Bank Street Church

38-40 Bank Street, Timaru

  • Bank Street Church.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3155 Date Entered 2nd April 2004 Date of Effect 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the building, its fixtures and fittings, and land on RT CB29A/152

City/District Council

Timaru District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Lot 285 DP 1 (RT CB29A/152)


Until the late 1850's, Timaru was a tiny settlement serving 'The Levels' pastoral run (1851) of the Rhodes brothers. Organised settlement began with direct immigration in 1859, and thereafter the town grew rapidly. The first Wesleyan service in Timaru was held in 1863 in a private house in the area of Sandie Town. The Reverend James Buller, Chairman of the District, visited later the same year and the decision was made to establish a circuit. The first minister arrived in 1865. That same year, the Rhodes family donated a central Bank Street site and a wooden church was built. This was enlarged in 1868.

The enlarged church did not serve for long however, for the foundation stone for a new stone church seating 300 persons was laid by the Rev. Buller on October 28, 1874. Designed by F. Wilson and built by S. Harding, the building opened on March 21 the following year at a cost of £1120. The old wooden church was subsequently shifted to the rear of the site for use as a schoolroom. To allow for future growth, the new church was fitted with a timber rear wall. This expansion took place in 1890 when the stone nave was extended by 21 ft, and a wooden chancel with vestry and choir rooms added at a total cost of £500. This provided capacity for another 140 persons.

Renovations to modernise and enhance the building were carried out in 1930 by architects Turnbull and Rule and builders Harding and Co. The main entrance was removed from the east façade, and repositioned at the east end of the north façade under a new stone tower and 80 ft spire. New leadlights, including two figural stained glass memorial windows (one a WWI memorial), and a raked floor were installed. A brick choir vestry was added at the rear of the wooden chancel, with both probably stuccoed to match at this time.

Various internal reorganisations have also taken place during the church's life. Following the additions of 1890 the choir shifted into the new sanctuary, facing the congregation. In 1911, a new pipe organ was installed in the sanctuary behind the choir, effectively blocking the west window. This window was probably removed during the additions of 1930. At the time of the church's centenary in 1965, the choir stalls were shifted from the sanctuary to the north side of the nave facing the pulpit, providing an enlarged sanctuary space. The pews were also rearranged to reduce the double aisles to a single aisle. This appears to be the present arrangement.

After a period of internal dissent split the congregation, the church effectively closed in 1991. The last morning service was held in the church in that year. Since 1992, the building has been leased to South Canterbury Funeral Services. However occasional religious services are still conducted in the building by the parish.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Bank Street Church has historical, spiritual and social value as the first Methodist church established in South Canterbury, and the centre for Methodist worship in Timaru for over a century. Despite its lack of a congregation today, it remains the oldest Methodist Church in South Canterbury.

The church has aesthetic value for its streetscape presence, and architectural value for the quality of its design and the care taken to sensitively blend later additions.

(a) because of its representative value as a typically unostentatious Methodist place of worship, extended as needed and when funds were available.

(h) The church also has symbolic and commemorative value as the first and oldest remaining Methodist church in South Canterbury; and as the only Wesleyan church in Timaru until 1913, when the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists united.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Turnbull & Rule

James S. Turnbull worked in a Melbourne architect's office before returning to establish his own practice in Timaru in c.1895. In a career which spanned over forty years, Turnbull designed a wide range of building types in the South Canterbury town, including Chalmers Presbyterian Church (1903-04) and a considerable number of large town houses.

Percy Watts Rule became James Turnbull's partner in c.1920 and subsequently became the firm's chief designer. From this time until his retirement in 1938, Turnbull was largely responsible for writing specifications and supervising the construction of buildings designed by Rule. In 1939 the latter was awarded the gold medal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects for his design of Timaru Hospital's Surgical Wing (1936-40), but little else is known about the junior partner of a firm which made a valuable contribution to Timaru architecture in the early years of this century.

Wilson, F

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Harding, S

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Harding & Co.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The church is, in form, a traditional non-conformist chapel with gothic detailing. It is constructed of Timaru bluestone with cement dressings and concrete foundations. The hammer-beam totara roof is diagonally sarked, and clad with corrugated iron. There are iron finials on the apex and south corner of the east façade. At the west end are a timber chancel and brick choir vestry, both of which are stuccoed. On the north side is a bluestone tower with a spire. The church is lined with geometrically patterned leadlights, except for a pair of figural stained glass memorial windows which face each other across the nave. A nineteenth century concrete and wrought iron fence descends across the front of the property.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1875 -
Stone church completed.

1890 -
Stone nave extension and wooden chancel added.

1930 -
Brick choir vestry, stone tower and steeple added, main entrance shifted.

Construction Details

Stone and timber

Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Pam Wilson

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903

p 987

Wilson, 1991 (2)

J. Wilson, South Canterbury historical guide : including the towns of Timaru, Temuka, Geraldine, Pleasant Point, Fairlie and Waimate, their surrounding country districts, and the Mackenzie Country, Timaru, 1991.

p 62

Morley, 1900

Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900

pp 447-450

Olds, 1965

N. Olds, Timaru Methodist Centenary 1865-1965: Wesley Church, Bank Street 1965.

Timaru Herald

Timaru Herald

28/10/1874, 24/3/1875, 6/5/1930, 9/6/1930, 3/11/1930

Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

Wilson, J. 'Timaru's Collection of Fine Old Churches',June 1989, p. 7

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region 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.