St Thomas' Anglican Church

303 Meeanee Road, Napier

  • St Thomas' Anglican Church. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans. Date: 10/07/2010.
  • St Thomas' Anglican Church. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans . Date: 10/07/2010.
  • St Thomas' Anglican Church.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Unknown. Date: 1/06/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7502 Date Entered 7th December 2001


City/District Council

Napier City


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 108 DP 34 Blk VIII Heretaunga SD

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 Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


Meeanee is an old settlement 8kms from Napier. It was named by Alfred Domett, Commissioner of Crown Lands, after the Battle of Meeanee, Scinde Province, India, won by Sir Charles Napier. Meeanee provided the only access to Taradale and Puketapu and points beyond until the opening of the Taradale Road in 1873.

In 1886, George Rymer, who owned livery stables in Napier and had several coach services, donated section 108 Meeanee Township, being 1 Rood, 'Given upon trust that the same shall be used as a site for a church for the celebration of divine worship according to the rites and

ceremonies of the Church of England in New Zealand. St Thomas' Church is now 114 years old. The Church was consecrated on the 26 May 1887 by the second Bishop of Waiapu, Rt. Rev. Edward Craig Stuart, when 150 persons attended the service, almost double the capacity for the Church.

The Reverend William Colenso, (1811-1899), one of Napier's best known citizens, preached in the Church in 1891 and in 1894. The 1931 Earthquake Report (Hawke's Bay Earthquake, 3 February 1931) said the Church of St Thomas stood the strain remarkably well.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The architects for St Thomas' Anglican Church in Meeanee Road, Napier were Clere and Clere, Wellington in association with Cooper and Finch, Napier. Clere and Clere were architects for many of the churches of the Diocese of Waiapu and could be expected to have advised on the general design, but much of the detail may well have been from either Cooper or Finch who would have also supervised the building construction. This would have been the normal practice particularly for such small structures where distance made visits to the site both difficult and expensive for Clere and Clere, based in Wellington. The church was built in 1887 and measured 40 x 20 feet. It was originally intended to seat 80 parishioners. Frederick de Jersey Clere designed many churches in New Zealand and until 1905 all were timber churches.

He had a practical approach designing for New Zealand conditions, available materials, transport, labour force, size of parish purse, climate and earthquakes. There is general conformity to the Gothic style adapted to timber construction and with the skills available at the time (mid 19th Century New Zealand). The detail is simple but such features as the window head and belfry are of fine proportion and innovative for the time.

In terms of the Church interior, it has a natural timber finish throughout. The Nave is rectangular with a raised platform and steps to the alter. It has three scissor trusses and tie rods added to check the further spreading of walls, probably just after the 1931 Napier earthquake. The windows are very simple with plain glass throughout - no stained glass. Match lining is used throughout for the ceilings and the walls in rimu flat varnish.

Although not as elaborate in detail as the slightly larger Christ Church (Category I) at Pukehou, (1859), the oldest church still standing in Hawkes' Bay, St Thomas' Church in Meeanee is nevertheless an important example of a lower cost church building built to serve a smaller community. There is a streetscape quality with this Church and a degree of public esteem for its design appearance which is significant.

There are many examples of Clere churches throughout New Zealand. In 1883, Clere was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church. His Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), in Wellington, (Category I), is an outstanding example of his work - this Church was built in reinforced concrete. Other examples of Clere's timber churches -these examples are all in the Manawatu District and include St John's Anglican Church - Fielding (1882); St Agnes, Kiwitea, (1890), St Michaels and All Angels, Stanway, (1895), Category II, St Andrews, Colyton, (1896), and St Pauls, Cheltenham, (1904), Category II. All these churches are typical of first generation church in country districts. Clere designed about 100 churches altogether, first in timber, and, later in brick and reinforced concrete. Clere was also responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings, including the design of large woolsheds in Hawke's Bay and in the Wairarapa.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Place Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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

St Thomas' was the first "daughter" church of the Taradale Anglican parish. It was built on a section donated by George Rymer, one of Napier's early transport pioneers, at a cost of 344 pounds 16 shillings and sixpence. The then Bishop of Waiapu, the Rt. Rev. Edward Stuart

officially opened the church on May 26 1887. The Daily Telegraph reported that the opening ceremony was an elaborate affair and the service was preceded by tea in a nearby schoolroom - three tables arranged the whole length of the room which were exceedingly well supplied with the requisites for such an occasion by Taradale Bakers, Messrs Montieth and Jeffares. Later in the church, some of the large congregation were obliged to stand (the Church only having seats for 80 people), and the Bishop preached on the enormity of the sin of being an atheist.

In her book, "Muskets and Marshes", The History of Meeanee, The Land, The People, The School, (1995), Laraine Knight records that in April 1899 Mrs Highley was thanked by the Church for her successful canvass in connection with procuring an organ for St Thomas' Church,

Meeanee and that the Vestry had much pleasure in supplementing the money collected in securing the instrument, the cost not to exceed 20 pounds. It is still in the Church today.

The Font and the Belfry date from 1911. The Church had electricity in 1929. In 1948, the cross was given by Sam Parsons and his family in thanksgiving for a good harvest. The cross was blown down in a big storm in 1967. The carved Bishop's chairs remain a mystery. They were said by several Meeanee residents, to be the work of Mrs Florence Peacock, who lived behind the school. The Altar is said to have come from Hukarere College.

As stated earlier, William Colenso preached at St Thomas' in 1891 and again in 1894. William Colenso was ordained deacon to the Anglican Church in 1844. He was born in 1811 in Cornwall, England. He arrived at Paihia in the Bay of Islands in 1834 and the following year printed the first New Zealand book. William Colenso left behind a legacy of outstanding achievements. Within 6 months of his arrival at Paihia, he had mastered the Maori language. He published the New Testament in Maori in 1837. He performed Hawke's Bay's first European marriage in June 1852. He became a founding member of the Hawke's Bay Provincial Council as auditor in 1859 and went on to become a member of the General assembly from 1861 to 1865.

Colenso's achievements are well-recorded in numerous history texts and Napier City pays tribute to Colenso with Colenso Avenue and Colenso High School. He died in 1899, aged 88 and is buried at Napier Cemetery.

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

The St Thomas' Church has been maintained by the All Saints Parish in Taradale and the Church is still used on the first Sunday of each month for a service attended by an average of 25-30 people. It is also used for the occasional wedding and funeral services. An annual Christmas Carol service is held in the Church. Declining congregations and maintenance costs have in recent years prompted the vestry to call on parishioners to consider all options for the Church. Parishioners and others in the community have rallied around to save the church and to celebrate over 100 years of its continued existence in Hawke's Bay. The Church has streetscape appeal and that coupled with its age gives it considerable public esteem.

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

St Thomas' is a very good example of a simple Clere church in a provincial centre. It has the character of the Gothic style adapted to the timber construction and building skills available. There are no stained glass windows in the Church. Although the Church is not as elaborate in detail as the slightly larger Pukehou Church at Te Aute, (Category I), it is nevertheless an important example of a lower cost church building built to serve small communities.

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

An original church, St Thomas' is one of the oldest still being used for Church services in New Zealand. The oldest Church still standing in Hawke's Bay is Christ Church (Anglican) at Pukehou (1859). The St Thomas Church has been very much part of the community development of Meeanee. The esteem that the public has had for the survival of its Church through severe floods and storms that have hit Hawke's Bay over the years and for its continued existence following the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake is evidence in the support that the Anglican Parish of Taradale and the Hawkes' Bay Branch committee of the Trust have for registration of the Church.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Clere, Frederick De Jersey

Clere (1856-1952) was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to R J Withers, a London architect. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Feilding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church; he designed more than 100 churches while he held this position. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction; the outstanding example of his work with this material is the Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), Wellington.

As well as being pre-eminent in church design, Clere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including Wellington's Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store (1891) and Overton in Marton. Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years. He was a member of the Wellington City Council until 1895, and from 1900 a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1887 -

1911 -
Font and belfry added

Information Sources

Knight, 1995

L Knight, 'Muskets and Marshes: The History of Meeanee, the Land, the People, The School', 1995

Other Information

A copy of the original 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.