Church of St Michael and All Angels (Anglican)

84 Oxford Terrace And Durham Street South, Christchurch

  • Church of St Michael and All Angels.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/02/2002.
  • Stained glass window in Church of St Michael and All Angels.
    Copyright: Stephen Estall. Taken By: Stephen Estall.
  • Stained glass window in Church of St Michael and All Angels.
    Copyright: Stephen Estall. Taken By: Stephen Estall.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Registered List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1
List Number 294 Date Entered 2nd April 1985

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Res 7 (CT CB47C/1021), Sec 1033, Pt Sec 1031 and 1038 Town of Christchurch (CT CB373/218), Canterbury Land District and the building known as St Michael and All Angels Church (Anglican), and its fittings and fixtures. The Extent of registration excludes the school and the belfry.

City/District Council

Christchurch City

Region

Canterbury Region

Legal description

Res 7 (CT CB373/217), Sec 1033, Pt Sec 1031 and 1038 Town of Christchurch (CT CB373/218), Canterbury Land District

Summaryopen/close

The current St. Michael and All Angels Church is the second of the same name to be built on the site. Anglican services were first held in Christchurch in a V hut on this site in 1851. The V hut was replaced by a wooden church, the first to be built in Christchurch, later the same year. Known initially as Christ Church it functioned as the Anglican Pro-Cathedral. Once it was consecrated in 1859 it became known as St. Michael and All Angels. By the late 1860s it was apparent that a larger church was required to accommodate the growing Anglican population and William Fitzjohn Crisp was asked to design one. Crisp had came out from Britain as an apprentice with the British architect, Robert Speechly, who had been appointed to supervise the building of the ChristChurch Cathedral in 1864. However, lack of money halted construction on the Cathedral shortly after the foundations were laid in late 1865. Crisp later became Speechly's partner and they worked out the remainder of their four year contract supervising the construction of other buildings for the Anglican Church Property Trustees. Crisp remained in Christchurch after Speechly left in 1868 and his previous association with the Anglican Diocese made him the logical choice as the architect for St. Michael's. However, problems with the construction of the building led to Crisp returning to Britain in 1871 and Frederick Strouts (1834-1919) was appointed as supervising architect in June of that year.

The church that was eventually opened in May 1872 owes much to the style of French Gothic architecture of the fourteenth century, which had been revived in Britain by Victorian architects. More specifically, links have been made to the style of George Frederick Bodley's church of St. Michael and All Angels in Brighton, Sussex (1859-1861), albeit with these influences translated into the vernacular material of New Zealand wood. Matai was the main timber used in the construction of St. Michael's, Christchurch, and it is one of the largest timber Gothic Revival churches in the Southern Hemisphere. Because of a lack of money the chancel was not completed until 1874-1875, and the planned bell tower and spire were never constructed.

From 1910 St. Michael's became renowned as a 'High' Anglican church and continues to be 'a centre of ritualism and Catholic spirituality, within the Anglican community'. These High Church associations can also be seen in the furnishings of the church.

Also associated with St. Michael's is the belfry, designed by Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort and built in 1861. The church's collection of stained glass windows, installed over the years, is also significant. The parish school, situated adjacent to the church, opened in 1851 and is the oldest Anglican school in New Zealand.

St. Michael and All Angels has strong connections with the Canterbury Association and the early European settlers of Christchurch, being built on land specifically set aside for ecclesiastical purposes. The earlier church on this site was the first to be built in Christchurch. St. Michael and All Angels served as the Pro-Cathedral for the diocese until 1881 and it has been a centre of High Church Anglican worship for 150 years. It is an outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture in timber and is thought to be the only major work in New Zealand by Crisp.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

St. Michael and All Angels Church, completed 1872, replaced the earlier temporary wooden church built on this site in 1851. The first church on the Canterbury plains, it served as the "mother" church for the initial colonists of the planned Anglican Settlement and the present church, which continued the role of Pro-Cathedral until 1881, is of major historical significance in the province.

Designed by William Crisp, it is of special architectural interest as a fine example of Gothic architecture in timber and contains some notable stained glass memorial windows.

The church reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history through its links with the Canterbury Association Settlement, one of a number of organised colonial immigration settlements of the nineteenth century. A key focus of the Canterbury Association's plans for the settlement was the building of churches and this site was where the first church on the plains was built.

The site and later the church have been associated with important events. It was here that the first Bishop of Canterbury conducted services and the first school classes were held. It has been a centre for Anglican worship on the Canterbury plains since 1851.

The church has outstanding technical value. Built in 1872 it is a prime example of the Gothic style superbly translated into timber. St. Michael and All Angels Church merits Category I status because of its special historic and cultural significance summarised as follows:

The church reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history through its links with the Canterbury Association Settlement, one of a number of organised colonial immigration settlements of the nineteenth century. A key focus of the Canterbury Association's plans for the settlement was the building of churches and this site was where the first church on the plains was built.

The site and later the church have been associated with important events. It was here that the first Bishop of Canterbury conducted services and the first school classes were held. It has been a centre for Anglican worship on the Canterbury plains since 1851.

The church has outstanding technical value. Built in 1872 it is a prime example of the Gothic style superbly translated into timber. A fine range of stained glass windows were installed as memorials to prominent early settlers. These provide excellent illustrations of high quality designers' and manufacturers' work, chosen during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The site of the church was established in the earliest days of the Canterbury Settlement and as such can be considered to be a place dating to an early period of New Zealand settlement.

The church forms part of a wider historical landscape. On the road frontage is the church belfry built in 1861 to accompany the first wooden building, while alongside is St. Michael's School which has operated here from the first period of settlement. Together this group of buildings forms a highly regarded historic enclave.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Strouts, Frederick

It is thought that Frederick Strouts (1834-1919) was born at Hothfield, Kent, England in 1834. He trained as an architect with John Whichcord and Son in Maidstone and then under the partnership of Arthur Ashpitel and John Whichcord junior. He arrived in New Zealand in 1859 and set up business in Christchurch with his future brother-in-law as 'General Importers & Ironmongers, Architects, Surveyors & Land Agents'.

Strouts and his family returned to England, in 1868, where Strouts was elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Upon his return to New Zealand Strouts resumed his architectural practice. He became noted for his houses, which he designed for the elite of Canterbury, including a number for Robert Heaton Rhodes. In 1871 he was appointed supervising architect for the Church of St Michael and All Angels.Two years later he acquired the commission for the Canterbury Club, after W.B. Armson fell ill. Other commissions included the former Lyttelton Harbour Board building (1880) and the Rhodes Convalescent Home in Cashmere (1885--87). He is described as being a versatile and prolific architect, and one who helped to raise the professional status of architecture in Canterbury. One of his most notable Canterbury buildings was Ivey Hall, now refurbished as part of Lincoln University.

Strouts seems to have retired from practice in 1905. He died in Christchurch on 18 December 1919.

(Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, 'Strouts, Frederick 1834-1919' in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol 2, 1870-1900, Wellington 1993)

Crisp, William Fitzjohn

William Fitzjohn Crisp emigrated from Britain as an apprentice with the British architect, Robert Speechly in 1864. Speechly had been appointed to supervise the building of the Christchurch Cathedral. However lack of money halted construction on the Cathedral shortly after the foundations were laid in late 1865. Crisp became Speechly's partner in 1866 and they worked out the remainder of their four year contract supervising the construction of other buildings for the Anglican Church Property Trustees. Crisp remained in Christchurch after Speechly left in 1868 and his previous association with the Anglican Diocese made him the logical choice to design S. Michael's and All Angels. However problems with the construction of the building led to Crisp returning to Britain in 1871.

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Stained glass windows: Commemorative stained glass windows became popular in Britain during the 1840s, a trend associated with both the Oxford Movement and the Gothic Revival. The collection of such windows installed at S.Michael and All Angels was created by some of the most important English stained glass firms including Curtis, Ward and Hughes, Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, and Heaton, Butler and Bayne. Two windows in the south aisle were designed by Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort.

Construction Details

Timber construction with corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

10th December 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

File 12004/169

Peters, 2008

M Peters with J. Mané, Christchurch-St. Michael's: a study in Anglicanism in New Zealand. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 1986

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.