton (before he became Colonial Architect in 1869) and Mountfort developed the style in terms of brick polychromy following the philosophy of John Ruskin. Others, such as Lawson and Nathaniel Wales, who supervised the actual building of Holy Trinity, preferred to use local stone for their essays in Gothic. It is in terms of this category of construction type that Holy Trinity Church becomes significant, not per se because it was designed by Lawson as explained below.

Holy Trinity is built of Port Chalmers Breccia, one of five building stone types available in Otago. Port Chalmers Breccia was used fairly extensively on buildings in Dunedin and was also used as kerbing stones for many Dunedin Streets and as the base course in a number of other South Island buildings, for example, Christchurch Cathedral. What makes it important in this context is that it was used in a coursed rubble construction form that replicated more or less exactly one of the building forms of original Early English churches in England. It has to be said that there are very few registered examples of nineteenth century Academic Gothic Revival style churches in New Zealand built in exactly this way.

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.

[William?] Borlase

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

[Robert?] Bauchop

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

In the early years of worship in Port Chalmers, a predominantly Scots Presbyterian settlement, Anglicans were taken under the wing of the larger congregations. For twenty years, they shared a place of worship with the Presbyterians. The first vicar for the Episcopal church, Reverend J A Fenton, arrived from England in 1852, and became the first Anglican vicar resident in Otago. He held services at Port Chalmers every six months.

By 1870, the Port Chalmers Presbyterians, Wesleyans and Congregationalists had their own churches and the Anglicans expressed the desire for their own place of worship. In August 1870, R.H. Guise, for the Anglican community, advertised in the Otago Daily Times for ‘an Eligible SITE, in the Town of Port Chalmers on which to erect a Church of England.’

The Anglican Church was further established when Samuel Nevill was consecrated Bishop of Dunedin in 1871, marking the beginning of ‘a golden age of new parishes and new churches.’ Port Chalmers lead the way with plans for their new church. The congregation made a public appeal, claiming that Port Chalmers could be considered the principal port of the colony, with a large transient population to minister to, and that their small, poor population needed financial assistance.

The Port Chalmers Anglican congregation formed a building committee, and the women organised fund raising. The committee advertised in the Otago Daily Times for a suitable building site, and for £150, they purchased a half-acre section on the corner of Grey and Scotia streets – a ‘commanding site’ overlooking the town and the port. After seeking plans and specifications from a number of different architects for a church large enough to seat three hundred worshippers, the committee selected the design of R.A. Lawson. The design was for a church in Early English Gothic style.

Bishop Nevill laid the foundation stone on 7 June 1871, with full Masonic ceremony. The builder was Mr Borlase. Soon after, the first vicar, Reverend T L Stanley was ordained. Building was slow, and the church did not open until 1874.

On the building’s opening the Otago Witness, reported that the ‘early Gothic’ style building was cruciform in plan. Its dimensions were 76 feet [23.16 metres] in length, 30 feet [9.14 metres] wide, with 16 foot [4.87 metre] high walls, and a ridge height of 36 feet [10.97 metres]. The chancel was 23 feet long by 30 feet wide [7.02 by 9.14 metres], expanding into the vestry on one side, and the organ chamber on the other. The vestry was 18 feet by 13 feet [5.48 by 3.96 metres], while the organ chamber was 11 feet by 15 feet [3.35 by 4.57 metres]. The church had 23 windows, plus four trefoil and cinquefoil windows in the gables. The cinquefoil windows had crosses of Oamaru stone above them. Twenty buttresses supported the body of the church, while the double trusses resting on side corbels both supported and ornamented the roof. The ‘very beautiful’, ‘very substantial and somewhat imposing structure’ was a ‘credit to the Port.’

The congregation then set about building a Sunday school hall, a vicarage, and a bell tower. The congregation struggled to repay the debts incurred by these building projects, and indeed was forced by the mortgagee to sell the first vicarage.

Adding to the financial burden, the church itself was not without problems. The roof leaked, causing ongoing maintenance expenses. In 1906, Reverend Tewsley provided funds to re-roof the church and restore the chancel, among other improvements. Marseilles tiles replaced the original shingles.

The Holy Trinity Church, now debt free, was consecrated in 1907.

In 1916, the organ was installed. It remains in place and is, according to John Stiller of the Historic Organ Group, ‘an interesting example of an early twentieth century instrument featuring an economic tonal design capable of producing great diversity from a small number of stops.’

From early days, Holy Trinity has been a place of worship and commemoration. Several families have donated stained glass windows. Soon after the church opened, John Elmer donated a stained glass window to Holy Trinity in memory of his mother. The Melbourne-made window was installed in 1875 at the east end of the church. It showed a central figure of the Crucifixion surmounted by the Agnus Dei, with the lower staining of a pelican feeding its young. In 1946, the window was moved to the left side of the chancel. Four other memorial stained glass windows were donated to Holy Trinity: two on either side of the main window behind the altar, in memory of Albert Newman Shelton who died in 1935, donated by his widow; the centre light behind the altar donated by Mr Leftwich, designed to be in keeping with the Shelton windows, dedicated in 1946; and another window dedicated to Charles Edwin who died in 1925.

In later years, there were some changes to the interior layout of the church. The choir stalls were removed when choir work declined. Two rows of pews with a centre aisle replaced three rows of pews. A free-standing altar was installed and the communion rails were removed to the chancel steps. In 2014, the Holy Trinity Church remains the place of worship for Anglicans in Port Chalmers and the surrounding North Harbour communities.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1871 - 1874

Additional building added to site
1879 - 1880
Bell tower erected (since demolished)

Maintenance/repairs
1909 -
Church re-roofed with Marseilles tiles

Demolished - additional building on site
1981 -
Sunday school demolished

Maintenance/repairs
1987 -
Church re-roofed with long run steel roofing

Construction Details

Port Chalmers breccia

Completion Date

13th May 2014

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Evans, 1968

J. Evans 1968 Southern See: The Anglican Diocese of Dunedin New Zealand, J. McIndoe, Dunedin

Ledgerwood (2013)

Norman Ledgerwood, R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin, Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand, Dunedin, 2013

Glass, 1974

Frank L. Glass, ‘1874-1974 Pilot Aboard: A Centennial Perspective’, [Port Chalmers Anglican Parochial District Centennial May 4th-May 5th 1974], F.L. Glass and Mission Press, Port Chalmers, 1974.

Lloyd, 1994

Evelyn Lloyd, Safe Harbour, Evelyn Lloyd for Holy Trinity Church, Port Chalmers, 1994.

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.