Wesley Church

75 Taranaki Street, Wellington

  • Wesley Church.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Anika Klee. Date: 4/03/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4422 Date Entered 28th June 1990

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 77432 (WN43D/535), Wellington Land District and the buildings thereon known as Wesley Church, including Wesley Church, Ecumenical Centre (also known as Old Hall), and Drama Christi Studio (also known as Wesley Theatre), and their fixtures and fittings. Registration does not include the other buildings on the land - the cafe fronting Taranaki St, the parish office building (including new hall), Epworth House (community mission building) and a shed.

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 77432 (CT WN43D/535), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Methodism in Wellington began with a visit from two missionaries in 1839 and the first church was a raupo whare in Manners Street. By 1869 a wooden church with a tall spire had been built, also in Manners Street, but in 1879 it burned to the ground. City council regulations would have required brick, stone or concrete boundary walls if the church had been rebuilt on the same site and the congregation chose a section in Taranaki Street where they could build more economically in wood.

The foundation stone was laid on 19 November 1879 and the building opened on 14 March 1880. It was named Wesley Church in honour of the founder of Methodism. The building has had an undisturbed existence except for an arson attack in 1982 which partially destroyed the west end of the church.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

This is the major central city church of one of the larger Christian denominations active in Wellington. It has been a prominent feature of the Wellington cityscape for nearly 110 years.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

While Thomas Turnbull was known for his use of masonry he often worked in timber when designing churches. Examples are St Peters (1879) and St Johns (1885) both in Willis street, Wellington. But whereas those two buildings have elegant Gothic spires, crocketted turrets and steep pitched roofs, Wesley Church is a conscious essay in eclecticism successfully combining elements of the Gothic with Classical and Romanesque features.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDMARK VALUE:

The Wesley Church complex has the only nineteenth century buildings in the immediate neighbourhood and they give character to what is otherwise a developing area. Large pohutukawa trees in the front (west) of the church embellish its streetscape.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turnbull, Thomas

Thomas Turnbull (1824-1907) was born and educated in Scotland and trained under David Bryce, Her Majesty's Architect. He travelled to Melbourne in 1851 and after nine years there moved to San Francisco. He arrived in New Zealand in 1871 and soon established a thriving business. His son William, a distinguished architect in his own right, became a partner in the firm in 1891.

Turnbull was a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was a pioneer in the design of buildings to withstand earthquakes and he was responsible for breaking down prejudice against the use of permanent materials for building construction. He specialised in masonry construction for commercial purposes but was also responsible for some fine houses.

Among his most important buildings were the Willis Street churches of St Peter (1879) and St John (1885), the former National Mutual Building (1883-84), the General Assembly Library (1899) and the former Bank of New Zealand Head Office (1901), all in Wellington.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

This mid to late Victorian building is eclectic in design with Norman, Romanesque and Gothic styling.

Entry to the building is by means of a large porch at the west end. Two doors capped by rounded arches are framed by a gable with a pinnacle at each end. This gable protrudes slightly from the central section of the facade, which also has a gable end. An acroterion caps this gable adding a classical emphasis to the street facade. In addition prominent arched and circular windows are contrasted with the Gothic pinnacles and quatrefoil windows.

On either side of this central entry is a smaller entrance, each defined by a round arch. Above each of these entrances is a squat square tower with a steep roof hipped on all four sides, surmounted by a finial. Gables protrude from the base of the tower roofs on the east and west sides.

The side elevations of the building have a series of alternating arched windows and buttresses, again providing a contrast between Classical and Gothic elements. Windows consist of two round arches and a circular form all enclosed in one round arch. The buttresses feature a gablet at mid height. Decorated ventilators line the roof ridge. The west porch entrance to the interior leads to a glazed wall. From here the floor slopes down to the simple sanctuary which is raised five steps. Pews are curved to face the altar and a gallery runs along the north, west and south walls to allow extra seating.

Walls of the nave are lined with tongue and groove boarding to window height. The arched windows have frosted glass. The curved auditorium is echoed at roof level by an elliptical ceiling, dominated by heavily moulded ribs of kauri which divide the ceiling into panels.

Notable Features

The unusual handling of the facade.

Construction Dates

Modification
1963 -
Remodelling of vestry rooms in the east end

Modification
1963 -
Extensive alterations to sanctuary including relining

Modification
1963 -
Glazed wall added to divide the west porch and the Nave

Modification
1982 -
Reinstatement after fire of porch and west end of church including staircase in south-west corner.

Original Construction
1879 - 1880

Construction Details

Timber framed and clad (kauri and totara) with rusticated weatherboards. Roofed with corrugated galvanised iron.

Completion Date

12th February 1990

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand

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

Dominion

Dominion

'Wesleyan Church Tomorrow Celebrates 110 Years of Methodism in Wellington District', 27 May 1950

Dominion, 'Methodist Church Milestone, Celebration of 80th Anniversary', 14 March 1950

Evening Post

Evening Post

'City Churches Placed on Historic List', 11 July 1974

'Centennial for Wesley Church', 5 April 1980

Fearnley, 1977

Charles Fearnley, Early Wellington Churches, Wellington, 1977

Morley, 1900

Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900

Lineham, 1983

Peter J Lineham, New Zealanders and the Methodist Evangel, Wesley Historical Society, New Zealand, 1983

New Zealand Times

New Zealand Times

'Wesleyan Church, Taranaki Street', 27 March 1880

Other Information

A copy of this 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.