Caversham Presbyterian Church

61 Thorn Street, Caversham, Dunedin

  • Caversham Presbyterian Church.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Derek Smith. Date: 5/07/2002.
  • Caversham Presbyterian Church. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
    Copyright: Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: James Dignan - Grutness. Date: 15/03/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7319 Date Entered 6th September 1996

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Lot 44 and part of the land described as Pt Lot 43 DP 365 (CT OT244/108), Otago Land District, and the building known as Caversham Presbyterian Church thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 11 December 2014.

City/District Council

Dunedin City

Region

Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 43 and Pt Lot 44 DP 365 (CT OT244/108), Otago Land District

Summaryopen/close

The striking Caversham Presbyterian Church, designed by architect Thomas Bedford Cameron, and built in 1882 of bluestone with contrasting Oamaru stone facings, stands as a landmark in this Dunedin suburb. As Reverend Frazer said at the opening of the church in August 1883, the architecture not only reflects the view that beautiful buildings were an influence for good, but also the noble character of the parishioners and their faith. The church has provided a place of worship for over 130 years.

At its opening on 19 August 1883, Caversham Presbyterian Church was 80 feet (24.38 metres) in length, including the vestibule, and 40 feet wide (12.19 metres). The height of the ceiling from the floor to the flat ceiling was 28 feet (8.53 metres). The external walls were built of bluestone from the Water of Leith quarries, with all angles, buttresses, windows, and doorjambs built of white Oamaru stone. The tower and spire stood 75 feet high (22.86 metres), and were built of Oamaru stone. The roof was covered with ‘Countess slates’. The walls were pointed with cement. The internal walls and ceilings were plastered. Over the front entrance was a gallery finished with ‘ornamental cast-iron railing’. The Otago Daily Times reported that ‘[t]he external appearance of the church presents a neat and handsome structure, and is situated in a central and commanding position in the borough.’

Caversham Presbyterian Church is notable for its significant memorial windows. In 1923, Mrs Anderson donated a window in memory of her nephew Lieutenant Boyes, killed at Armentieres in France in 1916. The Coombs Window, dedicated to Elizabeth Coombes (nee Boyes) was unveiled on 1 September 1946. The Simmons Window was installed near the pew where Mrs Violet Simmons sat every Sunday until her death in March 1946. The Margaret Window is a memorial to Christina Margaret Sullivan (daughter of then-minister Reverend C. M. Sullivan) who with two friends died attempting to cross the Copland Pass in April 1948. The window was installed in August of that year. The 1968 Sullivan Window is a memorial to Reverend Sullivan. The 1946 Iona Window, that replaced the original rose window, was installed in ‘thankfulness for and as a memorial to’ the men and women of the parish who served in the Second World War. The 1946 Dutton window was gifted by the Dutton Family Memorial Fund commemorating their long association with the church.

In 2012, Presbyterians in southern Dunedin’s Coastal Unity Parish decided to merge the St Clair and Caversham congregations into one centred around the Caversham church site, with the costs of earthquake strengthening and maintenance raising the question of the future of the church building. In 2014, Caversham Presbyterian Church remained the centre for Presbyterian worship in Caversham and South Dunedin.

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 report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

The Caversham Presbyterian Church was dedicated in 1883 to serve the needs of Presbyterians on the Flat low-lying South Dunedin. It has close associations with Rev. Daniel Dutton and local magnate T.K. Sidey.

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

Aesthetic:

The Caversham church is a local landmark, visible from many vantage points on either side of the valley.

Architectural:

The church has been designed in a free style, making use of Victorian Gothic features on a broad, low-pitched eternal frame.

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

Social:

A variety of social activities have been associated with the Caversham Presbyterian Church over the years. Girls' Brigades and Boys' Brigades, a Ladies' Guild, meetings of the A.P.W, (the Association of Presbyterian Women), Sunday School outings and Bible Class ski camps.

Spiritual:

The Caversham Presbyterian Church has been a centre of Presbyterian spirituality and worship for the past 112 years.

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

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

Between the 1880s and the 1920s the church was closely associated with two noteworthy local and national figures, the Rev. Daniel Dutton and Sunday School superintendent and politician, T.K. Sidey,

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

The Caversham Presbyterian Church is associated with two notable men, the Rev. Daniel Dutton, and the Hon. T.K. Sidey.

Daniel Dutton (1848-1931) was born near Birmingham and trained as a miner. He became a Methodist preacher in 1872 before converting to the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in 1886. Dutton served Caversham Church from 1888 until his retirement in 1920. During that time he also served as chaplain with the South Island Battalion in South Africa. He went overseas again during WWI, initially without the approval of the government, for Erik Olssen records that "following a vigorous public campaign a reluctant government appointed him chaplain again in 1915, for he was now sixty-six years old, but refused to let him near the front."

In his early years Dutton helped the Rev Rutherford Waddell agitate against "sweating". After his retirement, he was elected to the Moderator's Chair of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, the first English-born man to hold the post. In addition to his preaching, Dutton won renown for his lecturing on scientific subjects such as astronomy and geology.

Thomas Kay Sidey (1863 -1933) was three times Mayor of Caversham, committee member of the Caversham School for 11 years, board member of the Drainage & Sewerage Board, the University Council, the High School's Board of Governors, the Dunedin Horticultural Society, member of the Druids, Oddfellow and Masons, and every local sporting club. His large home, Corstorphine, gave its name to the neighbouring suburb.

Sidey entered parliament in 1901 and held the seat until 1928, against the trend in an era when Labour supplanted the Liberals. He was a left Liberal and at a national level, was best known for his long-running campaign to introduce his Summer Time Bill. T.K. Sidey was a staunch Presbyterian, serving his church as superintendent of its Sunday School, a position he held until his death. The Sidey family maintained a high profile in Dunedin local government policies until the 1970s.

Conclusion:

Caversham Church, Dunedin, is recommended for registration as a Category I as a place of special and outstanding historical and cultural heritage significance and value. The church is a local landmark, dedicated in 1883, and designed in a low-key Victorian Gothic style. The church has been a vigorous centre of local Presbyterian spiritual and social activity, and is associated with two noteworthy local and national figures, the Rev. Daniel Dutton, and the Hon. T.K. Sidey.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Cameron, Thomas Bedford

Thomas Bedford Cameron advertised himself as both an architect and engineer. It is possible he worked in Australia before coming to New Zealand; there is a synagogue in Ballarat in Victoria that was designed by a T.B. Cameron. He practiced in Auckland in the 1860s where he designed both residential and commercial buildings, and also may have worked more widely in the North Island – his name appears on a tender for the erection of a Presbyterian Church and manse at Wanganui in 1867, but by the late 1870s had shifted to Dunedin with offices on Moray Place. Cameron struggled and in November 1879 filed for insolvency (debts £606 assets £20) was subject to a bankruptcy hearing. He continued to practice in Dunedin with offices in the Commercial Chambers on Manse Street in 1886. He was responsible for the design of the Queen’s Arms Hotel (1879) and Caversham Presbyterian Church (1883) and his design for the Municipal Chambers (1877) was chosen as the preferred design, but Robert Arthur Lawson, who was appointed supervising architect, insisted that his own design be used. (NZHPT Registration Report, 'Empire Hotel, Dunedin', 29 November 2011).

Calder Brothers

Scottish-born stonemason, builder and contractor David Calder moved with his family to Dunedin 1849. His four sons – Hugh, James, David, George and John – followed him into the building trade. The Otago Daily Times reports that David Calder was the contractor for Caversham Presbyterian Church, while the Calder family history identifies George and John as the church’s builders.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

In the nineteenth century, Caversham was the largest of the nine boroughs surrounding Dunedin. Caversham had strong local industries – including a brewery, gasworks, and a quarry. In addition, the immigration barracks and the Caversham Industrial School were located there. Faith was an important element in community life. There were an estimated 1,300 Presbyterians in Caversham. Worship in Caversham began at a ‘Union Church’ where Christian denominations worshipped together, but by the close of the 1860s, Caversham Presbyterians found they had sufficient numbers to form their own church.

Within Dunedin’s Presbyterian administration, Caversham was under the charge of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and with St Andrew’s, Caversham’s Presbyterians had their first discussions about ‘pulpit supply’. The St Andrew’s congregation presented Caversham with their old church, as they had built a new church. The First Church presbytery provided funds for the church to be dismantled and re-erected on a site on Ranfurly Street in Caversham.

Caversham became a sanctioned charge in 1874, and in February 1875 Reverend J. N. Russell became the first Minister. Caversham was a busy suburb with some special demands for pastoral care – the Caversham Benevolent Institution and the Caversham Industrial School were located in the suburb. After five years, Rev Russell retired due to ill health and was replaced by Reverend J. Murdoch Frazer.

By November 1881, the Caversham congregation were looking at a new site and building. A sketch plan was submitted to the meeting, proposing a cruciform church, with a tower and spire, to seat 500 people and to be built of bluestone with whitestone facings. The building committee planned to call for tenders when they had collected £750.

On 27 January 1882, fire destroyed the first Caversham Presbyterian Church, and many of its early records. The building committee had already entered into a contract for a stone church at the cost of £2,500, with an additional £500 for fittings. Architect Thomas Bedford Cameron advertised for tenders on 3 May 1882. David Calder was the contractor. The foundation stone was laid on 21 October 1882, with full Masonic ceremony. Reverend Frazer said that this was ‘a building worthy of the name, the house of God.’ Such beautiful buildings were, Frazer said, ‘an influence for good’ through their beauty, and said much about the character of the people ‘noble people, noble buildings’ nowhere more true than in ‘our churches and chapels.’ To travellers approaching a village, the ‘spire pointing heavenwards is an assurance of safety, so is the reality thus symbolised an assurance of safety to us.’

Caversham Presbyterian Church opened on 19 August 1883. The building committee released a statement to the Otago Daily Times: the church was 80 feet (24.38 metres) in length, including the vestibule, and 40 feet wide (12.19 metres). The height of the ceiling from the floor to the flat ceiling was 28 feet (8.53 metres). The external walls were built of bluestone from the Water of Leith quarries, with all angles, buttresses, windows, and doorjambs built of white Oamaru stone. The tower and spire stand 75 feet high (22.86 metres), and were built of Oamaru stone. The roof was covered with ‘Countess slates’. The walls were pointed with cement. The internal walls and ceilings were plastered. On the ceiling, two ‘large sunlights’ of ’30 burners each’ supplied the light, along with three large ‘centre flowers’. ‘The eight principals stand some 9in [22.86 centimetres] below the level of the plastered ceiling, and perforated, forming each space between into sunk panels’ which lighten the appearance of the ceiling. The choir platform had space for twenty people, being 16 feet by 10 feet (4.87 by 3.04 metres), and raised 2 feet 6 inches (75 centimetres) above the church floor, with seats all round and a reading desk. All seats were built of white pine. Over the front entrance was a gallery finished with ‘ornamental cast-iron railing’. The gallery is fitted with pews with seating for 100. The paper reported that ‘[t]he external appearance of the church presents a neat and handsome structure, and is situated in a central and commanding position in the borough. At the front of the building there is a neat iron railing.’

Ten years later, a new hall, designed by James Louis Salmond, and built by Morrison and McKechnie, was opened on a site next to the church. By 1913, the hall was stretched to capacity. Another hall was built on east of the church. Mrs David Baxter donated £250 towards the cost, and asked that the hall be a memorial to her late husband. The hall was known as the Baxter Hall. Jubilee celebrations saw an appeal for a new hall. T.K. Sidey (later Sir Thomas) promised £1,000 for the hall. The new hall was opened in 1930 as the Sidey-Dutton Hall, built at a cost of £5,000.

Electric light was installed in the church in 1916. In the 1920s, the white pine in the interior was borer ridden, and much was replaced. In 1937, the toilet and brick boiler house at the rear of the church was built. A choir assembly area was built in 1959 – in 1998, this was partitioned into the minister’s office and study. In 1951, the current pipe organ, a memorial to those who served in the Second World War, was installed, taking up the entre left side of the chancel. The organ blower house was built at the same time. In 1993, due to problems with erosion of the Oamaru stone, the Oamaru stone buttress elements were replaced with white concrete.

Caversham Presbyterian Church has several significant memorial windows. In 1923, Mrs Anderson donated a window in memory of her nephew Lieutenant Boyes, killed at Armentieres in France in 1916. The lesson on the window is ‘Be thou faithful even unto Death and I will give thee a Crown of Life.’ Lieutenant Boyes had been secretary of the Caversham Sunday School.

The Coombs Window, dedicated to Elizabeth Coombes (nee Boyes) was unveiled on 1 September 1946. The Simmons Window was installed near the pew where Mrs Violet Simmons sat every Sunday until her death in March 1946. The window was made by J. Brock and erected in 1946.

The Margaret Window, a memorial to Christina Margaret Sullivan (daughter of then-minister Reverend C.M. Sullivan) who with two friends died during their attempt to cross the Copland Pass in April 1948, as installed in August of that year. The window was made by J. Brock and unveiled by Dunedin mayor Sir Donald Cameron.

The Sullivan Window is a memorial to Reverend C.M. Sullivan, minister to the parish from 1935 until 1955, but involved with the church and community until his death in 1965. The window, made by I. Miller, was unveiled on 26 May 1968.

The Iona Window, that replaced the original rose window, was installed in ‘thankfulness for and as a memorial to’ the men and women of the parish who served in the Second World War. The window features the St Martins Cross which stands by the west door of the abbey on the Isle of Iona. The Iona Window was installed in 1946, coinciding with the completion of the restoration work by the Iona community.

The Dutton window, installed in the apse on 25 August 1946, depicts the Good Shepherd, and was provided by the Dutton Family Memorial Fund. The Duttons had been associated with the church since 1888, with Reverend Daniel Dutton the minister from 1888 until his retirement in 1920. The Dutton window was designed by J. Brock.

In 2012, Presbyterians in southern Dunedin’s Coastal Unity Parish, decided to merge the St Clair and Caversham congregations into one centred around the Caversham church site, and the potential costs of earthquake strengthening raised the question of the future of the church building. In 2014, Caversham Presbyterian Church remains the centre for Presbyterian worship in Caversham and South Dunedin.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1882 - 1883

Modification
1916 -
Electric light installed

Modification
1923 - 1924
Borer infested interior timber replaced; Boyes Window installed

Additional building added to site
1937 -
Toilet and boiler house built at the rear of the church

Modification
1946 -
Coombs, Simmonds, Iona and Dutton windows installed

Modification
1948 -
Margaret window installed

Addition
1959 -
Choir assembly area built on the south-west corner

Modification
1951 -
Present pipe organ installed

Modification
1968 -
Sullivan window installed

Modification
-
Slate roof replaced with fibre-cement shingles

Maintenance/repairs
-
Some deteriorating Oamaru stone at buttresses ‘etc.’ replaced with ‘cream precast concrete blocks’

Construction Details

Bluestone, Oamaru stone, slate

Completion Date

17th October 2014

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Jubilee Souvenir

Jubilee Souvenir

Caversham Presbyterian Church Jubilee Souvenir 1924.

Olssen, 1995

Olssen, Erik, Building the New World: Work, Politics and Society - Caversham 1880s-1920s, Auckland, 1995

Vine, Miller and Barraclough, 1974

G. N. Vine, M. W. Millar and W. Barraclough, Presbyterian Church of New Zealand: Parish of Caversham 100 Years, 1874-1974, [Presbyterian Church, Dunedin, 1974].

Other Information

A copy of the original report and a fully referenced upgrade report are available from the Otago/Southland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand.

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.