St Joseph's Church (Catholic)

41 Melbourne Street, Queenstown

  • St Joseph's Church. November 2011.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Christine Whybrew.
  • Church showing sanctuary, entrance to nun's chapel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Christine Whybrew.
  • Interior view toward sanctuary.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Christine Whybrew.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2340 Date Entered 28th June 2012

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 5-6 Blk 34 Queenstown (CT OT2D/1332 and CT OT4B/61), Otago Land District and the building known as St Joseph's Church (Catholic) with a 4 metre curtilege from the edge of the building thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: pews, statues of the Sacred Heart and Virgin and Child, three stained glass windows of Saints Joseph, Augustine and Patrick, Stations of the Cross, baptismal font, and the statue of St Joseph.

City/District Council

Queenstown-Lakes District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 5-6 Blk 34 Queenstown (CT OT2D/1332 and CT OT4B/61), Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

St Joseph’s Church (Catholic) (1898) is part of a cluster of buildings associated with the Catholic Church situated at the western end of Melbourne Street, Queenstown. Occupying a prominent elevated position above the centre of Queenstown and the Wakatipu lakefront, the church and its distinctive statue of St Joseph have landmark presence in the town.

A Catholic church was first built in Queenstown in 1863 on Church Street. The division of the Queenstown Parish from Invercargill in 1873 required a dedicated presbytery for the church and this was built in 1877. The presbytery was converted to a convent in 1882 to accommodate Dominican nuns brought to Queenstown to teach at the newly opened St Joseph’s School. In 1883 the land on Church Street was sold and Catholic church activities centred on the convent and school.

It was not until 1898 that a new permanent Catholic church was erected in Queenstown. St Joseph’s Church was built from local Arthurs Point schist and rimu sourced and transported largely by members of the congregation. Parishioners also donated many chattels and features of the church. The generosity of the Queenstown Catholic community in the donation of materials and labour for the construction of the church ensured that it was built quickly and opened free of debt.

St Joseph’s Church (Catholic) is as a modest church in the Gothic Revival style of church architecture. Many key characteristics of this form of building are evident at St Joseph’s Church, such as vertical emphasis created through steep pitched gables and lancet windows. The church is significant as an example of the work of Francis William Petre (1847-1918), the architect of many ecclesiastical buildings for the Roman Catholic Church in both Classical and Gothic Revival styles.

Despite considerable changes to Queenstown’s industry and population over the past century - as tourism has replaced mining and agriculture as the dominant industry - St Joseph’s Church retains a loyal local parish.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Joseph’s Church (Catholic) has served the Queenstown catholic community since 1898. The building attests to the importance of the Catholic Church in the spiritual, cultural and social lives of developing towns such as Queenstown in the late nineteenth century.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

St Joseph’s Church (Catholic) contributes to the aesthetic appeal of Queenstown. Sited above the central business district, the church is visible from a variety of points and, as such, has landmark presence in the town. The maintenance of the buildings and grounds over successive generations of administrators and parishioners has retained the integrity of the historic physical values.

Architectural Significance or Value:

St Joseph’s Church (Catholic) has representative architectural value as a modest church in the Gothic Revival style of church architecture. Many key characteristics of this form of building are evident at St Joseph’s Church, such as vertical emphasis created through steep pitched gables and lancet windows. Decorative treatment is restrained with limited applied ornament and the contrast of polychromatic materials providing decorative detail. The church has further architectural interest for its construction from locally-sourced materials.

The church is also significant as an example of the work of Francis William Petre who was the architect of many ecclesiastical buildings for the Roman Catholic Church in both Classical and Gothic Revival styles.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

St Joseph’s Church has considerable local spiritual value. The construction of a permanent church building ensured the regular provision of services in the town and a venue for innumerable religious services and celebrations. The church maintains a regular and active congregation and continues its association with the spiritual aspect of generations of local residents’ lives.

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

The continued use of the church since 1898, and the fundraising efforts of the past congregations to construct and maintain the building, attests to the public esteem for St Joseph’s Church.

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

The church contains chattels and features that were donated by early members of the congregation and bear the names of those families. These include the statues of the Sacred Heart and Virgin and Child and three stained glass windows.

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

St Joseph’s Church is part of a cluster of buildings associated with the Catholic Church at Queenstown. The convent is the earliest building of this group followed by the school (since demolished and replaced), church and presbytery. The development of buildings in this precinct reflects the changing needs of the church and school.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: e, h, k. It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 2 historic place.

Linksopen/close

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.

Woods, D.W.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Whakatipu-wai-maori (Lake Wakatipu) once supported nohoanga (campsites) and kainga (villages) which were the seasonal destinations of Otago and Murihiku (Southland) whanau and hapu for many generations. The lake was a significant mahinga kai (food and resource gathering site) and provided a route to access the treasured Inaka and Koko-takiwai pounamu resources located beyond the head of the lake in the Dart and Routeburn River catchments. Pounamu was transported back to coastal settlements for fashioning into tools, ornaments and weapons. Waka and mokihi (raupo reed rafts) were the key modes of transport for the pounamu trade, travelling the length and breadth of Whakatipu-wai-maori. Thus there were numerous tauranga waka (landing places) on the lake and the islands upon it (Matau and Wawahi-waka).

Permanent settlements in the area included the kainga, Tahuna near present-day Queenstown and Te Kirikiri Pa, where the Queenstown gardens are located today. Strategic marriage alliances between hapu ensured rights to the use of the lake’s resources through whakapapa (genealogy). The lake continues to be important to Ngai Tahu Papatipu Runanga in Murihiku, Otago and beyond. The significance of Whakatipu-wai-maori to tangata whenua is acknowledged by a Statutory Acknowledgment under the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

In November 1862 the first gold discoveries were made at the Shotover River (now Arthurs Point) by Thomas Arthur and Harry Redfern. The two men were employed as shearers by runholder William Gilbert Rees. Rees had settled with his family on the run known as The Camp (on Queenstown Bay) two years earlier. Further discoveries were made along the Shotover during the next year with approximately two thousand prospectors arriving at the property. Initially, Rees supplied them with provisions and transport but as the population swelled and makeshift canvas buildings were erected the whole area was declared a goldfield. A dispute over compensation of his land with the government followed. Rees was finally given £10,000 which did not fully recompense for the loss of his run.

By 1863 the town sections had been surveyed and sold and Queenstown was firmly established. It was constituted a borough in 1866. The town's greatest gold year was 1863 and for many years gold mining was its principal industry. By the end of the 1870s the population had begun to disperse and at the turn of the century the small remaining population had turned to various types of farming.

In 1863 a group of Catholic Queenstown residents held a meeting to consider the building of a church. A deputation was appointed to ask the resident magistrate to grant a section of land on which to site a church. The land was granted, and was located in Church Street. The first chapel, St Mary’s, was erected in 1864 and services were held there until 1883 when the land was sold.

In 1873 Queenstown was formed as a separate parish from Invercargill and a parish priest was appointed that same year. A presbytery was then required in Queenstown and land for this purpose was purchased in the name of the Bishop of Dunedin in 1874. Three town sections were acquired on the corner of Melbourne and Beetham Streets and extending to Hallenstein Street. A one-and-a-half storey stone dwelling was built on the corner section in 1877. In 1882 a Convent School was established in Queenstown and the presbytery was converted to a convent to accommodate the Dominican nuns who were brought to Queenstown to teach at the school. After St Mary’s was sold in 1883 services were held at the school chapel.

In February 1897 the Bishop of Dunedin, Bishop Michael Verdon, raised the need for a new Catholic church at Queenstown. Dunedin architect Francis William Petre (1847-1918) was engaged to design the new church. As he was developing plans, stone for the building was quarried from Arthurs Point and transported to the site by parishioners. This contribution of materials and labour greatly reduced the contract price for the build, which was awarded to a Mr D W Woods of Dunedin.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Verdon on 3 October 1897. Building proceeded swiftly supported by a fundraising campaign led by the parishioners. St Joseph’s Church was blessed and opened by Bishop Verdon on 29 May 1898. All remaining debts on the building were soon cleared by donations from the parishioners and the church was consecrated in June 1898.

The church includes many features and chattels that were donated by parishioners. The statues of the Sacred Heart and Virgin and Child, three stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross, the original altar and sanctuary, baptismal font, sanctuary lamp and church steps were all funded by individuals and families from the church community. A significant feature on the church façade - the statue of St Joseph set into an alcove on the upper south-west wall - was carved by Dunedin sculptor Mr Hood and gifted by Dean Burke of Invercargill.

Despite considerable changes to Queenstown’s industry and population over the past century - as tourism has replaced mining and agriculture as the dominant industry - St Joseph’s Church retains a loyal local parish.

Physical Description

St Joseph’s Church occupies an elevated site on the eastern terrace above the Queenstown town centre and Lake Wakatipu. As such it occupies a prominent position and is visible from many vantage points in the town and lake frontage. The former convent and presbytery is situated on an adjacent section set back from the street. The current presbytery is on the eastern adjacent section, also set back from the street and church. The grounds of the church, presbytery and former convent are developed and maintained as one site.

The Gothic Revival church is orientated south-west to north-east with the sanctuary in the north-east end. The walls and buttresses are constructed in grey Arthurs Point schist with contrasting pale Oamaru limestone for quoining on buttresses, lancet arches and sills on windows and doors.

The street (south-west) façade is symmetrical about a gabled porch which has doors framed by a lancet arch, angle buttresses with gablets above. Above the porch is a group of three lancet windows and higher still, a stone statue of St Joseph, also framed by a lancet arch. The roof of the nave is pitched and at this end the gable is surmounted with a plain cross.

The nave itself is five bays long. Each bay has a single lancet window with a pier buttress between and a plain string course at sill height. Corners of the building have angle buttresses with gablets above. The north-east end of the building has an apsidal chancel and there is a gabled vestry in the east corner.

Internally, the nave is an uninterrupted open space with exposed rimu rafters and ceiling, and plastered stone walls. An elevated choir gallery, also rimu, is suspended at the south-west end of the nave. The arrangement of the sanctuary has been altered at least three times and the original altar, pulpit and altar rails have been removed.

In 2010 the former nun’s chapel at the north-eastern corner of the church was modified to accommodate toilet facilities. Modifications were designed and carried out in sympathy with the existing design and fabric.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1897 - 1898

Construction Details

Arthurs Point schist, Oamaru limestone, rimu

Completion Date

7th June 2012

Report Written By

Christine Whybrew

Information Sources

Miller, 1973

F.W.G Miller, Golden Days of Lake County, 5th edn, Christchurch, 1973

New Zealand Tablet

New Zealand Tablet

‘The New Church at Queenstown’. New Zealand Tablet. 10 June 1898, p.4

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

‘The New Roman Catholic Church at Queenstown’. Otago Daily Times. 30 May 1898, p.2

Otago Witness

Otago Witness

‘Lake County’. Otago Witness. 9 June 1898, p.25

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.