St Margaret's Church

47 Huia Street, Taihape

  • St Margaret's Church, Taihape. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/02/2015.
  • St Margaret's Church, Taihape. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/02/2015.
  • St Margaret's Church, Taihape. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 15/02/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 966 Date Entered 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the church building, its fixtures, fittings and chattels (including original pews, Seddon Memorial font, lecturn, brass plaque memorials, stained glass windows), and land on CT WNF1/99 but excludes the other buildings on the site such as the presbytery at the rear of the church.

City/District Council

Rangitikei District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 13 Blk II Town of Taihape (CT WNF1/99)


Completed in 1902, St Margaret's Church has been a symbol of the continuing history and strength of the Anglican faith in the Taihape township for over 100 years.

In the Rangitikei region, the first official centre of the Anglican Church was St Stephen's, in Marton. Until the late 1880s, when more parishes were established, the vicar, Reverend Towgood, travelled extensively on horseback to bring the Anglican faith to settlers in the outlying settlements. When settlers from Canterbury established what became the township of Taihape (Otaihape) in 1894, vicars from the new parishes of Mangaweka and Hunterville administered to those of the Anglican faith. In 1898, when the government began selling land at Taihape, the first move to establish the town's own parish was made when Town Section 13 was vested in the Anglican Church. Less than three years later Percy Wise Clarkson, Taihape's first resident lay curate, arrived.

Reaching Taihape after a hard day's travelling over rough bridle tracks, Clarkson lamented that he 'felt like Philip being sent into the desert', but he immediately began collecting funds for a church. By the end of the first week he was gratified to find that he had over £100 promised. Clarkson's mentor Reverend R. L. Dove of Hunterville then wrote to the Anglican diocese's architectural firm Clere and Swan, and requested plans for a building of 50 by 28 feet (15.2 by 8.5 metres) to seat 100 people for no more than £200. The plans were completed by John Sidney Swan (1874-1936), who was then acting Chief Draughtsman of the firm. It was the last and grandest church Swan designed before his senior partner, Frederick de Jersey Clere, returned from Britain.

Clarkson began clearing the bush-covered Section 13 in preparation for the church's construction. This took over eight months to achieve, during which bazaars and concerts were held to raise more funds to pay for the church. In addition to working on the site, Clarkson continued to visit and preach in outlying districts, travelling many kilometres over poor bridle tracks. He noted 'I find the work very heavy and the long distances trying, but am in love with it'. In July 1902, three months after Clarkson was ordained a deacon, the contractors Messrs Heald & Co. began work on the timber church. It was completed two months later for a total cost of £474 and its opening was celebrated with three, well-attended services on 10 September 1902.

The church was designed in a simple, Gothic style with a nave and chancel, side aisle, a porch on the west end and a tower in the north that added authority and visibility to the building. The dramatic tower was a copy of one designed by Clere for St Thomas's Church in Newtown (1895), but the well-defined lancet windows and the queen-post roof construction were Swan's own.

As Taihape expanded, numbers attending the small church continued to grow. In 1905, the year after the railway reached the township and Clarkson was ordained as a vicar, Taihape became a separate parochial district of approximately 4000 square miles (10360 square kilometres). In 1909 the church was expanded to accommodate an extra 60 persons and a Norman style tower was erected to accommodate a clergy vestry and baptistry. Memorial windows to the parishioners were installed at the same time and the church was re-dedicated by the bishop.

The church continued to serve its Taihape parishioners until its jubilee in 1974, when concerns were raised over the deteriorating building fabric. Upon receiving architectural advice, it was concluded that the building could be saved. During the restorations, part of the Norman style tower that had been added in 1909 was removed, and general maintenance work was carried out.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Taihape was a bustling railway town with a population of approximately 4000. When the railway was corporatised in 1991, many jobs were lost and the population more than halved. The smaller population could no longer support a stipendiary vicar. Yet the town was determined not to lose its church, and in 2000 it began experimenting with 'mutual ministry'. Mutual ministry, which relies on a team of lay persons to undertake the jobs traditionally carried out by the vicar, has allowed the church to continue to serve the parish of Taihape as a 'depository of memories' and an inspiration to the soul.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Margaret's Church in Taihape is a significant example of the work of the Wellington Architectural firm Clere and Swan. The small, gothic style, timber building is typical of those constructed throughout the North Island of New Zealand in the early twentieth century and provides insight into building styles of the period; yet within this design medium it features techniques peculiar to Clere and Swan - as seen in the elaborate bell tower, and the queen-post ceiling construction. The church's aesthetic value is increased by the addition of various stained glass windows in a range of styles. These include windows installed in 1907 that feature geometric designs, a 'five-light window behind the altar depicting 'Christ the True Vine', and a window designed by Wellington artist Beverley Shore Bennett in 1981. The church is also an important 'depository of memories' for the parish and local Taihape community, and as such has historical importance. It was the first Anglican Church to be constructed in the township and has represented the spiritual strength of the church in the area for over a century. The parish has fought against the closure of the church when the economic hardship reduced the number of residents in Taihape and continues to hold the building in high esteem.

a, c, e, g, h

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

St Margaret's Church is representative of the numerous, small, timber churches constructed throughout New Zealand in the Gothic style in the early twentieth-century. It demonstrates the importance of religion to the early settler community and the size and style of the building provides insight into the nature of the community which caused it to be constructed.

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

The church is a representative example of the religious buildings constructed throughout New Zealand by the Anglican church in fledgling towns. Despite some alterations over the period of its history, the church remains in a condition sufficiently close to its original design to provide insight into the building styles in the early twentieth-century.

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

The Church is held in high esteem by the local community. This has been demonstrated by the continuing use of the building for over a century, and by the measures used to keep the church alive, despite issues caused by the decreased population in the town.

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

The church is a good example of the work of the Wellington architectural firm Clere and Swan. Although the design was composed by Swan, it exhibits traits of both partners' favoured techniques and styles.

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

The church is a symbol of the development of the Anglican parish in Taihape and its continuing strength over the past century in which it has remained in use.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Swan, John Sydney

Swan (1874-1936) practised architecture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He formed part of the last group of architects to follow the traditional Gothic and Classical styles. He was articled to Frederick de Jersey Clere, working with Clere on many major designs such as the Wellington Rowing Club building (then known as the Naval Artillery Boat Shed, 1894) as well as smaller provincial buildings such as the Church of the Good Shepherd, Tinui. The firm was known as Clere, Fitzgerald and Richmond and was one of the most prominent architectural practices in Wellington. From 1901 to 1906 Swan was in partnership with Clere, practising on his own account from 1907. The first major design produced by Swan in this new practice was the Karori Crematorium (1907) which served to establish his architectural identity separate from Clere.

During his long and varied career Swan produced a large and wide range of work, including a number of banks for the National Bank such as the head office building in Wellington (1907), educational buildings for the Wellington Technical College with William Gray Young (1922), and a number of major buildings for the Catholic Church including St Gerard's Church, Mt Victoria (1910), Sacred Heart Convent (later Erskine College), Island Bay (1909), and Wanganui Convent (1912). He was an architect of imagination as evidenced by the design of his own house 'The Moorings', Glenbervie Terrace (1905).

Messrs Heald & Co.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Located adjacent to St Mary's Catholic Church and overlooking a green farming valley, St Margaret's Church is perched near the crest of Huia Street in Taihape. The body of the church is based around a simple, rectangular plan. On the south side there are two entrance porches and an elaborate bell tower, which add interest and grandeur to the structure. Clad in rusticated weatherboards, the building has a steeply pitched roof of corrugated iron, whose slope is mimicked in the roofs over the entrance porches. On the eastern wall a five-paned, stained glass lancet window allows light into the chancel, while the body of the church is lit by regularly spaced, lancet windows in stained glass. The rear of the church features a new toilet block extension which reaches the same height as the entrance porches, and the remnants of the once gracious Norman style tower, now shortened to match the height of the church roof. Rectangular windows allow light into the western end of the building. The interior features timber panelling arranged in a tongue and groove pattern to the height of the dado, with a scalloped board and batten pattern above. A simple cornice with trefoil detail demarcates the walls from the tongue and groove timber ceiling. The ceiling is of queen-post construction, and the timber trusses are a feature of the church. The chancel is raised and includes a 25-pipe organ and a carved altar with grape and trefoil motif.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1902 -
Construction completed

1909 -
Norman style tower constructed to accommodate clergy vestry upstairs and baptistery below. New porch entrance added. Nave extended.

1923 -
New porch entrance

1949 -
Choir stalls shortened

1956 -
Church re-piled

1956 -
Upper storey of Norman tower removed. West wall covered over with fibrolite sheeting.

1964 -
Chancel screen removed

1978 -
Church re-piled, building re-roofed.

1978 -
Sub-floor timbers replaced, fibrolite sheeting removed, some weatherboards replaced, choir vestry relined.

1978 -
Baptistery removed; new porch, entrance canopy, steps constructed. Clergy vestry doors replaced, new sink installed.

1994 -
Bathroom incorporated into rear of structure

Construction Details

The church is constructed around a native timber frame and is clad in native timber rusticated weatherboards. The roof is made of corrugated iron (last replaced 1978). The church stands on concrete piles, sub-floor radiate pine framing, and native timber boards (last replaced 1978). The interior walls and floor are also made from native timbers. The floor in the main body of the church is carpeted, and linoleum covers the floors of the utility areas.

Completion Date

8th September 2004

Report Written By

Rebecca O'Brien

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

P. Clarkson, 'Parochial Journal in connection with Saint Margaret's Parish Church, Taihape, New Zealand, commenced work September 14 1901, MS Papers 2199/1

Doole, 2002

M. Doole & Others, St Margaret's Anglican Church, Taihape, 1892-2002, Taihape, 2002

Green, 1977

D. Green, St Margaret's Anglican Church, Taihape, 75 Years 1902-1977, Taihape, 1977

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT F1/99, Wellington Registry

Maclean, 2003

S. Mclean, Architect of the Angels; the churches of Frederick de Jersey Clere, Wellington, 2003

Robertson, 1995

D. Robertson, 1894-199 ...give me Taihape on a Saturday night, Waikanae, 1995

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the Central Region of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

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.