All Saints' Anglican Church (Former)

13 Forest Street And Kent Street, Tapanui

  • All Saints’ Anglican Church (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 10/03/2010.
  • All Saints’ Anglican Church (Former). Close-up view of the belfry and bell.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 10/03/2010.
  • All Saints’ Anglican Church (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/05/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2363 Date Entered 15th October 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of Lot 2 DP 328236 (CT 115162), Otago Land District and the building known as All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Clutha District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 328236 (CT 115162), Otago Land District.


All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) was built in 1878 in the South Otago township of Tapanui, and designed by New Zealand's premier ecclesiastical architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort.

The South was the stronghold of Presbyterianism. Yet the advent of the gold rush saw the establishment of an Anglican Diocese. By 1875 local Church of England members felt the need to establish a congregation. In 1876 the members bought three sections at auction and a building fund was begun. In 1878 plans for a church designed by Benjamin Mountfort were laid on the table. Mountfort's Gothic Revival style was evident, even though the material of choice was wood rather than the traditional stone and mortar.

By November 1878 All Saints' Anglican Church was complete. A Gothic style, board and batten building, it was constructed of matai. The roof was high pitched, the gables were surmounted with crosses of various designs and there was a small belfry. The interior contained a nave, chancel, small porch and organ chamber. Walls were lined to the height of the window sills with diagonal boarding and above the dado were vertical boards of white pine. The windows were filled with cathedral glass of a light green tint. Seating, designed by Mountfort, was provided for 160 persons.

All Saints' Church faced various challenges over the succeeding decades, including securing clergy, consistent changes in parish affiliation and financial constraints. Ultimately, this proved fortunate for the long term unaltered status of the Church building. The congregation could afford little more than the necessary ongoing maintenance. In 2007, the congregation became part of another parish and the building was vacated and sold to private owners. In 2010, the subsequent owners gave the former Church a rejuvenated life as a gift shop.

Designed by one of New Zealand's most significant ecclesiastical architects, the Church sits on a prominent site overlooking Tapanui and the rolling South Otago hills beyond. Aesthetically picturesque, architecturally notable, and spiritually symbolic, the Church stands as a testament to a number of values for over 129 years. It speaks to generations of resilience and perseverance in the face of difficult and ever-changing rural conditions. It speaks to the indomitable rural community spirit which ensured the Church's aesthetic, historical, architectural, social and spiritual values remain a compelling story today.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) has historical significance. Not only was it one of the earliest churches in the Dunedin Anglican Diocese, but it was maintained by the Church community for 129 years. The Church represents the history of the Anglican community in Tapanui and their determination to build a place of worship. This was all the more difficult given the stronghold of Presbyterianism, particular in rural Otago and Southland. Yet the story of the perseverance of the Anglican congregation in the face of many struggles, including financial, shows the strength of the community in the town.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) has aesthetic value. The Church sits on a prominent site overlooking the picturesque Tapanui township and the rolling South Otago hills beyond. Its setting within manicured lawns and a themed garden of purples and creams, beyond which the elegant lines of the building emerge, gives the Church significant aesthetic appeal.

Architectural Significance or Value:

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) has architectural significance. The designer, Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, was one of New Zealand's foremost architects. As an architect, Mountfort's skill lay in adapting the Gothic Revival style to suit the limited materials available in New Zealand. All Saints' Church is an example of Mountfort's small timber churches, which have long been recognised as among his most significant contributions. The exterior vertical planking is particularly reminiscent of many of his earlier Canterbury churches. The building is designed in simple Gothic Revival style, with its sturdy simplicity emphasised by the restrained interior decoration, adding to the contemplative and spiritual function of the building.

Social Significance or Value:

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) has social significance. Its existence demonstrates the importance of Christianity in emerging colonial townships. Its rural setting ensured the importance of the church building as a community gathering place for Anglican worship and other religious occasions, including marriages and funerals. It provided a place where the community could interact and network, which would have occurred only infrequently. For example, at the Church's dedication service in 1878 about 130 people gathered. Only 16 of these were Church of England members. The ongoing fundraising work of the congregation and community towards building costs, as well as for later maintenance projects, illustrate the importance of the relationship between community support and the Church.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

In theological terms, All Saints' Anglican Church's Gothic architecture speaks to the ecclesiological principal that true spirituality is influenced by physical surroundings, and that the medieval style of church is a more spiritual space. In local terms, as the first purpose-built Church for Anglican worship in the district the Church has spiritual significance for its embodiment of the Anglican faith in Tapanui since the earliest days of the town's settlement. All Saints' Church was the centre of worship for 129 years. Since its construction the Church has been the venue of innumerable Anglican religious services, events, and celebrations impacting the spiritual lives of generations of residents.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The history of All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) reflects the importance of established religion in nineteenth century Otago, and the community support for providing a formal place of worship. It also illustrates the history of the Anglican denomination in the Presbyterian strongholds of Otago and Southland. These stories reflect the determination and commitment of the faithful in rural districts, such as Tapanui, in their efforts to create the physical representation of their religious convictions. The history of the Church, the ongoing fundraising, and the battle to continue services in the face of clergy departure and ongoing parish alliances provide an illustration of the significance of the Church to its community.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) is associated with the architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, pre-eminent nineteenth century Christchurch architect. His work is synonymous with some of Christchurch's most significant architecture, and his role as an ecclesiastical architect has also been much vaunted.

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

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) congregation held the building in high esteem for its spiritual associations and importance as a community gathering place. A significant proportion of the local population have a close personal and family connection with the building. From its inception the community rallied around to donate money, materials and labour in order to ensure not only its existence, but continuance. The congregation, in particular, were proud of its long 129 year history. This is illustrated by the publication of a history of the Church to commemorate the building and those who have supported the Church throughout its life. Public esteem for the structure is further evidenced by its transformation into a gift shop and tourist attraction, reasserting its importance to the local community.

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

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) has significance as an example of nineteenth century church design, particularly as it represents the work of prominent architect Benjamin Mountfort. Unusually it is an example of the best of rural Canterbury church design, set amongst the rolling hills of South Otago. Given its rural setting in an emerging township, it is also unusual that the Church was relatively large.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) was erected in 1878. It was one of the earliest churches in the Dunedin Anglican Diocese, which only came into proper existence with the arrival of Bishop Nevill in 1871. Its Anglican tradition is also rarer in the Presbyterian-dominated South.

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

All Saints' Anglican Church (Former) is a significant feature in the historical and physical landscape of Tapanui. The Church is a landmark with considerable aesthetic and architectural significance, visible upon the hill overlooking the small township below. As the people of Tapanui staked their claim in the remote hills of South Otago, so a small community of Anglicans staked the claim and held their ground against the onslaught of Otago Presbyterianism.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, g, i, k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mountfort, Benjamin Woolfield

Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-98) trained as an architect in England, in the office of Richard Cromwell Carpenter, a member of the Cambridge Camden Society (later the Ecclesiological Society). He arrived in Canterbury in 1850.

Mountfort was New Zealand's pre-eminent Gothic Revival architect and, according to architectural historian Ian Lochhead, 'did most to shape the architectural character of nineteenth-century Christchurch.' The buildings he designed were almost exclusively in the Gothic Revival style.

During his career he designed many churches and additions to churches; those still standing include the Trinity Congregational Church in Christchurch (1874), St Mary's Church in Parnell, Auckland and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, Christchurch (1884). In 1857 he became the first architect to the province of Canterbury. He designed the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings in three stages from 1858 to 1865. The stone chamber of this building can be considered the greatest accomplishment of his career. He was involved in many important commissions from the 1870s, including the Canterbury Museum (1869-82) and the Clock-tower Block on the Canterbury College campus (1876-77). He was also involved in the construction of Christchurch's Cathedral and made several major modifications to the original design.

Mountfort introduced a number of High Victorian elements to New Zealand architecture, such as the use of constructional polychromy, probably first used in New Zealand in the stone tower of the Canterbury Provincial Government Buildings (1859). Overall, his oeuvre reveals a consistent and virtually unerring application of Puginian principles including a commitment to the Gothic style, honest use of materials and picturesque utility. The result was the construction of inventive and impressive buildings of outstanding quality. He died in Christchurch in 1898. A belfry at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Phillipstown, the church he attended for the last ten years of his life, was erected in his honour.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori History

Traditionally, the Waitaha people had authority over Murihiku, the southern part of the South Island. Around 1750 the Ngati Mamoe, originally from the North Island's East Coast, established themselves in Murihiku. They in turn fell under the sway of another tribe from the North Island's East Coast, Ngai Tahu. Archaeology suggests moa became extinct around 1500. The climate was too cold to grow kumara, so no horticulture was established. Settlement focused on the coast, where ocean fish, seabirds and seals were plentiful. People journeyed inland to harvest eels, forest birds such as weka and kereru, and cabbage trees. They also travelled to sources of highly-valued pounamu in the headwaters of rivers draining into Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka, and on the South Island's West Coast. While Maori travelled considerable distances seasonally to gather food sources, permanent villages were usually on the coast.

The Maori name for the Blue Mountains in Otago is Tapuae-nuku. The township may have taken this name in the corrupted form of Tapanui. It is situated on land alienated in 1848 by Kemp's purchase of the Otago Block. Kemp failed to reserve for Ngai Tahu the land they wished to keep and, out of an area of 20 million acres included in the deed, a mere 6359 acres was set aside. Thus began southern Maori's pursuit of justice over the legality of the purchase and the inadequacy of the land reserved.

The Anglican Diocese of Dunedin

Otago and Southland were incorporated in the Diocese of Christchurch from its inception. The advent of gold, however, brought such an influx of people into Otago that a new diocese was required. The Diocese of Dunedin was created in 1869, although the first bishop, Bishop Samuel Tarratt Nevill, did not arrive until 1871.

Uniquely, Otago and Southland were the only parts of the country in which the Anglican Church was not the major denomination. Anglicans made up forty percent of the New Zealand population generally, but only twenty five percent in Otago and Southland, where Presbyterians referred to the Anglican Church as 'The Little Enemy'. The South was undoubtedly the stronghold of Presbyterianism, particularly in rural areas.


In the early 1870s land surrounding Tapanui was sold on the deferred payment system as pastoral leases in the area were broken up, including Runs 163, 167, 168, 140A and 140B. This resulted in a substantial population increase. 'Everywhere the ground is being broken up, and small homesteads are rapidly coming in view'. By 1875, the Tapanui township - ‘very prettily situated in gently rising ground at the back of the Blue Mountains'- was rapidly progressing. ‘All day long the sound of the builder's hammer may be heard, while houses seem to spring up like magic. In the township and district immediately surrounding, nearly 100 buildings have been erected within the past year'. In 1876, Tapanui was proclaimed a borough under the municipal ordinance of the Provincial Government of Otago.

All Saints' Church

‘The first residents of Tapanui cared so much for God and the Church that they undertook a venture which evidence wonderful vision and confidence in the future...This is to be witnessed in the fine church which stands in the township today - one of the best wooden churches in the whole of the Dunedin Diocese'.

A Presbyterian Church was erected in the township in 1873 but Church of England members were not far behind. The earliest record of Anglican activity in Tapanui is a baptism recorded in 1875. The Bruce Herald noted in May of that year that ‘preliminary services in connection with the Church of England have been held during the past month, and have been attended by serious and attentive congregations'.

On 25 February 1876 a meeting was held under the chairmanship of George Poynter, attended by other local land owners and the town mayor. ‘The Chairman read a letter from the Bishop intimating his willingness to license Revd Mr Withey to the Church of Tapanui and Clinton if a stipend of £250 per annum could be quartered.' The Committee resolved to send a notice to all Church of England members advertising a meeting on 1 March. The subsequent public meeting was asked if the stipend could be carried. While not entirely sure, the attendees resolved to obtain the services of Rev. Withey. This resolution saw the establishment of the All Saints' Anglican Church in Tapanui.

The Vestry noted on 8 April 1876, Rev Charles F. Withey's first meeting as Chairman, that a letter from the School Committee had been received, granting the use of the school room for Sunday services. The room was no more than a small hut standing near to where the council chambers now are. Mr South, the headmaster, was engaged to play the harmonium and lead the singing. Withey also had Clinton under his charge, taking services there on alternate Sundays except during winter. On alternating Sundays a lay reader took the service.

The ‘outward and visible' sign of Anglican presence in the community was the church building. In the South Island there was considerable building activity in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1850 there were only four Anglican churches in the entire South Island, 21 by 1860, 71 by 1870 and 141 by 1880. By 1861 there were 51 Anglican ‘settler church' buildings. In the Dunedin Diocese, there were no Anglican churches in 1850, one was built by 1860, 13 by 1870 and 18 by 1880.

It was against this background that the Vestry settled to the work of erecting a church. On 7 November 1876 at public auction, the Church paid £20 for sections 1 and 2 and £30 for section 16, Block XVII. The Church was built on the corner site afforded by sections 1 and 2. On 15 February 1877 a building fund was opened and a Building Committee formed. Similar to other country churches, the construction of the building relied on the community's motivation to ensure the construction of the Church with financial or other contributions.

At Rev. H.J, Congdon Gilbert's first Vestry meeting, on 26 March 1878, he laid plans and specifications on the table. The estimated cost was £650 and £80 was subscribed that night. In the course of the next few days £300 was raised. Tenders were advertised for immediately. On 9 April the tender of a local contractor, W & W.M. Hay, was accepted at just over £472.

The architect was Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898), a devout member of the Church of England, who subscribed to the theory that true spirituality was influenced by physical surroundings, and that the medieval church had been more spiritual than that of the early nineteenth century. Trained in this Gothic Revival architecture, Mountfort immigrated to New Zealand in 1850. He designed most of the public buildings which give Christchurch its distinctive Gothic Revival character. Pre-eminent among these are the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, the Canterbury Museum and the Canterbury College, on which he worked for twenty years from 1876 until 1896.

Mountfort's skill as an architect lay in adapting the Gothic style to suit the limited materials available in New Zealand. Gothic buildings were often created from stone and mortar. Yet Mountfort did not regard wood as an impediment to the Gothic style and his wooden churches are as ornately Gothic as those he designed in stone.

By 1872 Mountfort was at the pinnacle of his career. From the early 1870s he began to design small timber churches, many for Canterbury country parishes, but also for parishes throughout New Zealand. Helpfully, the architect was often known to revise his plans based on the limited funds available in each parish. By the 1880s, he was acknowledged as New Zealand's premier ecclesiastical architect with over forty churches to his credit.

From the beginning of his career, Mountfort's designs show ‘robustness of form combined with a rejection of symmetry; meticulous attention to detail linked to a firm grasp of the overall concept; a devotion to the Gothic RevivaI design principles of truth to materials; a desire to achieve variety within an overall stylistic unity. Added to these characteristics is the ability to surprise and delight with unexpected innovations'. Mountfort's small timber churches have long been recognised as among his most significant contributions. Samuel Hurst Seager, a fellow architect, commented in 1900 that the churches were ‘notable examples of simple, honest construction leading to the most pleasing results...each has one special feature making it distinctive; yet in all there is an expression of individual feeling, giving them - simple and inexpensive though they are - a high place among our architectural works.'

By November 1878 All Saints' Anglican Church was complete. The local newspaper reported that ‘the Church itself is unlike the general ran of Otago churches. It is more after the style of those of Canterbury. Perhaps we ought to say it is like all the churches designed by B.W. Mountfort, Esq. -handsome in appearance, ecclesiastical in structure, and most convenient for the purposes of public worship.'

The reporter went on to describe the Church in detail. It contained a nave, chancel, small porch and organ chamber. The nave measured from the west wall to the chancel arch 40 feet in length and 25 feet wide (12.2 by 7.6). The chancel was 17 feet in length and 14 feet wide (5.2 by 4.3). The chancel was raised two steps above the nave, and the eastern part was raised a third step to form the sacrarium. The organ chamber opened into the chancel and nave by open arches. The walls of the nave were 12 feet high (3.6 metres), and from floor to ridge, 27 feet 6 inches (8.4 metres). Owing to the construction of the building the chancel walls were higher than those of the nave, ‘producing a very good effect whether viewed internally or externally'.

The interior was lined to the height of the window sills with diagonal boarding and finished with a bold capping. The walls above the dado were of upright boards of white pine, finished with a moulded cornice. The ceiling was stained and varnished. On the south elevation of the sacrarium was the credence table, supported by bold bracketing. The windows were filled with cathedral glass of light green tint in lead quarries. Patterns in the windows at the east and west ends were formed by the introduction of a darker tinted glass. Ventilation was achieved by openings in the east and west gables, which could be opened or shut, as well as casements in some of the windows. Seating was provided for 160 worshippers. All the furniture was constructed from designs furnished by Mountfort.

On the exterior, the Church was a Gothic style, board and batten building. It was built in durable matai. The distinctive vertical planking of the exterior is very much the same found on many of Mountfort's Canterbury churches. Underneath the exterior of the windows ran a boldly marked string course, adjusting to the various heights of the windows, which carried the eye over the entire building. The iron roof was high pitched, the gables surmounted with crosses of various designs, and the ridges were given an ornamental cut brattishing. Mr R. Austin carried out the painting and decorating, and construction was supervised by an Inspector of Works, James Keir. A small bell cot was added also at the west end of the nave. A bell weighing 100 lbs was secured and placed in the belfry by W. Kelty of the National Bank, one of the churchwardens, at his own expense. This was Tapanui's first church bell.

The reporter congratulated the church on building ‘so handsome a building, and one which must ever be considered an ornament to the town'. The Bishop of Dunedin on his visit to Tapanui in February 1880 noted that the ‘Church of England is a very handsome building, both inside and out, and is a credit to the Episcopalian body, considering its numerical strength, which is not great. The Bishop...expressed his faith in Tapanui as a church centre, and exhorted the members not to relax their efforts in the future.'

Dedication of the Church

Rural churches made a statement that religious belief was important to country folk. Moreover, the country church often became the focus for community activity well before the advent of the community hall. Many rural settlers lived in relative isolation, so occasions such as church openings and services were important social gatherings. They provided opportunities for interaction and connections which occurred only infrequently. All Saints' dedication ceremony was such an example. About 130 people, of whom only 16 were communicant members, gathered for the dedication service. The service was conducted by the Venerable E.G. Edwards, Archdeacon of Dunedin, on 1 November 1878, All Saints' Day. On Sunday morning at 8 am the Vicar celebrated Holy Communion in the new Church. At 11 am Matins and Litany were said. At 2 pm there were a number of baptisms. This was followed by a service for children. In the evening was Evensong led by the choir and the organist, Mr A. George. This busy pattern settled down in to at least one midweek and Sunday services.

Progress of the Church

Due to its rural setting, and the difficulty of meeting the costs of their own vicar, All Saints' Church found securing clergy was an ongoing problem. Consequently it became part of larger parishes. From 1883 to 1889, it was part of the Mataura River Mission District. The minister of the time, Rev. John Hobbs, later explained the nature of the parish to his English peers. Hobbs noted that the parochial district was of practically unlimited dimensions. His pastorate covered 25 miles. It proved a busy life including visiting the ‘colonials [who] do dearly love to be visited by the parson'. After 40 years, Hobbs reflected that

In the Back-blocks of the colonies, on the diggings, in the wool-shed, among the ‘sheepists' and the ‘cowspankers', you will find audiences as critical, perhaps even more so, as agnostic, as faithful, as earnest, as apathetic, as any in dear old England; you will find the religious appetite whetted by isolation; you will be so thankfully appreciated for any little you may do, but so unmercifully deserted if for bread you only take a stone'.

The Church continued to experience significant financial troubles and the debt on the Church building remained. The Church resorted to a number of entertainments to raise funds. Ladies bazaars, gift auctions, musical and dramatic entertainments were all employed. For example, a ‘grand musical festival' was held on Easter Monday in April 1880. A reporter noted that the ‘entertainment was a decided success so far as attendance was concerned, though some of the singing was not up to the mark...' However by the end of 1880, there remained a deficit of £337. Although Rev. H.J. Edwards opposed the motion, it was decided to let the pews at a rate of £5 per pew or £1 per sitting. The Church grounds were also now taken in hand. It was later remarked that, unfortunately, due consideration was not given to landscaping. The plantings were later the cause of many hours of hard labour as over-grown macrocarpas and gums were cut back.

In June 1882, the new ministers, Rev. Wilson, made the news. At a function held by the Church to welcome him, Wilson commented that lay-readers of the Episcopal church were far more ministers than the ordained clergyman of other denominations. The resulting furore caused many a letter to the editor, who commented that it was all a great shame given that ‘Mr Wilson is a very excellent gentleman in a social sense, and is also a good preacher. No doubt he sees his error, and regrets having made it himself. Charity! Charity! Is what is required.'

Perhaps Rev. Wilson never recovered from the controversy for he left the following year. In November 1883 the members of All Saints' then resolved to carry on Church work for a year without a clergyman and also to reduce the bills due by them as far as possible.

By 1885 the Church was still burdened by building debts. Rev. John Hobbs, of Gore, took the matter in hand and added Tapanui to his monthly visitation list in September 1885. . He 'exerted his strong personality and the parishioners returned to the fold and money poured in'. By 1886 the debt was significantly reduced. Hobs resigned in 1890 for a North Island posting. Rev. Sydney Hawthorne arrived from England to take up the post but left in 1891 finding the parish too large.

In 1891, All Saints' Church was incorporated into the Gore Parochial district. Rev. T.L. Stanley assumed the reigns of leadership over the new parish. Fundraisers continued to be held. There were concerts, ladies bazaars, dramatic entertainments, and gift auctions. The various functions were successful and in 1892 a letter was received from the Bishop congratulating the vestry on the Church being debt free. On 30 July 1892 the vestry decided to transfer all church property to the Diocesan Trustees in Dunedin. All Saints' Church was consecrated on 5 March 1893, almost 15 years after the archdeacon dedicated it. A font was also presented during the consecration by Mr J.A. Mason of Dalvey.

The Church continued to struggle financially, unable to contribute to their share to various costs incurred by the Parochial District. Also the Church building was comparatively large, as in the 1870s Tapanui gave every indication of becoming a flourishing centre. Unfortunately, this did not come to pass and the upkeep of a larger building became a problem for the congregation. The Church was no sooner out of debt, when they incurred another. In January 1891 an estimate was obtained for either roofing half of the Church, at £23, or the entire roof, at £52. A news item appeared in the local press shortly after to say the Church had been half roofed and given a much needed coat of paint. Unfortunately, shortly after the west end of the roof began to leak badly.

About 1899, tenders were received for placing iron on the north elevation of the roof. Mr McAllister's quote of £34 was accepted. Soon after decaying piles were found on the outer edge of the Church. Only three were sound and seven required replacement. The vestry settled on broadleaf rather than concrete. These lasted many years but were again replaced at a later date.

Fundraising continued as a cornerstone of the Church's finances. In November 1899 a bazaar was held in aid of the Church's organ fund. There was reportedly ‘an immense quantity of goods on sale, and a brisk business was done during the afternoons and evenings.'

Also of note in 1899 was the visit of Premier, Richard Seddon, to Tapanui. His address to ‘the largest audience that ever assembled in Tapanui..[was] spoken in his usual light and inconsequential way..' Sunday was spent quietly, and Mr Seddon attended All Saints' Church.

In 1902 All Saints' Church became part of the newly formed Tapanui-Clinton Parish. By 1930 Bishop Richards was bewailing the lack of clergy and so in 1931 Tapanui and Roxburgh were combined. In 1936 Tapanui was brought into the new Gore Curacy District with a team of three clergy.

The Church required continual upkeep. Rev. Frank Waldron who pastored the Church from 1942 to 1947 remarked that the matai stood up well to the passing decades, but later observed ‘what a pity that white pine was used for the sarking, for the borer dearly loves it'. He also reminiscenced that ‘in those days the only means of heating the Church was the stove. Unfortunately when the stove was not in use in spring and summer the starlings used to fill it up with their nests, and by the time the winter came and heat was needed, all that was obtainable was a vast quantity of smoke.' The mid 1940s also saw a new altar donated to the Church.

1951 saw the arrival of Rev. A. V. Jaquiery. Among the first duties he assumed was singlehandedly painting the Church roof and interior. During the 1950s there was a steady increase in numbers. A new parish was created, extending from east of Clinton to the west of Wakaia, with Tapanui as its central point. Regular weekly services and Sunday School classes were held. In 1957 a vicarage was built and the Church was painted. A hall ‘of pleasing design and appearance' was also erected.

In August 2003, the Bishop put a seat in front of the Church and attached a small plaque. The inscription read as follows:

To the Glory of God

For 125 Years of Pastoral Care

In the Tapanui District; 1878 - 2003.

By 2007, however, congregation numbers dwindled to between four and ten. That year, Tapanui Parish joined another parish, which declined to accept responsibility for the All Saints' Church building. The Church was deconsecrated on 23 February 2007 and vacated.

Grant and Crystal Arthur bought the Church in 2007. Plans to live in the Church were replaced by redevelopment of the Church hall into a home. In 2009 the Arthurs converted the Church into a home, garden and gift shop named Whitechapel Gifts. The shop draws both customers for their giftware and tourists interested in the design and history of the former Church.

The Church interior has been repainted and cleaned, and the Vestry is now a storage room. The nave, however, remains largely unchanged other than the removal of most of the pews (one remains) and the addition of a counter which does nothing to detract from the Church's interior. The imitation gas lamps and the carpet, replaced by the congregation probably in the 1980s, remain in situ. Homeware is artfully displayed around the Church's interiors without detracting from the impact of the overall space.

The Arthurs have also created a beautiful garden to enhance the aesthetic impact of the building and have plans to carry out repairs to the exterior cladding over the next year. The Arthurs have also fixed the bell, which may now be heard pealing across the rolling South Otago hills.

Physical Description

The approach to the Church on Forest Street shows a picturesque garden setting with the white timbered Church set up on the top of the rise, surveying the small township below. Turning left into Derby Street, there is a car park. Beyond the newly constructed wooden fence and down a short path is the west end of the Church upon which rests a small belfry. To the right, and close to the southern elevation is the twentieth century Church hall, recently converted into a dwelling for the Arthurs. Moving left to the northern Church frontage is a small entrance porch reached by a few stairs and featuring an inbuilt wooden seat.

The Church is designed in restrained Gothic Revival style. It is timber construction on timber piles, simple pitched corrugated iron roof with gable ends and a small annex off the nave serving as a robing room. The west elevation of the ridge supports a very small belfry with a small bell. The exterior of the Church is clad with vertical board and batten (228mm centres). The lancet windows with tre-foil heads, common in Gothic ecclesiastical architecture, are comprised of a series of tall narrow leaded cames. The windows are one to a bay except at the gabled ends where there are two lights to a centre bay. Longitudinally the sills continue as a rail around the building, stepping up to the higher levels of windows serving the Sanctuary. The sills are broken only by door openings and decay at the stepped portion of the rail to the higher sill. The windows themselves, with one exception, are formed with small diamond lenses set in the cames, originally in three colours, time and replacement having left few of the original glass. The exception is a stained glass window, probably a memorial, depicting a figure holding a helmet. Breaking the straight lines of the north frontage is the vestry room which juts out to the north. It features an external door and two windows.

Through the small porch featuring impressive double wooden doors with original handles and locks, is the nave. It features a high stud and scissors trusses. The interior lining is broken by timber columns supporting the collared trusses and forming the structural bays. A 1.5 metre diagonal timber sarked dado runs between the columns with the dado rail establishing the sill for the lead light windows. There is vertical board lining above the dado. The ceiling is timber, and the floor appears to be baltic fur. The centre aisle and sanctuary are carpeted. The nave steps up to the sanctuary with a simple rail and gate at the break in levels.

The fittings are simple and elegant. The new shop counter is wooden featuring diagonal timber and works well with existing fittings. Lighting is pendant incandescent with frosted glass 'cone' shades. There is no pulpit and earlier descriptions note the nave simply held a lectern and a prie-dieu. The pews were simple and rugged. At the west end there was a stone font and the bell rope to the belfry above. Heating was by bar radiant heaters mounted on walls and electric tubular heaters suspended between pews.

From 1983 to 1988 $30,000 was spent on repairs to the Church. The NZ Historic Places Trust partially funded the restoration work. Work to the exterior included repiling, replacing rotting timber, repainting, repairing the bell tower, and painting the roof. On the interior repairs were made to windows and woodwork; the walls were painted and the floor recarpeted. Messrs William & Kay Builders were employed to complete the work.

A site inspection in 2006 noted the building was in a somewhat poor condition with borer, paint failure and decay in cladding timbers. The exterior certainly requires repairs and a repaint but appears essentially sound. The current form of All Saints' Anglican Church (Former), pleasingly, is largely that of its original construction in 1878.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -
Church built and dedicated

1893 -
All Saints' Church was consecrated and ownership passed to the Diocesan Trustees in Dunedin

Construction Details

Timber (matai and pine)


Completion Date

26th April 2010

Report Written By

Susan Irvine

Information Sources

Andersen, 1998

A Anderson, The Welcome of Strangers: an ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1998.

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Thornton, 2003

G. Thornton, Worship in the Wilderness: Early country churches of New Zealand, Auckland, 2003

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.