Historical Significance or Value
Although Holy Trinity Church was the first Anglican church in Winton, its construction coincided with a second wave of church building in Southland, a phenomenon that is indicative of the coming of age of Southland as well as Winton as a rural service centre town. The creation of this moderately scaled building, designed by a leading local architect, reflects the growth of the local Anglican community and their desire to create a place of worship suited to their present and future needs. The continued support of the local community has ensured the church’s retention, and it is now the oldest remaining Anglican church in Southland.
Social Significance or Value
This was a socially significant building, particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, because the bringing together of families for the purpose of worship, and other events, created occasions where the community in and around Winton could interact and network. The importance of the building to the local Anglican community has been demonstrated since 1876 through their financial and labour contributions to its up-keep.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
Holy Trinity Church is a landmark along Winton’s Great North Road. The aesthetic values of the building stem from its prominent corner position combined with its lofty nave gable and exterior decorative features. These aspects give Holy Trinity Church an exalted, but not overstated, atmosphere.
Architectural Significance or Value:
Holy Trinity Church has architectural value as a modestly sized proponent of the Gothic Revival style of church architecture, popular in New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. Key characteristics of this form of building are present at Holy Trinity Church, such as vertical emphasis created through steep pitched gables, a bell-tower, and lancet windows. The extensive and dramatic use of native timber for the ceiling lining also cements this church within the New Zealand’s Gothic tradition, as does the northwest tracery window. These aspects contribute greatly to the building’s architectural significance.
Holy Trinity Church is also of local architectural importance because it is one the first Southland ecclesiastical buildings designed by prominent Invercargill architect, Frederick William Burwell’s (1846-1915).
Spiritual Significance or Value:
Prior to the construction of Holy Trinity Church, the local Anglican community had irregular access to services and no permanent base in Winton. Therefore, Holy Trinity Church has considerable local spiritual value as the venue of innumerable religious services and celebrations for well over a century, and for being directly associated with the spiritual aspect of generations of local residents’ lives.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Constructed within the first twenty years of Winton’s history, Holy Trinity Church is representative of the determination and commitment of the faithful in New Zealand, whatever Christian denomination, in their often prolonged efforts to create these symbols of their religious convictions. Holy Trinity Church is an important site because it physically represents the concurrent spread, and then consolidation, of European settlement and the Anglican faith in New Zealand.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The church’s architect, Frederick William Burwell, is an important historical figure in early Invercargill and wider Southland, because he is credited with the conversion of Invercargill from a frontier town into a visually impressive locale worthy of its position as capital of Southland. The pivotal nature of this work was recognised in Britain with Burwell becoming a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1880, at the age of just 34. Although better known for his commercial buildings, Holy Trinity Church is important because it was one, if not the first, of the group of churches that Burwell designed around Southland in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
Holy Trinity Church has been attended by thousands of people since its construction and therefore many local people have a personal or family connection with the building, some of which are physically evident in the church with tributes such as memorial windows. It was the efforts of the community which enabled Holy Trinity Church to be built in 1876. Their esteem for the building, and commitment as a religious group, has been shown over the years through their passive or active donations for the church’s maintenance and adornment, and the upgrading and extension of the building in 1981.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
This building is part of the Winton Great North Road Historic Area (Record no.7527) and is important within this group as one of the oldest. Because of town fires Holy Trinity Church is one of the rare remaining timber buildings in this commercial centre of Winton.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e and k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place
Ancient stories tell the origins of southern Maori, with the waka of Aoraki becoming Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island), and its sternpost, Te Taurapa a Te Waka o Aoraki becoming Bluff Hill (also known as Motupohue). The Maui traditions are told in the south, with Maui arriving in his waka Maahunui, and pulling up the stone to be used as an anchor - Te Puka o Te Waka a Maui (Rakiura). Maui's achievements are recognised in place names in the south, including Omaui near Bluff, and Te Tapuwae o Maui and Te Rereka o Maui in Fiordland (Maui's footstep and Maui's leap).
Stories of the original explorers of the south are also told. The explorer Rakaihautu journeyed through the south with place names recalling his journey.
After Rakaihautu came the Takitimu waka with Tamatea Pokai Whenua. The waka was overcome by three waves O-te-wao, O-roko and O-kaka, coming to rest near the mouth of the Waiau (Waimeha). The three waves continued across the low lying lands and ended up as features of the landscape.
The early generations learnt about the land and its resources: stone sources were found, and stone (especially pounamu) became an important trading item. Kaika were established close to resources. Rights and resources and places were established, and traditions established which protected the manawhenua.
When traditions were written down Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu dominate the history after Waitaha, with stories of war and peace, and intermarriage that spread through the south. In the early 1820s there was further fighting, with muskets first being used at this time, with major sieges in the more northern area of the South Island leading a retreat to the south. Ruapuke Island became the centre of leadership in the south, its isolation giving a measure of security. The final fight with the northern taua of Te Puoho and his followers at Tuturau in 1835-1836, where Te Puoho was defeated, saw the end of warfare in the region.
According to the Ngai Tahu Statutory acknowledgments in the settlement important villages along the south coast included: Te Wae Wae (Waiau), Taunoa (Orepuki), Kawakaputaputa (Wakapatu), Oraka (Colac bay), Aparima, Turangiteuaru, Awarua (Bluff), Te Whera, Toe Toe (mouth of the Mataura River) and Waikawa. Mokamoka (also known as Mokemoke or Mokomoko) was a settlement at the Invercargill estuary sustained by the rich resources found there. Tauranga waka occur up and down the coast linking land and sea trails with mahinga kai resources. Whaling boats plied the waters from the 1820s leading to changes in settlement patterns and resource use.
1853 saw the Murihiku purchase which left Maori south of the Waitaki (excluding the Otakou Block) with only 4,630 acres, the start of a long quest by southern Maori for justice questioning the legality of the purchase as well as the inadequacy of the land reserved.
Invercargill Township was laid out by chief surveyor John Turnbull Thomson (1821-1884) in 1856, Thomson choosing the location for its centrality for both sea-based and land-based traffic, though the surrounding low lying swampy ground made the new settlement practically inaccessible. As with Dunedin further north, the development of the town was given an enormous boost with the gold rushes of the early 1860s. It was also in this period that areas of inland Southland began to be settled.
The bush covered land that became the site of Winton was initially surveyed during this period. These first surveys were contemporaneous with the turning of the first sod of the railway stretching north, through the new town, from Invercargill. This attracted workers to the fledgling settlement, and therefore it was a tremendous setback when work on the railway stopped in 1864. Construction resumed in 1871 and soon after Winton became a municipality in 1876, quickly becoming a key rural service centre. It continued to develop in this manner and is now regarded as the ‘agricultural heart of Southland.’
Holy Trinity Church
It was not long after Thomson started his survey of Invercargill that the first Presbyterian clergyman arrived in the burgeoning settlement, and it is Rev. Alexander Bethune who is attributed with preaching the first Christian sermon in Invercargill in late 1856. Prior to this a Christian presence had been introduced in Southland by Maori Anglican missionaries from the North Island, and there were also early Methodist missionaries active in Southland in the 1840s. Despite the strong Presbyterian settler influence from the mid-1850s, it is important to note that Southland was not a religious colony like Otago, and in the 1860s Presbyterians only nominally outnumbered Anglicans.
By the late 1850s it appears that most of the major Christian denominations had established a presence in Southland, but it was not until the early 1860s that the first purpose-built churches were constructed. The early church buildings in the Invercargill area, such as St John’s Anglican Church (1861), were constructed from timber, with the first permanent materials church being St Paul’s Church (Presbyterian) in Invercargill, completed in 1876. From 1862 Anglican services in Winton were held intermittently at available venues.
Winton’s development as a town led to its first churches being built, including one for the local Anglican community. On 19 August 1875, a group of local men met at the Railway Station with the design of forming a church committee and appointing a lay reader so that regular Church of England services at Winton could commence. The newly elected committee comprised of Messrs Bennett, Thomas Brown, D. Cameron, Cutcliffe, Devereux, Hiscox, Keen, King, Lampert, Livingstone, McWilliams, Meadows, Norman, Pratt, M. Shaw, Sproull, Stroude, R. Swale, Walker, and White. The committee immediately set about its business, requesting use of the Odd Fellows Hall or the Court House for services and a Sunday School, as well as scouting for people willing to run the school, and beginning to organise a choir.
It was at the 28 September committee meeting that the first mention of constructing a church was recorded in the minutes. The subsequent meeting acknowledged receipt of initial sketches from Frederick William Burwell (1846-1915) for a proposed building costing £400. The plans were described in the Southland Times as:
‘..a design for a very neat pretty Gothic edifice, capable of seating about 120 persons. It consists of a nave, porch, and chancel, and standing as it will upon the best site in Winton, will be a very great ornament to our already handsome little town.’
The submission of plans by Burwell was apparently an unsolicited move. However, by the close of 1875 the committee had investigated the possibility of getting a loan for a building on land donated by a Mr Armstrong of Fern Bush farm. They also wrote to Burwell requesting his lowest price for designing and supervising the church’s construction.
Burwell had been enticed to Invercargill in 1874 by the prospect of numerous lucrative contracts in the flourishing town. Burwell is intimately linked with the conversion of Invercargill from a frontier town to a ‘city of magnificent edifices’ over the subsequent 12 year period. It appears that Burwell had a vision of Invercargill’s potential and contributed greatly to cohesive commercial streetscapes, such as the impressive buildings which made up the concave of The Crescent. It was the profound effect that Burwell had in Invercargill by 1880 which led to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, at the age of just 34.
Aside from commercial and public buildings, Burwell also designed many Southland ecclesiastical buildings. Winton’s Holy Trinity Church and St Paul’s Church (Presbyterian) in Invercargill seem to have been his first forays into this sphere, followed by many other commissions for all the major Christian denominations around Southland. Although construction on the Winton and Invercargill churches began around the same time, the modest timber Anglican building seems to have been completed quicker. Therefore, Holy Trinity Church was dedicated earlier than the larger masonry building that is St Paul’s Church. Indeed, Burwell’s approaches to the Winton committee may have been his attempt in Southland of branching out into the ecclesiastical sphere. Among Burwell’s other Anglican churches were All Saints’ Church (1877-78) in the north Invercargill suburb of Gladstone, as well as in Gore (1881) and Thornbury (1882-83); Presbyterian churches included those in Roxburgh and Cromwell in 1879, and Riverton (1881); and Burwell also designed a Methodist church in Invercargill (1881) and a Catholic church in Gore (1882).
The tenders for Burwell’s Winton church were advertised in December 1875 and January 1876. Francis Jack of Invercargill won the contract for the supply of timber, with red pine (rimu) designated for the lining of the church and white pine for the weatherboards and flooring. Twelve tenders were received for the labour, ranging in price from £175 to £320. It has been recorded that the contract for the construction of the building was awarded to Messrs Price and Shardrow with their tender being £190. However, in a report on committee activities after the completion of the church it was recorded that they took pride in helping the community establish its ‘handsome little church,’ which was not only a credit to Burwell, but also the contractor, Colin McKay. It was McKay who had submitted the lowest tender.
It was not until after the contracts for the construction of Holy Trinity Church were let that a Building Committee was formed in February 1876. However, this was in anticipation of the construction beginning in March. A key task during this period was the instigating of a programme of fundraising ventures, such as special concerts. The committee seems to have been reasonably good at this. Of £365 which had been expended on the building by October 1876 almost half had been recouped from community subscriptions. Burwell also offered to donate to the building fund or to present the church with a font. The committee opted for the money instead.
Winton’s Anglican church was opened by Reverend W. P. Tanner on 8 October 1876. It was late that month that the name for the building was decided upon. Aside from services, initially the new Winton church was also used for Sunday School classes until an alternative could be found. In the early period fundraising to clear the debt of building Holy Trinity Church was still a focus of the church committee. Events included a lecture by Sir John Richardson (1810-1878). Richardson later donated the necessary funds for the construction of the church fence. In his design Burwell had specified a ‘picquet fence and gates’ be constructed along the streetfronts of the building. However this took some time to compete as the initial tenders were felt to be too high.
In 1884 the church building debt had still not been paid. The prospect of selling, or leasing, part of the church’s property was raised as a revenue gathering measure. This was viewed favourably and in April 1884 the committee agreed to sell land south of the church, being Pt Section 2, Block 3, Town of Winton. The remainder of the property was then transferred to the Diocesan Trustees. At this time Winton was still part of the Riverton Parish. It was only in the closing years of the nineteenth century that Holy Trinity Church became the centre of a Winton Parish.
It was possibly due to the subdivision that Burwell’s fence appears to have been replaced by a hedge. By 1918 the on-going maintenance of the hedge had become a headache for the Vestry and as such they determined to construct a concrete block wall. This was despite some members considering it an inopportune time given the inflated cost of concrete during World War One. As such, an initial working bee was held in July to cut down and burn the problematic hedge, and the current wall seems to have been built soon after.
Around the turn of the twentieth century many of the buildings in the commercial district of Winton’s Great North Road were replaced, either out of choice or, more often, by devastating fires necessitating it. As a consequence there are numerous substantial brick buildings present in this area. Indeed, as a timber building, Holy Trinity Church stands out amongst these two-storey structures. The survival of the building seems remarkable because there were some close encounters with fire. It seems in 1933 that several buildings around the church had to be demolished after a fire. This event apparently also damaged Holy Trinity Church, but it is unclear to what extent. However, it seems likely that this was when the sanctuary stained glass windows were damaged. These windows were not replaced until the church was upgraded in the 1980s.
In the late 1930s a location within the town was sort as a suitable place to hold church social functions and in 1939 the Church Hall Fund was initiated. The Church Hall was eventually constructed in the late 1950s. The church itself also underwent changes in the 1930s, such as painting the interior, replacing original windows which were in disrepair, and removing the choir stalls. Window replacement was again undertaken in the mid-1950s.
A significant milestone in the history of the building was its centenary celebration on 10 October 1976. The building is said to been crowded for the service attended by Bishop Peter Mann, and W. L. S. Harbour, the Archdeacon of Southland and a former vicar at Winton. Other events of the day included a lunch which approximately 120 people attended. A cake in the form of the building was specially created for the occasion.
By its centenary Holy Trinity Church was showing its age. Eventually this led to a full parish meeting in November 1980. After lengthy debate about the possibility of building a new church, extending the hall, or using the Presbyterian church next door, a vote showed that restoration of Holy Trinity Church was the favoured option. Various fund raising measures were then launched, including an appeal to parishioners, raffles, a garden tour and other similar events, and applying for funding from organisations such as the Lotteries Grants Board, Lions and Rotary.
Refurbishment and extension plans were created by Invercargill architect, John McCullogh. They included: a new vestry and entrance, altar extension, reconstruction of the bell tower, repair of windows, and a covered walkway the new entrance and the church hall. By mid 1981 the committee had secured $48,000 of the required $64,000 for Mac Stirling’s building contract. The project budget was kept to a minimum through the use of community labour at numerous working bees. The dedication of the additions and the rededication of the original building occurred on 20 December 1981.
The alterations to the church were considered a success. Although many parishioners still use the original Great North Road entrance, the new entrance and covered walkway created a useful sheltered space for people to gather in before and after events, like funerals and weddings. McCullogh’s work at the church was recognised with a medal award from the Otago-Southland Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1984.
Another addition to the church grounds was the lych-gate donated to Holy Trinity Church in 2003. The lych-gate had been constructed for St Alban’s Church in Limehills in 1965. However, when that church was closed the lych-gate came to Winton, as did the St Alban’s Church organ. The concrete blocks of the lych-gate’s pedestal were sourced from a demolition site in Invercargill.
Regular services are still held at Holy Trinity Church. The 1876 original construction date means that Holy Trinity Church is the oldest remaining Anglican church in Southland.
Located in the rural Southland service centre of Winton, Holy Trinity Church is a prominent landmark along this town’s main street. This is primarily because of the height of church’s roof and bell-tower in comparison to its surrounding commercial buildings, but also because of its corner site. Holy Trinity Church is orientated parallel to Great North Road, and is set within a rectangular section stretching back along Meldrum Street. Further along Meldrum Street are Winton’s municipal buildings and also the Presbyterian church.
The boundary of Holy Trinity Church’s grounds is defined by a 1918 concrete brick wall, three concrete bricks high. The wall is in two sections. At some point a large section in the middle of the Meldrum Street boundary wall was removed to allow for the current semi-circular driveway. This may have been contemporary with the construction of the church hall. The church hall, connected to the church by a 1981 covered walkway, was constructed circa 1959 and occupies the west corner of the church grounds. A more recent addition to the property is the lych-gate close to the northwest corner of the church.
The simple form of the church building, consisting of a characteristic entrance porch on its northeast corner and nave featuring a high stud and gable roof, is typical of the New Zealand translation of Gothic Revival church architecture. Other aspects that contribute to this, and emphasis height in this modestly sized church, include its lancet windows and doors. This vernacular architectural form is also characterised by the use of readily available local materials, which explains the predominance of timber at Holy Trinity Church. Timber is everywhere within the building: timber framing, and interior linings, particularly the tongue and groove ceiling linings of the nave and the original entrance porch. The weatherboards were replaced during the early 1980s restoration of the building.
The north east entrance porch is an 1876 feature. It has sets of double doors within a lancet shaped architrave and ornamental Gothic foliate hinges. The scalloped bargeboards of the nave and sanctuary are another decorative feature of Burwell’s design, as were pendants dropping from each gable apex and end of the bargeboards. However, the current pendants seem to be the result of the 1980s restoration project. In the same way, the bell-tower is a reconstruction of the original one, albeit slightly more squat in appearance. The three small gabled ventilators on the east side of the roof were replaced in 1981 as well. The tracery window in the northwest wall is yet another early feature indicative of the Gothic Revival inspiration of Burwell’s design. The stained glass, depicting a landscape scene, in this tracery window was donated in 1984.
Descriptions of the newly built church do not mention a vestry and it is unclear when this was added to the building. During the restoration project the existing vestry was demolished and replaced with one which was expanded west to facilitate the inclusion of a kitchenette, and southwards inline with the extension of the sanctuary. Previously the altar was against the back wall, which meant that aspects of services involving the altar were conducted facing away from the congregation. The addition of the concrete block sanctuary bay in 1981 provided access behind the altar. The altar lancet light, with its stained glass contained within a large central lancet and two smaller flanking windows, seems to be a replica of the earlier window. Above the apex of the main altar window is a small trefoil window with dove depicted at the centre.
The 1981 building programme also included a new entrance at the junction of the vestry and nave. This was constructed to match the original entrance, albeit in a larger scale. The associated covered walkway between the church and the church hall is accessed via tiled steps or a ramp. The walkway has a corrugated iron roof, timber verandah posts and a predominantly glazed southern wall, providing views through to a garden area.
The walls of the nave were relined in 1981. However, the space retains the atmosphere of a characteristic modest sized Gothic Revival church. The steep pitch of the nave gable creates a feeling of vastness, especially when emerging from the confined original entrance porch. The lining of the ceiling appears to be original and the roof is supported by a series of scissor trusses. These trusses ‘have curved ribs springing from moulded corbels,’ and, like the bargeboards, have been finished with central turned timber pendants. The lancet shape arch which divides the nave from the sanctuary was also an aspect of Burwell’s design. Likewise, the altar rail, with its metal foliate posts and timber lintel, is an original feature, although the two parts were moved during the 1981 upgrade of the building.
Aside from the pews, which are spaced throughout the nave, the pieces of timber church furniture, like the lectern, altar chairs, vase stands and candlesticks, are concentrated at the southern/sanctuary and chancel end of the building. The altar was purchased in 1925, and its three front panels are carved with Gothic foliate motifs. The substantial stone font has a carved timber lid and a simple timber base on casters. Attached to the rear wall behind the altar is a metal crucifix presented to Holy Trinity Church in 1911. Other donated items around the building include the nave windows, which have frosted glass in diamond shaped leadlight panels, with a red glass border. Currently the northern-most of the west elevation windows is boarded over, awaiting repair.
Church Hall constructed
Upgrade and restoration project
Concrete, corrugated iron, glass, timber
18th August 2011
Report Written By
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
P. Sorrell, (ed) Murihiku: The Southland Story, Southland to 2006 Book Project Committee, Invercargill, 2006
Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area office
NZIA National Award Winner 1984
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.