Old Methodist Church (Former)

169-177 Main Street, Greytown

  • Old Methodist Church (Former), Greytown at the Cobblestones Village Museum.
    Copyright: Bruce Kirk. Taken By: Bruce Kirk. Date: 13/05/2014.
  • Old Methodist Church (Former), Greytown at the Cobblestones Village Museum.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Louise Hawthorne. Date: 9/03/2009.
  • Old Methodist Church (Former), Greytown at the Cobblestones Village Museum.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Louise Hawthorne. Date: 9/03/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4004 Date Entered 30th April 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lots 5-6 DP 31241 (CTs WN188548, WN8A/1278), Wellington Land District and the building known as Old Methodist Church (Former) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

South Wairarapa District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lots 5-6 DP 31241 (CTs WN188548, WN8A/1278), Wellington Land District

Location description

The church is located within the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum heritage park.


The Old Methodist Church (Former), now located within the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum in Greytown, was built at 63 Main Street in 1865 by early settlers of Greytown. Prior to its construction religious services were being held in the school room, as was a common occurrence in new settlements in this period. The Small Farms Association was responsible for the subdivision of the land upon where Greytown was to form, the Crown having purchased the land known as the Tauherenīkau Block from local Maori. As the settlement grew the need for a purpose-built religious centre for each denomination became paramount and land parcels were bought at the cost of five pounds each.

Once the sections were purchased however, there were limited funds to erect a structure, so settlers of all Christian denominations combined their resources to build what was then known as the Wesleyan Church at 63 Main Street. The church was quickly constructed using timber from a local sawmill owned by Mr Hart Udy, Senior, who was the local preacher responsible for the school room services and the selection of the site. The purchase of the site and construction of the church was done without the approval of the Wesleyan Conference, however its need was considered so great as to merit this circumventing of prior approval. The church was a simple structure of one large room with a steeply pitched roof. It was well lit by large panelled windows.

Before long, however, the needs of the parish outgrew the church and plans were made to construct a new, larger church on the same site, relocating the older church to the rear of the site in 1879. The building was used as a Sunday school for the combined Methodist parish of the newer church, and it remained so until 1962, when a new hall was built. By the 1970s the old church had deteriorated rapidly, and it was proposed that it be demolished unless someone was to purchase it and remove it from the site. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust expressed concern over this potential loss and the local Jaycees were approached, however it was a newly formed trust called Cobblestones who were to ultimately save the building, which was commonly known as the 'Old Methodist Church'. On 1 December 1979 the building was relocated to their site at 175-177 Main Street and was sensitively restored to its current condition.

The Old Methodist Church (Former) has a significant degree of social, historical and spiritual heritage significance. It is of unequivocal importance to Greytown and the Wairarapa region as the first purpose built religious structure in the district. It has retained a great degree of physical integrity and despite being relocated twice, it has had its lifespan increased and its community esteem preserved. The Church is a significant structure within the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum and should continue to be maintained in this manner indefinitely.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Constructed in 1865, it is very likely that this is the oldest purpose built religious centre in the Wairarapa. Other churches in Greytown were built soon after however this church was in use for fourteen years by the Methodists and other denominations before larger churches were constructed for the increasing number of parishioners in the town.

Social Significance or Value

This church has social significance as each Christian denomination represented in Greytown at the time contributed to its construction, and the church then housed their services until the other congregations were able to build churches of their own. This was an important step in uniting the early settlers of these towns. The efforts involved in its subsequent relocation as a means of preserving the building, first towards the rear of the 63 Main Street site, and latterly to Cobblestones indicates the high esteem within which the church is regarded by Greytown locals. It continues to be well used as a popular tourist attraction and wedding venue.

Spiritual Significance or Value

Despite its short history as the main church for the Greytown Methodists, the church continued to be used as a Sunday School up until 1962, when the new church hall was built. Therefore it has added spiritual value as the site of the early religious instruction of many Greytown children.

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

The Old Methodist Church (Former) has historical value as a lasting physical and historical link to the development of Methodism in New Zealand, and the settlement of the Wairarapa.

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

The Old Methodist church has a high degree of public esteem, as is evident by its rescue from demolition by the Cobblestones Trust, and the subsequent popularity as part of a historic village and use as a location for weddings.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The building's location within the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum lends it great potential for public education, as the site is visited by a large number of visitors and contains readily available interpretation.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

Built in 1865, the Old Methodist church dates from an early period of settlement in the Wairarapa region. Its construction occurred very early on in the planned settlement of Greytown by the Small Farms Association, and the building of the structure was enabled by subscription from Christian settlers of a number of denominations.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: b, e, f, i.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Old Methodist Church (Former) at the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum in Greytown is an important structure in the history of Methodism in the Wairarapa. Built in 1865 as the first purpose built religious centre in the district, its construction represented the predominance of Methodist settlers coming to the Wairarapa in the mid nineteenth century. Its subsequent relocation to the rear of the site at 63 Main Street highlights the rapid settlement of Greytown towards the turn of the twentieth century. The church retained its function primarily as a Sunday School, but since its relocation to Cobblestones in 1979 it is more commonly used for weddings and educational purposes.

The Wesleyan Methodist Mission

The history of Methodism began after the arrival in New Zealand of the Rev. Samuel Leigh and his wife. Appointed to the colony by the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in England they arrived on the 22 of January 1822. They began the Wesleyan Methodist Mission to Maori, and represented the great missionary zeal which marked Methodism almost from its inception under John and Charles Wesley. In the Wairarapa a Methodist Sunday School was started in 1855 by Mr and Mrs Hall, and took place in a school house in Greytown.

Two years later services began to be conducted by a local preacher, Mr Hart Udy, Senior, in the school house. Udy was a well known pioneer who twice occupied the mayoral chair of the Borough of Greytown. He had moved to the Wairarapa region after securing valuable bush land at Matarawa, and transferred his family and a sawmilling business from the Stokes Valley. In Greytown, where he retired to in 1865, he was much beloved, taking an active part in church work including the purchase of the land and construction of the first Wesleyan church on this site.

Settlement of Greytown

The settlement of Greytown had been established by the Small Farms Association in 1853. Joseph Masters formed the Association out of concern that large runholders were stopping working people from accessing Wairarapa farmland. Masters had lobbied to set up a 100-acre town on the Wairarapa plain where citizens would own a one-acre town section and a 40-acre dairy farm. By the end of 1853 the government had approved two settlements, Greytown and Masterton. The association would buy and sell the town sections; farms would be bought directly from the Crown.

The suitability of the Wairarapa region for farming had been discovered in 1841 when the New Zealand Company sent a party from Petone to explore the area of land to the north east, over the substantial Rimutaka ranges. The party was led by Robert Stokes, who upon his return declared that the region had great potential. In 1844 five Wellington entrepreneurs arranged pastoral leases with Wairarapa sub-tribes, with others soon following. As more colonists settled in the region, the value of leases increased.

Runholders, worried that high rents would make Māori unwilling to sell their land, lobbied government to buy and freehold Māori land. The government agreed and in September of 1853 Donald McLean, the Government Negotiator of Native purchases, bought 40,000 acres identified as Tauherenikau No. 4 from Manihera of Papawai and Ngatuere of Waiohine. The government promised to set aside Māori reserves and provide schools and health care, while threatening to relocate runholders if the Maori owners refused to sell.

The first town, Greytown, was sited on the recently purchased Tauherenīkau Block. After negotiations with Ngāti Hamua leader Te Retimana Te Korou, land beside the Waipoua River was bought for the second town, Masterton. The first settlers arrived in 1854. The Small Farms Association was dissolved in the early 1870s, and surplus town sections were put into land trusts to benefit each community.

The first church

The school house that was being used for the church services, a common occurrence throughout rural areas, was declared insufficient for the growing number of Methodist settlers and they were determined to get a centre of their own. Udy chose Section 31 in Greytown as the site most suited for the church. The Small Farms Association sold the section for £5 to Rev. James Buller, Superintendent Minister of the Wellington circuit. Construction soon began without the assistance or permission of the Conference.

In November 1864 a subscription list was opened to raise funds to build a church and the list was subscribed to by Christians of all denominations. Timber from Udy's saw mill was used in the construction of the first church built on this site. In October 1865 the Wesleyan Church was officially opened and it was the first purpose built worship centre in the Wairarapa. Soon however it was realised that this church building was too small for the rapidly increasing number of worshippers.

By the late nineteenth century with the steady increase of Europeans, a stronger emphasis was placed on missionary work amongst the colonisers. The first Methodist Minister in Greytown, Rev J.S. Rishworth, was appointed in 1867, operating in what was known as the Wairarapa circuit. This covered the area from the Rimutaka Ranges to Castlepoint. The parishioners at Greytown had constructed the town's second church by 1872 (St Luke's Anglican). Churches were built elsewhere in the district during the 1870s, including at Carterton in 1871 (Wesleyan, Record no. 3967), Burnside in 1875 (Presbyterian, Record no. 3984), Bideford in 1875 (Anglican, Record no. 1285) and Masterton in 1879 (Catholic, Record no. 1319). Another indication of the rapidly rising numbers was the division of Masterton from the Wairarapa circuit on 2 April 1880, the boundary being just north of Carterton.

A second church

During the six months taken for this decision to pass through Conference and officially take place, local people had been making arrangements for a bigger Wesleyan church in Greytown. They had first considered enlarging the older building, but on 4 June 1879 it was resolved 'that the present Church (opened in October 1865) be moved back to make room for a new structure and that a 'Working bee' be arranged for that purpose.' The relocation of the first church was carried out accordingly, and the foundation stone of the new church was laid by Rev W. Kirk on Monday 10 November 1879. The Church historian, Rev William Morley, records that the Church was opened by Rev W. Connell on 4 July 1880.

For a hundred years there were two church buildings on the 63 Main Street site. They were originally known as the Old Wesleyan Church and the New Wesleyan Church. However by 1913 the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Free Methodists, and Bible Christians, who were meeting in almost 1,000 churches, halls, and houses across the country and were over 100,000 people strong in number, were all joined to form the Methodist Church of New Zealand. At this point the names of these buildings evolved to Old Methodist Church and New Methodist Church. However to many they were always the old church and the new church or the Sunday School and the church respectively.


The Old Greytown Methodist Church (Former) remained at the rear of the newer church (which became known as St Andrews (Union) Church) until the late 1970s, where it continued to be used despite the building beginning to deteriorate quite badly. Towards the end of 1978 the Parish Council minutes record a discussion about the state of the old church. The discussion ended with the decision to appeal to those who were interested in restoring the old church.

Early into 1979 no expressions of interest had been received so a notice that the old church was to be demolished was placed in the local papers along with the relevant history, hoping to further stir public reaction. Some time after this article was published, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust expressed interest with regard to the future of the structure. By July a resolution was reached and the church was shifted to Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum heritage park during the following summer.

The Old Methodist Church (Former) was shifted to the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum site at 175-177 Main Street, Greytown on 1 December 1979. At this point the Trustees wrote to NZHPT asking to register the heritage park as a historic precinct. This request was refused as some buildings within the heritage park are modern reconstructions. However six buildings were earmarked for individual registration, the church being one of them. The church was sensitively restored, and has had very few alterations made. It is now a popular wedding venue with a viable future.

Physical Description

The Old Methodist Church (Former) is located within the Cobblestones Early Settlers Museum at 175-177 Main Street, Greytown. The church is located centrally within the grounds of the heritage park's 'village'-styled site, and its nearest structures are the Blacksmith and Fire Station, and storage sheds for the display of early examples of farm machinery. The other registered buildings in the Cobblestones complex are of similar style and scale to the church.

The Cobblestone Early Settlers Museum grounds are two acres (8100 square metres) of landscaped lawns, with mature trees, shrubs and flower beds. A sealed driveway allows for vehicular access to all the structures. The church itself is orientated roughly north-south, and is quite sheltered by neighbouring trees. The buildings are well spaced throughout the site with none of them over dominating. They are all set quite well back from the roadside, and the site as a whole is fenced to control museum visitor intake.

The Old Methodist Church (Former) is a small single-storey building, with a rectangular floor plan. It is of a simple early colonial style, and aside from the cross at the apex of the roofline its façade is devoid of religious iconography. The exterior is dominated by large multipaned windows, consisting of 30 small square panes of glass. There are three windows spaced symmetrically down each side and one smaller one above the entrance, each with a contrasting painted label above. The entrance façade is the most decorated of the four, with a scalloped wooden fascia and triangular arch above the door. The arch, labels and fascia are currently painted green, while the lapped weatherboard cladding is white and the corrugated iron eaveless roof a dark red. There is a ramp and a short flight of stairs leading to the front door.

The main entrance opens directly into the nave of the church which is lined in its entirety with horizontal tongue, groove and vee boards, painted white, with blue/grey trim. The roof is similarly lined beneath rafters and collar ties. A mid-span exposed arch is centrally placed along the length of the church. The floor is laid with wide timber longitudinal floorboards.and recent additions are noticeably different. Aside from the necessary items for a religious service the interior is sparsely decorated. The pews, altar and lectern are not original but are of a sensitive design and material. On a whole the simplistic interior is suited to the exterior and prior function of the building. Very few changes have been made to building as a whole, however it is evident that a rear door has been boarded up at some point.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1865 -
opening of the church in October

1879 -
Church relocated to rear of the 63 Main Street site

1979 -
Church moved to Cobblestones in December

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron

Completion Date

30th March 2010

Report Written By

Louise Hawthorne with NZHPT

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.1, Wellington, 1897

Greathead, 1967

M. Greathead, Greytown Glimpses 1857-1967, Greytown, 1967

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

'METHODISM', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966.


Ben Schrader. 'Wairarapa', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 27-Nov-2008, URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/Places/Wairarapa/Wairarapa/en

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office

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.