Columba Presbyterian Church

33 Wansbeck Street And Ure Street, South Hill, Oamaru

  • Columba Presbyterian Church, Oamaru. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Taken By: itravelNZ®. Date: 31/05/2012.
  • Columba Presbyterian Church, Oamaru. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Natalia Volna - itravelNZ®. Taken By: itravelNZ®. Date: 31/05/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7313 Date Entered 19th April 1996

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 12 Blk XLI Town of Oamaru (CT OT9/152), Otago Land District, and the building known as Columba Presbyterian Church thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 12 Blk XLI Town of Oamaru (CT OT9/152), Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

Columba Presbyterian Church, designed by Oamaru architectural firm Forrester and Lemon in Victorian Academic Classical style and built in 1882-1883, is a landmark building, with aesthetic, architectural, historical and spiritual significance. Its solemn presence emphasises the important role and rapid growth of the Presbyterian Church in nineteenth century Oamaru.

In October 1870, Presbyterians met at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church to discuss building a church for those living in the southern part of the town. After talking about the possibility of acquiring the old Wesleyan Church, the parishioners settled on erecting a stone building on a site in Hull Street. Plans were drawn for a church to hold 180 people at a cost of around £500. In 1882, the congregation voted to build on the present site, with the congregation to be called ‘South Oamaru Presbyterian Church’. In February 1882, Duncan Sutherland purchased the land for the church, and soon after, on 23 March, the Reverend Dr James Macgregor was inducted into the charge. The building committee selected the competition plans of Forrester and Lemon, at a cost of £2700.

More than 800 people attended the opening of Columba Presbyterian Church on 19 July 1883 (the first church service being held on the 15 July). The Otago Daily Times, reported the event describing the ‘handsome, commodious, and substantial structure.’ The church, which seated 800, was 86 feet [26.2 metre] long, 60 feet [18.2 metre] wide, and 48 foot [14.6 metre] high to the ridge of the roof, with a 30 foot [9.1 metre] stud. The main elevation to Wansbeck Street was ‘imposing’ with its ‘four round columns on massive pediments’, flanked by a further two square columns. The internal arrangements were ‘in every respect suitable and chaste.’ The pews were crescent shaped on the raked floor. At the recommendation of Dunedin preacher D.M. Stuart, the church was dedicated to St Columba, commemorating the sixth century evangelist stationed at the Scottish mission of Iona.

A pipe organ was installed in 1903. In 1913, the Sunday School was built to the rear of the church. The church was altered in 1921, with the removal of borer ridden pews, and the addition of a vestibule and organ chamber. Lower rows of windows on the east and west facades were enlarged. A memorial window was installed at the back of the chancel. In 1981, Columba celebrated its centenary, attended by over 1,200 people, with a focus on the youth of the parish, as well as an evening conversazione and a celebratory evening service.

Columba Presbyterian Church is on a prominent corner site overlooking Oamaru Harbour. Architectural historian Conal McCarthy describes it as ‘striking in its uncompromising severity.’ He writes that the Classical style was ‘popular in Scotland for Presbyterian churches, the rectangular plan providing the simple “preaching box” suitable to Presbyterian worship’ and that Forrester was in touch with church design in his native Scotland. The plans show that behind the church is the memorial hall, with vestry, and Sunday School rooms. Two brass rolls of honour commemorate World War One and World War Two.

In 2015, Columba Presbyterian Church remains part of the Waiareka-Weston Presbyterian parish.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

This church was built in 1882-83 to the design of Forrester and Lemon for the Presbyterian congregation on the South Hill of Oamaru. Since then it has played a prominent role in the local history of the denomination.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Aesthetic:

This handsome building has landmark value and stands in a prominent position overlooking the harbour and the town.

Architectural:

Columba Church was by designed in the Victorian Academic Classical style by the architectural firm of Forrester and Lemon and dedicated on 15 July 1883. The basilica form is itself a rare choice for a Presbyterian church building, and the architects have sympathetically modified the plan so that is also reflects elements of the Georgian meeting hall.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Spiritual:

Columba has been a focus of Presbyterian worship and spirituality for 112 years.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Recommendation for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

The following comments are made in relation to the criteria identified under S.23(2) of the Historic Places Act 1993.

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

Organised religion has played an importance role in the life of post-contact New Zealand society. Presbyterianism was the dominant religion in colonial Otago and Oamaru's architectural heritage, of which St Columba's is a distinguished item, reflects this.

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

Thomas Forrester played an important role in the development of Oamaru during the 1870s and 1880s, a period when the town was one of New Zealand's most prosperous communities. He served as Secretary/Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board from 1876 until 1907. During that time he proved that the harbour floor was capable of dredging and planned the layout of the present port, opening it up to serve the largest ships on the new UK frozen meat run. Forrester and Lemon, his part-time architectural practice, conducted between 1872 and 1890, according to Peter Shaw, was "to transform the face of Oamaru".

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

St Columba's church has potential to provide knowledge of the importance of Presbyterianism to North Otago history.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

This handsome building was by designed in the Victorian Academic Classical style by the architectural firm of Forrester and Lemon and dedicated on 15 July 1883. The basilica form is itself a rare choice for a Presbyterian church building, and the architects have sympathetically modified the plan so that is also reflects elements of the Georgian meeting hall, a rational form of congregational building that has been fairly widely adopted by the Presbyterian church. The rows of aisled Doric columns are the main interior feature of the basilica.

The exterior is impressive. The main entrance facade is dominated by a symmetrical shallow portico, almost in antis, with a giant order of Roman Doric columns extending two stories to an architrave, plain frieze, and cornice capped by an impressive triangular pediment. The columns are paired at both sides of the portico with a square column. Within the portico there is a tripartite arrangement of round-arched openings - doors on the ground floor, multipaned windows in the upper. These openings all contain a similar motif in plain flanking pilasters supporting the round arches and exaggerated voussoirs. The portico is flanked on either side by the corners of the main buildings in which there is a dropped but exaggerated cornice, a parapet with string courses and shallow bays, and arched shallow recesses on the upper level.

The side facades have the same kind of parapet, with shallow piers matching the pilasters below. These pilasters establish the basic rhythms of the building on these facades. The church is faced in smooth-tooled ashlar Oamaru stone.

There have been a number of modifications made to this church over the years. Extensive renovations were commenced in April 1921 and designed by architects Forrester and Steenson: borer-ridden pews and woodwork were removed; a new vestibule and organ chamber were created. The lower rows of windows on the east and west facades were enlarged and steel frames and glazed with rolled Flemish glass in amber. A memorial window was installed at the back of the chancel, along with two side windows. Further renovations were commenced in 1928, and again in 1935, 1948, 1976 and 1980.

Conclusion:

Columba Church, 33 Wansbeck St, South Hall, Oamaru, is recommended for registration as a Category II as a place of historical and cultural heritage significance and value. The church was designed in the Victorian Academic Classical style by the architectural firm of Forrester & Lemon. It has landmark value standing in a prominent position overlooking the harbour and the town and has been the centre of the Presbyterian community for over 112 years.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester & Lemon

The architectural partnership of Forrester and Lemon was established in Oamaru in 1872.

Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) was born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow School of Art. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1861 he settled in Dunedin and worked under William Mason (1810-97) and William Henry Clayton (1823-77) and later Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902). In 1865 he superintended the Dunedin Exhibition and from 1870 he became involved with the supervision of harbour works. Some time after 1885 he became Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board and in this capacity designed the repairs to the breakwater following storm damage in 1886 and later the Holmes Wharf. On his death in 1907 he was still in the employ of the Harbour Board.

John Lemon (1828-1890) was born in Jamaica and travelled to England before emigrating to New Zealand in 1849. He settled in Oamaru in 1860 and with his brother Charles established a timber merchant's business. By 1869 he was in partnership with his father-in-law, George Sumpter calling themselves "Timber and General Merchants, Land and Commission Agents". This partnership was dissolved in 1872 and Lemon entered into partnership with Forrester. Lemon had no architectural experience at all, but had a wide circle of business contacts and was an efficient administrator.

Buildings designed by the partnership of Forrester and Lemon include St Paul's Church (1875-76), the Harbour Board Offices (1876), Queen's (later Brydone) Hotel (1881), Waitaki Boys' High School (1883), The Courthouse (1883) and the Post Office (1883-84), all in Oamaru. Forrester and Lemon contributed greatly to Oamaru's nineteenth century character. On Lemon's death in 1890 the practice was taken over by Forrester's son, John Megget Forrester (1865-1965).

Forrester and Steenson

The architect was William Ivan Cunninghame Steenson (1889-1967) (known as Ivan) of Forrester and Steenson. The architectural practice was established by Thomas Forrester and John Lemon in 1872 and John, the only son of Thomas Forrester, took over the business in 1890. Forrester worked on his own until 1921 when he entered into partnership with Ivan Steenson as Forrester & Steenson. Forrester retired in 1931 and Ivan Steenson carried on the firm. Steenson had joined the practice in 1904 and studied carpentry, stone masonry and plumbing, before serving in World War One. After the war he returned to the firm before becoming a partner. The practice was continued by his son Harry until 1993.

Source: Information Upgrade Report for Waitaki Girls' Junior High School Building (Former), Oamaru (Register No. 2312), Heather Bauchop, Aug 2013

Hossack and Sinclair

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Addition
1921 -
Addition of organ chamber and vestibule. Stained glass memorial window installed.

Addition
1935 -
Doric pillars added to interior to delineate exterior aisles, and the apse.

Original Construction
1883 -

Other
1903 -
Pipe organ installed

Additional building added to site
1913 -
Sunday School built

Completion Date

28th October 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

Conal McCarthy, Forrester and Lemon of Oamaru, architects, Oamaru, 2002

McDonald, 1977

K C McDonald, White Stone Country: the story of North Otago, Capper Press, Christchurch, 1977, [1962]

McLean, 1982

Gavin McLean, Oamaru Harbour: Port in a Storm, Palmerston North, 1982

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times, 23 Jul 1883, p. 4.

Shaw, 1991

Peter Shaw, New Zealand Architecture: From Polynesian Beginnings to 1990, Auckland, 1991

Breward, 1990

I Breward (ed.), Presbyterians in Aotearoa 1840-1990 , (1990)

Ross, 1996

Beverley Ross, ‘A Classical Masterpiece’, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, No. 58, May 1996

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the southern region 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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand