Church (Presbyterian)

6 Cheviot Street, Waiau

  • Church (Presbyterian).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Robyn Burgess. Date: 30/01/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3059 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 79 Town of Waiau (CT CBAM9/207; NZ Gazette 2007, p1642), Canterbury Land District and the building and structure known as Church (Presbyterian) and iron gates associated thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Hurunui District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Sec 79 Town of Waiau (CT CBAM9/207; NZ Gazette 2007, p1642), Canterbury Land District

Location description

The church is located in an open area, to the east behind the cob cottage museum which fronts the east side of Cheviot Street. Formerly it was located a block away at 18 Leslie Street, Waiau.


The relatively simple timber Presbyterian Church which was built on Leslie Street in Waiau in 1888 as a place of worship for the Waiau Christian community was relocated in 1998 to a nearby site at 6 Cheviot Street, Waiau, where it has been incorporated as part of a museum complex.

Built due to the demands of a growing congregation that had outgrown an earlier Presbyterian church constructed in 1877, the timber Presbyterian church was constructed in 1888 and served the Waiau community as a church for 110 years. Largely rectangular in plan, with a steeply pitched gable roof, lancet windows and open timber trusses, the church building is relatively austere and its fabric is largely authentic. It was relocated in 1998 as part of a general rationalisation of churches in the Amuri area due to dwindling congregations. It continues a community function, being part of the Waiau cob cottage museum complex in an open local purpose reserve in the heart of the township. Five metres to the western front of the church, and still within the museum complex, is a pair of wrought iron gates which was part of the previous church site at relocated at the same time as the church building.

Not only was Presbyterianism a pivotal part of the expansive but sparsely populated Amuri District more or less right from the establishment of the nineteenth century township of Waiau, but some of its roving reverends who serviced the church and community were particularly notable. The Presbyterian Church at Waiau shared the building with the Waiau Anglican congregation for nearly 50 years, reflecting the egalitarian spirit of the community and in particular the well known long-serving Reverend William Rickarby Campbell.

Although no longer functioning as a church, the building maintains significance through its authenticity in materials and design as the tangible reminder of its history and social value in the community.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Typifying nineteenth century Presbyterian churches, the relatively plain timber church has acted as a focal point for many in the Waiau community since the establishment of the township in the mid nineteenth century. In an often-commented way, the church was the place where egalitarianism and tolerance was shown. It was shared by the Presbyterians with the Anglican congregation for nearly 50 years. It has a long association with the ‘catholic spirited’ Reverend William Rickarby Campbell, who was instrumental in uniting all different types in the wider community. Although no longer functioning as a place of worship, the building continues to play a public role in the life of the local community, now as part of a museum displaying local history items and information relating to Waiau and the church itself.

Social Significance or Value

The Presbyterian church has played a significant role in the social life of the Waiau community, and continues to contribute to an appreciation of the social history of the place. Although its regular use as a church has now ceased, it was the focus for regular worship and for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals for the community of Waiau for well over 100 years.

Presbyterianism had a strong foundation in the early days of European settlement of the Amuri District. The church at Waiau is testament not only to the religious and social occasions of the local community, but also demonstrates co-operation within the religious community as the church was shared with the Anglicans for many decades. The decline of congregations in the district and the Presbyterian Church’s decision to rationalise its property, both selling and gifting some of its churches to other owners, reflects trends in New Zealand of dwindling numbers of church-goers.

The building has a continuing community function as part of a museum complex.

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

The building serves as a visible reminder of the long association of the Presbyterian church with Waiau, dating back almost to the town's foundation.

Canterbury has many nineteenth century churches of significance. The recent earthquakes in Canterbury in 2010 and 2011 have damaged and destroyed a large number of masonry buildings, notably churches. Surviving nineteenth century churches form a poignant reminder of a building type that was until recently relatively common.

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

The building is associated with a number of local identities, most notably the Reverend William Rickarby Campbell whose devotion to his district and congregation is legendary. Like his predecessor, the Reverend Hogg, Campbell travelled great distances, holding services at all the major stations, from Cheviot Hills to Hanmer to St Leonards, to the Glens of Tekoa. This circuit he did for almost 30 years, until 1903.

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

The community of Waiau have demonstrated their regard for this place over the many years of its existence. That is currently shown through the community's voluntary work as the building is part of a local history museum complex.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

As part of a museum complex in the small township of Waiau, the building that was formerly the Presbyterian church has potential for public education on the role of religion in past society in general and the development of Presbyterianism in particular. In its current role as a repository of local history information, it has the potential for public education about the history of the settlement of Waiau and surrounds.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Waiau River rises in the Spenser Mountains and flows eastward to the Pacific Ocean. Also called the Waiau-ua or Waiau-uha (and also the Dillon River), this river is associated with a Maori legend. According to the story, the Waiau-uha (Waiau) and the Waiau-toa (Clarence River) were respectively male and female spirit lovers living in the Spenser mountains who were later separated and transformed into rivers. Various historians write of oral traditions and written records outlining old Maori trails in North Canterbury.

The township of Waiau, in the Amuri District, originated in the 1860s when George Rutherford chose the site of the Waiau ferry and accommodation house. A reserve for the township was set aside some time between 1864 and 1868. In 1883 the Waiau River was bridged, and in 1887 a road opened to Kaikoura. The railway line to Waiau was completed in 1919, ensuring Waiau’s continued importance as a farm servicing and transport centre. Waiau is known as an egalitarian district with a strong community spirit.

The first Presbyterian church service in the district was held in February 1863 at the property known as the Glens of Tekoa by the Reverend David Bruce. The Reverend Hogg then became responsible for the Amuri. Hogg had a huge area to cover, ranging from the mountains to the sea, from the Ashley River to the Conway River. Hogg did so monthly, and on foot at first, covering a distance of over 150 miles (241 kilometres) for a round trip. On 12 March 1873, a meeting of local notable men at Waiau met with the purpose of building a church and manse at Waiau. J S Caverhill, George Rutherford, William Rutherford, Robert Tinline and others all pledged money towards the project. George Rutherford was perhaps the greatest benefactor, gifting one acre of Waiau land for the church site and £50. J S Caverhill donated five acres for a manse and glebe.

The first church was built and finished in 1877, and the manse was completed in 1876. Both these buildings were on Leslie Street. This first church, built by George Anderson, soon became too small and it was converted into the Sunday School.

In March 1888 plans were submitted and accepted for the building of a new Presbyterian Church and it appears this was built in that same year. The new church was built in timber with a shingle roof and it was located at 18 Leslie Street. Typical of Victorian treatment of timber buildings, the exterior timbers were painted primarily in a light colour (probably white), with a darker paint used as a contrast for key timber elements such as framing.

An instrumental figure associated with both the original church and its replacement was the Reverend William Rickarby Campbell (1840-1918). The year 1874 had seen the arrival of Campbell from Timaru who, until the manse was completed, lived at Neville’s inn in Waiau. Campbell’s devotion to his extensive but sparsely populated district and congregation is legendary. Through his hard work and travel, sharing the hardships and dangers of the locals of the rugged Amuri district, Campbell won the respect of run-holders, shepherds and workers. He is said to have differed from other pioneering clergy in his catholic spirit and lack of cant or sectarianism, as well as his unfailing kindness in the practical expression of his Christian faith. Like his predecessor Hogg, Campbell travelled great distances, holding services at all the major stations, from Cheviot Hills to Hanmer to St Leonards, to the Glens of Tekoa. This circuit he did for almost 30 years, until 1903. Campbell was pioneering in education in Amuri, and it was during his time at Waiau that the Ladies Guild developed from 1894. In 1900-1901 he was moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

In 1990 the Presbyterians combined formally with the Anglicans, forming the Amuri Co-operating Anglican/Presbyterian Parish. These two congregations of the Amuri District had always closely co-operated, ever since the Presbyterians offered their church to the Anglicans from 1877 (this shared arrangement had continued until 1925 when the Anglican Church was built). With declining congregations, the cooperating parish’s building committee began a rationalisation of the parish’s church buildings. The process began in 1998 with the sale and relocation of St Mark’s in Rotherham, followed a few weeks later with the Waiau Presbyterian Church being gifted to the Amuri Historical Society’s cob cottage museum in Waiau. Other churches in the area have also been shifted. With consent from the NZHPT, in 1998 the Presbyterian church building was physically relocated from 18 Leslie Street in Waiau to 6 Cheviot Street, Waiau, on local purpose reserve land. It now functions as part of the museum complex and houses various photographs, artefacts and information relating to the history of the Amuri district, Culverden, Rotherham, Waiau and Hanmer Springs.

The relocation of the church tells part of a story of numerous church buildings in the Amuri District that have been shifted from their original location in recent times.

Physical Description

Located in a relatively open area on a local purpose reserve at 6 Cheviot Street, Waiau, the relocated church sits approximately ten metres to the east behind the small cob museum building. The church is aligned in an east-west direction, with a small gabled entrance porch (two metres by two metres) at the west front. Relocated wrought iron gates from the original church site are situated five metres to the west of the entrance porch and join with the church by a modern concrete ramp.

The main body of the church rises approximately six metres in height at the apex of its gable, and has a floor plan of six metres by ten metres. At the eastern rear is a six metre by three metre addition with a slightly lower gable roof than the main part of the church. Whereas the windows of the taller part of the church are single lancet openings, the windows at the eastern end comprise a set of triple-lancet windows.

On the interior, the floors of the church are timber and above are open timber trusses.

With the exception of the roof, which is corrugated steel instead of the original shingle tiles, both the exterior and interior fabric of the church appears to be largely authentic.

Contextual Analysis

New Zealand, including Canterbury, has many nineteenth century churches of significance. The recent earthquakes in Canterbury in 2010 and 2011 have damaged and destroyed a large number of masonry buildings, notably churches. Surviving nineteenth century churches form a poignant reminder of a building type that was, until recently, relatively common in Canterbury.

While relocation is not considered a form of conservation, as it removes the building from its original setting, in some cases a relocated building may be considered to maintain its historical context and value in its new location. Although the Church (Presbyterian) no longer operates as a church, and is situated in a new (albeit nearby) location, its building fabric and architecture allow it to tell the story of the church and its historical and community association.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1888 -

1998 -
Relocation to local purpose reserve at 6 Cheviot Street.

Construction Details

Timber, glass, concrete, corrugated steel.

Completion Date

16th May 2011

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

Gardner, 1983

W.J. Gardner, The Amuri: a county history, 2nd edn, Culverden, 1983

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

Taylor, 1952

W A Taylor, Lore and History of the South Island Maori, Christchurch, 1952

Lovell-Smith, 2000

M. Lovell-Smith, Hurunui Heritage: The Development of a District 1950-2000, 2000.

Other Information

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.