St James' Church and Clark Sunday School Hall (Presbyterian)

78-80 Tiverton Street and Stromness Street, PALMERSTON


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From a prominent site on Tiverton Street, St James’ Presbyterian Church, built in 1876, and the Clark Sunday School Hall, built in 1905, overlook the township of Palmerston on one side and the rolling hills of its parish on the other. The district’s Presbyterian flock was first incorporated into the parish of ‘Port Chalmers and the North’ in 1858. In 1863 a new parish was created with Goodwood at its centre. It soon became, clear, however, that Palmerston was to be the centre of settlement and in 1864 the congregation moved to the new township. The first Presbyterian church was opened on Gilligan Street in 1865. The arrival of Rev. James Clark in 1871 saw the congregation increase to such an extent that a bigger church was required. A prime section on Tiverton Street was gifted to the congregation in 1875. Prominent Dunedin architect David Ross (1827-1908) designed a sizeable Gothic Revival Church. The main material was local Waihemo stone, which soon weathered to a soft ginger hue. The Church was opened in December 1876. In 1903 Margaret Monro Clark, widow of Rev. Clark, offered to fund half the cost of a Sunday School Hall. Her offer was accepted and prominent architect John Burnside (1856-1920) designed the new hall. In May 1905 the Clark Sunday School Hall was officially opened. Small modifications occurred over the following decades, including the installation of the large Arkle Memorial window in 1925. In the mid 1960s substantial modifications took place; including a new entrance way and foyer, a redesigned nave, replastered walls, new windows and floors. Many original features were replaced but some were partially reused. St James’ Church and the companion Clark Sunday School Hall are landmark Palmerston buildings. The Church’s rusty orange stonework makes a strong visual impression. The architects of these buildings, David Ross and John Burnside were both significant, and their work features prominently in Otago’s architectural history. The buildings’ spacious and impressive designs reflect the hopes and dreams of a small rural community and the confidence they showed in their emerging township and its future prospects. The focus of Presbyterian worship and religious education in Palmerston for 135 years, St James Church and the Clark Sunday School Hall speak to the indomitable rural community spirit which ensured the Church’s aesthetic, historical, architectural, social and spiritual values remain a compelling story today.

St James Church and Clark Sunday School Hall (Presbyterian) facing Tiverton Street, Palmerston | Heather Bauchop | 15/06/2010 | NZ Historic Places Trust
St James' Church and Clark Sunday School Hall (Presbyterian). Image courtesy of | PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite) | 08/04/2012 | PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite)
St James' Church and Clark Sunday School Hall (Presbyterian). Interior of the nave looking towards the Sanctuary | Heather Bauchop | 15/06/2010 | NZ Historic Places Trust



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

3rd March 2011

Date of Effect

3rd March 2011

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Secs 19-20 Blk XV Town of Palmerston (RTs OT 135/107 and OT25/203), Otago Land District and the buildings known as St James' Church and Clark Sunday School Hall (Presbyterian) thereon, and the fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

Legal description

Secs 19-20 Blk XV Town of Palmerston (RTs OT135/107 and OT25/203), Otago Land District.

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