St Luke's Anglican Church (Former)

State Highway 6 (Wakefield-Kohatu), Foxhill

  • St Luke's Anglican Church (Former). From:
    Copyright: Adrienne Besley. Taken By: Adrienne Besley.
  • From:
    Copyright: Adrienne Besley. Taken By: Adrienne Besley.
  • Map from QuickMap®.
    Copyright: QuickMap®.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4901 Date Entered 25th November 1982


City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 2730 (CT NL82/58), Nelson Land District


Construction of St Luke's Church, Foxhill, was completed in 1881. It was built on land originally awarded to the New Zealand Company in 1845 after mediation by William Spain. The establishment of the church owed much to Julius Vogel's ambitious public works programme that included the first stage of the proposed railway linking Nelson with the West Coast. Parliament approved the 30 km track from Nelson to Foxhill in 1871. The opening of the rail in 1876 boosted Foxhill's already growing population as the township became the gateway to the south. By the time of the 1881 census the population had swelled to its peak of 231. The growing population meant pressure for amenities in addition to the school which had opened in 1861. The school was the venue for occasional religious services and in 1879 a committee was formed to establish a church in the township.

A member of the committee was Andrew Burn Suter (1830-1985), an Englishman who was appointed Bishop of Nelson in 1866. Suter was at the forefront of a major expansion of Anglican church activity. He helped deal with a shortage of clergy by bringing six out from England and helping establish training facilities. He travelled annually throughout the Nelson diocese and encouraged the building of churches, over 30 of which opened during his time in office. Suter had a wide range of interests and 'became regarded as perhaps Nelson's most influential citizen by the later 1870s'. He was a strong advocate for the Nelson railway. In September 1879 Suter purchased a half acre of land from John Arnold for £20 and donated it for the church site.

Building commenced in 1880, assisted by the donation of timber from nearby mills. After its consecration the Nelson Evening Mail reported that the church 'is erected from a drawing made by Mr Scott from a sketch design by the Bishop'. It seems plausible that Suter did indeed provide a sketch for the church, as his father was an architect and he had a strong interest in art. One of Scott's architectural drawings for St Luke's is held by the Nelson Provincial Museum, and was only linked to St Luke's during recent research. The work was carried out by Freeman Brothers of Port Nelson, who put in the lowest tender of £84. However the company submitted invoices for an additional £49 of expenses and work by others was also invoiced for. The total cost of the building was cited by one historian as £170. Among those who were paid for their contribution was James Rutherford, father of Ernest, who had a contract supplying timber for railway sleepers for the extension of the railway to Belgrove and who presumably supplied some timber for the church. The Rutherfords lived directly opposite St Luke's but attended the Wesleyan Chapel. Ernest attended Foxhill school next door to the church. The family left Foxhill in 1883 and most of their former house was demolished in 1968.

The completed church was 40 by 18 metric feet. Roofing shingles were supplied by Brown and Nicholls, 200 of which were donated. The Nelson Evening Mail recorded that 'the fittings, which were much admired, are by Mr Fleming, cabinet maker, Nelson, and the seats by Mr H. Baigent, Wakefield'. Henry Baigent ran one of the Nelson district's largest sawmilling businesses which he took over from his father Edward. Edward had supplied timber for and helped build St Paul's church in Wakefield and had contributed to other churches in the district, so the pews were presumably donated to St Luke's. The Baigents were extensively involved in Nelson politics.

A large party, including Suter and other prominent Nelson clergy, came out to Foxhill by rail on Wednesday 23 March 1881 for the consecration of St Luke's. In fact the last stage of the journey required two miles of road travel as Foxhill station was still on the other side of the Wai-iti River. The rail link to Belgrave was completed later that year in July, after which a new Foxhill station opened nearer St Luke's and the old Foxill Station was renamed Wai-iti. After the consecration service the party lunched at Gaukroger's Hotel, a building constructed in 1868 which burnt down in 1907. Its replacement still survives. A further service was held in the afternoon and another in the evening, which was full to overflowing.

The seating in St Lukes was upgraded in 1892. In 1896 the roofing shingles were replaced with corrugated iron and in 1897 a Mr Neilson donated a pair of church gates. In 1920 a memorial to ten Foxhill soldiers who died in the First World War was erected on one of the church walls. To celebrate the 50th jubilee of St Luke's in 1931 the congregation purchased a brass cross, vases and bible stand which remained in the church until its deconsecration in 2005. When demolition of the old Nelson Cathedral began in 1932 the cathedral lectern was given to St Luke's. A title for the church was eventually issued in 1932, then a new title issued in 1937 after the land was resurveyed. In the mid-1930s the vestry was extended, the church painted and damaged glass in the chancel window was replaced. Sunday school classes were held in the extended vestry. The church was lit by lanterns for many years, and then by acetylene gas, with services being held in the afternoon. The local Mother's Union, founded in 1947, donated hot points when electricity was finally connected.

Some repairs to the church were carried out in 1963 (these are not detailed in any records) but by the 1970s it was in need of major maintenance work. Rain penetrating the leadlight windows had rotted sills and main uprights. Repairs were required to take out the north wall, replace rotten studs and joists and install tanalised timber and boarding. A Wakefield builder estimated the cost at $625 for timber alone. A request to the Diocese of Nelson for financial aid was met with an offer of a loan over five years. However, once women parishioners formed a fundraising committee, Keith Anderson agreed to donate the timber, which was milled at no cost by E. Snout at Granger Bros mill. Fundraising was further supplemented by an anonymous bequest of $800 for maintenance of the church. A year was required for the timber to season and the renovations were completed in 1975. They included placing an external pane over the leadlight windows to prevent further leaks. Further donations in 1976 resulted in the installation of a new prayer desk and pews.

On 22 March 1981 the church held its centennial celebrations. The press reported the church filled to overflowing as former parishioners returned for the occasion. After the service an afternoon tea was held at the neighbouring Rutherford Memorial Hall. This was the old school building constructed in 1880 while the Rutherfords still lived in Foxhill and renovated as a community hall when a new school was built in 1937, the year Ernest Rutherford died. Services at St Luke's were temporarily suspended for five months in the late 1980s but then resumed on a monthly basis until 2005. The declining population of Foxhill and the ease of transportation to nearly Wakefield resulted in Foxhill School closing in 2001. For similar reasons St Luke's closed in 2005 and the church was deconsecrated on 24 November. The WWI memorial was shifted to the Rutherford hall.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Luke's Church has strong historical associations with Bishop Andrew Suter.

St Luke's is an attractive wooden building that is representative of numerous small churches built in the Nelson district in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.

St Luke's Church has social and spiritual value as an important, religious institution in the Foxhill community for 124 years.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history;

St Luke's church is representative of the importance of religion in the development of the Nelson region and reflects a time when the Anglican Church was expanding in the district in the later nineteenth century.

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

The church is strongly associated with Bishop Andrew Suter, an important figure in the history of the Nelson Diocese of the Anglican Church. Suter donated the land for the church, sat on its building committee and attended its consecration. He is thought to have provided a sketch plan for the church. He was a strong advocate for the Nelson railway, the first stage of which, to Foxhill, boosted the township's population in the late 1870s, thereby increasing demand for a church. The church is less directly associated with Ernest Rutherford, who lived opposite the church and whose father, James, supplied some of the timber used in the construction of the church. The Rutherfords were Wesleyans, however, so did not attend the church. Rutherford attended Foxhill School just to the south of St Luke's, and the second school building (dating from 1937) is still standing, being known today as the Rutherford Memorial Hall.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

St Luke's is representative of the numerous small churches established in the Nelson district in the second half of the nineteenth century. It remains largely in its original style despite some alterations and repairs.

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

The church was in constant use for 124 years. It provided a venue for church services, a Sunday school and meetings of groups such as the Mother's Union.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place:

St Luke's represents the importance of the Anglican Church in the development of rural Nelson.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The church is representative of the growth of rural Nelson in the latter nineteenth century. It provides a reminder of a period when Foxhill was a considerably larger and more intensively occupied settlement, and was the southern terminus of the Nelson railway. The church is located near the Rutherford Memorial Hall, which now contains the roll of honour and war memorial plaque removed from St Luke's when it was deconsecrated. The Rutherford Memorial Hall was formerly Foxhill School, which was attended by Rutherford in the 1880s.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Suter, Andrew Burn

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Freeman Brothers

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

St Luke's Church is located on State Highway 60 in the township of Foxhill about 5 km south-west of Wakefield. The Church is on 0.1998 ha of land. There are some mature trees on the site but no graves as the Foxhill cemetery is located 2 km further southwest. The neighbouring Rutherford Memorial Hall is approximately 100 m to the south west.

The church is a gable-roofed rectangular building of approximately 12m x 5.5m with two additional rooms, an entrance porch at the south-east corner and a vestry on the north-west of the building. The entire building is constructed of native timbers and has a corrugated iron roof and no internal wall cladding. The nave of the church is steeply raftered and the eave extensions of the rafters show a change in incline, being shallower.

The exterior of the walls is lined with board-and-battens. On the south-east gabled wall, facing the State Highway, is a three-sash stained glass window of a diamond pattern. The heads of the sashes have mild gothic arches. Above near the gable peak is a small trefoil window. At the opposite end of the church, the gabled end is mounted with a bracketed gabled belfry which is vented to the interior. The south-west nave wall has five timber buttresses with leadlight trefoil-headed windows between. The north east wall has no corresponding buttresses but has three leadlight trefoil windows and the entrance porch at the corner. The entrance porch is gabled with a cross gabled above the pair of doors facing the road. Two small leadlight windows face north and east.

The only addition to the church since its construction was an extension of the vestry in the mid 1930s. The vestry is a rectangular addition to the altar end of the church, below the belfry. It is built in a similar manner to the church and has three rectangular leadlight windows, the central one having two tall trefoil sashes. The roof of the vestry is mansard in style.

The interior of the church is unlined with substantial and well-dressed framing visible throughout. Pairs of rafters are supported by arches and wall brackets. The roof is diagonally sarked. Studs and dwangs, fixed with pegs, are bevelled and without sharp edges or protrusions. The flooring is laid longitudinally.

Much of the north wall was replaced in the 1970s in rimu timbers that complemented the existing materials. However, nails were used to join the framing timbers rather than the dovetailed joints and wooden pegs used in 1881. Most of the original totara and beech piles have been replaced with concrete piles. The leadlight windows have had an external pane placed over them.

Notable Features

Stained glass windows

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1881 -
Construction completed

1886 -
Roof shingles replaced with corrugated iron

1897 -
Church gates installed

1920 -
WWI Memorial installed

1935 -
Vestry extended and damaged glass in chancel window replaced

1945 - 1950
Electricity installed

1975 -
Repairs completed including replacing rotten studs, joists and boarding and putting glass over leadlight windows to prevent leaks

1976 -
New pews and prayer desk installed

2005 -
Church deconsecrated and WWI memorial shifted to the Rutherford Memorial Hall

Construction Details

Timber, corrugated iron roof, stained glass windows.

Completion Date

1st September 2006

Report Written By

Bruce Stirling

Information Sources

Ault, 1958

H. Ault, The Nelson Narrative; The Story of the Church of England in the Diocese of Nelson, New Zealand, Nelson, 1958

Cox, 1992

Ian Cox and Mike Whittall, Rutherford: the Early Years, Nelson, 1992

Lash, 1992

Lash, Max D., Nelson Notables 1840-1940: A Dictionary of Regional Biography, Nelson, 1992

McAloon, 1997

Jim McAloon, Nelson: A Regional History, Whatamango Bay, 1997

Nelson Anglican Centre Archives

Nelson Anglican Centre Archives

Boxes 23f and 23i

Nelson Evening Mail

Nelson Evening Mail

Reports of the proceedings of the Synod of Nelson

Reports of the proceedings of the Synod of Nelson, Nelson, New Zealand, 1878-1989

St John's Anglican Church, 1976

St John's Anglican Church, Wakefield, Nelson, New Zealand: a Centennial History 1846-1946, revised edition, Nelson, 1976

Stringer, 1996

Marion Stringer, St John's Anglican Church, Wakefield, Nelson, New Zealand: 150th Anniversary History, Nelson, 1996

Voller, 1991

L. Voller, Rails to Nowhere, The History of the Nelson Railway, Nelson, 1991

Wells, 2003

A. Wells, Nelson's Historic Country Churches, Nelson, 2003

Other Information

A fully referenced version 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.