Glenaven Methodist Church

9 Chambers Street, North East Valley, Dunedin

  • Glenaven Methodist Church.
    Copyright: Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ben Hill. Date: 8/08/2009.
  • Glenaven Methodist Church.
    Copyright: Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ben Hill. Date: 8/08/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3371 Date Entered 13th December 1990 Date of Effect 13th December 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the part of the land described as LOT 9 DP 1590 Deposited Plan 1590, (RT OT130/44), Otago Land District, the building known as Glenaven Methodist Church, thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage List/ Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 4 June 2020.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 9 DP 1590 (RT OT130/44), Otago Land District


Tucked up Chambers Street in North East Valley and bound by Lindsay Creek, stands a fine example of a moderately sized church in the Gothic Revival style. Designed by Robert Newton Vanes, a local architect working with J.L. Salmond, the church was constructed to meet the growing needs of the burgeoning township. The building is of architectural and social significance.

The first Methodist church services were held in North East Valley in 1864. The population of the Valley grew rapidly and North East Valley was proclaimed a borough in October 1877. This church was built to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing population of North East Valley and in particular that of the Glenaven township. Funds for the building were raised by donations, subscriptions and a large single donation by Mr Phillips, the Honorary Secretary. Prior to its construction, Tyrell’s Bakery (1896-1905) was located behind the current site of the church alongside Lindsay Creek; the Bakery fronted Main North Road (now North Road). The remnants of the bakehouse is believed to have been incorporated into a hall at the rear of the Church on King Edward Street (now Chambers Street).

The church is a moderate sized rectangular building, oriented south-west to north-east with the sanctuary in the northern end. Gothic Revival in style, the church is constructed of brick with an Ōamaru stone spire and buttresses, and when constructed, had a slate roof laid in a diamond pattern with decorative terra cotta ridge tiles. The south west façade facing the street is dominated by the tower with Ōamaru stone angle buttresses, lancet arches and trefoil-headed openings at the level of the bell. The top of the tower appears as four distinct gable ends. The entrance is south of the tower, and has a large door in the shape of a pointed arch with a hood mould above. The east end of this façade has a pair of lead-crossed lancet windows. The remaining elevations have simpler detailing with brick being their primary material in preference to Ōamaru stone. The original interior was lath and plaster with exposed arched wooden rafters and diagonal sarking on the ceiling. The foundation stone was laid on the 21st September 1905 by Mrs S.C. Phillips, and the opening services were held 6 months later on the 4th March 1906. Details from the Glenaven Minutes note that the land was purchased for £325 ($57,697). Newton Vanes was first approached in May 1905, these were approved in August 1905. The tender of J &N Wood was accepted for £983 ($174, 511), and Vanes fee was £70 ($12,332). In, Churches of Otago, Hardwicke Knight notes the similarity of Glenaven Church with the Wesleyan Church at Invercargill.

On its tenth anniversary the church was reported to be progressing well spiritually, and financially. In the 1950s the Church spire was removed as there were issues with leaking. A metal plate was secured inside the tower to seal it for several decades. Major renovations to the Church were completed in 2000, including the addition of a new spire clad in butanol slate. At the same time the interior was modernised to create a more flexible area for worship. Significant work was completed in 2017 to earthquake strengthen the church and to upgrade the kitchen which cost $30,000. Of particular significance is Glenaven’s commitment to the LGBT community. Glenaven is one of New Zealand’s first churches to declare itself as a reconciling congregation, committing to “welcoming and including gay and lesbian people in all aspects of their life.” Importantly, Glenaven was the first church in New Zealand to have an openly gay minister in 1986, Reverend Dr. David Bromell. Originally a Baptist Minister, Bromell applied to be received by the Methodist Church in Full Connextion in 1989; this caused much friction and fractioning within the church community for years. By 1993, the Conference proposed the Church comply with the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993 to not discriminate based on sexuality. Meanwhile Bromell had resigned due to the delays in decision making. At its 1997 Annual Conference, the Methodist Church of New Zealand, Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa, accepted Revd Dr David Bromell into Full Connexion “by a substantial majority”, and he was appointed Superintendent of the Christchurch Methodist Mission, a position he held until 2003. Today, Glenaven maintains a small committed congregation which includes many international students who attend the University of Otago. Currently the Best Start Montessori continues to utilise the Church and adjacent hall during the week with the congregation using the church on Sundays, the rainbow sign outside declaring its continuing commitment to acceptance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Vanes, Newton

Robert Newton Vanes (1883-1961)

Robert Newton Vanes was born on 20 October 1883 in Pancras London. He emigrated with his parents (Robert Newton and Mary) to New Zealand in 1886, arriving in Wellington on the Cowan. Vanes was a pupil of J.L. Salmond in Dunedin but during this time is known to have also engaged in work with other architects, like Basil Hooper. In 1903 his design for the South African War memorial in Invercargill was commissioned. In 1907 Vanes travelled overseas for three years where he studied design in London. Whilst there he worked for a number of architects before travelling and sketching on the continent. In 1910 Vanes returned to Dunedin a newly qualified A.R.I.B.A architect. He became a partner in the company which was renamed Salmond and Vanes (1910-1933). Vanes was regularly involved in the judging of architectural students work. In 1914 in addition to his practice, he became principal lecturer at the Dunedin School of Art and Art Crafts teaching the new subjects of architectural design, and history of architecture. This was a role which he held until he resigned to enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1917. Vanes was 2nd Lieutenant, Wellington Infantry Regiment where he was an instructor. While on discharge in 1919 he enrolled in postgraduate study at London University from 1920-21 where he took papers in town planning. Back in Dunedin he returned to Salmond and Vanes. In 1929 Vanes married Harriet Elizabeth Milsom. Vanes returned to London in the early 1930s. He died aged in 1961 in Surbiton aged 78.

From 2020 Summary Upgrade Report Glenaven Methodist Church, DUNEDIN

(List No. 3371, Category 2 historic place), Sarah Gallagher

J & N Wood

Builders of the Glenaven Methodist Church, DUNEDIN

(List No. 3371, Category 2 historic place) 1905 -06

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1905 - 1906

Additional building added to site
1923 -
Construction complete

Spire removed due to leaking

1956 -
Extend / renovate vestry

1988 -
new pulpit area raised

1990 -
Addition to church building

1994 -
Outbuilding demolished

1997 -
Convert church to Montessori preschool

Structural upgrade
2000 -
Remodel church, spire rebuilt, relining, reroofing, concrete slab floor, new raised timber floor to nave, spire replace and roofed in Butynol standard slate

2010 -
Toilet and baby change area added

Structural upgrade
2017 -
Earthquake strengthening, kitchen upgrade, interior painting

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

7th May 2020

Report Written By

Sarah Gallagher

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.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand.