St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Warden’s Cottage (Former)

64-66 Melville Street, Dunedin

  • St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and Warden's Cottage (Former), Dunedin. CCL 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Benchill. Taken By: Benchill - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 24/08/2009.
  • St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and Warden's Cottage (Former), Dunedin. Warden's Cottage on Melville Street.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 1/02/2016.
  • St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and Warden's Cottage (Former), Dunedin. Image courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa photography collection Reg. No. C.012308.
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: Burton Brothers studio, maker unknown.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3185 Date Entered 25th November 1982 Date of Effect 1st May 2017 Date of Last Review 6th April 2017


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 23 Blk V Town of Dunedin (RT OT292/88), Otago Land District and the building known as St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Warden’s Cottage (Former) thereon. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 23 Blk V Town of Dunedin (RT OT292/88), Otago Land District


This imposing church was designed by pre-eminent Dunedin architect Robert Arthur Lawson and opened in 1870. The church and its associated Warden’s Cottage (1885) have outstanding significance through their association with long-serving minister Reverend Andrew Waddell, and his ‘Sin of Cheapness’ sermon that was to change the social and political landscape in New Zealand in the late 1880s-early 1890s. Waddell’s social reform programmes and his community outreach based in his St Andrew’s parish, centred on this imposing Lawson-designed church were a vital part of his mission to the poor of Dunedin’s notorious Devil’s Half Acre.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has its origins in the church’s concern for the moral and physical welfare of the hoards that arrived in search of gold in 1861. Knox Church’s Reverend Donald McNaughton Stuart preached in the open air, before a 250-seat canvas chapel was put up. This was replaced by the Walker Street Church (on the corner of Walker (now Carroll) and Melville Streets) which opened on 4 May 1862. To house the growing congregation, a new church, designed by architect Robert Arthur Lawson, opened in February 1870 – known as the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. After a succession of preachers, Reverend Rutherford Waddell was inducted into the charge in 1879. Waddell was a Christian socialist and railed against the community’s ‘enormous rage to get cheap things.’ In his ground-breaking sermon ‘The Sin of Cheapness’, which was preached to his St Andrew’s congregation in October 1888, Waddell described how some Dunedin women were working from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. finishing moleskin trousers at two and a half pence a pair, earning two shillings per day. Waddell had a forty year association with St Andrew’s.

The Gothic Revival-style St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is built in brick with Oamaru stone facings. The sloping site meant that the church had to be built over two levels, and gives the church a strong presence on this inner city site. Lawson’s unusual design was for a rectangular plan church with battlemented corner towers and a spire. While the spire was never built, the church remained a landmark building in this area of Dunedin. Inside, the soaring ceilings with their timber linings and the stained glass windows provide a contemplative interior, connecting worshippers with their God.

Over the latter part of the twentieth century St Andrew’s faced an ageing congregation, declining membership, and demographic changes to its inner city parish. In 1960, the church had a membership of 215; members were down to 65 by 1977. An anniversary service, commemorating Waddell’s ‘Sin of Cheapness’ sermon was held on St Andrew’s Day, 27 November 1977, with lessons read by the managing director of Hallenstein Bros. Ltd and the Secretary of the Clothing Trades Union. A plaque was unveiled commemorating the sermon. On 12 March 1978, the Presbyterians held their last service at St Andrew’s Church, before the congregation merged with that of First Church. The building was sold to the Word of Life Pentecostal Church. In 2000, the building was bought by the Coptic Orthodox Church who have renamed it the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church.

In 2016, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Warden’s Cottage (Former) remain home to the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has outstanding historical significance as the scene of Reverend Rutherford Waddell’s influential sermon ‘The Sin of Cheapness’, which galvanised church, labour leaders and public concerns about the clothing manufacturing, shoe making and printing industries that saw girls, boys and women employed on ‘starvation wages.’ Waddell’s speech was a pivotal moment in New Zealand’s labour history and changed the political landscape. It was one part of the wave of changes that were to give the country an international reputation at the forefront of social reform.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Former) has aesthetic significance. Built as a Gothic Revival style church, the church’s design had the intention of bringing worshippers closer to God. While the exterior has lost some of the detail of R.A. Lawson’s design, the interior retains the restrained inward looking focus of nineteenth century Gothic Revival churches, where the lofty ceilings and pointed arches provided contemplative space.

Architectural Significance or Value

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is one of Dunedin’s most significant Presbyterian churches. It predates preeminent Church architect R.A. Lawson’s designs for the current First and Knox Churches, and is a significant example of Lawson’s work. It is contemporary with his early design for the Category 1 Trinity Wesleyan Church also located in central Dunedin. Although compromised by the removal of architectural detailing in the 1930s, and never completed with the spire Lawson envisaged, the church remains an important example of Lawson’s work, and an unusual design with its two storeys and corner towers.

Social Significance or Value

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has been the centre of community and social activity for its congregations for over 140 years. As the centre of community activities, and as a focus for the inner city mission activities of the nineteenth century and twentieth centuries, the church has provided a heart for its congregation, having a vital social role in the community. In 2016, the church is now the focus for the immigrant communities associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church, and an important social and religious role for its congregation.

Spiritual Significance or Value

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has spiritual significance as a place of worship for over 140 years. Its design reflects the Presbyterian worship practices of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, with its inward looking focus and personal connection with God. Later alterations reflect the church’s new congregation, with the intricate church furniture, art and iconostatsis of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church reflects the growth of the Presbyterian Church in this Free Church of Scotland settlement. It represents the church’s response to the needs of an inner city community faced with the poverty and poor living conditions, as well as lack of education and poor working conditions. The church’s responses – education initiatives, community visiting, fundraising, campaigns for industrial reform, heralded the Liberal agenda for the 1890s.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Former) has a special association with an event, person and ideas that are of outstanding significance to New Zealand history – the church was the setting for Reverend Rutherford Waddell’s ‘Sin of Cheapness’ sermon which was a landmark in New Zealand’s social and labour history. Waddell’s sermon has been described as one of the most influential speeches in New Zealand’s history.

In addition, St Andrew’s has a strong association with Rachel Reynolds, one of the founders of the Free Kindergarten Movement in New Zealand, a founder and lifelong member of the St Andrew’s congregation, a campaigner for girl’s and women’s education, a philanthropist, and a suffragist.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

St Andrew’s significance is recognised by a number of community bodies – its importance to the history of the labour movement is recognised by the plaque mounted on the building, and by the anniversary service commemorating Waddell’s sermon; the Dunedin City Council has recognised its significance in the District Plan and by providing funding through The Dunedin Heritage Fund. The Coptic Orthodox Church community recognises its importance as shown by their on-going commitment to the church building and their plans for repair and restoration.

(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Warden’s Cottage (Former) have architectural values as an early Lawson church and administration building, contemporary with Lawson’s Category 1Trinity Wesleyan Church, and predating both First Church and Knox Church, Dunedin. St Andrew’s is one of the most significant churches in Dunedin’s inner city, and is an unusual Lawson design with its four towers, two storeys and rectangular plan.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Former) has commemorative significance as the setting for Reverend Rutherford’s influential sermon. This important aspect of the history of the church is recognised in newspaper articles, anniversary services and by a plaque.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural area

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is a landmark building in this part of Dunedin. It is built on a prominent corner site, and even without its intended spire, makes a significant visual impact. Along with its associated Bible School, located lower down Carroll Street, the former Chinese Mission Hall, and the nearby St Matthews Anglican Church, it is one of a significant number of ecclesiastical buildings in this inner city area.

Summary of Significance or Values

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Warden’s Cottage (Former) has outstanding significance through its association with long-serving minister Reverend Andrew Waddell, and his ‘Sin of Cheapness’ sermon that was to change the social and political landscape in New Zealand in the late 1880s-early 1890s. Waddell’s social reform programmes and his community outreach based in his St Andrew’s parish, centred on this imposing Lawson-designed church were a vital part of his mission to the poor of Dunedin’s notorious Devil’s Half Acre. St Andrew’s has architectural significance as one of Dunedin’s landmark buildings and as an early and substantial Lawson-designed church.


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.

Hunter & Goodfellow

Joshua Goodfellow

Scottish-born Joshua Goodfellow came to New Zealand ‘in the very early days’, residing in the country for around fifty years. He worked on the post office in Dunedin and laid part of the Lawrence railway before moving north, where he completed large contracts, including several in Wellington. He died in Scotland in 1907, while visiting family.

John Grey Hunter

John Grey Hunter was a well-known builder and contractor. He came to New Zealand 1860s, going to the Otago goldfields. He returned to Scotland, married and then returned to Dunedin. He later moving to Christchurch where he entered into partnership with W. Greig, building the first Girls’ and Boys’ High Schools and the Canterbury College of Art (List No. 7301). He later lived in Hokitika where he died in 1924.

Hunter and Goodfellow

Hunter and Goodfellow were responsible for the construction of the First Church of Otago (Presbyterian) (List No. 60), East Taieri Presbyterian Church (List No. 2260), and the Bank of Otago at Oamaru (List No. 363). Their residential work includes Telford’s 1869 homestead and station buildings at Otanomomo (List No.’s 2127 and 5199). In 1870 they advertised regularly in the Bruce Herald, indicating their range of work. The advertisement indicated that the worked on tombstones, railings, monuments, stone carving, and supplied lime, cement, hearthstones, firebricks, slates, marble and stone mantelpieces.

Source: List Entry Review Report for St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and Warden's Cottage (Former), 23 March 2016.

Godfrey, John Louis

Godfrey was an English carver, who arrived in Dunedin around 1862. He worked as a stone mason and wood carver on several major Dunedin buildings including the Bank of New Zealand (1863) (List No. 7299), First Church of Otago (Presbyterian) (1861 and 1873) (List No. 60), and Larnach Castle (1871-1876) (List No. 2190). Godfrey’s last work in New Zealand was the Cathedral Church of St Joseph (List No. 364) in Dunedin in 1886. After that he seems to have left New Zealand and moved to Melbourne before he died in 1918.

Source: List Entry Review Report for St Andrew's Presbyterian Church and Warden's Cottage (Former), 23 March 2016.

Fraser, Robert Henry

See: Phillips, Jock. 'Fraser, Robert Henry', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 25-Sep-2013, URL:

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early Dunedin

Historically, Kāi Tahu visited the head of the Ōtākou harbour as either the gateway to the route to Kaikarai (Green Island) or going on other mahinga kai expeditions. When Scottish colonists arrived in 1848, the upper Ōtākou harbour was surrounded by heavy bush and there were many birds, tuna and other resources. While not as densely populated as the North Island, numerous kaik in the Ōtākou region still hosted a good number of Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe and later Kāi Tahu peoples.

Scottish settlers also saw the attraction of the upper harbour, identifying it as a potential site for a Free Church colony by the New Zealand Company. Scots George Rennie, who proposed the ‘New Edinburgh Scheme’, and promoter and later New Zealand Company agent William Cargill, allied themselves with the Free Church of Scotland, a movement of ministers and their congregations who had left the established church in 1843 in a move towards lay control. In 1847 the New Zealand Company gained title to the Otago Block, and their planned settlement Dunedin – a Gaelic version of Edinburgh. The first emigrant ship, the John Wickliffe, arrived off the Otago Peninsula on 21 March 1848. Dunedin developed a distinctive Scots-Presbyterian character, led by the Reverent Thomas Burns and the layman Cargill. But like other colonial settlements, it soon developed its own social problems.

Addressing Social Problems: Establishing the Walker Street Church

In 1861, Dunedin was transformed when an ‘impetuous torrent’ burst over the ‘staid life’ of the Free Church of Scotland settlement: gold seekers flooded into Dunedin on their way to the glittering prospect of Gabriel’s Gully, setting up a tent town on the foothills near the harbour close to Stafford and Walker (now Carroll) Streets. The mayhem lifted Presbyterian eyes from their Bibles and turned them to the blocks bounded by Maitland, Maclaggan and Princes Streets, an ethnically diverse muddle of tents, slums and shanties that became known as the ‘Devil’s Half Acre’, the town’s red light district and home to Dunedin’s poorest souls, but bordered by the houses of Dunedin’s elite.

Knox Church’s Reverend Donald McNaughton Stuart was among the first to set up his candle box, preaching at the foot of Stafford Street on a Sunday afternoon. Dunedin’s weather is not well suited to standing on street corners, so a more sheltered solution was found on a site offered by merchant Henry Cook who had premises on Stafford Street and where a 250-seat canvas chapel was erected, opening on 21 November 1861. Dunedin’s climate is not well suited to tents either and so by March 1862 the presbytery had approved the erection of a timber church, with the Reverend Glasgow, the first minister. Churches were recognising the importance of a ‘citadel of faith’ – the church being the centre for mission activity and a strong visual presence in the poorer areas of town.

The Walker Street Church (on the corner of Walker (now Carroll) and Melville Streets) opened on 4 May 1862. In June 1863, the Walker Street Church was declared a ministerial charge and the Reverend Donald Meiklejohn was inducted to the pastoral charge of the now renamed St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The church was supported by many prominent individuals and families – with William Hunter Reynolds and wife Rachel, as well as E.B. Cargill, printer and bookseller Thomas Coull among the notable congregation members.

Rachel (nee Pinkerton, 1838-1928) and William Reynolds (1822-1899) were founders and life-long members of the congregation. Rachel, who had led an adventurous life in South Australia before moving as a 17 year old with her parents to Dunedin and marrying her 34 year old businessman and politician husband, was committed to charity work at St Andrews and had a pioneering role in establishing free early childhood education and was deeply involved in other causes.

Building a new church

By 1865 the parish needed a bigger church. Plans were drawn up for a building capable of holding 500 worshippers, but lack of money delayed the building project. By 1868, the parish was able to obtain the freehold of the site, and in September of that year, the Deacon’s Court approved architect Robert Arthur Lawson’s plans. Lawson was one of the country’s pre-eminent church architects – designing and overseeing the construction of over 40 churches. He was a prominent Presbyterian, and the design of St Andrew’s along with the Trinity Wesleyan Church in Central Dunedin (List Entry No. 3378, Category 1) (both 1869) are significant early examples of Lawson’s work. Lawson’s choice of Gothic Revival style, a fashionable English style popular with Anglican congregations in the mid-nineteenth century, reflects the status and profile of the Presbyterian church in Dunedin – in the words of architectural historian James Stevens Curl, ‘architectural ambitions and rising social profile went together.’ By May 1869, contractors Hunter and Goodfellow had made a start clearing the section, and by 1870, the new church was ready, opening in a Sabbath service on 14 February 1870.

The Otago Daily Times provided a detailed description of the brick church with Oamaru facings, the design of which was dictated by the sloping site. The main entrance was on Melville Street, providing access to the ground floor, while the basement level (planned as classrooms for Sunday School) was accessed internally, or from Walker Street through a tower. The church measured 90 feet by 60 feet [27 by 18 metres], subdivided into a nave and two side aisles. The nave was 28 feet wide [8.5 metres], with the aisles 13 feet wide [4 metres]. At each corner of the church was a battlemented tower, finished with stone corbels and embrasured coping, providing an entrance porch, stairwell and vestry rooms. Octagonal columns with moulded capitals divided the aisles into four compartments and provided support for the roof bearers. A recess towards the Walker (Carroll) Street end of the nave provided a platform for the pulpit. Raised central bays gave the effect of a transept. The Times described the gables ‘each occupied by a four-light stone mullioned and richly traceried window, filled in with stained and ground glass, in floral and geometrical designs, the transept windows being similarly treated.’ The ceiling height was 35 feet [10.6 metres] from the line of the floor, the ceiling lined with diagonal tongued and grooved beaded panelling. The ceiling also has decorated octagonal ventilator openings. The Times described the church as ‘early British Gothic’ and ‘bold, massive and well proportioned.’ Over the main gable was the Presbyterian symbol of the burning bush. Stone detailing was carved by Louis Godfrey. Lawson’s competition design shows a spire on the south west corner of the building, but this was never built. Architect and historian Norman Ledgerwood writes that St Andrew’s was an unusual design for Lawson, being rectangular with four towers.

Despite the new church, the congregation lost some momentum in the 1870s when Reverend Scrimgeour resigned after conflict with the congregation, and while his replacement, The Reverend John Gow, did regain momentum, progress was slow. Gow (who retired in 1878) was, as poet and aspiring politician Thomas Bracken described him, a ‘zealous Calvinist’, whose ‘sincerity and earnestness compensate[d] for his lack of elocutionary display.’ The church established a mission to work in the slum community, and from February 1873, a ‘Collection for the Poor’ was made, with funds available for social services and distributed by the first Ladies Association (later the Friendly Aid Society, and later still the Sisterhood of St Andrews). A Sunday School was established in the now lined basement of St Andrew’s. The church was enthusiastic but perhaps not inspired. Gow’s successor was to focus all eyes on St Andrew’s and the social causes of the day.

The Sin of Cheapness

The 1880s saw New Zealand slide into a long depression, worsening the problems for Dunedin’s poor. St Andrew’s overlooked the worst examples of poverty, slum housing and unemployment in Dunedin. The Presbyterian Church as a rule focused on individual morality – poverty was considered a weakness in character rather than a result of social causes – but their focus was to change. Reverend Dr Stuart from Knox Church, for example, was concerned that his fellow church members would ‘weep over a heroine in a novel but would not cross the road to take a child out of the mud.’ The Reverend Rutherford Waddell, Gow’s successor, was to pull the metaphoric child out of the mud, wash her off, draw attention to her plight, and in so doing changed the political landscape.

Historian John Stenhouse describes Waddell as ‘perhaps the best-known and most influential Protestant minister in the country between the late 1870s and the 1930s.’ Rutherford Waddell was a young Irish Presbyterian minister who had come to Canterbury in 1877 and who had taken up a temporary position at St Andrew’s in 1879. The congregation was ‘electrified’ by Waddell’s first sermon and issued a call on the spot. Waddell, Stenhouse writes, ‘wielded words to move hearers and readers to new ways of feeling, thinking and acting.’ His ministry attracted crowds from all over the city, the congregations held in ‘breathless silence’, ‘spellbound’ by Waddell’s impassioned directness.’ His high profile and active writings meant that his influence, and respect for him reached far beyond the bounds of his congregation.

Waddell’s most important sermon, a sermon that was to change the political and social landscape of New Zealand, was preached to his St Andrew’s congregation in October 1888. In his sermon ‘The Sin of Cheapness’, Waddell described how some Dunedin women were working from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. finishing moleskin trousers at two and a half pence a pair, earning two shillings per day. Waddell railed against the community’s ‘enormous rage to get cheap things’, which drove manufacturers to cut costs and wages, telling his congregation that everyone, and especially Christians, must take responsibility for the ‘sin of cheapness.’ Waddell was a Christian socialist, and believed in bringing the kingdom of God to New Zealand, making the kingdom real. He saw that it was crucial to prevent a rift from opening between the church and working people, giving faith ‘a potent public and this-worldly meaning.’ Newspapers around the country were flooded with articles and letters on Waddell’s views, describing the plight of the ‘colonial slaves of the needle.’

On 15 February 1889, Waddell held a public meeting at the Athenaeum Hall, attended by politicians, clergy, laypeople and a ‘large number of ladies.’ The meeting appointed a committee to negotiate with employers (particularly textile manufacturers, printers and shoe manufacturers who employed girls, women and boys) and identify minimum wages as the best solution to poverty. At this meeting employers individually agreed to only hire contractors who paid the minimum wage. After four warehousing firms banded together to argue that minimum wage should apply across the country, to allow Dunedin firms to remain competitive, Waddell called another meeting. Waddell identified the four firms – directors of at least two of which were prominent Presbyterians – and argued that they cared more for money than men, that they were importing an unjust system, and that they were sucking the souls out of the country’s women and girls. The crowd and subsequent speakers came in behind him with calls for a commission of inquiry and for female trade unions. Hundreds joined the country’s first female trade union, the Tailoresses, with Waddell serving as its first president, working alongside Harriet Morison, the country’s leading female unionist. In 1890 the Atkinson government appointed Waddell to its Sweating Commission. On this swell of activism and enthusiasm, John Ballance’s Liberals won the general election of 1890, passing a wave of labour and industrial laws.

Waddell was supported by other talented crusaders such as Rachel Reynolds, a founder of the Free Kindergarten movement in New Zealand. Waddell wanted to help the disadvantaged children he saw living in the neighbourhood around the church. Learmonth Dalrymple, who had helped to establish Otago Girl’s High School, suggested three year olds should be taught in schools based on the ideas of educationalist Friedrich Frobel. A public meeting on 4 March 1889 in the Dunedin Town Hall resulted in the formation of the Dunedin Kindergarten Association in May that year, with Rachel Reynolds elected president. The first kindergarten, attached to St Andrew’s, was opened on 10 June 1889 in the Walker Street Mission Hall. Reynolds was also a significant campaigner for girls’ and women’s education (involved in establishing Otago Girls’ High School, and in the campaign for women’s access to university on the same basis as men). Reynolds also promoted and supported women’s suffrage, and was vice president of the women’s franchise league formed in Dunedin in April 1892.

Stenhouse concludes that Waddell succeeded because he ‘did not set himself apart from and above ordinary folk. In battling for working people, unions, minimum wages, female suffrage and free kindergartens, and against sweated labour and alcohol abuse, Waddell practised as well as preached the kind of down-to-earth, this worldly, “practical Christianity” that won respect even from those who seldom went to church.’ ‘The Sin of Cheapness’ exposed the way women workers in the clothing industry were exploited and provided the catalyst for a ‘powerful and broad-based social reform movement on which the Liberal party rode to power in 1890.’ With their worker-friendly laws and the granting of votes to women in 1893, the Liberals gained for New Zealand the international reputation as the ‘social laboratory of the world.’

With all the activity, the church facilities grew in the 1880s – by 1883, the church itself had been plastered, possibly in an attempt to manage dampness issues, and the basement floor was lined to provide space for the Sunday School, and in 1885 the interior of the church was reconfigured to allow an organ to be installed, and there were further renovations in 1897. In 1885, the adjoining Warden’s Cottage (the caretaker’s house) was built. A mission hall was built in 1888 and a Bible School in 1912. Another building with a close connection to St Andrew’s is the J.L. Salmond designed Chinese Mission Hall further down Walker Street, built in 1897 (and later used as the Dunedin Chinese Presbyterian Church).

St Andrews in the Twentieth Century

St Andrew’s continued to emphasise social concerns, with Waddell initiating the deaconess order in the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, appointing Sister Christabel Duncan deaconess in 1901. Sister Christabel acted as the equivalent of a full time social worker for the next 22 years, and was replaced by Sister Annie and her successors who continued to work among the poor.

Reverend Waddell retired in 1919 after forty years of service to the community and his St Andrew’s congregation. The Otago Daily Times lauded him as one of the finest organisers in the country who had proved himself to be one of the strongest personalities of the era.

In the 1920s and 1930s, St Andrew’s underwent substantial alterations. In the 1920s, a design for new windows was submitted by Robert Henry Fraser, and it is likely that the new windows were installed in 1922. In the 1930s there was a substantial repair programme, which saw the loss of many of the external architectural features at roof level – particularly the battlements and crow-stepped gables. The church was also re-rendered and painted. The interior of the church, however, retained many of its original features.

Over the latter part of the twentieth century St Andrew’s faced an ageing congregation, declining membership, and demographic changes to its inner city parish. In 1960, the church had a membership of 215; members were down to 65 by 1977.

An anniversary service, commemorating Waddell’s ‘Sin of Cheapness’ sermon was held on St Andrew’s Day, 27 November 1977, with lessons read by the managing director of Hallenstein Bros. Ltd and the Secretary of the Clothing Trades Union. A plaque was unveiled commemorating the sermon.

On 12 March 1978, the Presbyterians held their last service at St Andrew’s Church, before the congregation merged with that of First Church. The building was sold to the Word of Life Pentecostal Church.

In 2000, the building was bought by the Coptic Orthodox Church who have renamed it the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church. ‘ Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, describes the contemporary Coptic Orthodox Church as a Christian church based in Egypt, part of a group of Orthodox churches which also include the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches brought to this country by immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. In 1999, Melbourne-based Bishop Suriel was appointed the first Coptic bishop for Australia and New Zealand. In 2010 there was a Coptic church in each of New Zealand’s four main centres, and close to 400 Coptic Orthodox Church members.

In 2006, the new congregation restored some of the windows, and installed new stained glass door panels depicting the guardian angel of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Archangel Michael.

The church remains the place of worship for the Coptic Orthodox congregation in 2016.

Physical Description

Current Description


St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is located close to what was the main business district in nineteenth century Dunedin. In later years, the business centre has moved further north, and the area has changed from dense residential to a mixed residential and commercial character, with a corresponding decline in population. The buildings on Melville and Carroll Streets are a mix of residences, commercial buildings and large complexes of flats – replacing what had been a tangle of lane ways and small residences. St Andrew’s presence is one of the few reminders of the slum conditions that led to the establishment of this parish, in an area that is now dominated by larger homes or business premises.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Former) is located on the intersection of Carroll and Melville Streets, about half way up Carroll Street, on a small section, typical of an inner city church, where the church yard was necessarily small in relation to the building. The church’s long elevation is to Melville Street, with the front elevation to Carroll Street. Churches were ‘familiar and expected elements of society and of the townscape’ and in Dunedin the soaring spires of First Church of Otago (Presbyterian) (1873) (List No. 60), Knox Church (Presbyterian) (1876) (List No. 4372), and nearby St Matthew’s Church (Anglican) (1874) (List No. 2212), are particularly important in Dunedin’s historic townscape. Gothic revivalist churches, like these, were the most common style of church architecture in New Zealand. Though without its spire, St Andrew’s is an important element in the townscape, and one of Dunedin’s significant Gothic Revival churches.


St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is constructed of brick on bluestone foundations, with limestone facings. The exterior walls are solid brickwork (there is no vertical cavity to act as a moisture barrier) with a lime mortar. It is not known which company manufactured the bricks. The original brick has been rendered and painted, with the render ruled and lined to imitate ashlar stonework. There is a modern extension and deck to the north elevation, providing level access to Melville Street.

The roof is steeply pitched and clad in short run corrugated steel, replacing the original slate that was removed in the 1950s-1960s. The aisle roof has a more shallow pitch and is also clad in corrugated steel. The remaining roof ornaments are finials above the north and south gables, with the south finial including a saltire of St Andrew.

All the masonry to the window openings, mullions, tracery, hood moulds and ornaments is thought to be painted Oamaru stone. Some window frames have been replaced with aluminium. The windows are relatively plain leaded lights without painting embellishments, mostly mono-foil (single petal-shaped) headed lancets with rectangular grids, lightly ornamented with foliate forms. The ornamentation is concentrated in the traceries and at the tops of the lancet windows. The glass is English machine made, with a smattering of blown antique glass in the floral features. Peter Mackenzie, of Otago Stained Glass, indicates that the windows were mostly likely by Robert Henry Fraser and completed in the 1920s. The doors to the nave have modern stained glass depicting Archangel Michael and Saint figures, these were designed and made by Peter Mackenzie.

The principal doors to the north west and south west towers are tall double leaf timber doors made with vertical tongue and groove boards. They retain some historic door furniture. The north gable of the church has double doors and stained glass leaded lights leading to the northern extension. At the upper ground floor level there are historic timber doors in three of the towers and a twentieth century glazed door in the northeast tower.

The forecourt adjacent to Carroll Street has concrete retaining walls on the west and south sides and a bluestone retaining wall to the east. Ornamental metal railings and gates remain in places around the forecourt and are believed to date from 1938.

Uphill from the church is the warden’s cottage, residence of the church warden or caretaker. Like the church, it was constructed of brick and later plastered. The cottage is close to the church and relates to the history and administration of the church. The cottage has been identified in the 2016 conservation plan for the church as ‘valuable both to the historical development of the church and to its setting.’


According to historian Ben Schrader, ‘traditionally, the interiors of Presbyterian churches were plain and devoid of religious imagery, reflecting the Reformed tradition’s reaction against anything that could be perceived as an idol and lead to superstition.’ Presbyterian congregations differed on whether they allowed decorative elements like stained glass windows, or a cross on the wall. St Andrew’s has stained glass windows, focusing worshippers’ attention inward, and the simple and restrained interior affirmed ‘a God to whom each Christian person has direct access without need of intermediary.’ The interior with its lofty ceiling is also aspirational, a call to lift eyes and thoughts worthy of an expectant God, reflecting the aesthetic intention of nineteenth century Gothic Revival church design.

The nave and aisles are finished with longitudinally and diagonally laid tongued, grooved and beaded timber linings. The nave and the open aisles are separated by slender timber columns that extend through to the lower ground floor. The only internal walls are those to the four towers, and are constructed of plastered brick. The lower ground floor has been partitioned into small rooms, with the partitions probably dating from the late twentieth century.

In the south west tower there is a winding timber stair between the lower ground floor entrance and the Sanctuary/former chancel. Carvings by Louis Godfrey remain, although the original extent of Godfrey’s carvings is unknown, and it may be that some have been removed. Carvings that remain include decorative bosses with vines, foliage and birds to the external hood moulds and there are similar decorative arch springers internally through the upper floor of the church. It is also likely that Godfrey carved the two gable finials and the burning bush emblem. He may also have carved the tracery to the windows and the fluted surrounds to the external doors.

The lower ground floor has modern suspended ceilings, but it is possible that lathe and plaster ceilings remain above these. The historic raked timber floor has had a modern floor laid on top of it to level the floor. A modern particle board floor has been laid over the original floor on the lower ground floor.

Most of the interior plaster scheme would seem to date from 1938. Some timber dado panelling has since been added. The pews are modern and the original church organ and pulpit have been removed.

The interior of the church now has an iconostasis and other fittings appropriate to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The iconostasis is one of the most important architectural features of Orthodox churches, and it is a rigid screen, containing icons of the Lord, His angels and his saints, lying between the sanctuary and the nave of the church. The Iconostasis, which is derived from the Byzantine churches, contains three doors: the Royal door, which is the entrance to the main sanctuary; and a door on each of the other side for the side sanctuaries. The side doors were used for preparation of the host, which is still the case in the Byzantine churches, but not in the Coptic Church, where they are considered as Royal doors as well. On the inner side (side of the sanctuary) curtains are fitted, which are drawn open or closed depending on the church service.

The nave is separated from the sanctuary by the iconostasis. This is to distinguish the sanctuary from the rest of the church. It allows people to still see inside the sanctuary using its cross-shaped lattice appearance.’

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, now the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church is now itself is a ‘record of change – in patterns of worship and of the details of belief, of the changing place of the church in the lives of people.’


St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has architectural values as an early Lawson church, and one of the most significant churches in Dunedin’s inner city, but its most outstanding value is its association with Reverend Waddell as the setting for his sin of cheapness speech. It is this event that motivated community action, the formation of the Tailoresses’ Union and ultimately led to a series of reforms that changed New Zealand’s social and political landscape. Accordingly, St Andrew’s can be compared with other places which have strong associations to the labour movement, or places where something happened that changed the thinking in New Zealand.

A place with a strong association with the labour movement is the Runanga Miners’ Hall (Former) (Category 1, List No. 9613) in the small West Coast town of Runanga. The hall is significant in New Zealand’s history of the working classes, the organised labour movement generally and the Labour Party in particular. Miners’ halls, while previously somewhat common, are now rare in New Zealand. The original miners’ hall (it was rebuilt in 1937 after a fire) was a place where significant decisions were made affecting politics nationally. The New Zealand Labour Party as it exists today had its origins in a number of socialist groups coming together, including the organised labour movement represented by key figures from the West Coast mines. Since 1916 these various groups had coalesced to become the modern Labour Party. The original hall hosted notable local, national and international labour speakers on socialism and the Labour movement. They included figures such as Harry Holland, Peter Fraser, Bob Semple, Pat Hickey, Patrick (Paddy) Webb and Robert Hogg.

Another place that commemorates meetings that changed New Zealand’s political landscape is the Dr Steven’s House at Kurow (not currently entered on the New Zealand Heritage List but nominated as an historic place). At this house, in the 1930s, headmaster Andrew Davidson, Dr David McMillan and Presbyterian Minister Arnold Nordmeyer met to discuss conditions at the Waitaki Hydro construction site, discussions that ultimately led to the formation of the Welfare State, when the Labour Party won the 1935 general election.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church has a close connection with the union movement. Waddell’s speech at St Andrew’s motivated the formation of the Dunedin Tailoresses’ Union. Records show that ‘the Dunedin Tailoresses’ Union (DTU) was set up in 1889 by local labour leaders and respectable citizens (all men) concerned about conditions and pay for working women. Management of the union was quickly taken over by women. It pursued a broad feminist programme, and assisted in the formation of tailoresses’ unions in other centres.’ But St Andrew’s significance is more related to a range of campaigns for social change, which led to a radical change in the social and political landscape, rather than a focus solely on the labour movement.

The outstanding significance of Waddell’s sermon is clearly recognised. Waddell’s sermon features in Speeches that shaped New Zealand 1814-1956 (2014), which identifies 48 speeches that are ‘landmarks in the telling of our own nation’s story.’ The authors describe how George Grey ‘sowed the seeds of radical liberalism in New Zealand’ and Waddell ‘watered the plants’ providing ‘impetus to the radical liberal movement.’ They described how Waddell involved himself in ‘establishing bibles in schools, planned Sunday schools, the Presbyterian Deaconess order, The Outlook, the outstanding church journal of its day, and church savings banks and free libraries, the Temperance movement, probation before prison, technical education and a burgeoning conservation movement.’ On top of all of this, ‘[i]n one prophetic sermon, Rutherford Waddell changed society.’ They described how his sermon ‘shook the establishment’, brought results in the Royal Commission of 1890 and ‘seeded the radical liberal legislation of the 1890s’ including the ‘radical arbitration system’ which ‘underwrote social harmony in new Zealand for 80 years.’ They conclude that ‘[s]eldom can any speaker have done so much for the social and economic progress of our nation. His clarion call for social justice ranks among the most influential speeches ever made in New Zealand.’ Here, the authors are talking about Waddell’s speech to the synod in November 1888, but it was at St Andrew’s where Waddell made his name and for which is most widely recognised.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1870 -
Opening of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

1833 -
Exterior rendered

Additional building added to site
1884 -
Adjacent Warden’s Cottage built

1897 -
Extensive renovations, including interior redecoration

1921 - 1922
New windows designed by Robert Henry Fraser installed in the church

1930 -
Toilets added

1938 -
Major interior and exterior renovations, including removal of much of the exterior detailing

Slate roofing replaced by corrugated steel

Additional building added to site
1981 -
Northern entrance building and doorway to the north end of the nave built

1981 -
Basement floor replaced

1988 - 2003
Subdivision of main rooms of basement occurred

2006 -
Stained glass panels installed in the north wall and the extension

Construction Details

Brick, lime mortar, glass, corrugated steel, bluestone, Oamaru stone

Completion Date

23rd March 2016

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop and Jackie Gillies and Associates

Information Sources

Ledgerwood (2013)

Norman Ledgerwood, R.A. Lawson: Victorian Architect of Dunedin, Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand, Dunedin, 2013

Jackie Gillies and Associates, 2016

Jackie Gillies and Associates, ‘Coptic Orthodox Church, 64 Melville Street, Dunedin (Former St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church) Conservation Plan’ Draft January 2016’

McKay, 2015

Bill McKay, Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design, Godwit, Auckland, 2015

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Dunedin, n.d.

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Dunedin. Jubilee Souvenir 1863-1913. An illustrated sketch of the origin and history of the church 1861-1913

Journal of New Zealand Studies

John Stenhouse, ‘The Passionate Pastor: The Cultural Performances of the Reverend Rutherford Waddell,’ Journal of New Zealand Studies, NS15 (2013) 22-35

Bethell, 2011

Kerry Bethell, Dunedin’s Kindergarten Pioneers: Some new stories: The founding of free kindergarten provision in Dunedin 1879-1890, University of Otago, Dunedin, 2011, accessed at

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from Otago/Southland Area 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.