St Barnabas Anglican Church

266 Coast Road, Warrington

  • St Barnabas Anglican Church. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 25/12/2011.
  • St Barnabas Anglican Church. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam 48. Date: 25/12/2011.
  • St Barnabas Anglican Church. Interior stained glass window. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shelley Morris. Taken By: Shelley Morris - Madam48. Date: 25/12/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2354 Date Entered 10th September 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes: all of the land in CT OT263/88 and the building, its fittings & fixtures, thereon.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 48 and Pt Sec 73 Block Waikouaiti SD (CT OT263/88), Otago Land District


The St Barnabas Anglican Church, renowned for its beauty, was built in Warrington in 1872. The church has its origins with a wealthy local couple, Captain William Pitt and his wife Annie Gellibrand. They came from Australia, where William had been prominent in the Victorian Volunteer Staff. The Gellibrands, based in Tasmania, owned a large Otago sheep run. The first Anglican services in the district were held in the Pitt home. Annie Pitt's donation of land and money then allowed the construction of a church in the district.

Unfortunately the identity of the architect of St Barnabas is unknown. As church historian Charles Croot has remarked, its design indicates that it "was modelled as far as possible on an old English village church," although its "vertical weatherboards and shingle roof readily identify it as an early colonial New Zealand structure." Local man Benjamin Smith carried out the building work, assisted by the voluntary labour of Captain Pitt. It has been said locally that these two men may have also designed the building. They used local materials for most of the building, but the finer finishing touches - the bell and stained glass windows - were imported from England. Howell and Hay of The Octagon, Dunedin, made the rimu furnishings for the chancel.

The church opened on 11 November 1872 in the presence of numerous Otago clergy and the choristers of All Saints Church, Dunedin, and was consecrated by the bishop the following June.

St Barnabas Church has attracted many admirers and supporters over the years, the most notable being Samuel Nevill, Bishop of Dunedin from 1871 to 1919 and Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand from 1904. Nevill had great plans, only partly achieved, for a grandiose cathedral in his diocese, but he also had a great fondness for the country church at Warrington. At his own request, after his death in 1921 he was buried in the St Barnabas churchyard, which he had consecrated over forty years earlier.

It is reportedly due to Bishop Nevill that the church acquired the magnificent Bavarian stained glass windows in the back wall. He is said to have rescued them from storage in Dunedin, and they were installed in 1935, some years after his death, as memorials to Sophia and Annie Smith (relations of the Pitts) and to parishioner Jane Gardiner. Around this date also the original shingle roof was replaced with concrete tiles.

In more recent years, the church has undergone two extensive renovation projects; one in the 1970s and the other in the 1990s. Both projects have aimed to restore the church to its original glory rather than adapt it in any way. Besides necessary repairs and structural work, the major change in the first project was the replacement of the 1930s concrete roof tiles with wooden shingles, as in the original building. The 1990s project included restoration and conservation of the stained glass windows.

The St Barnabas Church has been served by clergymen from various locations over the years. From 1873 until 1905 it was cared for by the vicars of All Saints Church, Dunedin; and from 1905 until 1916 by the Warden and students of Selwyn College. Another donation from Annie Pitt then allowed the appointment of a resident vicar for some years. When he resigned in 1926 the church returned to the care of students and priests from Dunedin until 1936, when it was joined to the Port Chalmers parish. In 1959 a new arrangement began, the Anglican chaplain to the hospitals in the district also serving as vicar of St Barnabas. This lasted until 1974, when the church once again joined with Port Chalmers, where it remains at present.

Through its long life, this church has remained a centre of worship for locals and holidaymakers in the seaside village of Warrington. Its tranquil setting in spacious grounds, with large trees and a burial ground, adds to its charm. The church itself is an effective mixture of English and colonial styles, and its warm timbers and outstanding stained glass make it a building of particular beauty.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The St Barnabas Anglican Church is a building of architectural, historical and spiritual significance. Its historical significance lies in its association with Dunedin Bishop Samuel Nevill, who is buried in its churchyard.

Unfortunately the identity of its architect is unknown, but it has long been admired for the beauty of its design and setting. Its design is typical of an English country church yet with distinctively colonial features.

Spiritually, it has provided a home for the worship of local Anglicans for 132 years.

(a) St Barnabas Church is representative of the significance of religion in New Zealand's colonial history. More specifically, it represents the presence of the Anglican Church in the Presbyterian colony of Otago.

(b) The church's association with S.T. Nevill (1837-1921), Anglican Bishop of Dunedin for nearly fifty years, and eventually Archbishop of New Zealand, adds to its significance. Nevill had a great fondness for the church and is buried in its churchyard.

(e) Nevill was not the only person fond of this church - it has always stood high in the esteem of the local community, alongside people from further afield. Declining attendance over the years has threatened the church with closure, but campaigns to prevent this, and to raise funds to restore the building, have attracted considerable support.

(g) St Barnabas Church is also significant because of its technical accomplishment and design. It has the style of a small English church, but its timber construction gives it a colonial flavour. The interior and furnishings are beautifully finished and it features outstanding stained glass windows. In 1979 McCoy and Wixon Architects described it as "an outstanding example of early Colonial Church architecture, both externally and internally", noting that "throughout New Zealand we have few examples left of this quality."


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This simple colonial church, in Gothic Revival style, is built of timber throughout. It has a single-gabled nave transected by a small gable which forms the vestry. The nave has a steeply-pitched single-gable roof. The church is entered through a small gabled porch, placed to one side of the nave. A tall spire arises between the nave and the vestry. Both exterior and interior walls are of vertical board and batten construction.

The interior panelling and furnishings as well as the ceiling of the church are all timber. The ceiling has been painted. The walls are kauri and the chancel furnishings are rimu. The chancel has two platforms, with a low wooden railing at the upper level. The large extent of the aged timber, in walls, ceiling trusses, pews, railings, altar and other furnishings, creates a warm ambience.

The pews lie at either side of a central aisle. At the back of the church sits the stone baptismal font. When opened, the church featured lettering in straw above the chancel arch (although the words were different from those now there). There are now also scriptural quotes in gold lettering on all the walls, arched to match the windows at the gable ends.

The windows on the side walls of the church are lead-light lancets, glazed with plain glass. The windows on the back and chancel walls are stained-glass. The windows above the altar feature Christ teaching. The centre windows in the back wall portray the annunciation. These windows, made in England, were installed when the church was first built. In 1935, the remaining windows on the back wall were added. These superb windows were designed by F.X. Zettler of the Franz Meyer studios in Munich. According to the local sources reported in Rosemary Evans's history of the church, they were originally intended for a Catholic Church in Brisbane. When the windows arrived in Australia around 1918, watersiders refused to unload them due to their German origin, and they were shipped on to Dunedin and stored there for some time. Bishop Nevill then purchased them for eventual installation at St Barnabas.

The grounds of St Barnabas feature several large old trees. In front of the church is a burial ground, with graves dating from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. At the entry to the church property there is a lych gate of painted wood with a roof of wooden shingles.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1872 -

1935 -
Installation of additional stained glass windows.

1935 -
New concrete tile roof.

1980 -
New wooden shingle roof.

Construction Details

Both interior and exterior are timber, with a shingle roof. The foundations are stone.

Completion Date

7th October 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Croot, 1999

Charles Croot, Dunedin Churches Past and Present, Otago Settlers Association, Dunedin, 1999

Evans, 1997

R. Evans, St Barnabas Anglican Church, Warrington, Otago: A History 1872-1997 [1997].

Hocken Library

Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin

Church archives held at Hocken Library

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

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.