Community of the Sacred Name

181 Barbadoes Street, Christchurch

  • Community of the Sacred Name, Christchurch.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Robyn Burgess. Date: 21/05/2012.
  • Community of the Sacred Name, Christchurch. Stained Glass.
    Copyright: Stephen Estall. Taken By: Stephen Estall.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed - Review Initiated List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4387 Date Entered 15th February 1990


Extent of List Entry

The brick convent building was demolished in 2011 but the timber buildings, including Chapel survive.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

TS 1174 1176 Pt 1172 Chch City CT 366/139


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. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the Board.

The Community of the Sacred Name was founded by Sister Edith Mary Mellish (1861-1922) of the Community of St Andrew, who arrived in Christchurch from Britain in 1893. The community was originally known as the Christchurch Deaconesses' Institute and they were first housed in Gloucester Street and then in George Street.

The Deaconesses moved to Barbadoes Street when their first pupose-built building was erected in 1895. Designed by Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, one of the foremost architects in Victorian New Zealand, it was built from timber and clad in corrugated iron. It was planned that this plain one-storey house would later form the laundry and back offices of the Deaconess' house.

In 1900 a second building was added. Designed by C.J. Mountfort, Benjamin's son, it was constructed of rimu weatherboard with an iron roof. It ran perpendicular to the original building and is two storeys high. It includes a chapel whose stained glass windows are of particular significance. The three windows at the west end were created by Veronica Whall, a leading British Arts and Crafts artist. Whall's work can also be seen in the Nurses' Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Public Hospital.

The final building was erected in 1911-1912 and is built of brick, two and a half storeys high. It was designed by J.G. Collins from the architectural firm Armson, Collins and Harman and it is this building that is visible from the street. All three buildings are covered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga registration. [The brick convent building was subsequently demolished in 2011 following the Canterbury earthquakes.]

At the time the final building was erected the sisters became known as the Community of the Sacred Name, having been briefly known as the Sisters of Bethany. The Sisters cared for unmarried mothers and orphans. This aspect of their work declined after the state began to provide welfare assistance in the early twentieth century, The Sisters continue to make an important contribution to the Anglican Church through their mission work and with their production of communion wafers and church embroidery. The convent is also associated with Nurse Maude, who began training here but was persuaded by the mother superior to take up nursing instead. Nurse Maude became New Zealand's first District Nurse.

The only Anglican convent in New Zealand, the Community of the Sacred Name has been associated with the Christchurch diocese for over 100 years. The Community has also played an important role in Canterbury women's history and in the history of non-governmental welfare assistance. The three buildings associated with the Community show the three-stage development of the convent. Of particular significance is the chapel with its stained glass windows. The brick building, the last to be constructed, makes a significant contribution to the townscape of Barbadoes Street.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Collins, John Goddard

Collins practised as an architect with the firm of Collins and Harman from 1903 until 1955. He was competent in a variety of styles, from Gothic Revival, as seen in Canterbury College (c.1905-23), through to the modernist, post-war styles of architecture. The South British Insurance Company building (1951) is an example of the latter.

Collins was particularly noted for his attention to detail, as cna be seen in the Sign of the Takahe (1918-46). He was the architect for Nazareth House (first block 1909; west wing 1929; chapel (1939) and much of Christchurch Hospital, including the Nurses' Home and Chapel. For this last building, Collins furnished plans and supervised construction free of charge.

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.

Mountfort, Cyril Julian

C J Mountfort (1852-1920) was the second son of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898), the notable nineteenth century Gothic Revival architect in New Zealand. He assisted in his father's practice in the 1880s and 1890s before taking over the practice after 1898.

C J Mountfort's architecture tended to resemble that of his father, although it was usually less successful. Two of his important ecclesiastical designs were those for the Church of St Luke The Evangelist, Christchurch (1908-9) and St John's Anglican Church, Hororata (1910).

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

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. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made after the paper was considered by the Board.

The walled garden and the altar, carved by Frederick Gurnsey are notable features of the convent [subsequently demolished in 2011 following the Canterbury earthquakes].

The stained glass windows are also signficant. Three of them were designed by well-known British Arts and Crafts artist, Veronica Whall, and four by Powells of London. The latter windows date from 1871 and were originally installed above the high altar of the first St Michael and All Angels. They were moved to the Community of the Sacred Name chapel in 1900.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1895 -
B.W. Mountfort building, timber clad in corrugated iron

1900 -
C.J. Mountfort - two-storey rimu building

1911 - 1912
J.G. Collins - brick building

Completion Date

11th December 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Katherine W. Orr, 'Mellish, Edith Mary 1861-1922', Vol 2, 1870-1900, Wellington, 1993, pp.324-325

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.