St. John’s Methodist Church (Former)

90 Cambridge Street And Kent Street, Levin

  • St. John’s Methodist Church (Former). From: http://horowhenua.kete.net.nz.
    Copyright: Doug Bolitho. Taken By: Doug Bolitho.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4091 Date Entered 5th September 1985

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 445313 (CT 559857), Wellington Land District, and the building known as St. John’s Methodist Church (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Horowhenua District

Region

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 445313 (CT 559857), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

Completed in 1936, the former St. John’s Methodist Church occupies a high-profile site at the corner of Cambridge and Kent streets. The Wellington architecture firm of Prouse & Wilson designed the modest, yet elegant stripped-down Gothic Revival building. St. John’s Methodist Church has a high degree of architectural and aesthetic significance for its sensitive design within an urban landscape by a respected architecture firm, and for its retention of most of its original features and fittings. It also has historical and social significance for its decades of use as Levin’s Methodist centre for worship, celebration and commemoration.

The Methodists were one of the early Christian congregations in Levin and its steady growth taxed the space available in its original church (1895) and a social/community hall (‘Century Hall,’ ca. 1900). The congregation sought to construct a new church building as early as 1907 when it purchased the prominent section at the corner of Cambridge and Kent streets; however, it would be almost three decades before this goal was realised. In the mid-1930s, the congregation was at last able to finance the construction of a new church—the first to be called St John’s—and hired the Wellington firm of Prouse & Wilson for the design. The completed building was dedicated on 7 November 1936.

Prouse & Wilson looked to rural English parish churches for inspiration, but expertly adapted the model for modern aesthetics and function. The overall form with four parts—entrance tower, nave, chancel/choir, and offset vestry—suggest the accretive construction of medieval churches. Gothic detailing, including crenellations, pointed arch window and door openings, and robust engaged buttresses, was straightforward. Yet, the precise treatment of the exterior walls with stucco incised and coloured to resemble stone, executed by W. R. Dickson and J. McGill of Wellington, resulted in a crispness, and emphasised line and shadow, in a manner that was thoroughly contemporary. The building’s architecture and its placement on the section, with the principal façade and its tower facing the corner, gave the relatively small church a high level of visual gravitas.

The austerity of the interior design was softened by extensive ‘polished heart Rimu’ furniture, and fittings including: ceiling rafters, pews, pulpit and choir panelling, chancel rail, and communion table. These features were crafted by France & Harvey of Levin, the firm responsible for the construction. In a nod to modern theatre design, the floor of the nave sloped gently toward the front.

The building’s structural attributes also elicited period comment. The designed employed cavity walls of reinforced concrete as a means of reducing dampness. Steel rods linking the inner and outer walls, exterior engaged buttresses, and visible interior steel roads under the roof rafters were all conceived ‘with a special view to earthquake resistance.’ The quality of its construction and the thoughtfulness of its siting and design resulted in a building that discouraged major changes. On the exterior, a metal roof replaces the original slate and the walls have been re-stuccoed with a smooth finish. Aside from four heaters and the periodic renewal of the carpet, an original finish, the nave appears to be largely unchanged from the day of its dedication. In 1972 one of the church’s stained glass windows (installed in 1968) received a measure of fame when it appeared on the New Zealand 5 cent Christmas Stamp, celebrating 150 years of Methodism in New Zealand.

Dwindling parish numbers saw the creation of the Levin Uniting Parish in 2008, joining St John’s with the St Andrew’s Presbyterian parish, and the congregation moved to St Andrew’s in 2010. The church hall complex adjacent to St John’s on Kent Street was subdivided and sold in 2011. In August 2016 the St John’s Church building was put up for sale.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Prouse and Wilson

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

France & Harvey

Builders of Levin

W. R. Dickson and J. McGill

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1936 -

Modification
-
Replacement of slate with metal as the roof cladding; new exterior stucco with a new finish

Completion Date

19th January 2017

Report Written By

James A. Jacobs

Information Sources

Mew and Humphris, 2014

Geoff Mew and Adrian Humphris, Raupo to Deco: Wellington Styles and Architects, 1840-1940, Steele Roberts Aotearoa, Wellington, 2014.

Bolitho, 1990

Doug Bolitho, ‘The St John’s Journal – A Journey of Faith: 100 Years of Methodism in Levin 1890-1990,’ 1990.

Levin Daily Chronicle

Levin Daily Chronicle

‘St John’s Church Dedicated,’ Levin Daily Chronicle, 9 November 1936

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.

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