St Paul's Church (Anglican)

28 Symonds Street, Auckland

  • St Paul's Church (Anglican).
    Copyright: Taken By: Alan Wylde.
  • St Paul's Church (Anglican). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Nick Thompson. Taken By: Nick Thompson. Date: 24/07/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 650 Date Entered 16th November 1989 Date of Effect 16th November 1989


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 8 Sec 15 Suburbs of Auckland (RT NA65/223), North Auckland Land District, and the building and structures known as St Paul's Church (Anglican) thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 8 Sec 15 Suburbs of Auckland (RT NA65/223), North Auckland Land District


St Paul's, Symonds Street, is the third building occupied by the parish. It is known as the 'Mother Church' of Auckland as the first St Paul's was also the first church built in the city. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Hobson on 28 July 1841 and the first service was held on 7 May 1843. In 1884 a temporary wooden building was erected to the design of William Skinner, on the site of the first church. This site was still considered for the replacement, permanent church but in the end the more central location of the Symonds Street, Wynyard Street intersection was chosen. William Skinner's plans were accepted but it was decided to leave the church unfinished at a lower cost.

The foundation stone, from the first St Paul's, was relaid for the new church on 11 June 1894 and the building was consecrated the following year. The fine carving of the capitals and label stops was completed by William Feldon in 1910-11.

The foundation stone for the permanent chancel was laid on 11 April 1915 but the addition did not proceed until 1936. It was dedicated on 29 October that year. In 1945 the vestry briefly considered completing the church tower and spire as a war memorial.

The church features some interesting internal decoration and fittings including Bishop Selwyn's throne, communion patten and chalice presented to him by Queen Victoria. Set into the walls in the south west corner are carved stones from Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Yorkminster and St Paul's Cathedral.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

As the church of Auckland city's oldest parish St Paul's is of considerable historic importance. With its central location and historic connections with the first St Paul's and the developing city this church and its predecessors have been a prominent feature of Auckland life since 1841. The present, curious, unfinished structure has in its own right been a prominent landmark in Auckland for nearly 100 years.


Although it has never been completed St Paul's is nevertheless a particularly fine example of Gothic Revival architecture. The architects handling of the proportions and detailing was both skilful and elegant. St Paul's invites comparison with Sir Gilbert Scott's only New Zealand work, Christchurch Cathedral, c.1863. St Paul's makes a valuable contribution to the townscape in this area of Auckland.


Now unencumbered by surrounding contemporary buildings, St Paul's, with the polychromatic treatment of its stonework, visually dominates the Symonds Street, Wellesley Street intersection.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Feldon, William Henry

Feldon (1871-1945)

Feldon was born in Oxford where he served a five-year apprenticeship in sculpting with J. H. Arnett. He then worked for Farmer and Brindley in London. He was a visiting Master to the College at Eastbourne where he taught carving and modelling, while also teaching many apprentices at Oxford.

He immigrated to New Zealand with his wife and children in 1910 where he first undertook a series of panels for Government House in Wellington. He served during the First World War. Following the war he won competitions for the design of war memorials at Bombay, Pōkeno and Rotorua. By 1920 he had achieved a level of recognition as a sculptor of public art. Feldon was responsible for many statues during his life including the Arawa Memorial (Rotorua Government Gardens Historic Area, New Zealand Heritage List No. 7015) and the Matakana War Memorial statue of George V (List No.9816). Feldon was also responsible for the carving of the Auckland Town Hall, the Auckland Ferry Buildings, St Paul’s Church, a statue of Earl Jellicoe, Auckland Children’s Hospital and Helensville District memorials.

Skinner, William Henry

Skinner (1838-1915) grew up in England, the son of a builder. A student in the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington, he was awarded a bronze medal for success in art in 1859. He came to New Zealand that same year, working as a contractor and builder in Auckland. He remained in Auckland and practised as an architect from 1880 until his death in 1915.

His buildings include the "Star" Printing Office; the Onehunga Woollen Mills, the Freemason's Hall and the Grand Hotel, Princes Street. His ecclesiastical buildings include St Paul's Anglican Church, Symonds Street (1894-95), St James Presbyterian Church, Thames, and the Holy Sepulchre Church Hall, Khyber Pass. The latter was built as a temporary church for St Paul's parish and was later relocated.

William Skinner

William Henry Skinner (1838-1915), the son of a builder, was born in Newport, Wales. He studied in the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington, and was awarded a bronze medal for 'success in art' in 1859. Skinner came to New Zealand that same year, subsequently working as a contractor and builder in Auckland. In this capacity he erected a parsonage associated with the earlier Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Symonds Street in 1869. After enlisting in the Royal Rifle Volunteers during the New Zealand Wars, he rose to the rank of major. He remained in Auckland and practised as an architect from 1880 until his death in 1915.

Skinner's designs as an architect included the 'Star' printing office (demolished); the Onehunga Woollen Works; and the Freemasons' Hall (now a façade) on Princes Street, Auckland. His ecclesiastical buildings included the St James Presbyterian Church, Thames; St Paul's Anglican Church, Symonds Street, Auckland (1894-1895); and the temporary St Paul's Church, Eden Crescent, Auckland (1885) which is now part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre complex on Khyber Pass Road.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The building is predominantly in the Early English Gothic style characteristic of the late Victorian period of the revival. The church is reminiscent of the work of the famous Gothic Revival architect Sir Gilbert Scott (senior). The plan is simple with side aisles and the nave leading to the sanctuary.

The exterior is notable for the well proportioned west elevation, with gabled porches, rose window and pinnacled buttresses. These elements are highlighted by the use of white limestone. The side elevations incorporate lancet windows above square headed windows.

Internally there are hammer beam roof trusses with alternating diagonally boarded panels. The aisle wall dadoes are random basalt. The painted brickwork above the dados feature the fourteen stations of the cross. The main walls are supported on stone arches and columns, having foliated capitals.

The church has never been completed and still lacks a tower in the north western corner and its south transept.

Notable Features

Bishop Selwyn's throne, communion patten and chalice

The stones from English cathedrals

The foundation stone of the original church

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1895 -

1915 -
Foundations for the permanent chancel laid

1919 -
War Memorial tram shelter constructed at the northwest corner of the site

1936 -
Chancel constructed and the position of the organ altered

1961 -
External stonework cleaned and badly damaged sections of Oamaru limestone replaced

1965 -
Stained glass window by the English artist Lawrence Lee added, east wall

1967 -
Slate roof replaced with tiles

1970 -
New pews, resulting in a reduction in seating from 650 to 250

Demolished - Other
1971 -
Memorial tram shelter demolished

1974 -
Alteration to sanctuary - removal of wing walls, new freestanding altar, new choir platform

1975 -
Alteration to clergy vestry - raising floor, provision of new fittings. Construction of new mezzanine floor with servers' vestry, choir room and warden's office. Construction of new kitchen and toilets, basement.

1977 -
New parish office basement

1983 -
New ceiling to hall

Construction Details

Auckland basalt; Oamaru limestone dressings; walls, buttressed; roof, hammerbeam trusses; tiled roof originally Welsh slate. 1936 addition, reinforced concrete and brickwork, plastered internally (painted) and externally (unpainted). Pressed metal roofing tiles.

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902

Dixon, 1978

Roger Dixon & Stefan Muthesius, 'Victorian Architecture', London, 1978

Hayward, 1987

Bruce W. Hayward, 'Granite and Marble: a guide to building stones in New Zealand', Geological Society of New Zealand Guidebook, No.8

Porter, 1979

Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island, Auckland, 1979

Fleming, 1980

John Fleming, Hugh Honour and N. Pevsner, Dictionary of Architecture, London, 1980

The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Third Edition, Harmondsworth 1980

Clark, 1962

K. Clark, The Gothic Revival, Great Britain, 1962

Fletcher, 1948

B. Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, London 1948

Stamp, 1980

G Stamp & C Amery, Victorian Buildings of London 1837 - 1887; An illustrated Guide, London 1980.

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.