St Peter's Church (Anglican)

211 Willis Street and Ghuznee Street (State Highway 1), WELLINGTON

Quick links:

St Peter’s Church (Anglican) of Wellington was consecrated in late 1879 and has outstanding architectural significance as a nationally important rendition of the Gothic style executed in timber (kauri). Historically significant as a notable representation of Anglicanism in Wellington and with a lengthy history of social outreach work, this place also has spiritual significance as a long-standing site of worship. Ngāi Tara were the early inhabitants of Wellington, and the harbour was named Te-Whanganui-a-Tara after the rangatira of the same name. In the seventeenth century Ngāti Ira of Hawkes Bay joined Ngāi Tara and extensive intermarriage occurred between the tribes. Their neighbours in the region were Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe. During a period of upheaval in the 1820s and early 1930s following the Pākehā introduction of muskets into te ao Māori, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga migrated south from Taranaki. Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga subsequently moved on and Te Ātiawa kept the fires burning. Systematic Pākehā settlement of the area began in 1840 following the large scale purchasing of land by the British colonising firm the New Zealand Company, which included the church site. The first St Peter’s was built there in 1848. By the mid-1870s population growth necessitated a larger building and a design competition was held; however, the winner died before the drawings were completed and architect Thomas Turnbull took over the project and provided a new design in the popular Gothic style, evidenced in the spire, pinnacle-topped buttresses, and lancet windows. Three memorial stained-glass windows in the sanctuary depicted the life of St. Peter and St. John was memorialised on the south elevation of the nave. A further four stained-glass memorial windows were installed between 1890 and 1923. In 1892 a chancel screen and front porch, both designed by architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, were added. Clere also designed the reredos installed in 1905. St Peter’s has a long history of community outreach work, that began with the provision of primary education and mission services in the nineteenth century. The growing commercialisation of the surrounding neighbourhood and the advent of public transport and the car changed the composition of the congregation, as residential inhabitants of Te Aro moved out to the suburbs. By the 1970s St Peter’s had become ‘a city church with a small residential basis, a significant underprivileged transitory population and a large work-day community which hastened to its suburban retreat every evening and left the city virtually deserted at the weekends’. It had a new focus on social activism and was an early supporter of homosexual law reform and queer rights. In 1967 the vicar Godfrey Wilson delivered a ground-breaking sermon calling for the acceptance of homosexual people that was broadcast live on the National Programme (the predecessor of RNZ National). Today St Peter’s is an affirming church, meaning queer people are welcomed members of the congregation, staff, and clergy. The church has high architectural authenticity and has not been significantly altered. In 1969 the altar was brought forward to the design of Bill Alington, and a spacious basement meeting room was dug out under the east end. In 1997 the entrance was altered internally to the design of Hugh Tennant to create a mediation room and offices. St Peter’s remains a landmark building in the capital city.

St Peter's Church (Anglican), Wellington. Image courtesy of | Paul Le Roy – Minicooperd | 05/12/2015 | Paul Le Roy
St Peter's Church (Anglican), Wellington. Taken from Ghuznee Street. Image courtesy of | Paul Le Roy – Minicooperd | 19/03/2016 | Paul Le Roy
St Peter's Church (Anglican), Wellington. Image courtesy of ©Photographer Alex Efimoff / | Alex Efimoff | 07/12/2015 |



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

3rd March 1982

Date of Effect

3rd March 1982

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 53040 (RT WN22C/572), part of the land described as Legal Road, Wellington Land District and the building known as St Peter’s Church (Anglican) thereon.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 53040 (RT WN22C/572) and Legal Road, Wellington Land District

Stay up to date with Heritage this month