Christ Church (Anglican)

16 Lyon Street, Kihikihi

  • Christ Church, Kihikihi.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K Mercer. Date: 20/07/2010.
  • Christ Church setting, including oaks.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K Mercer. Date: 20/07/2010.
  • Interior looking West, Christ Church.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: K Mercer. Date: 20/07/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 744 Date Entered 2nd March 2011 Date of Effect 2nd March 2011


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 332 Town of Kihikihi (RT SA6A/568), South Auckland Land District and the building known as Christ Church (Anglican) thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the list of chattels provided in the registration report. It excludes the Church Hall. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Waipa District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Pt Allot 332 Town of Kihikihi (RT SA6A/568), South Auckland Land District

Location description

Corner of Leslie and Lyon Streets, State Highway 3


Continuously in service as a church since its erection in 1881, Christ Church in Kihikihi has strong associations’ with the King movement and is sited near the King Country border for the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. The Kihikihi area is associated with Maori leader, Rewi Manga Maniapoto (?-1894) who transformed the local landscape using agricultural approaches learned from missionaries. This process was continued by European settlers after the Waikato land war, with Kihikihi gradually flourishing into a centre large enough to warrant its own church. Plans for Christ Church were donated by significant Anglican Church designer Reverend Phillip Walsh (1843-1914). Considered ecclesiastically correct, the small weatherboard building with a wooden shingle roof unusually had rounded rather than pointed arches for almost all apertures and internal beams. Local builder, Archibald (Archie) Miller, used timber from local farms with some coming from vestry members. The church’s consecration was witnessed by a packed congregation, including Maniapoto, a founding parishioner.

The church opened debt free, a credit to the fundraising of the women of Christ Church, who continued to play a vital role in funding maintenance, planting trees, donating and sometimes creating many of the fittings and chattels, etc. At some point the roof was covered with corrugated iron and in 1998 leadlight glass was put in four of the five apse windows. The church got its first resident vicar in 1963. In 1981 Reverend Anne Elisabeth Thornton Riley (? - 1985) took up the role, becoming the first female vicar in the Waikato, and the first vicar in New Zealand to bear a child while holding office. In 1990 the last resident vicar left, and the church has been led by a Ministry team ever since.

Christ Church has strong spiritual value with continuous service to the parish for 129 years. It has architectural significance as an ecclesiastically correct design by Reverend Phillip Walsh. It is a good example of a simple village church given its high level of physical integrity. Several generations of parishioners have been influential in the village and wider district and value the building highly. It also has importance in the changing role of women in the church, having been the first Anglican Church to have a female vicar in the Waikato. This humble village church is a place that is of importance to tangata whenua, in particular through its strong associations with Maori leader Rewi Maniopoto and the King Movement and its association with this important idea in New Zealand history.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Christ Church (Anglican) is a dominant Kihikihi landmark on the town’s busiest street. The site is associated with important aspects of the history of Kihikihi, in particular the early relationship between the Anglican Church and the Armed Constabulary, physically represented by the oak trees planted by Mrs Minnett. It is also linked to the significant Maori leader, Maniapoto, a founding church member. Many of the church members were influential within the village and the wider district.

The building has been in continuous use as an Anglican church since it was built in 1881. The church records, plantings and furnishings speak of the contribution and influence of the women of the congregation. In particular, it was the first church in the Waikato to have a female vicar and the first in New Zealand where the vicar gave birth while in office, reflecting the changing role of women within the church and society generally.

Architectural Significance or Value:

Christ Church (Anglican) has architectural significance as a design of Rev. Walsh who was an early and prolific designer for the Anglican Church. Furthermore, the building has a high level of physical integrity and provides a good example of a simple village church in the Ecclesiastical style, although its use of non-pointed arches is unusual for the period.

Spiritual Significance or Value:

Christ Church (Anglican) has been in continuous use as a gathering place for the Anglican Church for 129 years, providing evidence of a long-standing support for Anglicanism in Kihikihi. It is also a place of reverence and respect for the descendants of those who worshipped there, those whose life milestones took place there, and for the local community.

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

Christ Church (Anglican) is associated with Maniapoto who was a key Maori leader in the mid to late nineteenth Century, particularly in relation to the agricultural landscape of the local district (influenced by his contact with missionaries), his role in the Waikato Land Wars and the establishment of the Kingitanga movement. He attended the consecration of Christ Church and was considered a member of the church when he died.

Christ Church is associated with the changing role of women in the church and has a history of strong local women supporting its work but is most significant for having been the first Anglican church to have a female vicar in the Waikato, and was the first New Zealand vicar to give birth while holding the office.

(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua:

Maniapoto was a key Maori leader in the mid to late nineteenth Century, in particular through his association with the King Movement. Maniapoto is recognised as having been a passionate advocate for Maori land to stay in Maori hands and was an early member of the Kingitanga movement. Maniapoto led the battle at Orakau Pa against the British military. A mere 16 years after the Orakau Battle, timber for the church was obtained from land near the Pa and battle site and reflects the importance of the place to tangata whenua.

Maniapoto and several Maori people were present at the dedication of the Church, and the closing dedicatory prayer was said in Te Reo Maori. The attendance of Maniapoto is indicative of his support of the establishment of the Anglican Church in Kihikihi.

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

As a place of worship, fellowship, commemoration and community use for over 128 years Christ Church has a strong association with the local Kihikihi community. Christ Church has been held in high regard and continues to be used as a place of worship,

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The Church is on an a spacious elevated setting surrounded by trees of around 130 years old, close to a number of other nineteenth and early twentieth century structures, including the Alpha Hotel, the relocated Temple cottage, the Ratatu Hill Redoubt, the original police constable’s house and police station.

Summary of Significance or Values

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: b, d, e, k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Walsh, Philip

Walsh (1843-1914) was born in Ireland and educated in France, but migrated to New Zealand as one of the founding members of the Special Settlement at Whangae, soon taking his Anglican orders and being ordained in 1874. While not formally trained as an architect, he held a similar role within the church as Reverend Frederick Thatcher before him, serving as church designer and working closely with the Bishop. Walsh’s Anglican Church designs started with St Patrick’s in the Bush in 1872. Other churches he is known to have designed include: St Luke’s, Mt Albert (1872) (NZHPT Record Number 681) under the guidance of an architect; [Holy] Trinity Church, Pakaraka, with H Williams (1873) (NZHPT Record No. 65); St Andrew’s Church, Inglewood (1877) (NZHPT Record No. 875); St John’s Church, Waitara (1879); St Paul’s Church, Urenui (1888) (NZHPT Record No. 817); St Mary’s Church, Kohukohu in the Hokianga (1891); St Saviour's Church, Kaitaia; (St John?), Ohaeawai, and churches at Oromahoe, Northland (presumably St Matiu’s Church, 1880, NZHPT Record No. 416) and Aratapu, Northland.

On some occasions he also donated the land the church stood on and/or supervised construction. Additions to St Mary’s in New Plymouth (NZHPT Record No. 148) were influenced by him, and he designed the St John’s College Chapel belfry in Auckland (NZHPT Record No. 13). His broader design skills are seen in several sets of commemorative hatchments displayed in Churches, such as those at St Andrews Church in Cambridge (NZHPT Record No. 154) and St Mary’s Church New Plymouth, as well as a number of memorials including the Marsden Cross in Northland (NZHPT Record No. 7724), and Eliza Cowie’s memorial stained glass window (1912) at St Mary’s, Parnell, Auckland (NZHPT Record No. 21).

He was recognised as an artist, exhibiting with the Auckland Society of Arts, illustrating Georgiana Peacock’s book Rays From the Southern Cross (1876) and having lithographs reproduced in the Illustrated London News, for example. He also wrote papers for the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute on scientific and Maori subjects, as well as writing short stories.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Christ Church (Anglican) is just outside the border of the King Country or Rohe Potae, so was described as being ‘built on the edge of the European outpost of the Empire.’ The little Anglican church is set back from State Highway 3 on a prominent site close to the northern boundary of the town of Kihikihi, a small town associated with the Waikato leader, Rewi Manga Maniapoto (?-1894). Maniapoto was strongly influenced by early New Zealand missionary teachings about Christianity, literacy, and agriculture, promoting pakeha agricultural crops and practices, dramatically changing the area’s landscape from the 1840s. He is remembered for supporting the Maori King movement, fighting against the Crown in the Waikato Land War and being a pragmatist who helped to negotiate peace.

The early 1850s saw the development of the King movement also known as Kingitanga. This was established in the central North Island with the intention of unifying Maori under a Maori King, thus weakening the potential for the British to capitalise on any existing tribal divisions. It was believed that having a monarch who had similar status to that of Queen Victoria, would put Maori on an equal footing with the Europeans. This was a response to the rapid loss of Maori land to the Colonial government and it was hoped through Kingitanga to restrain individual chiefs from selling land. The establishment of Kingitanga was a pre-cursor to the Waikato land wars of the 1860s. Since it was established, the Kingitanga movement and influence have expanded and are recognised and respected by Maori in many parts of New Zealand today.

Maniapoto was influential in the King movement, and in 1858 participated in the installation of Potatau Te Wherowhero, the first King. The bible used at this ceremony was provided by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary and translator based at Te Awamutu, Reverend Robert Maunsell (1810 - 1894). At the nearby battle of Orakau in 1864 Maniapoto led Ngati Maniapoto against the British military forces, the padres attached to the Regiments are said to have ministered to the dying on both sides, perhaps reinforcing the Anglican link. As agriculture intensified in the district, Kihikihi grew as a trading and commercial centre, with Church services held in the school and occasionally the barracks.

From around 1880 Maniapoto lived in Kihikihi in a house built for him by the government. In September 1880 a section was surveyed for the church on a low hill overlooking the district, and the Church’s foundation block was laid by Auckland Bishop William Garden Cowie (1831-1902) in December, where he expressed the hope that the building would be replaced by ‘one of more durable materials than wood’ in the next fifty years; this humble church building has proven much more durable that the Bishop could envisage. The land was transferred to the Diocese in July 1881.

Reverend Phillip Walsh (1843-1914), then of Taranaki, designed plans for the church which he donated to the building committee. Cowie described Walsh’s churches as ‘ecclesiastically correct, and in good taste’, and Walsh himself as ‘one of the best amateur draughtsmen I ever knew, and ... an accomplished architect.’ Walsh designed according to the principles of the Ecclesiological Society, an influential neo-Gothic group interested in how worship could be physically manifested through architecture, design and music. Most of Walsh’s churches were in Northland and Taranaki, where he lived: Christ Church is the only Walsh-designed church identified in the Waikato.

Christ Church was one of sixty-nine Anglican churches built between 1870 and 1887, varying in seating capacity from one thousand to around one hundred people, making Christ Church with seating estimates between 72 to 90 people, a very small church for the Auckland Diocese. The plans were for an interior space of 48 feet by 19 feet (14.63 by 5.79 metres) and allowed for a future extension of 30 feet (9.14 metres) should it be required. Before tenders were called in early 1881, the women of the church took on most of the responsibility for fundraising, including Miss Maunder, Mrs Anderson and Mrs Minnett, wife of Major Minnett of the Armed Constabulary based in Kihikihi. The largest fundraiser was a Bazaar, which involved a special train being run from Auckland and the event being opened by the Attorney General F. Whitaker. Mrs Anderson was also publicly honoured for her assistance to the building committee. Tenders for the build were presented to Mr Anderson and in April it was awarded to Archibald (Archie) Millar, a local man presenting the cheapest tender of £198, but actually built at a cost of between £250 and £300. Timber, predominantly rimu with some kahikatea, was supplied by Messrs Berry, Gardner and Neill whose mill had recently opened at Orakau. They cut timber from the adjoining properties of Mr Cowan and Mr Hutchinson: J. Hutchinson’s farm incorporated the Orakau pa, site of the battle. Berry and Hutchinson went on to be highly involved in the vestry of the Church, with Hutchinson being both a lay reader and Church Warden. Hutchinson was active in the community more generally, serving on the Waipa County Council, as chairman of the Mangahoe Drainage Board and a member of the committee of the Waikato Agricultural and Pastoral Society. Both the Anglican and the Catholic Church building sites had problems with timber being stolen; nonetheless, the church was dedicated by the Bishop on 5 Dec 1881. The crammed church building was described as ‘well proportioned’ and ‘very pretty’, and (remarkably) completely free of debt. The singing was ‘well led’ by Mrs Hutchison.

Several Maori people were present at the dedication including Maniapoto, so the closing dedicatory prayer was said in Te Reo Maori. It has been argued that Maori of the period were less concerned about denominational or even religious divisions. Maniapoto’s longest association was with the (Anglican) Church Missionary Society (CMS), but he was educated by the Wesleyans and also had contact with the Catholics from 1844. However, the New Zealand Herald report of Maniapoto’s funeral in 1894 stated that he belonged to the Church of England.

By January there were requests to increase the frequency of vicar-led services from once a month to twice a month, to purchase lighting and to start a Sunday school. In July, plans were underway to lay out the grounds with assistance requested from the local Armed Constabulary, via Major Minnett. This is likely to be the period when it was arranged to import oak trees from England for the gardens. In October plans were afoot to paint the new church.

It was not until 1883, after negotiations between the Crown and key Maori King Movement leaders (including Maniapoto), that an agreement was reached in Kihikihi that permitted Europeans access into the King Country. In 1884 it was decided to obtain a font, proposed by Hutchinson and seconded by Berry. That same year the Minnett’s sold their Kihikihi belongings and arranged to leave town, as the Armed Constabulary was being disbanded. Major Minnett went on to briefly become Government Instructor in Musketry.

Many locally significant families have had a long association with the church, such as the Temples, Hutchinsons, Wynyards and Maunders. When Cowie visited the church in 1887 he noted that many congregation members travelled long distances to reach the church, including the Hutchinsons. The Church Warden at that time was formerly of the 40th Regiment, while Charles Temple was a Forest Ranger who fought at Orakau in 1864 and served with the armed constabulary. His children and grandchildren were the main bell ringers in the church. His granddaughter Isabella Temple (ca.1898-1991) is particularly remembered as an influential Christ Church member, a long-term bell ringer (including ringing in peace at the end of World War One), one-time secretary of the Anglican Church Guild and League of Mothers, as well as for her role as counsellor at the Waikeria Youth Institution for many years: she brought some of her young charges to church with her. She was very active in the community more broadly, including serving as a secretary for the National Party, belonging to the Red Cross Society and the Country Women’s Institute, and taking an active part in fundraising for a retirement home in Te Awamutu. She learned to fly at a time when few women were so ‘unmaidenly’.

At the Church annual general meeting of 1890, it was decided to postpone erecting a vestry. The mid-1890s saw a decline in church membership, as many parishioners relocated to the Paeroa gold fields.

In 1931 the Parish of St John, Te Awamutu was created, which included Christ Church. In 1940 the Kihikihi Anglican Women’s Guild was formed, and as with many such guilds they raised funds to look after church property: one of their first fundraisers was for painting the church. In 1944 they mooted removing an oak tree in front of the church as part of tidying up the grounds. However, this idea was overturned as the oak was said to have been planted by Mrs Minnett some 60 years before. In 1957 the Guild raised money to have the church carpeted.

In the early days of the church the vicar gave one morning a month to visiting Christ Church, but Evensong was held every Sunday, led by Lay Readers. It was not until 1963 that the congregation was determined to have become large enough to support their own vicar, and Reverend E.D. Brown was inducted to oversee the Parochial District of Orakau. The same year it was proposed to build a new hall on the church land. The hall was opened in 1966 and was designed to seat 160 people. The same year saw the property subdivided but also increasing cooperation between various denominations at Kihikihi. In 1968 the old church hall was sold to the Assemblies of God church, and around the same time evensong was discontinued. In 1973 the 11am service was discontinued. The 1970s were also marked by the theft of a number of brass ceremonial items.

The period saw greater awareness of the needs of Maori, and a Maori Pastor was appointed to the Waitomo Pastorate. The Woman’s Movement was also to have an impact: Christ Church was the first church in the Waikato Diocese to have a female vicar, Reverend Anne Elisabeth Thornton Riley (? - 1985), in 1981, the same year the church celebrated its centennial with 180 people attending. The commemoration was marked in part by the donation of a brass cross by two long standing members, Isabella Temple and Molly Maunder (organist), replacing a stolen one. Later the same year Riley was the first woman vicar in New Zealand to give birth.

During the 1980s considerable work was done on the church’s interior furnishings with the Bishops chair undergoing refurbishment, three new chandeliers were installed, two altar candle sticks with a snuffer were acquired, new seasonal church hangings were embroidered by four of the church women, including Riley. She died in 1985 while still in office, and is remembered with a plaque. Riley was succeeded by another woman, Stephanie Owen, Priest in Charge. In 1987 a tornado lifted roofing iron revealing wooden shingles still in place underneath, and smashing some of the windows.

In 1990, upon the departure of their vicar, a Ministry Team was licensed to lead the church instead and this arrangement continues to the present.

The 1880s had been a period of active church building in Kihikihi, with four denominations represented. Today, only Christ Church remains in use as a church.

Physical Description

Situated in the rural town of Kihikihi on State Highway 3, Christ Church (Anglican) is set back slightly from the main road on a spacious corner section, with a backdrop of large trees and shrubs. It is the first of a number of historic buildings when approached from the North, being close to the Alpha Hotel (NZHPT Record No. 4330), the relocated Temple cottage (NZHPT Record No. 4388), the original Police constable’s house and police station (NZHPT Record No. 4331) and the Ratatu Hill Redoubt. Sharing the Church site but detached on the southern side is the 1966 red brick church hall.

The view of the church from the road is dominated by the half-decagonal faceted apse which faces east in accordance with Christian tradition. The single storey church building is in an apsidal style similar to Reverend Frederick Thatcher’s (1814 - 1890) colonial Gothic churches built during Bishop Selwyn’s time. The plan is cruciform, but the transepts are formed by two entrance lobbies set opposite each other approximately two-thirds back towards the western end of the north and south walls: the front enclosed porch and the vestry. These are the only entries. The main entrance doors are solid timber and have a semi-circular top. The rectangular vestry door is more utilitarian in style and has a concrete ramp leading to it. The curved main entrance door is echoed in the round-headed windows and the ox eye window. Most if not all of the window glass has been replaced, with the window behind the altar blocked out, and geometric leadlights in the surrounding four panes. The church has been repiled, foundations are of concrete and the building is clad in weatherboards with corner covers. The coloured steel roof has a central gable with moulded facia. The east end of the main gable finished with a wooden finial in the shape of a cross. A belfry housing a single bell is set centrally on the western end of the building, and is topped by a metal Celtic-style cross.

The curve of windows is echoed in the open timber collar-braced roof arches: they form a gentle curve rather than a pointed arch. Timber is mainly rimu and borer has been treated. The internal doors are covered in red fake leather dating from the early 1980s, presumably to retain warmth. The building is decorated simply, the main decorative element is the curve, and a repeated design of simplified quatrefoil holes cut into the top plate apparently providing ventilation. Varnished vertical tongue and groove is used on both walls and as sarking, increasing the sense of height and a dim, warm ambience. Despite the vertical timbers and open ceiling, the building is on a human scale. The nave is 5.6 metres wide and approximately 10.7 metres long, while the apse is 2.2 metres deep. The floor coverings are not original.

The chancel area includes many chattels serving both ceremonial and memorial functions, such as the centennial brass cross, the altar candle sticks, the memorial candle snuffer, the tiny memorial desk, the bishops’ chair, the vicars’ chair and prayer desk among others. The font, probably of limestone, sits at the western end of the nave, symmetrically positioned under the ox eye window.

The choir pews have been removed from in front of the chancel within living memory. The pews used by the congregation are the same as those depicted in a circa 1930s photograph, while the altar rail has been either altered or replaced. The pew in the entrance lobby is more ornate. The light fittings have all been changed since the 1930s: the current fittings are more ornate and styled to look much older. The shape of vestry ceiling is simpler than in the main entrance porch, and the finish on the window is not as good as that in the main church, possibly the result of a repair. Cupboards have been added in the vestry.

A number of maintenance issues were identified in 1991, including the active borer, the state of the roof, overdue exterior painting combined with deterioration of the exterior joinery, the floor was out of level, some jack studs were leaning and the building appeared to be spreading at the eaves line. So a refurbishment program was commenced through into 1992, that included re-roofing, replacing rotten timbers, prepping the exterior for painting, bracing the interior and, as a result of a gift, carpet laid throughout. In 1998 parishioners contributed funds to have four of the windows in the apse filled with leadlight glass. An icon, hung above the credence table, was donated by Bishop Moxon in 2000.

The use of round-headed doors, windows and the interior beams forming a single gentle curve is unusual, as Gothic-style pointed arches are much more common in New Zealand Anglican nineteenth century churches. Christ Church ‘is an important example of a smaller ‘village’ church’, with a high level of physical integrity.

Construction Dates

1880 -
Foundation stone laid

Original Construction
1881 -
Constructed and opened

1992 -
Re-roofed with coloursteel

1998 -
Window glass in apse replaced with leadlight

Construction Details

Timber, weatherboards, timber shingles, corrugated iron, concrete

Completion Date

20th December 2010

Report Written By

Kathryn Mercer, Gail Henry, Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Parker, 1986

S K Parker, Cambridge: An Illustrated History 1886-1986: The Centenary of Local Government in Cambridge, Cambridge 1986

Watson, 1981

W Watson, Sermons in Wood: Waikato Hauraki, 19th century wooden churches, Norton Watson, 1981

Donovan, 2002

Don Donovan, Country Churches of New Zealand, New Holland, Auckland, 2002.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area 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.