St Luke's Church (Anglican)

1280 Chorlton Road, Little Akaloa

  • St Luke’s Church (Anglican), Little Akaloa. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 3/07/2014.
  • St Luke's Church (Anglican), Little Akaloa. Interior. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 3/07/2014.
  • St Luke's Church (Anglican), Little Akaloa. Interior showing Maori carvings on white limestone and rafters decorated with Maori patterns. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 3/07/2014.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7094 Date Entered 17th December 1993 Date of Effect 17th December 1993


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Res 90 (RT CB774/34), Canterbury Land District and the building known as St Luke's Church (Anglican) thereon. The lychgate, entrance gates and cemetery are not included within the extent.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Pt RES 90 (RT CB774/34), Canterbury Land District



John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was the local farmer who was largely responsible for the design, construction, decoration and financing of St Luke's Church. Menzies lived on site during most of the construction period which began in March 1905 and as a result of his efforts the church was completed free of debt and was consecrated on 6 December 1906.

The bell tower of St Luke's commemorates William Menzies' wife Gertrude and the bell commemorates Reverend Canon Frederick Menzies.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Luke's Church demonstrates the faith and commitment shared by the residents of Little Akaloa and Menzies Bay. It is a monument to the memory of J.H. Menzies and is the realisation of this Pakeha's fascination with Maori decorative art.


St Luke's Church demonstrates the continuing influence of the Gothic Revival upon ecclesiastical architecture in twentieth century New Zealand. It differs in that it is extensively decorated with painting, carving and leadlighting inspired by Maori art. It is a fine example of a traditionally European church design to incorporate Maori decorative motifs, the earliest known example being Rangiatea Church, Otaki (1848-51).

St Luke's Church, however, is exceptional in that it is the earliest known example of a Pakeha designer using Maori decorative motifs for a Pakeha congregation. There was no Maori collaboration.


The buff colouring of the exterior walls and grey of the Welsh slates mean that St Luke's Church harmoniously accords with its secluded setting. Together with the lichgate, memorial fence and gates and the cemetery, this church enhances and is enhanced by the site which overlooks Little Akaloa Bay on a rise above the village.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Menzies, John Henry

John Henry Menzies (1839-1919) was born in Liverpool but of Scottish descent and immigrated to New Zealand in 1860. He farmed initially in Southland before settling on Banks' Peninsula.

In 1878 Menzies bought McIntosh Bay, renaming it after himself, and built a homestead there the following year. This house and the second Glen Mona homestead were destroyed by fire but the third homestead (1930) remains extant. He also built a house for his eldest son William at Menzies Bay in 1894 called 'Rehutai'.

Menzies was largely responsible for the design, construction, decoration and financing of St Luke's Church at Little Akaloa (1905-6). He had been obsessed with wood carving from an early age and was particularly fascinated by Maori decorative art. The interior of St Luke's Church is a permanent reminder of this fascination and the carving in both wood and stone is particularly fine given that Menzies does not appear to have had any formal training.

In 1910 he published a pioneering text, Maori Patterns Painted and Carved.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


St Luke's Church is a small Gothic Revival building with a traditional Latin cross plan. The liturgical west end has an entrance porch to the north and a bell tower to the south, the latter with open timber braces supporting a turret roof. A vestry opens off the south transept and, like the nave, transepts and entrance porch, has a gabled roof. The smoothness of the slate roof cladding, modillioned eaves and quoined window surrounds is contrasted by the textured surface of the exterior walls which displays a course aggregate including fragments of sea shells.

The interior of St Luke's is dominated by decorative Maori motifs on various members of the roof structure, in the carved limestone and furniture and in the leaded glass windows. The king-post roof trusses are offset by painted inscriptions on the purlins and painted kowhaiwhai on the rafters. The totara roof is lined with rimu sarking machined to simulate raupo stems and at the crossing Oamaru limestone columns feature geometric capitals based on Maori motifs. The altar, altar rails, pulpit, baptismal font, chancel niche for communion and a cross behind the altar are all carved from limestone using decorative Maori detailing. Inlaid patterns in the concrete floor of the aisle and transepts also follow this theme. The carving is particularly complemented by the simple geometric design of the leaded stained glass triple lancets. The wooden lectern, the altar rails and the carved wall-plates are inset with paua, and wooden pews further enrich the interior.

A relief panel in the rear wall specifies F.A. Acourt as the chief worker in wood and stone and J.H. Menzies as the principal designer and carver, assisted by C.F. Acourt, A.H. Stace, D.J. Waghorn and J. Bennett.



Walls tied with steel rods

Marseilles tile roofing replaced with Welsh slates


New lighting installed

Notable Features

Carving in wood and stone using Maori decorative motifs.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1905 -

Construction Details

Concrete foundations and floor; unreinforced concrete external walls; exposed timber roof structure with slate cladding.

Information Sources

Church News

Church News

January 1907

Menzies, 1910

J H Menzies. Maori Patterns Painted and Carved, 1910. Copy held at School of Fine Arts Library, University of Canterbury

Thornton, 1987

G G Thornton, Early Concrete Buildings in New Zealand, Manuscript, 1987

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The assessment below is the text from the original Proposal for Registration 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.