Lawrence Presbyterian Church (Former)

7 Colonsay Street, Lawrence

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List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2243 Date Entered 2nd April 2004 Date of Effect 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building and land on RT OT222/95

City/District Council

Clutha District


Otago Region

Legal description

Secs 7-8 Pt Sec 6 Blk II Town of Lawrence (RT OT222/95)


Under the transient and turbulent conditions of the gold rush beginning in 1861, the Presybterian Church established its presence. The first services were held in open air at Gabriels Gully in July 1861 by layman Mr John Gillies. Donations were taken for the erection of a church, and in June 1862 Mr Bonard appointed missionary to the goldfields.

In 1863 Bonard was succeeded by T.S. Forsaith. By 1864 with the support of local congregation and the organisation of a soiree, enough money was raised to allow for the erection of a church building later used as a Sunday School, on the same section as the Church being considered in this nomination. The first permanent minister of the Lawrence Presbyterian Church was the Reverend Dr James Copland who was ordained in May of that year, who served until 1871. Missionary to the Chinese Alexander Don was ordained at Lawrence in 1886.

It was during the ministry of J.M. Fraser from 1882-1888 that the present church was built. It was completed in 1886. It was opened by Dr Stuart of Knox Church in Dunedin in September 1886. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1905) described it as "substantial red brick building" with accommodation for 300 worshippers.

The congregation sold the church around 1994, as numbers declined. Its new owners intended to use it as a holiday home. In 1998 the church was severely damaged by fire as a result of an arson attack. The interior, roof, windows and floor were badly burnt. Work is underway to repair and restore the church.

In 2008, known as the 'Churrch' the building is fully restored and operates as a boutique retreat, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and living spaces downstairs, with a further two bedrooms on the mezzanine level above.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It is historically important representing the role of the Presbyterian Church in the goldfields era, as well as the contribution of that Church to the history and development of the Lawrence community.

The Lawrence Presbyterian Church has architectural significance, both as a Lawson Church, representing his work in the provincial areas in Otago as well as recognising its architectural contribution to the townscape of Lawrence - particularly its proximity to the former Post Office (Lawson 1866), and the Wardens Court (David Ross, 1875).

Spiritually it remained the focus for the Presbyterian congregation in Lawrence for over 100 years, as an important site for the worship of that congregation.

The Lawrence Presbyterian Church reflects the importance of the Presbyterian Church particularly in the history of Otago and the important role that it played in the spiritual welfare and support of small communities such as Lawrence.

The Church is associated with prominent architect Robert Arthur Lawson, a pre-eminent church architect, who has made a strong contribution to the architecture of Dunedin and wider Otago.

The Church's gothic styling is representative of Lawson's churches and is a significant element in his design history which included other Presbyterian churches in the locality including the Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church in nearby Milton (1889) and the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870). In addition the proximity to Lawson's Warden's Court (1866) later used as the Post Office adds to its significance as a representation of his designs.

The Church has a strong association with the Lawrence community, providing a place of worship for 108 years.

It also is a significant part of the wider Lawrence historical landscape, forming a significant element in the buildings dating from the early period of Lawrence's development and prosperity associated with the goldrushes.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Lawson, Robert Arthur

Born in Scotland, Lawson (1833-1902) began his professional career in Perth. At the age of 25 he moved to Melbourne and was engaged in goldmining and journalism before resuming architectural practice. In 1862 Lawson sailed for Dunedin, where his sketch plans had won the competition for the design of First Church. This was built 1867-73. Lawson went on to become one of the most important architects in New Zealand. First Church is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the finest nineteenth century churches in New Zealand.

He was also responsible for the design of the Trinity Church (now Fortune Theatre), Dunedin (1869-70), the East Taieri Presbyterian Church (1870), and Knox Church, Dunedin (1874). He designed Park's School (1864) and the ANZ Bank (originally Union Bank, 1874). In Oamaru he designed the Bank of Otago (later National Bank building, 1870) and the adjoining Bank of New South Wales (now Forrester Gallery, 1881).

See also: Ledgerwood, Norman, 2013. 'R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin'. Historic Cemeteries Conservation NZ.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The Church was designed by prominent Dunedin architect Robert A. Lawson. Scottish born Lawson designed and superintended over the construction of over forty churches. He also designed the former Post Office (Lawson, 1866) on the opposite side of Colonsay Street. This church as with other Lawson churches was designed in gothic style on a notional cruciform plan , with a steeple at the southern end facing Colonsay Street. The tower has gothic arches to either side, with battlemented work extending to the end of the gable and terminating in small turrets on each corner.

The Church forms an important component in the group of heritage buildings sited on a prominent hillside overlooking the main street of Lawrence. These include the former Post Office (1866), the Warden's Court (David Ross, 1875) and the Lodge St George (Miller, 1878), as well as the nearby government buildings such as the postmaster's house, and the constable's residence.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1886 -

1998 -
Damaged by fire.

2002 - 2008
Restoration and conversion to a home.

Construction Details

The Church was constructed of locally made red brick on stone foundations. It had contrasting cement horizontal bandings and trim, and a slate roof. It measured 38 ft (11.5m) on the Colonsay Street frontage, and was 64 ft (19.5m) deep. It was 65 ft (19.8m) high to the top of its spire. The interior joinery was of wood, using kauri, as well as red and white pine. There also decorative plasterwork. The Church was built for around £1,200 and seated 300.

The interior was remodelled and electric heating installed in the mid 1950s. The exterior was replastered in 1960. For the centennial celebrations of the founding of the Presbyterian Church in Lawrence in 1961 the interior was renovated, with the seating and positioning of communion furniture rearranged.

In 1998 the church was severely damaged by fire as a result of an arson attack. The roof, interior, windows and floors were damaged. The building languished for a period, with much local concern expressed about its condition. In 2003 the new owner began to repair and restore the Church, replacing the roof with corrugated iron.

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Barton, n.d.

Henry H Barton, Lawrence Presbyterian Church, including Waitahuna and Beaumont - A History from the date of the first service in Gabriels Gully in 1861, Centennial Souvenir 1861-1948, nd

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1905

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 4 Otago and Southland, Cyclopedia Company, Christchurch, 1905

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Mane-Wheoki, Jonathan, 'Lawson, Robert Arthur 1833-1902', updated 16 December 2003; URL:

Mayhew, 1949

W.R. Mayhew, Tuapeka: The Land and Its People: A Social History of the Borough of Lawrence and its Surrounding Districts, Otago Centennial Historical Publications, Dunedin, 1949

New Zealand Presbyterian

New Zealand Presbyterian

October 1886

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office

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.