Church of St John the Baptist (Anglican)

7 Muhunoa East Road, Ohau

  • Church of St John the Baptist (Anglican), Ohau. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 10/09/2015.
  • Church of St John the Baptist (Anglican), Ohau. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 10/09/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4049 Date Entered 5th September 1985


City/District Council

Horowhenua District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 6 Town of Ohau (DP 464) (CT WN83/239), Wellington Land District


The Church of St John the Baptist (Anglican) in Muhunoa Road East, Ohau, was built in 1901. It has social significance as a community church built with locally-raised funds on land donated by a farming family, and architectural significance as a fine example of noted ecclesiastical architect Frederick de Jersey Clere’s work. The church has spiritual significance as an on-going site of worship and possesses commemorative values through the installation of a memorial window, bell and roll of honour. The bell memorialises lawyer and ornithologist Walter Buller and the place has historic significance through its connection with this well-known figure in New Zealand history.

The Horowhenua settlement of Ohau developed after the Wellington ̶ Manawatū railway line, which opened the district to Pākehā settlement, was completed in 1886. The land was heavily forested and sawmilling became a major local industry, as did flax-milling and dairy and sheep farming. By 1896 Ohau’s population was 256, sufficient to support a small Anglican church. Wellington architect Frederick de Jersey Clere designed what has been described by his biographer as one of his ‘most charming country churches’ for Ohau in 1898. Construction of the church, which commenced in 1901, was a community affair. Funds were raised locally, the land on which it stood was donated by farming couple Mary and John Kebbell, who also supplied the piles, and timber was carted to the site for free. The church was constructed by Ohau builder Laurence Arcus and local people donated furnishings, altar vessels and cloths.

One of over 100 churches designed by Clere, who was architect to the Wellington Anglican diocese, the rusticated weatherboard Church of St John the Baptist is amongst the smallest, with the nave measuring approximately 7.5 by 6 metres. The small belfry on the gable roof houses a bell donated in memory of the lawyer and ornithologist Walter Buller in 1907. The lancet windows on the main west elevation are repeated on the north and south elevations, both of which are supported by two slim buttresses. A chancel with three lancet windows and a lean-to vestry form the east elevation. The dressed-timber interior is enhanced by stained glass windows installed in the chancel in 1921. Made by James Powell & Sons of London, the windows commemorate three children of Mary and John Kebbell, a son killed in the battle of Gallipoli (1915) and two daughters drowned in 1890. A roll of honour commemorates locals who served overseas during the First and Second World Wars.

Restoration work carried out between 1973 and 1974 involved re-piling, replacement of the timber bargeboards at the base, new spouting, re-varnishing of the interior and carpeting of the floor. In 2013 new timber steps and a ramp were built onto the west elevation to improve access. The church remains a site of worship.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Clere, Frederick De Jersey

Clere (1856-1952) was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to R J Withers, a London architect. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Feilding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church; he designed more than 100 churches while he held this position. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction; the outstanding example of his work with this material is the Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), Wellington.

As well as being pre-eminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including Wellington's Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store (1891) and Overton in Marton. Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington City Council until 1895, and from 1900 a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Laurence Arcus

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1973 - 1974
Re-piled, timber bargeboards replaced, new spouting, re-varnishing of interior timber, carpet laid

Physical access improvements
- 2013
Construction of an entrance ramp and steps

Completion Date

20th March 2019

Report Written By

Kerryn Pollock and Phillis Chih-Hsuan Chen

Information Sources

Maclean, 2003

S. Mclean, Architect of the Angels; the churches of Frederick de Jersey Clere, Wellington, 2003

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Galbreath, Ross, 'Buller, Walter Lawry', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 October 2018)

Kete Horowhenua

Kete Horowhenua

St John the Baptist Church, Ohau, Kete Horowhenua, (accessed 16 October 2018).

Centennial Committee, 1992

Souvenir of Ohau School and district: from then to now, Ohau: Centennial Committee, 1992

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 1997

The Anglican parish of Levin: celebrating 100 years of worship and fellowship at St. Mary’s Church, Levin: St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 1997.

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.