Wesleyan Chapel (Former)

8A Pitt Street, Auckland

  • Wesleyan Chapel.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7752 Date Entered 27th June 2008

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

The registration includes all of the land in CT NA24A/156 (as shown on Map A in Appendix 3 of the Registration Report) and the building, its fixtures and fittings thereon but excludes the roof sign. The registration also encompasses the low concrete wall (excluding the hoarding), the formal entrance structure as located within the southern section of the front boundary with Pitt Street including the linkage to the main building.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 67021 (CT NA24A/156), North Auckland Land District

Summaryopen/close

Believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand, the Wesleyan Chapel (Former) was constructed in 1859 or 1860 on a prominent ridge-top location in Pitt Street, Auckland. Previous Maori features in the vicinity included trackways (Te Tarapounamu and Te Ara o Karangahape) on the Karangahape and Hobson Street ridges. Although Wesleyan Methodism had begun in New Zealand in 1822 as a missionary endeavour, the faith soon became established in settler society as formal colonisation began. The first Wesleyan gatherings in Auckland took place in 1841, soon after the town's founding as colonial capital. In 1843 the earliest purpose-built chapel was erected. The Wesleyans were the largest of several groups of Methodists in nineteenth-century New Zealand, actively promoting self-improvement through education as well as Christian teaching. In August 1859, they purchased the Pitt Street site for a combined schoolroom and place of worship as part of an expansion into increasingly populated neighbourhoods. By the early 1860s, the new building accommodated the largest roll of any Wesleyan school in the colonial urban centre, with over 100 pupils.

The new structure was rectangular in plan, with a simple gabled roof. It was erected using permanent materials, incorporating brick walls and a slate roof. Although most other chapels of the time were built of timber, brick and slate were commonly used for Wesleyan churches in nineteenth-century Britain. Believed to have been designed by the prolific Auckland architect James Wrigley (1837?-1882), the new structure adopted a distinctive Gothic Revival style in contrast to the predominantly Georgian architecture of earlier Wesleyan chapels in the upper North Island. Gothic Revival was controversial among many Wesleyans for its associations with high-church Anglicanism, and it may have been adopted later in Auckland than by similar congregations in some other parts of New Zealand. Soon enlarged by the addition of a porch and a timber annex, the chapel nevertheless proved too small. It closed following the completion of the nearby Pitt Street Church in 1865-66 which subsequently became the focal point for Auckland Methodism. In 1873, the chapel was purchased by the United Methodist Free Church, a group that reunited with the larger Wesleyan Church in 1896.

The building was subsequently used as a meeting hall by the Star of Auckland Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) American Order. Friendly Societies such as the Odd Fellows provided valuable benefits in the days before state health care and were important social centres. The building was extended eastward and provided with a formal entrance bearing the symbol of the IOOF - a three link chain representing friendship, love and truth. The building also became the home and meeting house of Auckland's first spiritualist society, the Auckland Society for Spiritual Progress (later the Auckland Branch of the Spiritualist Church of New Zealand). This was formed and led by the prominent New Zealand spiritualist pioneer Elizabeth Harris (1852/1853?-1942), who was outspoken in support of political reform and the role of women as guardians of morality. Spiritualist connections with the chapel endured until the late 1920s, while the IOOF did not end its ownership until 1990. The nearly 150 year-old former brick chapel now functions as private commercial premises (2008).

The former Wesleyan Chapel is considered to have outstanding architectural significance as what is believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand. It is also believed to be the earliest surviving Wesleyan church designed in the Gothic Revival style in any New Zealand main centre. It is of special historical value for its connections with the development of early settler religion in Auckland, and the role of Methodism in particular. It also has considerable importance for its links with early colonial schooling. Its historical value extends to reflecting the role of Spiritualism and Friendly Societies in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century New Zealand society. The former chapel is spiritually and socially significant as a place of education, worship and social gathering for 130 years.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) has historical value for its association with the development of Methodism in New Zealand (the Wesleyan Church and the United Methodist Free Church) as an early place of worship. The former Chapel (1859 or 1860) is of special historical significance as the oldest surviving Wesleyan building and the second oldest surviving church building in the colonial capital of Auckland, providing a special insight into the early development of settler religion and Methodism in particular. It also has historical value as what is believed to be the earliest Wesleyan church surviving on its original site within the Auckland region, enabling an understanding of its importance within its landscape context.

The place also has particular historical significance for its early association with the development of day school education during Auckland's provincial period. This potential is enhanced as evidently the oldest surviving school within the colonial capital of Auckland.

Its historical significance also extends to its role as the meeting hall of the Star of Auckland Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for over nine decades and as the home of Auckland's first spiritualist church. It is also historically significant for its association with a prominent New Zealand Christian spiritualist pioneer, Jane Harris.

The building erected in 1859 or 1860 has outstanding architectural significance as what is believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand and the earliest surviving Wesleyan church designed in the Gothic Revival style in any New Zealand main centre. The building also has architectural value for its form as combined chapel and education building. It may also have architectural value as the earliest known surviving ecclesiastical building believed to have been designed by prolific nineteenth-century Auckland architect James Wrigley.

The former Chapel is spiritually and socially significant as a place of education, worship and social gathering for 130 years.

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

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) reflects important and representative aspects of New Zealand's history - including the early development of Methodism in colonial New Zealand, the development of the provincial education system in Auckland prior to provision of universal state school education in 1877, and the role of religion in everyday life. The place also reflects the development of later alternative religious philosophies as represented by the Auckland branch of the Spiritualist Church of New Zealand and the role of religion in the spiritual, social, educational and cultural life of the local community.

The building's extended period of ownership and use by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as a meeting hall reflects the important role of Friendly Societies as social centres and welfare organisations in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century New Zealand, prior to introduction of the Social Security Act 1938.

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

The place is closely associated with prominent New Zealand spiritualist pioneer Jane Harris who was actively involved in the establishment of a number of spiritualist groups nationally. It was the home and place of worship of the Auckland's first Spiritualist Church.

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

The place may be associated with archaeological deposits linked with its construction and use as an early chapel and school. It incorporates early colonial technology from a period when comparatively few buildings of similar type are known to survive.

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

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is an early example of adoption of a Gothic Revival design for a Wesleyan building in the Auckland context and appears to reflect the different trajectory of development of the style in that denomination's architecture, compared with Wellington further south where the style had been adopted a decade earlier in the Manners Street church. The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is probably the earliest surviving brick church in New Zealand and the earliest surviving Wesleyan church designed in the Gothic Revival style in any New Zealand main centre.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

The building was erected within two decades of the founding of Auckland as a colonial settlement. It is believed to be one of Auckland's earliest educational buildings, is the earliest surviving Methodist chapel or church in the colonial city and a very early survival nationally.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is a significant part of a wider historical and cultural complex in the Pitt Street area, which includes a number of significant historic structures, including the Higher Thought Temple at the corner of Union Street and Wiremu Place (NZHPT Register # 4540, Category II historic place), St James Church (Presbyterian) in Beresford Street (NZHPT Register # 117, Category I historic place), the Pitt Street Methodist Church (NZHPT Register # 626, Category II historic place), the Pitt Street Buildings (NZHPT Register # 625, Category II historic place) and the Naval and Family Hotel at the corner of Pitt Street and Karangahape Road.

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is recommended for Category I registration as a place of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage value because:

It is believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand and the earliest surviving Wesleyan church of Gothic Revival design in any New Zealand main centre;

It is the oldest surviving Wesleyan building and the second oldest surviving church building within the colonial capital of Auckland, providing a special insight into the early development of settler religion and Methodism in particular;

It appears to be the oldest surviving school within the colonial capital of Auckland.

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Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wrigley, James (1838 - 1882)

James Wrigley (1837?-1882) was born in Huddersfield, England. He served his articles with the firm of Pritchett and Sons of York, Huddersfield and Darlington, said to have been the leading firm in the North of England. After arriving in Auckland in 1859, he is reported to have erected many of the largest buildings in Auckland Province. Wrigley served for many years on the Auckland City Council, and was chairman of the Remuera and Newmarket Highway Board on several occasions. He was also the last elected member of the Provincial Council in New Zealand, although he did not take up his seat due to the Council’s subsequent abolition.

Structures built to Wrigley’s design include St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Howick (1872), Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Waiuku (1873) and the Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul, Puhoi (1881). He is also believed to have designed the Wesleyan Chapel in Pitt Street (c.1860) and the Anglican Church of St Mathias, Panmure (1866). An elite merchant’s house at 29 Princes Street known as Hamurana (1876) is his work, as is the original portion of Carrington Hospital (1865) and substantial additions to the Northern Club in 1870. Wrigley's work in North Auckland included additions to the Waiwera Hotel (1880). He was also responsible for several cottages in Dargaville.

Source: Registration Report for D. Graham and Company's Building (Former), May 2014

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

METHODISM IN EARLY AUCKLAND:

The chapel on Pitt Street was erected in 1859 or 1860 as part of an expanding Wesleyan Methodist ministry in Auckland. It was commonly referred to as the Hobson Street or 'Pitt and Vincent Street' chapel to distinguish it from the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church erected nearby in 1865-1866.

The Methodist church in New Zealand began in 1822 as a missionary organisation devoted to spreading Christianity among Maori. Following the advent of formal colonisation in the 1840s, however, it also increasingly catered to European settlers. Methodism is said to have flourished among early colonists because it had a tradition of using understandable language, and was unpretentious and democratic. From the 1840s until 1900, about ten percent of New Zealand's population was Methodist. The faith remains the country's fourth largest religious denomination.

During the nineteenth century, New Zealand Methodists were divided into several main groups, of which the Wesleyans were the largest. Auckland was a major epicentre for Wesleyanism in the early colonial period, with the Wesleyan Missionary Society having previously established a presence among Maori communities in the surrounding area. The first Wesleyan gatherings in Auckland were held in 1841, soon after the establishment of the settlement as the colonial capital of New Zealand. Early services were conducted in temporary accommodation such as the Supreme Court House in Queen Street and a carpenter's shop in Chancery Street. A purpose-built timber chapel was erected in High Street in 1843 as the main place of worship for Auckland Wesleyans. Five years later, this was replaced by a more permanent brick structure of Georgian design, also on the High Street site.

Auckland was the administrative base for the New Zealand Wesleyan mission from 1843 until 1854. In that year, the British Methodists created the new Conference of Australasia, which included two mission areas in New Zealand. By 1866 the Northern Wesleyan District, of which Auckland was head, included the entire North Island. The Southern District was administered from Christchurch.

Wesleyan expansion in Auckland occurred in the 1840s but evidently increased from the mid 1850s. By 1866, there were eight Wesleyan places of worship in Auckland and its suburbs. A mission church for Maori had been built in Parliament Street, on Constitution Hill overlooking Official Bay in 1848. A small stone church at New North Road served Kingsland from 1853, to be replaced by a larger timber church on a nearby site in 1858. A chapel was erected in Parnell in 1856-1857. The following year a schoolroom was built in Union Street, Freemans Bay and doubled as a place for worship, a precedent for the brick building constructed in 1859 or 1860 in nearby Pitt Street.

Wesleyan churches were also established in outlying settlements. In addition to a place of worship at Epsom, chapels had been established at Onehunga, Otahuhu, Howick and Mangere by 1856. A high number of the inhabitants of these four 'Fencible' settlements, established to guard the southern approaches to Auckland, were of Wesleyan faith.

As part of its self-help doctrine, the Wesleyan church was also actively involved in establishing schools. Prior to the Education Act of 1877, provision of education fell to the churches and private enterprise. When the new High Street Chapel was opened in 1848, the old chapel alongside it became a school room. In 1850 a Wesleyan College and Seminary opened on Auckland's Queen Street. Initially intended as a proprietary school for the children of Wesleyan missionaries, the institution took boarders from Australia, the Pacific Islands and wider New Zealand. It also catered for day pupils from all denominations in the town.

In 1855, the first Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Conference recommended that the church avail itself of all means to carry out day school education so as not necessarily to exclude any of the protestant community from the benefit of the church's schools. It also saw the Wesleyan church as having a duty to assist to the utmost any system of education that may be established. A Proposed Scheme of Education for the Province of Auckland prepared by five laymen and eight clergymen - three of whom were Wesleyan - was printed in 1856. The following year it passed into law as 'An Act to Promote Education in the Province of Auckland'. By 1862 the Wesleyan church had schools in four locations in the core of the colonial capital, attracting a total of 326 pupils. One of these was the ‘Hobson Street School' accommodated in the recently-built Wesleyan Chapel in Pitt Street, on the Hobson Street ridge.

EARLY HISTORY OF THE SITE:

Maori occupation of the Hobson Street ridge prior to European arrival is uncertain, although a track known as Te Tarapounamu linking Onepanea (Commercial Bay) and Waiatarau (Freemans Bay) is presumed to have crossed the ridge. Further to the south, a track known as Te Ara (the path) o Karangahape was used by food-gathering parties on their way to and from the Manukau Harbour.

After Auckland's colonial streets were laid out, the chapel site occupied a prominent ridge-top location at the junction of Pitt and Vincent Streets. The property was originally part of two Crown Grants (allotments 18 and 21) totalling 2000 m² (half an acre) made in 1844 to Hokianga timber merchant George Frederick Russell (1820-1855). Briefly owned by master mariner Samuel Norman, allotment 21 was purchased in 1848 by James Westwood, a cabinet maker. By the late 1850s, irregular ribbon development had spread the length of Hobson Street, forming the main concentration of housing in the western part of the settlement. As early as 1855, Hobson Street was identified as a Wesleyan preaching place - presumably open air - with services said to have been conducted there from 1859. In August 1859, the Wesleyan Church bought Westwood's land as the site for a combined schoolroom and chapel.

The church trustees named on the deed of purchase were Captain James Stone (1816-1885), Henry White (1814-1868) and the Reverend Isaac Harding (1815-1897). Harding, a member of Auckland's Wesleyan ministry from 1858 until 1862, subsequently went on to serve in Otago, Wellington and Wanganui. Both Stone and White, who had settled in Auckland in 1841 and 1843 respectively, had strong associations with the building trade. Stone is said to have erected the first two-storey shops in the town, on land he purchased on Shortland Street at the first land sale. In later life he was a director of a number of important companies and corporations. Builder and preacher Henry White undertook construction of a number of Auckland's early brick buildings, including the first St Paul's Anglican Church (completed 1844), the High Street Wesleyan Chapel (1848), Partington's Mill (1850), the Shortland Street Post Office and the Carrington Hospital (both commenced 1865). He was also responsible for the brick and stonework of the nearby Pitt Street Methodist Church (1865-1866).

CONSTRUCTION OF CHAPEL AND EARLY MODIFICATIONS:

Work on the new chapel building at 8A Pitt Street is likely to have begun in either 1859 or 1860. Those employed in constructing the chapel may have included Wilson and Stephenson, who had recently erected a timber Wesleyan chapel in nearby Union Street and were also engaged in early 1860 in the construction of additions to the main Wesleyan chapel in High Street. It is uncertain if either of the trustees, James Stone or Henry White were involved, although White also worked on masonry elements during the 1860 High Street alterations.

Constructed to serve as a combined school room and place of worship, the new building was rectangular in plan, measuring approximately 15 x 7.5 m (50 x 25 feet). Unlike the majority of Nonconformist chapels in and near Auckland at this time which were erected of timber, the structure was built of permanent materials, with brick walls and a slate roof. Brick precedents for the building included two of the more prestigious Wesleyan structures in the early colonial town: the main Wesleyan Chapel in High Street (1848), and the College and Seminary in Queen Street (1850). The use of permanent materials for the smaller Wesleyan Chapel in Pitt Street suggests a desire by the Wesleyan authorities to create a solid and impressive edifice appropriate for a new educational building and place of worship in the heart of the denomination's northern headquarters. The Wesleyans were to adopt the same materials for the subsequent Pitt Street Methodist Church (1865-66), which later became the head of the Auckland circuit.

The design of the building was simple but not entirely plain. It was of a distinctive Gothic Revival style - also a precursor for the appearance of the later Pitt Street Methodist Church. The structure incorporated a steep gabled roof and its main axis walls were divided into four bays by narrow buttresses. Each bay was lit by a lancet-shaped window, the head of which appears to have been highlighted by lighter-coloured brick or plaster dressing. The windows themselves contained rudimentary tracery in their upper sections. A quatrefoil window or vent was included near the apex of the building's southern gable.

The Gothic Revival appearance of the building contrasted with the strong Georgian influences of Auckland's first brick Wesleyan chapel built in 1848 and timber chapels such as those at Onehunga and Mangere (constructed by 1856). Gothic Revival was initially controversial in Wesleyan circles due to its association with pre-Reformation history and its promotion as an architectural style by high-church Anglicanism. Early Gothic religious structures in Auckland included St Paul's Anglican Church (erected in 1841-44) and several commissioned from the mid 1840s by the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, George Selwyn (1809-1878). While some Wesleyan chapels in Auckland during the late 1840s and 1850s incorporated limited Gothic elements such as gabled roofs or individual pointed-arch windows, the Pitt Street chapel represents an adoption of a more complete Gothic Revival design. Retaining strong low-church missionary connections, Wesleyans in Auckland may have been more reluctant to employ full Gothic architecture than Methodist congregations in some other parts of New Zealand, possibly reflecting different trajectories in the development of the style in separate provincial centres. Further south in the Wakefield Company settlements of Wellington and New Plymouth, Wesleyan congregations appear to have adopted full Gothic Revival at a significantly earlier date, as evidenced by Wellington's Manners Street Church constructed in 1850 and the Liardet Street Church in New Plymouth, built in 1856.

The Pitt Street Chapel is believed to have been designed by Auckland architect James Wrigley (1837?-1882). If so, it is likely to be his earliest surviving ecclesiastical building in New Zealand. Wrigley evidently arrived in Auckland with his family in the late 1850s, and set up practice after previously serving his articles with an architect in New York. Other surviving churches to his design include St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Howick (1872), Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Waiuku constructed a year later, and the Roman Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul, Puhoi (1881). He is also believed to have designed the Anglican Church of St Mathias, Panmure (1866). An elite merchant's house at 29 Princes Street known as Hamurana (1876) is his work, as is the original portion of Carrington Hospital (1865) and substantial additions made to the Northern Club in 1870. One of Wrigley's earliest commissions in Auckland appears to have been modifications to a Primitive Methodist church in early 1860, at a similar time to construction of the chapel in Pitt Street.

Although the date of the Pitt Street chapel's completion is not known, the building may have been in use by the end of 1860. Mr and Mrs Hedgecock started as teachers at the Pitt Street School, having arrived in Auckland on 17 January 1860. By 1862, the institution was of considerable significance as the largest of four Wesleyan schools in the city, with a roll of 100. Pupils are likely to have received tuition in reading, writing, spelling, composition, English grammar, geography, English history, ancient history and arithmetic, as teachers receiving government subsidised salaries - as in the case of Pitt Street - were required to be certified in these subjects. Apart from religious services, spiritual uses extended to prayer meetings including one advertised in January 1862. The building was also the home of the Pitt Street Sunday School, described in December 1863 as having been founded three years earlier.

By 1866 the building had been enlarged by the addition of an entrance porch and a timber annex. This work may have been carried out as early as 1861. In spite of the additions, the premises quickly proved too small as Auckland's population expanded westwards from Queen Street. A one-acre site was purchased further south along Pitt Street for the express purpose of building a larger place of worship which accommodated a large school room in its basement. On 15 November 1865, a procession assembled at the Pitt Street Chapel and progressed up the street for the laying of a corner stone for the new church. The new place of worship later referred to as ‘the Cathedral of Auckland Methodism' formally opened on 14 October 1866. The Pitt Street Chapel closed, but was not sold for some years.

In order to capitalise on the potential of the old chapel including its broader site at the corner of Pitt, Hobson and Vincent Streets, the church trustees had conveyed the property to Thomas Russell (1830-1904) in May 1861 for five shillings. Russell was a member of the High Street congregation and an acknowledged leader of Auckland's business community. Over the following decade he subdivided allotment 21 into four lots. Two were sold to individuals who were butchers by trade. The third was bought by a grocer. The residue of the old chapel site, which retained frontages to both Pitt and Vincent Streets, was transferred back to the chapel trustees in 1867.

USE BY THE UNITED METHODIST FREE CHURCH:

The brick chapel, which had proved difficult for the Wesleyan Church to dispose of, was purchased in January 1873 by the United Methodist Free Church (UMFC). The UMFC was one of four branches of the Methodist Church in existence in New Zealand prior to 1896. The four were identical in doctrine and overlapped and intermingled freely. The UMFC had been formed in England in 1856. It comprised various secessions that had occurred within Wesleyanism in the Midlands between 1827 and 1851. The secessionists sought more democratic forms of church government.

The UMFC had come to New Zealand in 1860 when layman George Booth formed a society in Rangiora. In 1864 the first minister arrived and established the connexion in Christchurch. The New Zealand UMFC was constituted a separate district in 1875. Its main following was in Canterbury, but there was also a significant presence in Wellington and Hawke's Bay.

On 7 July 1872 a meeting was held in Auckland with the intention of forming a branch of the UMFC there. A Reverend G.H. Turner appointed by the Church in England as the UMFC minister for that city had set sail for New Zealand in May. The ‘brick chapel at the top of Hobson-street' was one of three venues considered as a potential place of worship. However, the inaugural services of 3 November were conducted in the YMCA's rooms. When an arrangement to purchase the former Union Street school room fell through, the ‘much too small' brick chapel at Pitt Street became the UMFC place of worship. Soon afterwards, a larger timber chapel accommodating 400 was constructed on the eastern section of the site and opened for divine service on Sunday 28 December 1873. From February 1873, the brick chapel was let as a school and in 1887 later accommodated an infant day school. From January 1874 the building was also let on a quarterly basis to the Good Templars Lodge for weekly meetings.

Early members of the UMFC congregation included boot-maker George Hemus, grocers Joseph Warren and Walter Graham, brick-maker Bernard Keane, blacksmith James Johnstone, coachbuilder Charles Atkin, seed and grain merchant James Coupland, and Samuel Parker, a plumber. Coupland was active in the Freeman's Bay Mission which had been established in 1860. Parker was a founder of the Helping Hand Mission which had evolved out of the earlier mission in 1884. Both men were also strong supporters of temperance and the prohibition of alcohol.

The UMFC's expansion in New Zealand was precluded by the presence of the larger Wesleyan Church. When it reunited with the Wesleyans in 1896, nationally the UMFC had 23 churches and six other teaching places. The Pitt Street chapel closed on 31 December 1896 and its congregation and minister were incorporated into the Pitt Street circuit.

PURCHASE BY THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS:

In October 1897 the building on a slightly reduced site, was purchased for use as a meeting hall by the Star of Auckland Lodge a body of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) American Order. Friendly societies such as the Odd Fellows provided valuable benefits - usually a sickness benefit and death benefit and the services of a doctor with medicines prescribed free of cost. They were also important social centres. At times Odd Fellows halls provided a venue for meetings conducted by groups with alternative spiritual beliefs to the mainstream churches.

The IOOF was distantly related to the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows (MUIOOF), both having a common ancestry in the Odd Fellows Order of mid eighteenth-century England. California's first IOOF lodge was founded in 1849. It was this lodge that is likely to have led to the introduction of the American Order into New Zealand when gold miners from Australia's Victoria goldfields, some of whom had come from California, flocked to the rush in Central Otago. New Zealand's first IOOF lodge was formed in Dunedin in August 1862. The Grand Lodge of New Zealand was instituted the following year. Nineteen subordinate lodges had been established by the end of 1881.

The Star of Auckland Lodge with 79 members was registered in August 1881, but at that time had neither hall nor land. It purchased the Pitt Street premises in October 1897. Around this time or a few months before, the timber chapel building (1873) was removed from the site and re-erected in Coromandel. The Pitt Street IOOF Hall also appears to have become the home of the Myrtle Rebekah Lodge No. 4, a women's IOOF order, and the meeting place of the Alpha Juvenile Lodge, No. 1. Women's lodges had first appeared in the 1890s, their members often young unmarried women who earned their own living and who - like men - wanted the financial support that lodge membership offered.

During the following decade, the former chapel was extended by an addition along the length of its east wall. A formal entrance and hallway was built at the south end of the Pitt Street boundary at an oblique angle to the building. Standing proud of the main structure, the small entrance wing provided access to the hall through a recessed round-arch doorway. The symbol of the IOOF which was known as the ‘three link fraternity', was worked in plaster on the triangular pediment above the entrance. Identifying the building as a lodge hall, the three links represented friendship, love and truth - the tenets of the order. The exterior brick walls of the hall were probably plastered as part of this work and hood mouldings added above the building's window and door openings.

USE AS A SPIRITUALIST MEETING HOUSE (1897-1920s):

The enlarged building was regularly used by a spiritualist group over the following two decades. In 1897 the Star of Auckland lodge hall had become the home and meeting house of Auckland's first spiritualist society and remained a meeting place for spiritualists into the late 1920s.

Spiritualism, the first alternative spiritual movement to sweep the country, had appeared in Otago during the 1860s. The Auckland-based Spiritualist Investigation Association had been formed around 1876, and in the early 1880s the Wellington Association of Spiritualists emerged. These groups were information circles and quasi-religious associations offering facilities for lectures and mediumship. Fully fledged spiritualist churches and denominations came into being in New Zealand, as elsewhere, around the turn of the century.

The Auckland Society for Spiritual Progress was formed in 1897 by Christian spiritualist Jane Elizabeth Harris (1852/1853?-1942) a prominent spiritualist pioneer in New Zealand. The Society, which later became the Auckland Branch of the Spiritualist Church of New Zealand, had the Pitt Street Odd Fellows hall as its permanent home until the late 1920s. In the years following 1897 Harris, who spoke out in support of political reform and the role of women as guardians of morality, helped to establish a number of spiritualist groups throughout the country and became known as ‘The Mater'. The National Association of Spiritualists was formed in 1907 and by special act of Parliament in 1924 became the Spiritualist Church of New Zealand, partly in order to avoid the possibility of denunciation of its mediums, with potential prosecutions under the Crimes and Police Offences Act on charges of ‘witchcraft', ‘fortune telling' and or ‘fraudulence'. In 1938, the Auckland Branch of the Spiritualist Church of New Zealand amalgamated with the Newmarket-based Progressive Church of Spiritualists, now The Spiritualist Alliance (Auckland).

ONGOING USE AS AN ODD FELLOWS HALL (1897 to 1990):

Beyond the additions carried out on the hall during the first decade of the IOOF's nine-decade ownership, few alterations were made. The building was underpinned in 1910 and an addition was constructed in 1937 to accommodate a kitchen. Introduction of the Social Security Act in 1938 preceding the Second World War (1939-1945) caused membership of friendly societies such as the IOOF to fall drastically. The kitchen addition constructed in the 1930s was demolished prior to subdivision and the sale of a small lot with frontage to Vincent Street in 1972. Unspecified upgrading work carried out on the building in 1969 appears to have included alteration of the windows on the west wall by the removal of the tracery and small glass panes, and the replacement or covering of the slate roof with corrugated iron. The IOOF ultimately sold the property in 1990. The Star of Auckland Lodge itself, however, is still extant.

SUBSEQUENT USE:

The building was purchased by private owners in 1990 and occupied by Art Barn Picture Framers from 1993 until 2005. At this time the building still retained its main internal hall. It was not clear whether internal linings had survived, some of the interior having been lined with shiplap timber. The flooring was of relatively narrow timber boards. A deep timber ledge of uncertain age ran along the hall's south (rear) wall and may have originally served as seating and storage.

The property was subsequently bought by fashion designers Denise L'Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper, founders of leading New Zealand fashion label ‘World'. It is understood that the interior of the building has been refurbished for use as a studio and office premises. Security grilles and gates have been installed over door and window openings.

The building is currently believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand and the earliest Wesleyan church designed in the Gothic Revival style to survive in any of the country's main urban centres. In an Auckland context, it now stands as the oldest surviving Wesleyan building in the colonial town, which was once the administrative headquarters of the Northern Wesleyan Mission District. It also appears to be the earliest surviving purpose-built educational building in the colonial city, and is the second-oldest surviving church building in the colonial capital.

Physical Description

Designer/ architect: Believed to be James Wrigley (1837?-1882)

Builder/ maker: Possibly Wilson and Stephenson

Current physical condition: Believed to be moderately good

CONTEXT:

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) lies in the western part of Auckland's Central Business District, in a block bordered by Hobson, Cook, Vincent and Pitt Streets. The seven irregularly-shaped and irregularly-sized lots within the Pitt Street frontage of the block are occupied by an enclave of small buildings not more than two storeys high. These buildings range in age from the mid-to-late nineteenth century to circa 1930. Spaces between the structures allow appreciation of some of the individual buildings 'in the round', affording insights into their construction methods, materials and evolution of uses.

The former chapel building occupies a small trapezium-shaped site on the northern side of the short block between Hobson and Vincent Street. It is a familiar landmark to those travelling southeast along Union Street, and to motorists entering the northwest or southern motorways at Hobson Street.

There are a number of heritage buildings in the vicinity of the former Chapel, including the Higher Thought Temple in Union Street (NZHPT Register # 4540, Category II historic place), St James Church (Presbyterian) in Beresford Street (NZHPT Register # 642, Category I historic place), the former Fire Station in Pitt Street (NZHPT Register # 117, Category I historic place), the Pitt Street Methodist Church (NZHPT Register # 626, Category II historic place), the Pitt Street Buildings (NZHPT Register # 625, Category II historic place) and the Naval and Family Hotel. The latter two buildings are located on the corners of the Pitt Street and Karangahape Road intersection.

THE SITE:

The former chapel occupies the eastern portion of a 405m² site and largely extends to the east, south and north boundaries.

It has a gable roof. The long, west wall, of the rectangular structure faces the street at an angle to the frontage. The front yard slopes up slightly from the street and has been asphalted for car parking. A low masonry wall, the remnant of an earlier fence constructed at an unknown date prior to 1900, supports a tall hoarding that extends some length along the front boundary.

BUILDING:

A formal entrance dating from the late-Victorian-era or slightly after is sited at an oblique angle to the hall and occupies the southern end of the frontage. A narrow, linking structure connects the entrance and the main building. The façade of the entrance is of spartan design and incorporates a hood moulding with label stops over its doorway. On the triangular pediment in plaster relief above the doorway is a three link chain, the emblem of the IOOF.

The main building is constructed of brick and has a more recent cement plaster finish. The roof is corrugated iron. An advertising billboard covers the entire western section of the roof. A lean-to addition extends the length of the east wall. Four buttresses along the west wall, lancet-shaped window openings and a quatrefoil-shaped vent in the south gable end attest to the building's original use as a church schoolroom and chapel. There is an oculus in the north gable of the main structure. A porch with shallow-pitched roof shelters what is now the main entrance, in the north wall of the building.

Observations of the exterior have been made from public land.

COMPARAITIVE EXAMPLES:

Churches and chapels:

Constructed in 1859 or 1860, the Wesleyan Chapel (Former) on Pitt Street is believed to be the oldest surviving brick church in New Zealand. Other surviving brick churches constructed in 1865 or before are the Durham Street Wesleyan Church, Christchurch (NZHPT Register # 3099, Category I historic place) and the Moray Place Congregational Church, Dunedin (NZHPT Register # 2218, Category II historic place) both of which were completed in 1864; and All Saints Anglican Church, Cumberland Street, Dunedin (NZHPT Register # 2136, Category I historic place) completed in 1865. The Pitt Street Methodist Church, Auckland (NZHPT Register # 626, Category II historic place) was built in 1865-66. Brick churches in general appear to have been relatively uncommon in the early colonial period, when the main building materials were either timber or, more occasionally, stone. Of earlier brick churches known to have been built, two Wesleyan chapels constructed in Wellington's Manners and Taranaki Streets in 1844 were destroyed by earthquake in 1848, while a brick Methodist church which opened in Nelson in 1845 was also severely damaged by an earthquake. The brick building constructed in Hardy Street to replace it in 1857 was superseded by a new church consecrated in 1890.

The chapel also appears to be the earliest surviving Wesleyan church designed in the Gothic Revival style in any New Zealand main centre, and is an early survival of a Wesleyan church nationally. Early Methodist or Wesleyan chapels or churches registered by the NZHPT throughout New Zealand include the Methodist Church, Wainuiomata, 1863 (NZHPT Register # 7310, Category II historic place), Durham Street Methodist Church, Christchurch, 1864 (NZHPT Register # 3099, Category I historic place), and the Pitt Street Methodist Church, Auckland, 1866 (NZHPT Register # 626, Category II historic place).

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is the earliest surviving Methodist building in the colonial city of Auckland and one of few surviving buildings dating from the two-and-a half decade era during which Auckland was the colonial capital. Other than St Andrew's Presbyterian Church which was constructed in stone over the period 1847-1850, Auckland's early parent churches - St Paul's Anglican Church in Emily Place (completed 1844), the Wesleyan Chapel in High Street (1848), St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Wyndham Street (1848) and the Baptist Church in Wellesley Street (1862), have all been demolished.

Early surviving churches on the city's eastern fringe are St Stephen's Chapel constructed in Judges Bay in 1857 (NZHPT Register # 22, Category I historic place) and the Church of St John the Baptist (not registered) a Catholic church which dates from 1862 in Parnell Road. Beyond the colonial city are two places of worship built of stone - St James' Church (Anglican), Mangere Bridge (NZHPT Register # 689, Category II historic place) constructed in 1859 and St John's Church, East Tamaki Road (not registered) constructed in 1860 as a private chapel. Throughout the greater Auckland area early surviving ecclesiastical structures are predominantly Anglican churches.

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is one of few early purpose-built Methodist or Wesleyan places of worship in Auckland to survive on its original site. Until recently a small timber Wesleyan Church constructed in 1856, occupied a site at the corner of Westney Road and George Bolt Memorial Drive, Mangere, but was relocated to Nixon Road in 2007. The Wade chapel, considered by most authorities to have been constructed of timber in 1859-1860, is located in the Silverdale Pioneer Village, and the Howick chapel has been relocated to the Howick Historical Village. The Mt Albert Methodist Chapel built in timber in 1866, stands to the rear of current church at 831 Great North Road, (NZHPT Register # 675, Category II historic place) having been moved back to make way for the new building constructed in 1882. Now the transept of the church hall, the early chapel is distinguishable by its form and board and batten cladding.

Schools:

The Wesleyan Chapel (Former) is believed to be the only surviving school building dating to the period when Auckland was colonial capital. There are currently three known early education buildings registered within wider Auckland dating from the first 25 years of the settlement, all commissioned by Bishop Selwyn of the Church of England. The St John the Evangelist Chapel, and the St John the Evangelist College Dining Hall and Waitoa Room at Meadowbank (NZHPT Register # 13 and # 14, Category I historic places) were constructed in 1847 and 1849 respectively. The Melanesian Mission Building (NZHPT Register # 111, Category I historic place) on Tamaki Drive, was constructed in 1859 as part of St Andrew's College established at Mission Bay. These institutions differ from the Wesleyan Chapel (Former) in that the education offered was largely mission-based rather than day school.

Nationally, other early educational buildings registered by the NZHPT are the Whiteley Mission House, a timber structure built in New Plymouth as a school for Maori girls in 1854 (NZHPT Register # 145, Category I historic place); and the Hardy Street Girls' School (Former) a timber building which opened in Nelson in February 1861 (NZHPT Register # 5117, Category I historic place).

Construction Dates

Modification
1969 -
Unspecified - Slate roof replaced or covered with corrugated iron, Window frames modified, Kitchen addition (1936) demolished?

Modification
2006 -
Security grilles added at entrances and windows

Original Construction
1859 - 1860

Addition
-
Entrance porch (South side), Timber annex (East side)

Addition
-
Extension to east and south - Formal entrance built at front boundary

Modification
-
Exterior plastered

Modification
1910 -
Building underpinned

Addition
1936 -
Kitchen

Construction Details

Rendered brick, corrugated iron roof.

Completion Date

26th May 2008

Report Written By

Martin Jones and Joan McKenzie

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Swarbrick, Nancy, 'Harris, Jane Elizabeth 1852/1853?-1942', updated 7 April 2006, http://www.dnzb.govt.nz

Ellwood, 1993

Robert S. Ellwood, Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New Zealand, Hawaii, 1993.

Gourlay, 1942

Henry William Gourlay, Odd Fellowship in New Zealand: A Century of Progress, Wellington, 1942

Hames, 1970

Eric Hames, 100 Years in Pitt Street: A Brief History of the Pitt Street Methodist Church, Auckland, 1970

Hames, 1972

Eric Hames, Out of the Common Way: The European Church in the Colonial Era 1840-1913, Auckland, 1972

Morley, 1900

Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

16 November 1865, p.5(3)

Phillipps, 2006

Donald Phillipps,Companion to William Morley's History of Methodism in New Zealand, Auckland, 2006

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration Report is available from the NZHPT Northern Regional 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.