Historical Significance or Value
The Church of St Saviour has historical significance. The place combines the histories of both the first stone church in the diocese (Holy Trinity Church, 1859-60, which itself is a successor of the earlier timber church on this site) and the Church of St Saviour. Their physical amalgamation through relocation and salvage tells a remarkable story of the drastic events of the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-11.
The Lyttelton parish and the Church of the Holy Trinity naturally had strong links with the founding of the Canterbury settlement. The first Holy Trinity Church, built in the early years of the planned settlement in timber to the designs of Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, quickly proved unsuccessful, demonstrating how different the circumstances of the colony and its building materials were from England. The reuse of much of the dismantled timbers of the first church in the second, replacement, church built of stone in 1859-60 and designed by George Mallinson, demonstrates a history of recycling materials – something that has proved to be a theme some 150 years later following the Canterbury Earthquakes.
The building of a separate Anglican church in Lyttelton – the Church of St Saviour – in 1885 contributes to an understanding of the development of both the township and the desires of the Anglican community of West Lyttelton (Dampier’s Bay) to utilise the Reverend Dudley’s endowment to build such a church. That the Church of St Saviour was for visiting seafarers, as well as the West Lyttelton Anglican community, indicates the significance of the Port of Lyttelton for visiting seamen. Even if not proven, there is a long-held belief that the church was associated with the Antarctic Explorers, including Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the crews of the Discovery and Terra Nova. The subsequent shifting of St Saviour’s to Cathedral Grammar School in Christchurch in 1976 forms part of the history of relocation as a solution to declining congregations in the Lyttelton parish and the school’s requirements for a dedicated chapel. The subsequent return of the Church of St Saviour through relocation to Lyttelton, to the site formerly occupied by Holy Trinity Church, continues not only the presence of an Anglican church on the site of 17 Winchester Street but also the history of this part of the township, Winchester Street, formerly often known as the ‘Street of Churches’.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Church of St Saviour has architectural significance as a post-quake amalgamation of two significant Lyttelton churches. Predominantly the work of Canterbury architect Cyril Mountfort, son of and heir to the practice of pre-eminent Gothic Revival architect Benjamin Mountfort, the building also incorporates surviving architectural elements of Holy Trinity Church, which was the work of early colonial architect George Mallinson. It is an innovative architectural solution borne from dramatic circumstances.
While relocation often reduces the significance of a place because it is taken out of context, the history of relocation of St Saviour’s onto the site of the quake-demolished Holy Trinity Church in fact adds to this building’s architectural significance. It creatively recycles materials from roof sarking timbers of two historic churches, and reuses the key elements saved from the former Anglican church (Holy Trinity) on the site: the porch, bell and sanctuary stained glass window. The latter, designed in England by the renowned Gothic Revival architect, William Butterfield, is recognised as a notable example of his ecclesiastical stained glass designs.
Spiritual Significance or Value
The Church of St Saviour has spiritual significance. The two churches of Holy Trinity Church and Church of St Saviour both served the Lyttelton community, the latter giving special focus to attending to the spiritual needs of visiting seafarers. After its first relocation – in 1975-76 to Cathedral Grammar School in Christchurch – St Saviour’s served as an Anglican school chapel for 35 years until the Canterbury Earthquakes. The destruction of most of the Holy Trinity Church in 2011 and the subsequent further relocation of St Saviour’s to the Holy Trinity site in 2013, amalgamating elements of both churches, maintains the spiritual significance of the site as a place for religious worship in Lyttelton.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Church of St Saviour, relocated to the site of, and incorporating some surviving elements of, Holy Trinity Church in Lyttelton, reflects an important aspect of New Zealand’s religious and cultural history. The history of Holy Trinity Church (first built on this site in 1852 and replaced in 1859-60) reflects Lyttelton’s importance as the initial focus of the 1850 planned Church of England settlement of Canterbury. The separately built Church of St Saviour (1885) reflects aspects of worship in relation to seafaring and exploration, and its earlier relocation to Cathedral Grammar School reflects aspects of religious school education systems. The further relocation of St Saviour’s to the Holy Trinity site, a response brought about by the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010-11, reflects part of New Zealand’s history as a seismically active landscape.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The combined histories of the Church of St Saviour and Holy Trinity Church demonstrate the place’s association with many people of importance in New Zealand history, and the major events of the Canterbury Earthquakes (2010-11) as well as colonial settlement. Early Canterbury architect, George Mallinson was responsible for the design of the stone Holy Trinity Church, parts of which were salvaged and reused in the relocated church on the site in the Cyril Mountfort-designed Church of St Saviour.
Numerous early European settlers of note were closely associated with the churches as a place of worship. The Reverend Benjamin Woolley Dudley had an important link to both Holy Trinity Church and the Church of St Saviour – he was the first incumbent of the Lyttelton parish and it was his endowment that led directly to the construction of the Church of St Saviour in West Lyttelton. Bishop Henry John Chitty Harper, as leader of the Anglican Church in Canterbury, was associated with both churches too, and his active interest in tending to the needs of visiting seamen contributed to St Saviour’s having a reputation as being as a seafarers’ chapel, possibly including for the early twentieth century Antarctic explorers, Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton and their crews who departed from Lyttelton for their major expeditions south.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The profile of the Church of St Saviour as a heritage building has been raised in the light of loss of many historic buildings (including churches) through damage and demolition during the Canterbury Earthquakes. In the 1970s, when the Church of St Saviour was shifted to Cathedral Grammar School, considerable effort and money was expended to relocate it to Christchurch. As Holy Trinity Church was progressively destroyed through the Canterbury Earthquakes, the decision to again relocate the Church of St Saviour back to Lyttelton, on the prominent Holy Trinity site, was widely welcomed. The efforts to retain the heritage values through the relocation of St Saviour’s to the Holy Trinity site were recognised in the 2015 Christchurch Civic Trust Awards.
Summary of Significance or Values
As an amalgamation of the relocated Church of St Saviour (1885) and salvaged parts of the quake-demolished Holy Trinity Church (1859-60), the Church of St Saviour is of special significance as a creatively improvised ecclesiastical heritage survivor following the dramatic total loss of Lyttelton’s historic churches in the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes. It is significant that the Church of St Saviour was originally located in Lyttelton, relocated to Christchurch and then, in remarkable circumstances, returned to Lyttelton once more. It is considered to meet the threshold for entry on the New Zealand Heritage List as a Category 1 historic place.
Pre-European Māori History
One of the earliest groups of indigenous inhabitants of the Lyttelton Harbour area were the Waitaha people, descendants of the renowned Captain of the Tākitimu canoe Tamatea-Pokai-Whenua who arrived in the area from Poverty Bay in the North Island during the mid fourteenth century and named it Whangaraupō or Whakaraupō (‘harbour of raupō’).
Waitaha were succeeded by Ngāti Māmoe who named the area now known as Lyttelton Ōhinehou. Ōhinehou was the name of a Ngāti Māmoe pā or village which was probably situated on the western side of Lyttelton situated near to the present day rail tunnel mouth.
Ngāi Tahu in turn succeeded Ngāti Māmoe in the eighteenth century and settled at nearby Rāpaki, erecting a pā at Ōhinetahi (Governor’s Bay). The area suffered heavily from Te Rauparaha’s raids in the 1830s and the effect was devastating for most of the local Māori population. By the time early European settlers explored the area that was to become Lyttelton, it appears there was no longer a village or pā at Ōhinehou.
Lyttelton: a planned Church of England (Anglican) settlement
Lyttelton was a planned colonial settlement dating from 1849. The idea of Lyttelton port and township was conceived by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and John Robert Godley, who formed the Canterbury Association as part of their planned programme of systematic colonisation. Backed by influential English peers, members of the British Parliament and clergy, the Canterbury Association had the ambitious aim of gaining high land sale prices in order to attract a high class of settlers and fund the foundations of a specifically Church of England settlement. The Canterbury Association Chairman was George William Lyttelton, the fourth Baron Lyttelton, after whom the Lyttelton township and port is named.
With separate port town (Lyttelton), capital town (Christchurch), and outlying market towns, the Association aimed for a relatively decentralised village society. The settlement reflects both mid nineteenth century colonial planning models and the realities of the requirements of building and settling in the dramatic volcanic landscape with its steep topography. Despite the Canterbury Association’s plans that it would be a Church of England Settlement, people of many denominations had inhabited Lyttelton from the outset. It was some time before any recognisable ecclesiastical buildings were constructed in Lyttelton and religious services were initially held in the Immigration Barracks.
Holy Trinity Church
Canterbury Association settlers built the first permanent Anglican church in Lyttelton in 1852, only two years after the arrival of the first Canterbury Association settlers. Designed by colonial architect, Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, the first Church of the Holy Trinity at 17 Winchester Street in Lyttelton was an ambitious timber building that soon proved to be unsound in high winds. The parish eventually decided that it was not worth repairing the timber church and it was replaced by a second church, to a design by architect George Mallinson. This second Holy Trinity Church, built in 1859-60 on the same site as the first, was constructed of red porphyry volcanic stone, but reused ‘a great portion’ of the timber from the first church in its interior. Early English Gothic in style, the church contained notable features such as some of the earliest stained glass windows to be imported into the Christchurch diocese. At its consecration, led by the first Bishop of Christchurch, Henry John Chitty Harper, the church was recognised as being the first stone church in the diocese.
Church of St Saviour
Bishop Harper was interested in the pastoral care of the numerous seamen who called into the Port of Lyttelton. In 1879 the Reverend Arthur Davidson was appointed chaplain to various public institutions, including the seamen of Lyttelton. Bishop Harper took this a step further by utilising an endowment made by former Holy Trinity Church vicar (1851-9), Benjamin Woolley Dudley, for a church on sections in land parcel RS 40, at Dampier’s Bay (as West Lyttelton was then known). Harper combined Dudley’s endowment, a guarantee from Church Property Trustees and private subscriptions to enable an additional Anglican church at Lyttelton – the Church of St Saviour – to be built at West Lyttelton. The Holy Trinity vestry were persuaded to agree to a division, the deciding factor being that the Reverend Dudley’s endowment could only be obtained if a second church was built.
At the request of Bishop Harper, in early January 1884, Christchurch architect Cyril Julian Mountfort prepared plans for a timber church at West Lyttelton to accommodate up to 200 worshippers, but capable of being extended. In May 1884 a fundraising committee was established and tenders were called for the church in both wood and brick. Subscriptions were sought and obtained from both the people of Lyttelton and the wider Anglican diocese. At the same time, Bishop Harper wrote to the Missions to Seamen in London requesting books suitable to distribute to the seamen of the Port.
In April 1885, the Reverend Edward Eliot Chambers, a former lieutenant in the Royal Navy was appointed Curate of Dampier's Bay (West Lyttelton). In August 1885 a tender for £673.13.0 was let to local builders and undertakers, Messrs Sutton and Weastall, to construct the church in timber at the corner of Brittan Terrace and Simeon Quay in West Lyttelton.
West Lyttelton was constituted a Parochial District on 22 October 1885, and seven days later the new church was consecrated as the Church of St Saviour. On the day of consecration, the church was considered only partly complete: the transepts and chancel were built, but Mountfort’s original plan had included a 30 foot extension to the nave. Nevertheless, the church was considered a lofty building for its size, well ventilated, with good acoustics and excellently lit by the lance-shaped windows filled by stained glass.
Inducted as first vicar, the Reverend E Eliot Chambers was to minister to seamen and parishioners for thirty-six years. He encouraged church parades, and a range of training groups with military associations attended services at the Church of St Saviour. While it is often said that the Antarctic explorers, including Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the crews of the Discovery and Terra Nova were closely associated with the Church of St Saviour, it is not clear if they actually worshipped there. However, farewell services involving the Reverend Chambers were conducted on board ship in 1901 before Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery sailed, in 1908 before Nimrod sailed with Ernest Shackleton and again in 1910 before Scott’s fateful trip in Terra Nova.
The growth predicted for the St Saviour’s congregation did not eventuate, and three bays of the nave and a steeple that featured in the original plans were never built. Minor alterations and additions were made to the church though. In 1901 the building was repaired and re-roofed by builders Hollis and Brown and in 1906 the same firm extended the vestry. During 1916, a new buttress was installed by Messrs Fletcher and Walsh. After Chambers’ death in 1921, parishioners subscribed to the cost of a large stained glass window dedicated to his memory. This window, ‘Christ Calming the Waters’, was produced by Smith and Smith Ltd of Christchurch, and installed in 1922.
Following Chambers’ death, the Rev T M Curnow was appointed vicar in September 1921. Around this time there was a proposal from the Parish of Lyttelton for a reunification of the two parishes, but this was firmly rejected by West Lyttelton. In 1930 the West Lyttelton parish was extended to include Governors Bay and Teddington. Despite this, church attendances at both Lyttelton parishes were in decline through the 1930s, and eventually the West Lyttelton parishioners themselves requested that the two parishes be reunified. This took place on a trial basis in 1938. In 1946 it was realised that one man could not effectively minister to such a large area, and the two parishes were again split. St Saviour’s became part of a new Lyttelton West parish that included Teddington, Governors Bay and Diamond Harbour. This arrangement remained until 1964, when the urban area of Lyttelton was reunited as a single entity. It is thought that the Church of St Saviour thereafter became increasingly peripheral to the activities of the new parish, particularly so following a renovation of Holy Trinity Church in the early 1970s. As a consequence, parishioners gave the church to the Christchurch Diocese in 1975, with instructions that a new home be found for it. Requests for the building were received from the Parklands parish and Cathedral Grammar School, the latter being the successful applicant.
St Saviour’s Chapel at Cathedral Grammar School
The Cathedral Grammar School, located opposite Hagley Park in central Christchurch, had utilised various buildings on its site for worship since its foundation in 1881. The first chapel was a classroom converted in 1930, and replaced with another, first floor space in 1936. Due to increasing numbers of pupils in the late 1940s, the former gymnasium was adapted in 1951-2 to serve jointly as a war memorial hall and chapel. It was not until the acquisition of the Church of St Saviour in July 1975, however, that the school acquired its first 'purpose-built' chapel. The West Lyttelton church was dismantled and moved in sections over Evans Pass to be assembled (and reoriented with the altar to the west) on a new site on the corner of Park Terrace and Chester Street, Christchurch, in early 1976. The old site in West Lyttelton was subsequently redeveloped by the parish for social housing. Renamed St Saviour’s Chapel, the relocated and renovated building was officially reopened on 26 June 1976 by the Bishop of Christchurch, the Right Rev W A Pyatt. The furniture from the original church was transported onto the new site, with the exception of the altar. This was gifted to the Chapel of the Snows at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Repairs and refurbishment took place in the late 1980s and in 1999 the roof was replaced.
From 4 September 2010 and the years following Canterbury suffered a series of major earthquakes. They caused considerable destruction and many historic buildings have been lost as a result. Lyttelton’s Winchester Street – previously referred to as the ‘street of churches’ – lost its three historic churches, including Holy Trinity Church at 17 Winchester Street. Holy Trinity Church was badly damaged in the 4 September 2010 earthquake, and some walls partially collapsed during the 22 February 2011 earthquake. It completely collapsed in an earthquake on 13 June 2011, and its remains were removed later that year. Although St Saviour’s Chapel in its relocated spot in Christchurch suffered only minor damage in the Canterbury earthquakes, in 2012 the Cathedral Grammar School advised that St Saviour’s Chapel was no longer large enough for their school, and that remediation of the land meant that it had to be moved. It was given back to Church Property Trustees.
Church Property Trustees decided that St Saviour’s should be returned to Lyttelton and it was deconsecrated on 30 July 2012. The choice of relocating the church to Lyttelton was considered appropriate. Its original location in West Lyttelton remains occupied by the social housing complex built after it was first shifted in the 1970s, but the vacant site left by the demolition of Holy Trinity Church in Winchester Street was suitable for the relocation of St Saviour’s. In 2013 the timber St Saviour’s Chapel was cut into ten pieces and in September of that year it was moved, through Gebbies Pass, to the Winchester Street site previously occupied by Holy Trinity Church. On this new site, it was reassembled but with some changes: it was turned around on its original east-west axis to make better use of the space, some features were shifted and some items salvaged from Holy Trinity Church have been incorporated in its refurbishment. In this way, elements of the two churches have been combined. Church Property Trustees staff worked with a consultant team, including engineers Holmes Consulting Group, Powell Fenwick, Dave Pearson Architects and Warren and Mahoney Architects to achieve the outcome. Repair and restoration of stained glass windows was carried out by Stewart Stained Glass. The church was consecrated by Bishop Victoria Matthews on 7 June 2015. The re-siting of St Saviour’s at the site formerly occupied by Holy Trinity once again provides a place of worship in Lyttelton. The efforts to retain the heritage values through the relocation of St Saviour’s to the Holy Trinity site were recognised in the 2015 Christchurch Civic Trust Awards.
Sited on the remains of an extinct volcano, the Lyttelton Basin has an almost fish-bowl like topography. Despite the loss of many buildings due to the Canterbury Earthquakes, it retains its steep streets, paths and steps, and numerous buildings closely strung along the hillside. In its relocated position at 17 Winchester Street, the Church of St Saviour is situated in the main part of Lyttelton, behind the main shopping street, on a relatively flat piece of land on the south side of Winchester Street. The site has expansive views to other parts of Lyttelton and the port.
The church building itself takes up much of the north-western third of the land parcel and this corner is the extent of the List entry. On the same land parcel, but outside the proposed extent, is the earthquake-damaged two-storeyed timber vicarage building to the west of the church, and a low stone wall that runs along the north and west boundaries of the land parcel.
The church is of the Early English Gothic Revival style and is constructed of simple board and batten timber, with a steep pitched roof and narrow lancet windows. The main structure is largely that of the relocated Church of St Saviour, though turned around on its axis so that what was originally the sanctuary is now the nave at the west end. Entrance to this is through the gabled timber porch that is a partial survivor from the Holy Trinity Church, this being connected to the relocated St Saviour’s portion by a modern glazed link.
Other surviving fixture elements of the former Holy Trinity Church that have been incorporated as part of the church include the brass corona that hangs in the sanctuary and the triple lancet and quatrefoil stained glass window on the east elevation. Designed by the renowned English architect, William Butterfield, this window now in the east elevation was originally installed in the Holy Trinity Church in 1865 and was salvaged from that church before its collapse in June 2011. The corona comprises 610 pieces of hand wrought brass screwed together.
Above the entrance doors is the triple stained glass window ‘Christ Calming the Waters’, which had been installed in the Church of St Saviour in 1922. Much of the interior is stained timber and includes tongue-in-groove dado panelling. The existing dado panelling and covered timber floor combines original Church of St Saviour timbers salvaged and reused, supplemented by timbers that originally formed part of the sarking timbers at Holy Trinity Church. Dado panelling in the porch utilised sarking timber from the deconstructed Church of St Luke the Evangelist in Christchurch.
The remains of the belfry from Holy Trinity Church now stand on the ground beside the church, though the belfry is not necessarily in its final location. The roof of the belfry from Holy Trinity Church was salvaged and (at the time of writing) is being incorporated into a new freestanding belfry located to the north-west of St Saviour’s. The bell it houses was donated by Thomas and Sarah Somers Cocks before being installed in the first and then the second Holy Trinity Church in the 1850s.
Numerous moveable items within the church are also survivors from Holy Trinity Church as well as belonging to the Church of St Saviour – these all add to the historical value of the church but do not specifically form part of its proposed extent.
Nationally, the New Zealand Heritage List has numerous churches of high significance, being assigned Category 1 historic place status. At the time of writing, of the 1005 Category 1 historic place entries on the New Zealand Heritage List, over 13% are churches or chapels.
In early 2010, just prior to the first of the Canterbury Earthquakes, the Heritage New Zealand List had 58 Anglican churches entered as Category 1 historic places and 135 Anglican churches entered as Category 2 historic places. Since then, the New Zealand Heritage List has been particularly affected by the loss of heritage buildings, especially masonry ones, in Canterbury. By June 2016, 15 entries had been removed from the New Zealand Heritage List for churches that had been demolished in Christchurch and Lyttelton as a result of the Canterbury Earthquakes. Six of these were Anglican churches. Some churches that remain on the List are damaged and their future is either undecided or their restoration/repair is only in the early stages.
While the New Zealand Heritage List does include a number of historic places that have been relocated, relatively few relocated buildings have been given a Category 1 historic place status. This is because relocation usually removes a building from its historical context and tends to reduce its significance. However, occasionally relocation is recognised as being part of the historical significance of the place. For example, the Camp House, North Egmont, Taranaki (List No. 7233, Category 1 historic place) is a highly significant building belonging to the period of the New Zealand Wars that was relocated from New Plymouth to North Egmont in 1891 as part of an important scenery preservation initiative.
There are some examples of relocated Canterbury churches that are entered as Category 1 historic places on the New Zealand Heritage List. St Bartholomew’s Church (Anglican) (List No. 285) was built on a sandhill in Kaiapoi in 1855, to the design of Benjamin Mountfort, but shifted from its original site to Cass Street, Kaiapoi, in 1859. St Andrew’s Church (Presbyterian), Christchurch (List No. 304), was first entered on the New Zealand Heritage List in 1983 in a central city location but it remains on the List as a Category 1 historic place despite being relocated to Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Merivale in 1987.
The Canterbury earthquakes have resulted in some relocations as a way of saving buildings, especially where land was ‘red-zoned’. However, very few such relocations have been churches. Two chapel/church buildings that are on the New Zealand Heritage List and have been relocated post-quakes are: St Luke’s Chapel (List No. 5328, Category 2 historic place) which has been shifted across the road from its previous listed site on Hereford Street, Christchurch (but which had already been moved from Rutherford Street (Woolston) Cemetery to Jubilee Home, then to City Mission in Hereford Street around the time of its original registration in 1991); and Lyttelton’s Church of St Saviour (the post-quake relocation also being the second time the building had shifted).
Construction of Church of St Saviour (Simeon Quay and Brittan Terrace, Lyttelton)
1975 - 1976
Relocation of Church of St Saviour (to 26 Park Terrace, Christchurch)
Construction of first Holy Trinity Church (17 Winchester Street, Lyttelton)
1859 - 1860
Construction of second Holy Trinity Church (17 Winchester Street, Lyttelton)
2013 - 2015
Church of St Saviour relocated to 17 Winchester Street, Lyttelton, and rebuilt to include some elements of Holy Trinity Church
Timber, corrugated steel, glass
2nd February 2017
Report Written By
Fiona Ciaran, Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury, New Zealand. A Catalogue Raisonne, Dunedin, 1998
Robyn Gosset, Ex Cathedra. A History of the Cathedral School of Christchurch, New Zealand 1881-1981, Christchurch, 
Ian Lochhead, A Dream of Spires: Benjamin Mountfort and the Gothic Revival, Christchurch, 1999
Capt. J. Cleaver, The Story of a Pilgrim Parish - The Anglican Churches of Lyttelton, 1850-1975, Anglican Diocese, Christchurch, 1975
Te Maire Tau and Atholl Anderson (eds), 2008
Te Maire Tau and Atholl Anderson (editors). Ngāi Tahu: a migration history: the Carrington text, in association with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. 2008.
A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Christchurch Office of Heritage New Zealand.
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.