St Mary's Church (Anglican)
Ryan's Road, Esk Valley
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
6th September 1984
Pt RS 15715 Blk XI Otaio SD
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
The little church was designed by B.W. Mountfort, the architect responsible for the Canterbury Provincial Buildings. It was built of limestone from the Albury district and roofed with wood shingles - later replaced with iron. It stands on a low ridge overlooking Esk Valley where it could be seen from Blue Cliffs, five miles away at the foot of the Hunters Hills. It was built in 1880 as a memorial to Ellen Meyer, wife of Charles Meyer of Blue Cliffs Station. She had often expressed the wish to see a church on this site clearly visible from her home. Of the many fine small country churches this is one of the most beautiful in both design and setting.
The church was consecrated by Bishop Harper on 11 May 1880 and dedicated to St Mary.
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.
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.