Historical Significance or Value
Gore Presbyterian Church (Former) has historical significance representing the importance of religion, and particularly of the Presbyterian Church in the Gore community. The development of the church reflects the period of consolidation of settlement and the building of permanent places of worship by the Presbyterian Church. The history of community support evident in the construction of the first church, and its subsequent alterations to fit the growing congregation show its significance.
Architectural Significance or Value
Gore Presbyterian Church (Former) has architectural significance as an example of the work of prominent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson. Lawson was notable for his designs for church buildings in Otago. It is also a representative example of a modest Presbyterian church designed in Gothic style. It is one of only two remaining timber Presbyterian churches designed by Lawson.
Cultural Significance or Value
The former Gore Presbyterian Church’s reincarnation as a home for Gore’s significant art scene gives the building cultural significance. Its association with the Eastern Southland Gallery is important, the gallery being nationally recognised for its important collection.
a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The development of a community of worship in Gore is a representative aspect of New Zealand history which illustrates the importance of the Presbyterian Church in this area. It represents the period of development in the Presbyterian Church which saw the consolidation of communities. Its subsequent closure and adaption to a new purpose is also representative of the decline of organised religion at the close of the twentieth century.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The Gore Presbyterian Church (Former) is associated with pre-eminent and nationally significant Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson. Lawson was known for his work for the Presbyterian Church in Otago in particular.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The purchase of the former Gore Presbyterian Church’s by Eastern Southland Gallery Incorporated as a home a printmaking studio and artist in residence shows the building’s importance to the community.
The Mataura and Waimea plains were known to Kai Tahu with eeling camps in the summer months, at places like Wharekorokio close to the confluence of the Mataura and the Whakaea (Waikaia) Rivers, and Waikakahi close to the Waikakahi (Waikaka) River. Moa were also an important resource for early Kai Tahu in the Waikaia area. The river was the route of an inland trail to the interior and on to the West Coast. Established settlements such as Tuturau were further down the Mataura River. It was via this route that Te Puoho and his Ngatitama taua from Golden Bay to raid the Kai Tahu settlements in the southern South Island in 1836-37.
Northern raiders were not the only threat, by the 1850s there was pressure from European settlers for good pastoral land, the Waimea plains were included in the 6,900,000 acre Murihiku purchase in 1853 and alienated from Kai Tahu.
A settlement grew up on the west bank of the Mataura River known as “the Long Ford”, or Longford. In 1862 the settlement was surveyed and renamed Gore after Sir Thomas Gore Browne, an early Governor of New Zealand. Across the river a settlement named Gordon after Governor Sir Arthur Gordon was established – now known as East Gore. Church services were high in the minds of the pioneering settlers.
The Presbyterian Church in Southland
Following on the heels of the establishment of a Free Church settlement in Dunedin, the Presbyterian Church expanded its mantle into southern districts. In 1854 the Reverend William Bannerman took charge of settled districts south of Milton ‘as far south as he cared to go.’ In 1859 Bannerman presented the Presbytery of Otago with a petition from Southland residents that they should be able to form a separate parish with their own minister in Invercargill. Reverend Stobo visited the Gore district to attend to the spiritual needs of pastoralists in the early 1860s.
In 1862 the residents of the Mataura Valley and Tapanui petitioned the Presbytery regarding a minister for their district. In due course Reverend James Urie was indicted into the Pomahaka-Mataura Valley charge. By the early 1870s the Mataura Valley was given a separate charge under Reverend James Henry. The parish was extensive – sixty miles long and at its widest 30 miles broad, with work centred on establishing mission stations. In 1877 Rev J.M. Davidson was inducted at Mataura and conducted services on alternate Sundays at Gordon in a private house, and later in Mackay’s Hall, where Sunday School was also held.
More people came to the district with the subdivision of Knapdale Station and the services for a settled population became established. East Gore was surveyed in 1877, with sections auctioned in October 1878. There was a flurry of building – three stores, two hotels, and a bank opened in quick succession. Businesses followed – wheelwrights, blacksmith, baker, fellmongery and a Town Hall.
A congregational meeting to discuss the construction of a church was held in Mackay’s Hall in June 1880. The meeting agreed that a church be built on Rock Street, and that the committee procure plans for a church to seat 200. The elevated section was described as ‘the finest site for a church edifice in the neighbourhood’ and ‘one of the finest sites in Otago’ – where a ‘visible church may be seen nearly from Riversdale to Invercargill.’
Clerk David Dun wrote to architect Robert Arthur Lawson that ‘an idea exists that the purse strings may be taxed to the tune of, say 300 pounds, a sum you will doubtless set down as small, but mind you, we are as yet a ‘feeble folk’ among the hills, and if we can now make room for 200, should more come by and by and think of putting an ‘eek’ (extension) on the hive they will just have to bring the money with them.’ He continued ‘I think they would all like to see a bit of a steeple and to hear ‘clinkum bell wi’ rattling tow’ call them up on Sabbath Morning; my only fear is that the sum named will not allow you to go further than something severely Presbyterian in style, but not so much so I hope as our early acquaintances of Burgher and anti-Burgher, Relief Secession and Kirk specimens of architecture still visible in some parts of our native country.’
Lawson replied that the design ‘exactly comes up to your requirements as to interior accommodation being arranged for 200 people. The seats might, however, be arranged differently, that is, having a passage in the centre on place of at the side, and so a few more could be accommodated.’ Lawson’s plans were adopted with some alterations. It was agreed that the vestry should be cut off from one end and a belfry added at the other. Specifications were for seasoned red and white pine with the piles and bottom plates of Totara.
Art historian Jonathan Mane Wheoki writes that most of Lawson’s churches are ‘Gothic in style and Puginian in character, except that long chancels have been dispensed with as superfluous to the requirements of Presbyterian worship.’ East Gore is one of two of Lawson’s timber Presbyterian churches to survive.
After some months of wrangling with the factor for the Presbyterian Church in Dunedin funding disputes were smoothed over and tenders were called for construction. That of the lowest tenderer Thomas Latham of Gore (£465) was accepted. During construction a severe storm caused structural damage. As a result Lawson agreed to erect four buttresses and iron cross rods with extra timber and bracing in the tower.
Gore’s first Presbyterian church service was held in the church on 16 October, 1881. The Southland Times reported on the opening with the service read by Reverend John Ferguson of Invercargill’s First Church. After some debate about the morality of singing, an organ was installed in the church in 1887.
The congregation turned to the need for their own minister, starting a Sustentation Fund in the event of Gore district becoming a separate charge. The call was issued in 1884 and the Reverend Andrew Mackay was inducted in September of that year. His tenure was short and there was dissension within the congregation, with some parishioners choosing to leave rather than have him as a minister. Reverend Mackay answered a call to Sydney in 1890.
In 1891 the Presbyterian Synod of Otago created a new presbytery district – the Presbytery of Mataura, with Gore as its centre. Almost straight away the new body was confronted with demands from the Gore congregation – to purchase the adjoining section to the church, to provide extensions to the existing church and to acquire land on the west side of the river with a view to establishing another church (which would lead ultimately to a secession within the congregation and the creation of a new church on the west of the Mataura).
Plans were drawn up for 108 additional seatings and a session house to seat 60-70 people. This plan required the land from the adjoining section. The plans cut through the church, turning it into transepts and building a new nave, with a session house at the end where the pulpit stood. The architect was Invercargill civil engineer and architect, William Sharp.
William Sharp (1847-1936) was born in Yorkshire. Sharp arrived in New Zealand in October 1878, and was appointed assistant engineer in the Invercargill Public Works Department. He was responsible for the design of the Invercargill Water Tower (Category 1, Register No. 394). He entered private practice as an engineer, architect and surveyor in 1888, where he undertook a wide range of architectural and engineering commissions. For the Presbyterian Church he also designed the manse for First Church in Invercargill and the Dipton Presbyterian Church.
The official re-opening took place on 7 February 1892. The Reverend Ramsay, speaking at the opening congratulated the congregation on their new church though ‘he could hardly call it altogether a new church, but it reminded him of the gun which had a new lock, stock and barrel.’
With the opening of the Gore railway-road bridge in 1875, the western part of Gore became more populated. Presbyterian worship was centralised at St Andrew’s Church Hall in 1928 and in 1959 the St Andrew’s Church in Gore township.
East Gore was established as a second charge in November 1952, combining East Gore with Waimumu and Te Tipua, and the Church was named the East Gore Presbyterian Church. In 1960 the boundaries changed again, the old parish of East Gore-Waimumu was divided, the country portion going to West Gore. This put East Gore in a difficult position with a declining congregation to look after the church. Much needed repair and maintenance was completed by volunteers. A hall was erected next door in April 1964 and a manse was built in the same year.
Centenary services were held in the East Gore Church in 1981 and a centenary history was published. The history recalled the landmark status of the building, erected on a prominent site where its visibility was a testament of the importance of faith to the Gore Presbyterian community.
A special service to mark its closing was held in 1995. After its closure the building was leased to the Gore Apostolic Church.
The Eastern Southland Gallery Incorporated purchased the Church and its attached Community Hall in 2001. An offer from Frans Baetens and Magda van Gils of Auckland's Muka Studio upon their future retirement, saw the gift of lithography presses and equipment from Muka Studio to the Gallery for the purpose of establishing a non-profit lithographic studio for visiting artists to be housed in the church. Muka Studio has made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s art scene since 1984 in the field of printmaking and the promotion of New Zealand artists internationally, as well as encouraging children’s involvement in art.
The project will see the church restored and redeveloped into a studio facility for professional artists working in the media of lithography, print making and painting, with the conversion of the old Sunday School / Vestry into a high quality accommodation unit for an artist in residence, and the conversion of the kitchen and meeting room into a working studio space and the building of a strengthened floor structure in the hall for the installation of the large lithography presses.
In 2012 the former Presbyterian Church continues to develop its new life as the East Gore Arts Centre, an extension of the Eastern Southland Gallery.
The Gore Presbyterian Church (Former) is located on a rise overlooking the Mataura River and Gore township. It sits in a mix of light industrial and residential buildings on Rock Street in East Gore. The Church is built relatively close to the street and is tightly framed by its 1964 hall and an adjoining residence.
The Church runs parallel to Rock Street. It is cruciform in plan. The Church is constructed of timber, clad in weatherboard, with a corrugated iron roof. The spire is on the south elevation and only partially visible from Rock Street. There is little decoration – with the Lancet windows, the spire and the steep roof pitch being the main visual elements.
The spire has paired Lancet windows on the ground floor, and a set of triple Lancet windows with louvres on the first floor level. There is a porch and door on the south elevation providing access to the grassed area to the rear of the church.
The building stages are evident from the street with the 1892 extension projecting from the 1880 building toward Rock Street. The extension is in a similar style to Lawson’s original, with its Lancet windows and simple detailing.
The interior of the nave is lined with wallboard. The main interior detailing comes from the King Post trusses that run across the nave. The pews are still in place.
Church opened 16 October 1881
Church extended and session house added
Major repiling, painting and roughcast to foundation cover boards
Rimu, Kahikatea, concrete, corrugated iron.
26th February 2013
Report Written By
J.F. McArthur, From The Kirk On The Hill 1881-1981: A History Of The Presbyterian Church In Gore, [np, 1981]
9 Feb 1892, p.4.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the Otago/Southland Office of the NZHPT.
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.