St Luke's Chapel

Hereford Street, Christchurch

  • St Luke's Chapel, Christchurch.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: R Burgess. Date: 7/09/2017.
  • St Luke's Chapel, Christchurch.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: R Burgess. Date: 3/02/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5328 Date Entered 22nd August 1991


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Sec 50 Town Res Christchurch (CT CB152/218), Canterbury Land District and the building known as St Luke’s Chapel thereon and the following chattels: communion table, chair, prayer desk and lectern. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 50 Town Res Christchurch (CT CB152/218), Canterbury Land District

Location description

The chapel is located immediately adjacent to the land parcel for 276 Hereford Street


St Luke’s Chapel, a small timber Early English Gothic Revival style chapel now situated on Hereford Street in central Christchurch, was constructed in 1888 as a mortuary chapel at the Heathcote cemetery in Woolston to the designs of Robert West England. The building has led a somewhat migratory life, having moved three times from its original cemetery site at Woolston, to the nearby Jubilee Home and then to two City Mission locations on Hereford Street in Christchurch. St Luke’s Chapel has architectural, cultural, historical and spiritual significance or value and has been recognised locally as an example of saved and restored heritage.

The Heathcote parish was part of the community serviced by the Church of St John the Evangelist in Woolston. In 1864 the Church Property Trustees purchased land on the corner of Princes (now Rutherford) Street and Garlands Road for use as a cemetery. Originally called the Lower Heathcote Cemetery, the cemetery was consecrated by the Right Rev Harper, first Bishop of Christchurch, in 1868. Twenty years later the mortuary chapel was built, to the designs of architect R W England, by Messrs Butcher Brothers. It was consecrated in December 1888.

Now fronting the south side of Hereford Street, adjacent to the City Mission building, the small timber chapel sits in a lawn area with a separate modern utilities building and car parking to the rear of the site. Clad in weatherboard, the small gable roofed chapel is rectangular in plan, approximately 8 metres long by 5 metres wide, and has an open gabled porch, with seating, at its north front. The roof is shingled, with a crested ridgeline. Ornamental bargeboards add a decorative element. On the north and south elevations trefoil ventilators sit near at the apex of the gable. Three single lancet windows on both the west and east elevations contain diamond-shaped cathedral glass. At the south end is a three-light lancet window, containing stained glass depicting the Good Shepherd with St Luke the Evangelist and St Barnabas the Apostle, which was designed by Frederick Ellis and executed by Miller Studios. The interior is particularly well crafted and includes arched brace roof trusses of kauri, timber roof detailing, and diagonal rimu panelling on the walls. The matching timber communion table, chair, prayer desk and lectern – moveable items within the church - were designed by R S D Harman and carved by J C Vivian.

By the late 1940s the chapel had fallen into disrepair, largely through lack of use since there were few services due to the Heathcote Cemetery being almost full to capacity. The chapel was then gifted by Church Property Trustees to the North Canterbury Hospital Board and in 1949 it was relocated to the Jubilee Home, 20-30 Jubilee Street in Woolston, to serve as a non-denominational chapel. The Jubilee Memorial Home, a home and hospital to care for the ‘destitute and infirm’, had been established in 1888, coincidently the same year that the mortuary chapel had been built. The shift of the chapel was supervised by the architect R S D Harman. In October 1949 the chapel, which was still sometimes used as a funerary chapel, was dedicated to St Luke the physician. In the 1950s the stained glass window of the Good Shepherd with St Luke the Evangelist and St Barnabas the Apostle, was donated by staff and residents of Jubilee Home (Hospital) and installed in what was liturgical east sanctuary. Around the same time, the J. C. Vivian altar furniture was presented to the chapel. After the Jubilee Home closed in 1990, the chapel was gifted by the Area Health Board to the Anglican social and housing support organisation, Christchurch City Mission. Under the supervision of architect Don Donnithorne, the chapel was shifted to the City Mission site at 275 Hereford Street in April 1991, where it was tucked into a small space within the complex. As part of a major redevelopment of the City Mission site, in 2013 consent was obtained by Wilkie + Bruce Architects to shift the chapel once again, over the road to a more spacious site on its own land parcel, adjacent to the new City Mission complex at 276 Hereford Street. The shift took place in June 2014. In its new location, directly facing the road, the visibility of the chapel is improved, something that is much appreciated by locals. The building is used by the City Mission for monthly services and occasional gatherings.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Luke’s Chapel has historical significance in its ability to contribute to the story of early cemetery development in Christchurch, later being part of the development of the benevolent home and hospital for the elderly and infirm, and eventually as part of the Anglican Social Service Council, the Christchurch City Mission.

Architectural Significance or Value

St Luke’s Chapel has architectural significance as an example of a small Early English Gothic Revival style chapel. Its timber framing, cladding and roof are crucial to the form and survival of the building. The building combines functionality and beauty through skilful design of well-known Christchurch architect, Robert West England. Its fabric, including well-crafted timberwork and stained glass windows, remains largely intact.

Cultural Significance or Value

St Luke’s Chapel has cultural value in its ability to reflect attitudes to commemoration and death. It was originally built as a mortuary chapel for the Heathcote Cemetery, reflecting the cultural practices associated with funerary services for the bereaved to acknowledge the life and loss of a person in a cemetery setting. In all its subsequent locations – Jubilee Home and the two locations at Christchurch City Mission – it has continued to function as a place for worship and reflection, and at the Jubilee Home especially it still served as a funerary chapel when residents died.

Spiritual Significance or Value

Dedicated to St Luke the physician, St Luke’s Chapel has spiritual value. It has served three distinct communities since its consecration in 1888. As a funerary chapel, it was used for final services for many people buried in the Heathcote Cemetery in Woolston. At the Jubilee Home it was used for regular services as well as for the funeral services of some residents. As part of the Christchurch City Mission complex, it continues to function as a place of contemplation and worship.

This place has been assessed for, and found to possess architectural, cultural historical and spiritual significance or value. It is considered that this place qualifies as part of New Zealand’s historic and cultural heritage. This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a. It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 2 historic place.

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

St Luke’s Chapel is representative of the role that chapels play as a place for worship and reflection and, especially at its first two locations, in commemorating the lives of the deceased. That the chapel has had four different sitings reflects the history of relocating buildings, especially small scale timber ones, in New Zealand.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

England, Robert William & Edward Herbert

Robert William England (1863-1908) was born at Lyttelton, the son of a timber merchant. Educated in Christchurch, he chose to go to England for his architectural training and began practicing as an architect in Christchurch around the age of twenty-three. In 1906 he took his younger brother Edward (1875 - c.1953) into practice with him.

Among the notable residential designs the England Brothers were responsible for are McLean's Mansion, (1899 - 1902), and the third stage of Riccarton House (1900). Robert was more concerned with the final effect achieved than stylistic fidelity and drew on a variety of styles including the English Arts and Crafts movement. Some of their more well-known public works include the former D.I.C building in Cashel Street (1908), the A.J White building on the corner of Tuam and High Streets (c.1904-1910) and the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills building in Manchester Street (now demolished). They were also involved in designing a number of churches around Christchurch, including Knox Church in Bealey Avenue and St Albans Methodist Church.

The firm continued after Robert's death in 1908 until 1941, although it is generally considered Edward was a more conservative architect than his brother and the firm's most notable commissions occurred before Robert's death.

Harman, Richard Strachan De Renzy

Not to be confused with his uncle R.D. Harman of Collins and Harman, Architects, R.S. Harman (1896-1953) was born and educated in Christchurch where he subsequently became one of the city's most competent ecclesiastical and residential architects. He served his articles with the local firm of Seager and Macleod (1914-16) and also attended classes at the Canterbury College School of Art during this time. After service in France during the First World War, he studied at the Royal College of Art, London before returning to New Zealand in 1920 to rejoin Seager's office. Between 1923 and 1926 Harman was once more in London undertaking further study as well as working for the Ancient Monuments Branch of His Majesty's Office of Works. On his return to Christchurch he entered into a short-lived partnership with Cecil Wood before establishing his own practice in 1928.

Harman was closely associated with the Anglican Church throughout his career and almost all of his church designs were commissioned by the Anglican dioceses of Canterbury and Nelson. The Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo (1935) and St. John's Cathedral, Napier (1953) are among his most well-known ecclesiastical works, although the latter was not erected until after his death. During the late 1940s he worked as the consulting architect for Christchurch Cathedral, designing the Chapel of St Michael and St George in the south transept in 1949 and the reredos behind the High Altar in 1950. Harman was also an active member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, becoming president of that organisation in 1949.

Maddison, Joseph Clarkson

Joseph Maddison (1850-1923) was born in Greenwich and came to Lyttelton in 1872. He settled in Christchurch and commenced practice as an architect.

He designed a large number of public buildings, mainly in Canterbury, including The Church of the Holy Innocents, Amberley, the Anglican Church at Port Levy, Warner's Hotel (1881) and Clarendon Hotel (1902), both in Christchurch, Government Buildings, Christchurch (1913) and numerous private residences.

Maddison was well known as an industrial architect and was responsible for the warehouses of the Kaiapoi Woollen Company. His specialty, however, was in the design of freezing works. Among his designs were the Canterbury Freezing Works, Belfast (1883) and the Mataura Freezing Works, Canterbury and he is considered to have been one of the chief exponents in this field during the late nineteeenth century.

He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1887.

Messrs Butcher Bros

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

J C Vivian

Carver of altar furniture for St Luke's Chapel, Chistchurch (List No. 5328)

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early History of Christchurch

Christchurch and the wider area have a long history of Māori occupation. The vast network of wetlands and plains of Kā Pakihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha (Canterbury Plains) is inherently important to the history of its early occupation. The area was rich in food from the forest and waterways. Major awa (river) such as the Rakahuri (Ashley), Waimakariri, Pūharakekenui (Styx) and Rakaia were supplied from the mountain fed aquifers of Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (Southern Alps). Other spring-fed waterways such as the Ōtakaro (Avon) meandered throughout the landscape. The rivers teamed with tuna, kōkopu, kanakana and inaka; the wetlands were a good supply of wading birds and fibres for weaving, food and medicine; with the forest supplying kererū, kokopa, tui and other fauna as well as building materials. Ara tawhito (travelling routes) crossed over the landscape providing annual and seasonal pathways up and down and across the plains and in some cases skirting or traversing the swamps. Permanent pā sites and temporary kainga were located within and around the Plains as Ngāi Tahu established and used the mahinga kai sites where they gathered and utilised natural resources from the network of springs, waterways, wetlands, grasslands and lowland podocarp forests that abounded along the rivers and estuaries.

Most of the Canterbury region was purchased from Ngāi Tahu by the Crown in 1848. The Canterbury Association oversaw the systematic European settlement of Canterbury and surveyed the town of Christchurch and rural sections outside of the town boundary.

Canterbury Earthquakes 2010-11

The situation with the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-11 was summarised by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission Te Komihana Rūwhenua o Waitaha as follows: ‘On 4 September 2010, at 4:35am, an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 struck Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region. The earthquake had an epicentre near Darfield, a small town about 40km west of the Christchurch Central Business District. An aftershock sequence began, which at the time of writing is ongoing. All of the earthquakes were the result of ruptures on faults not known to be active prior to the September event. ….However, many unreinforced masonry buildings were damaged and there was extensive damage to infrastructure. The eastern suburbs of Christchurch and Kaiapoi were seriously affected by liquefaction and lateral spreading of the ground. The September earthquake was followed by four other major earthquakes occurring on Boxing Day 2010, and 22 February, 13 June and 23 December 2011. Of these, the event on 22 February was by far the most serious, resulting in 185 deaths. …’

Severe damage to heritage places caused by the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 has meant unprecedented, rapid loss of items from the New Zealand Heritage List, particularly in Christchurch. Significant historic places have been lost, and many places have been removed from the List.

The Heritage New Zealand response to addressing the high number of formal reviews required in post-quake Canterbury, under Section 78 of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, has been to adopt a shortened review format report and not cover a detailed historical narrative or land history.

Construction Dates

2014 -
Relocated to a site on the opposite side of Hereford Street

1949 -
Chapel relocated to Jubilee Home

Original Construction
1888 -

1991 -
Chapel relocated to Christchurch City Mission 275 Hereford Street

2013 -
Chapel relocated to new City Mission site diagonally opposite previous location on Hereford Street.

Construction Details

Timber framing clad and roof; stained glass

Completion Date

21st March 2018

Report Written By

Robyn Burgess

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.

A copy of the original report is available from the HNZPT Southern region office