Church of the Holy Name (Catholic)

58 Sealy Street, Allenton, Ashburton

  • Church of the Holy Name (Catholic), Ashburton.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/12/2001.
  • Church of the Holy Name (Catholic), Ashburton.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Melanie Lovell-Smith. Date: 1/12/2001.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 284 Date Entered 5th September 1985 Date of Effect 5th September 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes part of Lot 2 DP 386200 (RT 344997), Canterbury Land District and the building known as Church of the Holy Name (Catholic), thereon.

City/District Council

Ashburton District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 386200 (RT 344997), Canterbury Land District


The Church of the Holy Name was the third Catholic church to be built in Ashburton, some sixty years after the first Catholic mass was celebrated in 1871. In 1876 the first Catholic church in the town, a simple wooden building, was opened in Burnett Street. A Catholic school was established in 1880 and the first resident priest, Father Edmund Patrick Coffey arrived the following year. A second church was designed in 1882 by Francis Petre, (1847-1918), the well-known church architect. Petre's grand design proved too expensive for the parish and only the nave was ever built. It was decided, instead, to build a completely new church, and by 1930 sufficient money had been raised for this purpose. The architect chosen to design the third church was Henry St Aubyn Murray (1886-1943). Murray, whose practice was based in Christchurch, designed numerous buildings for the Catholic Church in Canterbury, and the church he designed for Ashburton is one of his most well-known.

The Church of the Holy Name is rectangular in plan, with a square belltower adjacent to the main entrance. It is Romanesque in style, incorporating relatively small openings (as compared to the mass of the walls), with round-headed arches. A revival of the Romanesque, or 'round-arched', style occurred in Britain from the 1840s and in the former British colonies. The use of this style by Murray in the 1930s indicates his awareness of churches of similar design overseas. In Australia, for example, architects such as John Cyril Hawes and Joseph Fowell used the Romanesque style. An early example of a church built in the Romanesque style in New Zealand is First Church in Invercargill (1910-1915), designed by J.T. Mair. The Church of the Holy Name varies slightly from such examples in so far as it has a group of three round-headed windows above the western entrance rather than a rose window.

The Romanesque style was often used by Catholic churches to distinguish themselves architecturally from the Anglican Church which built many churches in the Gothic style. The Catholic community's church in Ashburton, as designed by Murray, makes a positive and distinctive statement of their presence in the town. The church is an important part of the Catholic complex of buildings, which now include school and presbytery, all built within the same area. It was, at the time it was built, the most expensive building in Ashburton and it remains a distinctive landmark, still used today for Catholic worship.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Murray, Henry St Aubyn

Henry St Aubyn Murray (1886-1943) attended Christ's College, Christchurch, from 1898 to 1904 and was then apprenticed to Frederick John Barlow (1868 - 1939) a local architect. Barlow was responsible for a number of prominent buildings around Christchurch, which included three brick buildings, the Chief Fire Station, the Dunlop Tyre Company Building, and the Tepid Baths, all of which are no longer extant, and the Rangiora Public Library which is still standing. Barlow also designed the machinery hall and the art gallery for the Christchurch International Exhibition of 1906 - 1907, and buildings for the Workers' Dwellings Act settlement in Sydenham.

Like Barlow, Murray took an active interest in the New Zealand Institute of Architects and was elected to the Canterbury Branch in 1914. He served with the Australian engineers during World War I and was awarded a Military Cross for gallantry in 1917. Murray was Secretary/Treasurer of the Canterbury Branch of the NZIA from 1919 - 1920 and again from 1923 - 1924. He designed two war memorials, one at Akaroa and one at Leeston, and many works for the Roman Catholic Church in Canterbury. These included the Marist Brothers School in Barbadoes Street (c.1924), convents in High Street, (1925), Manchester St (1925), Ferry Road (1929), and Lyttelton (1934), and churches at Little River (1925), Geraldine (1936), Templeton (1922) and Ashburton (1930). Murray was killed in a jeep accident in the North Island in 1943.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1930 - 1931

1930 -

1970 -
Altar changed as result of Vatican II. Font removed, Baptistery walled in and converted to reconciliation room

1980 - 1990
Nuns' chapel glassed in and converted to side chapel

Completion Date

28th November 2001

Report Written By

Melanie Lovell-Smith

Information Sources

Hanrahan, 1981

Michael James Hanrahan, The Warm Wind of Faith: A History of the Catholic Church in Ashburton, Ashburton, 1981

Other Information

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.