The Anglican Church in Otago:
The story of the Anglican Church in Otago begins with Maori. Tamihana, the only surviving son of Te Rauparaha, was converted to Christianity and wished to spread the Word to Kai Tahu. He set out for Otago in 1842 and was reportedly well received by Maori.
Otago and Southland were unique from the rest of New Zealand as the only regions where the Church of England was not the major denomination. Anglicans made up forty per cent of the population nationwide in the colonial era but in Otago and Southland they represented only 25 per cent. The south was the stronghold of Presbyterianism and this was even more so in rural areas. Some Otago Presbyterians called the Church of England ‘The Little Enemy’. Anglicans responded with the label ‘The Old Iniquity’.
Otago and Southland were incorporated in the Diocese of Christchurch from its inception. However, the gold rushes of the 1860s brought such an influx of people into Otago that a new diocese was required. The Diocese of Dunedin was created in 1869, although the first bishop, Bishop Samuel Tarratt Nevill, did not arrive until 1871.
Tauhinu: Inch Clutha:
The Clutha delta area of South Otago was one of first areas to which European settlers ventured outside Dunedin: in the late 1840s settlers ventured to this area dominated by bush and the Mata-au/Clutha River. Tauhinu or Inch Clutha (Gaelic meaning the Island in the Clyde) is located between the Mata-au and the Koau (the southern branch of the river), and is an island. For many settlers it was a lonely strange place. The history of St Mary’s Anglican Church recalls that there was ‘in the beginning, God, and the sombre New Zealand bush, the quiet, menacing eddy of the river, and not sound except the klong! klong! of strange birds, and the flutter of their movement in the trees’, and the ‘intense loneliness’ of an unfamiliar land. In the Presbyterian oriented community, Anglicans may have felt even more isolated.
The first Anglicans to take up land within the bounds of what became St Mary’s parish were Francis Scott Pillans and neighbour William Ferguson who settled at Inch Clutha in January 1850. As there were no organised Anglican services in the area, they attended the Presbyterian services at Inch Clutha after the church there opened in 1857. The first Anglican service was at the home of the Maitland family in September 1857, as Bishop Harper (based in Christchurch) travelled homewards from Riverton in Southland. The Bishop made return visits through Inch Clutha in the following years. In 1864 the Tokomairiro parish was established, with Reverend Stanford the first vicar, based at Milton. Reverend Stanford held his first service in the Inch Clutha in June 1865 in the local schoolroom, the room full to over flowing.
In 1868 Mr Pillans offered as a site for the church the half-acre corner section across the road from the schoolhouse, on the riverbank about a mile from the punt. A meeting of parishioners decided to build a ‘simple Gothic church of requisite dimensions’ on ‘the best site on the whole island.’ The estimated cost of £250 was raised through local subscriptions. William Ferguson offered to prepare plans and specifications, and a committee was appointed to oversee the construction of the church. The committee members were Albert Pillans (farm manager), C.V. Brewer, the store keeper; Sanderson, the flour miller; Gerald Spooner, land and stock agent, and the innkeeper George Townsend.
There was a delay in beginning with the construction as a debate began over the location of the church, with suggestions that it should be built in nearby Balclutha. By July 1869 the Inch Clutha parishioners had moved ahead with the project and the contractor, Mr Daniels, was at work, as reported in the newspaper. Graffiti discovered in the church during restoration work indicated that a Robert McKinlay erected the building. St Mary’s was the apparently one of the earliest Anglican churches outside Dunedin or Invercargill.
The opening service was held on 13 October 1869, an earlier planned celebration postponed because of fears for bad weather, and the risk to guests navigating the Clutha. The 100-seat Church was ‘built in gothic style’ and was praised as having a ‘very neat appearance.’ The opening was attended by many local dignitaries including the Hon. Major Richardson, former Speaker of the Provincial Council, and the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The building was decorated with ferns and flowers, and a luncheon followed at George Townsend’s inn. The building was consecrated by Bishop Harper on 6 March 1870.
St Mary’s was a central meeting place for parishioners in its early years. Parishioners lived nearby and at the small settlement by the river. The people who lived at The Crescent rowed across the river. In 1874 land was sold for township sections across the river on the flat which became known as Stirling. At around the same time St Mary’s became part of the Balclutha Parochial District. Stirling grew after 1875 when the railway opened from Dunedin. As people moved away from Inch Clutha, attendance at church services declined and, for a time in the mid-1890s, services at the church ceased.
By the turn of the century it became clear that the Church would need to be moved. A meeting was held in July 1904 at which the possibility of relocating the building to Stirling was discussed. In August of that year William Smith’s offer of a site was accepted - this was a corner section between the Balclutha-Kaitangata Highway and a back road. Trees were cleared and Messrs M. McKinlay and Son offered to fence the section. The Church was re-erected on its new site by John Agnew, Robert Agnew, Joseph Agnew and W.J. Lennon. An inscription explaining the relocation noted on the wall above the altar.
Mr Lennon later recorded that the building was cut into sections before being moved, the sections reassembled on the present site. The shingle roof was replaced by iron. On 19 February 1905, St Mary’s Anglican Church was reopened, in a service conducted by Archdeacon Robinson. The organ was presented by Miss Pillans. The Church was painted, and hedges planted on the boundaries (olearia and hawthorne).
For the next sixty years St Mary’s was the focus of the Anglican community of Stirling and the surrounding district. The bell tower was erected by E.G. Perkins in 1938. The bell was originally a ship’s bell.
In the late 1950s St Mary’s was renovated. The 8-inch totara boards which lined the church were covered with wallboard. The vestry was ‘rebuilt’ as a gift by Mr and Mrs Richardson. The Baltic pine floor was carpeted. Memorial tablets and furniture recalled the life of parishioners - the Credence Cupboard commemorated the centenary of the school, a wall tablet recalled four local men killed in World War One, and other tablets commemorated the contribution of local families. The altar commemorated the Dutton family. The lectern and altar rails were the work of Mr W.S. Pillans in 1873.
The stained glass windows were particularly significant memorials. The window above the altar was commissioned by parishioners in memory of Anna Pillans and her brother. Extra panels were added alter to commemorate William Soltau Pillans. These lights were dedicated in 1933. In later years services were conducted by the minister from Balclutha.
Closure and Relocation:
In New Zealand from the 1970s onwards there was a ‘dramatic decline in church attendance and affiliation.’ By 2006 a third of New Zealanders described themselves as having no religion. This increasing secularism resulted in a decline in church attendance and the subsequent closure of many churches. St Mary’s Anglican Church has reflected this trend. By the early 2000s congregation numbers at St Mary’s had fallen to the extent that the Church was no longer used. The last service was conducted in May 2005 and in November 2005 St Mary’s was deconsecrated. On 29 January 2006 the service of closure was conducted. The parish combined with St Mark’s parish in nearby Balclutha.
After the closure of the Church it was sold into private ownership. There was considerable discussion about the future of the memorial windows. The parish sought local users or buyers who would be look after the building, and finally accepted an offer of purchase and relocation to Southland, where the building was to be repaired and restored and used as a wedding venue in a garden setting and open to the public as part of the Southland garden tours programme. NZHPT supported this position, recognising the efforts the parish had made to find a solution which would allow the continued (and sensitive) use and survival of the Church. St Mary’s was relocated to Waianiwa in November 2011. The new setting is designed to showcase the church and the building’s continued use as a wedding venue provides continuity with its original function.
Designer: William Ferguson (d. 1875)
Builders: Attributed to both a Mr Daniel and Robert McKinlay.
A Samuel George Daniel is described as an Inch Clutha insolvency case in February 1870 and a Mr Daniel is mentioned as the contractor for St Mary’s Anglican Church in July 1869. Little else is known of Mr Daniel.
R. and D. McKinlay advertise their services as house builders, carpenters and the like at Port Molyneux in 1866.
After relocation to Stirling the Church was re-erected by John Agnew, Robert Agnew, Joseph Agnew and W.J. Lennon.
Physical Description and Analysis:
Previously located on a corner section in the outskirts of Stirling, St Mary’s Anglican Church, was relocated in late 2011 to the outskirts of the small rural settlement of Waianiwa in Southland. The building is located within a formal garden setting.
The Church is rectangular in plan with single gable corrugated roof and a small porch, echoing the main gable at the west end. The Church is oriented in the traditional east-west direction, with the main entrance through the porch at the west end of the nave.
The belfry evident in earlier images mounted on the porch has been removed. There are matching decorative barge board on the gable ends of the porch and the body of the church, with the extension of the rafters under the eaves part of the decorative details of the building. There is a lancet window on the end of the porch with plain glass set in timber ‘tracery’. Entrance is through lancet double doors in the porch.
There are four lancet windows spaced evenly down the length of the Church on both sides of the nave, with top lights opening on a pulley system. They match the window in the porch in detail.
The porch is lined with is lined with wide horizontal boards which have been painted. There are inbuilt cupboards along one wall and coat hooks mounted above them.
The interior of the nave has been lined with wallboard though it is likely that the original lining remains beneath it (and may match the lining in the porch).The ceiling is plain boards running the length of the nave, with exposed trusses providing modest decorative detail. The wallboard is to be removed to reveal the original lining.
The main decorative feature of the nave is the set of three lancet windows behind the altar which feature ornate stained glass images and are memorial windows to former parishioners of the church. Some of the pews sold with the church remain. The altar rail stayed with the Balclutha parish. A small vestry, a later addition, has been built into the rear corner of the nave.
St Mary’s Anglican Church (Former) was originally registered for its architectural and historical value as an early timber church. It is of comparatively simple Gothic Revival design and its timber construction reflects the early material of choice for smaller Otago and Southland churches during the period. The church has a history of relocation. As the needs of the parish changed, St Mary’s Anglican Church (Former) was shifted from Inch Clutha to Stirling early in the twentieth century. Just over one hundred years later, once again reflecting the change in the needs of the parish, the church was closed, and sold with the support of the parish, to new owners for use as a wedding venue.
The church is one of fourteen churches and one of six Anglican churches on the NZHPT Register in Otago and Southland region built prior to 1870. This church is considered to be of significance as a representative remaining example of a small rural church from this period. The oldest church that remains today in Otago is the Gothic style St John's Anglican Church in Waikouaiti (Category 1 historic place, Register no. 334) that was built from timber in 1858. Kotahitanga Church, built in 1862 from timber at Moeraki (Category 1 historic place, Register no. 9437), is the oldest surviving Maori mission church in the South Island. The timber Pukehiki Church (Category 2 historic place, Register no. 7326) was built in 1867 and the renowned Oamaru stone St Luke’s Anglican Church in Oamaru (Category 1 historic place, Register no. 4365) was built between 1865 and 1866 and the All Saints Church in Dunedin was completed in 1865.
Original construction (at Inch Clutha)
Relocated to Stirling
Memorial stained glass windows installed
Bell tower added
Wall linings added over existing linings; vestry rebuilt
Church reroofed and new housing for the bell built
Church relocated to Waianiwa
Totara timber, Baltic pine, stained glass, corrugated iron
19th March 2012
Report Written By
Alma M. Rutherford and the Inch Clutha Committee, The Inch: The Reproduction and Update of the Story of Stirling and Inch Clutha, 1998
The Church News – Parochial District of Balclutha, Clutha Valley, Balclutha, Stirling, Owaka, Chaslands: 100 years at St. Mary’s 1869-1969, Vol XXV October 1996 (No. 9)
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Paul Morris. 'Diverse religions - Religious diversity in New Zealand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 28-Apr-11
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/diverse-religions/1 accessed 15 Feb 2011.
A fully referenced review report is available from the Otago/Southland Area office of NZHPT.
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.