St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican)

13 Camden Street and Church Street, FEILDING

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St John the Evangelist Church is the 'first important church' of eminent New Zealand architect Frederick de Jersey Clere (1856-1952) and the earliest remaining example of his work. It was constructed in Feilding for the Anglican community in 1882. When Feilding was founded in 1874, the Emigrant and Colonists Aid Corporation set land aside for a church. Until the church could be completed, services were held initially in the Manchester Street School building and later in the Immigration Barracks in Beattie Street. In 1879 the Corporation offered to donate more land for the church so that the land originally reserved for the purpose could be sold and the funds contributed towards the erection of the building. Further funds were raised from subscriptions and a 'fancy fair', allowing the Church Building Committee to commission architect Frederick de Jersey Clere to design a church to the value of £600. The son of an Anglican clergyman, Clere was born in Lancashire, England and immigrated to New Zealand in 1877 when he was 21 years old. Clere had trained as an architect from the age of 16 and by the time he moved to Feilding in 1879 he had already been commissioned to design two small churches, one of which was completed after St John's. The other has since been demolished. The church at Feilding was Clere's first major commission and was described by Clere as his 'first important church'. Less than a year after the completion of the Feilding Church, Clere became the chief architect for the Wellington Anglican Diocese. He designed over 100 churches in this capacity and is highly regarded for his success in marrying European architectural styles to New Zealand conditions. Clere's design for the Feilding Church reflects both the trends then prevalent in church design and the development of Clere's personal architectural style. Clere adopted the Victorian Free Gothic style used in church buildings throughout New Zealand. His design was based on the shape of the cross and made extensive use of the narrow windows and pointed arches associated with the Gothic style. At the western end of the Church, Clere incorporated an 18 metre-high (60 foot) bell tower. The barrel vaulted roof was based on a design developed by Clere while he was an apprentice in London. Clere designed the church to seat 350 persons and, at an estimated cost of £600, was proudly referred to by its architect 'the cheapest church' that he knew of. It was constructed entirely from native timbers and Clere noted that he 'made no attempt to copy a stone building, but used my ideas of what wooden construction should be'. A simple, economical and elegant example of the Victorian Gothic style, the Feilding Church embodies the principles that Clere would apply to the majority of his ecclesiastical designs throughout his career. The contract to erect the Church was assigned in 1880 to William Dennis Nicholas, a member of the church and former Churchwarden. Due to a mistake in his tender, Nicholas was unable to erect the spire on the church but the remainder of the building was completed in just over four months. The Church, officially named 'St John the Evangelist' was consecrated by the then Bishop of Wellington, Octavius Hadfield (1814-1904) on 15 February 1882. When opened for service the church was unpainted, there were few memorials, and the windowpanes were made of plain frosted glass. The building has since acquired stained glass windows and several memorials. It also features a carved reredos with emblems made of oak that was acquired from the Dunblane Cathedral in Scotland (thirteenth century) during its 1889 renovations. The building continues to serve the Anglican community of Feilding and, apart from alterations to the roof, the building remains true to Clere's design specifications and is in excellent condition. The Church of St John the Evangelist is of national significance for its intimate association with Frederick de Jersey Clere, an architect of considerable importance in New Zealand. As Clere's 'first important church' and the earliest surviving example of his work, the Church of St John the Evangelist offers a unique insight into his talents as an architect. Together with Clere's written material, the building provides important insights into the design philosophies that distinguish the architect's work. The Gothic-style, timber church is also noteworthy as an example of the churches constructed throughout New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. The Church of St John the Evangelist has strong spiritual significance as an enduring place of worship and is a continuing symbol of the Anglican Church in Feilding.

St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding | J Barnes-Wylie | 09/10/2022 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding | J Barnes-Wylie | 09/10/2022 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding. 2012. Image courtesy of Helen Smith Evenstar Photography | Helen Smith | Helen Smith
St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding | J Barnes-Wylie | 09/10/2022 | Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding. Interior 2012. Image courtesy of Helen Smith Evenstar Photography | Helen Smith | Helen Smith
St John the Evangelist Church (Anglican), Feilding. c.1910 Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image. | Frederick George Radcliff (1863-1923) | Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

6th June 1990

Date of Effect

6th June 1990

City/District Council

Manawatū District


Horizons (Manawatū-Whanganui) Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 183A DP 19 (RT WN145/140), Wellington Land District

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