Bishopdale Historic Area

223 Waimea Road, Nelson

  • Bishopdale Historic Area. Plan of Historic Area from registration report..
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Date: 15/09/2000.
  • Bishopdale Historic Area. Chapel of the Holy Evangelist (Anglican). Image courtesy of Bayley's Nelson 2014.
    Copyright: Bayley's Nelson.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7475 Date Entered 15th September 2000 Date of Effect 15th September 2000


Extent of List Entry

The Bishopdale Historic Area covers an area known as the Bishopdale Estate, located at 223 Waimea Road, Nelson. This Estate covers 2.4327 hectares roughly in the form of a decagon oriented on a north-south axis with Waimea Road on the western boundary. The north and east boundaries abut the Nelson City Council Bishopdale Reserve, which is not part of the proposed historic area. The southern boundary abuts the Bishopdale Pottery, also not part of the proposed historic area.

The buildings included in the registration are:

The Chapel of the Holy Evangelists (#249)

The Bishop's Residence

Double Garage

Small Concrete building

Groundsman's/Gardener's Cottage

Double Garage

In addition to the buildings within the historic area, there are 15 historic trees protected.

They are English Oak, Bunya Bunya Pine, Silver Peppermint, Califonian Redwood and Monterey Cypress.

City/District Council

Nelson City


Nelson Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 9329


This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical Background:

On the 28th September 1858, Queen Victoria through the Letters of Patent established the Bishopric of Nelson in the town of Nelson, to be a Bishops See and the seat of the Bishop. The original Document is held in the Nelson Anglican Centre.

Edmund Hobhouse, on the 29th September 1858, was consecrated a Bishop in London for Nelson, New Zealand. He arrived in Nelson the following year and announced the need for a Bishop's residence. In 1862 he purchased 158 acres (4 parcels of land) in S. Nelson for a Bishop's residence, to be known as Bishopdale. In June 1866 Hobhouse in a Trust Deed gifted the Bishopdale Estate through the General Synod to the Nelson Diocese. Trustees for the first 10 year's were Bishop Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, Bishop Patterson of Melanesia and Sir William Martin, Chief Justice of New Zealand. In 1867 Bishop Suter arrived in Nelson.

The first residence at Bishopdale was opened in September 1868 and the Theological College commenced in 1868. In 1876 Maxwell Bury was commissioned to design a Chapel to cater for students and for local residents.

The following year, the Chapel of the Holy Evangelists was consecrated. In the same year, Bishopdale College was affiliated to the University of New Zealand. By 1886, of twenty students in New Zealand who had gained the Licentiate of Theology, nine had obtained it at Bishopdale.

This was a significant year for another reason, Bishop Suter met Frederick Bennett at a village close to Mt Tarawera and brought him to complete his education at Bishop School in Nelson, ( Category II), and then at the Bishopdale Theological College where he was ordained. In 1928, Bishop Bennett was consecrated as the first Bishop of Aotearoa.

Bishop Suter, retired owing to ill-health in 1891, he was succeeded by Bishop Mules in 1892 and he remained as Bishop of Nelson until 1912. Bishop Sadlier (1912-34) was instrumental in the development of the new residence and upgrading the Chapel. Bishopdale Theological College, which had closed in 1909 due to the growth of the universities was re-opened by Bishop Sadlier in 1912 to train men to staff the scattered Diocese, but it closed again in 1915 owing to WWI. During the early 1920's a commission looked at the Bishopdale Estate. It was decided to sell the farmland which was of poor quality and to build a new house. In 1924, the first residence at Bishopdale was pulled down because of poor state of repair and the closure of the College made it too large.

At a cost of 5267 pounds, the new residence, designed by William Houlker, opened in 1925. The Chapel in 1925 had new flooring and electricity installed. Successive Bishops of Nelson from the 1930's to early 1950's period were Bishop Hilliard, Bishop Stephenson and Bishop Hulme Moir from 1954 - 1965.

Large attendances at interdenominational Conventions were held at Bishopdale regularly during Bishop Hulme Moir's period in office. Regular public services were held at Bishopdale during both Bishop Stephenson's and Bishop Hulme Moir's time continuing under Bishop Peter Sutton 1965 - 1990 as an important part of Bishopdale life. These ceased in 1993/94.

1970 was another landmark year for Bishopdale. The residence and grounds had had few improvements since the second dwelling was built in 1925. Parking was provided for the Chapel, a sealed driveway laid and the grounds opened up for the public. In 1976 approximately 5 acres of the remaining 10 were sold to the City as a permanent reserve. This circles as an L round the property from Waimea Road and is known as the Bishopdale Reserve. At present, there is no fence between the properties.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust gave $2000 for the Bishopdale Chapel in 1976. Borer was rife in the foundations of the Chapel and this money was used to help stabilise the foundations. The then Chairman of the Trust Board, Sir Alister McIntosh announced this at a public meeting in Nelson. (Nelson Evening Mail, 19 June 1976). The Board was meeting in Nelson at that time.

To celebrate the centenary of the Chapel in 1977, a bronze plaque was installed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Other celebrations included 'son et lurniere' which enacted 100 years of life at Bishopdale and was attended by some 800 people. During the celebrations a font pedestal was dedicated in memory of Frederick Bennett first Bishop of Aotearoa, carved by his son Hemi Bennett.

In 1979 Bishopdale College reopened primarily for lay people, (non residential.). In 1983, 22 graduates received their diplomas from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Dr Robert Runcie, together with Terry Waite and the Archbishop's Chaplain, Richard Chartres, now Bishop of London - they stayed at Bishopdale. During these years, many distinguished overseas scholars gave lectures including Dr Owen Chadwick,O.M.

Recent Events:

Bishop Sutton retired in 1990 and was succeeded by Bishop Derek Eaton, Q.S.M.

The following years saw extensive domestic renovations to the house. However, in October 1997, the Synod voted on the recommendation of a Property Advisory Committee to sell the property, excluding the Chapel and so long as provision could be made for housing the Bishop.

What followed was a series of actions expressing great concern at the proposed sale. A public meeting was called and a committee formed to look at all aspects of the intended sale. The Nelson Mail printed a feature on Bishopdale and also reported on a recent service of baptisms by Immersion taken by the present Bishop. In early 1998, Friends of Bishopdale circulated a paper 'Case for keeping Bishopdale' and a petition opposing a sale of the property gained some 1800 signatures. This was presented to the Standing Committee. The Friends of Bishopdale was founded as an Incorporated Society in June 1998.

In August that year, following advice from the Nelson Diocesan Trust Board that it had the legal right to sell the Bishopdale property, the Friends applied to the High Court for a declaratory judgement interpreting the 1866 Hobhouse Trust, to determine whether a sale of the Bishopdale property consisting of the house, grounds and chapel would constitute a breach of the Hobhouse Trust. This was not upheld by the Court.

In December 1999, the Bishopdale property went on the market. The Estate could be subdivided into 4 lots, with the Chapel and carpark being Lot 1, the groundsman's cottage and workshop lots 3 and 4 and the large remainder Lot 2 including the Bishop's residence. The proposed subdivision does not alter the registration proposal. Access to the Chapel remains via a Right of Way on the existing drive. The Diocesan Trust Board has had the property on the market since December last, but to date no sale has occurred.

As late as February 2000, it was learnt that the ground under the consecrated Chapel was included in the sale, the land to be leased back to the Diocese on a peppercorn rental. The Chapel remains church property.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical Significance:

Bishopdale has for 130 years been a focal point in the life of the Nelson Diocese and its history is closely associated with the development of Nelson. It has been the home to successive Bishops of Nelson since 1868, making Nelson different from other Anglican Dioceses in New Zealand. With its historic chapel, residence, well- kept grounds and

protected trees, it is a unique area. The facilities at Bishopdale have made it possible for many events to take place throughout its history, and while the Diocese is in the process today to seeking to sell the property because of considerable on-going maintenance costs, Bishopdale is nevertheless still seen as being a very precious part of Nelson's history.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The historic Chapel of the Holy Evangelists (Category I HPT and Grade 'A' Nelson City Council) relates closely with the Bishop's Residence and the trees which are over 100 years old. The trees are English Oak, Bunya Bunya Pine, Silver Peppermint, Californian Redwood and Monterey Cypress. Fifteen trees are protected, with eight having special protection by the Nelson City Council.

The property is enhanced by the Bishopdale Reserve (approx 2.4 hectares ) sold by the Nelson Diocesan Trust Board to the Nelson City Council as a permanent Reserve with special protection under a Minister of the Crown in 1976. The Reserve encircles the north and east sides of Bishopdale. The past 10 years has seen large housing development up the nearby York Valley. The Reserve, therefore, acts as a further buffer for the Chapel and the House. At present there is no fence between the two properties giving the appearance of one area.

Entrance to Bishopdale is from Waimea Road between two Oaks planted by the two young sons of Bishop Edmund Hobhouse, 1859-1866, the first Bishop, in memory of their mother prior to leaving for England, June 1866.

When the property was upgraded in 1969-70, two grey brick pillars were built beneath the oaks on which were placed the Diocesan Crest, the work of well-known potter Jack Laird. At the top of the drive, the Chapel and Residence are relatively close thus providing easy access for combined or different events.

Physical Significance:

Bishopdale is an oasis of peace and tranquillity despite its proximity to an increasingly busy and noisy City. The Chapel stands on the hill and can be seen from Waimea Road. This residential site has been the home to Bishops of Nelson since 1868. The trees provide stability to the land and provide privacy to this historic site.

Architectural Significance:

The Architect intended the Chapel to be of simple design with some English detailing. The exterior remains very much as it was constructed in 1877. It can be observed from Waimea Road on the approach to Bishopdale. It is significant for its fine interior features, especially the carved pillars and native timber construction. The Chapel has a Category I registration under the Historic Places Act and a Grade A on the Nelson City Council heritage list.

The present residence, the second house, at Bishopdale, built in 1925, was designed by a gifted artist. William Houllcer designed many outstanding Nelson buildings. The structure of the walls, the patented construction system, the "Romeo and Juliet" type verandah and feature balcony, together with the interior features described above, give this building a distinctive presence. The roughcast residence complements the simple timber design Chapel across the driveway.

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.


The Bishop's See of Nelson was developed by Bishop Selwyn as he established Anglican Dioceses following the decision of General Synod (1857). Bishopdale was purchased and developed to be a Bishop's residence meeting the requirement of The Letters of Patent that a Bishop reside in Nelson. The Hobhouse Trust, June 1866, established that 10 acres of the land purchased by Edmund Hobhouse be set aside for a residence, religious institutions and if need be a Cathedral. The first residence at Bishopdale was dedicated in 1868. In 1868, Bishop Suter established the Bishopdale Theological College, fulfilling an object of the Trust as a religious institution. The College was created to educate and train men for the ordained Ministry rather than bring them from overseas. The College was part of the first residence at Bishopdale and was affiliated to the University of New Zealand in 1877.

Worship has been the centre of life at Bishopdale. It has been used by Bishops through the years. In early times family students, staff and visitors went daily to the Chapel for morning prayer. Until recently, the Chapel has had regular public services. It has never just been the Bishop's private Chapel.

A valuable Library was established, largely gathered by the generosity of the first two Bishops. It was constantly replenished and provided a wealth of information and learning. Musical evenings in the Library over the years with large numbers attending were a special cultural feature at Bishopdale, especially for students and neighbouring community.

Students formed an integral part of the culture of Bishop dale, bringing different backgrounds. For example, T.S. Grace, a son of a Church Missionary Society, missionary working in the North Island, hardly saw a European in his early years. He understood and was closely associated with Maori and their culture which had an influence on Bishop Suter. Maori Language was part of the curriculum at Bishopdale.

Art had a significant place in the life of Bishopdale and the Bishopdale Sketching Club was founded by Bishop Suter in 1889. It now flourishes as the Suter Art Society, based at the Suter Gallery. He was a friend of John Gully, many of whose works he commissioned. Many of these hung at Bishopdale and were given by Mrs Suter to the Suter Gallery established in his memory.

Cultural Significance:

Bishopdale today has deep roots based on strong cultural foundations of the past 130 year's. These foundations are linked to both the City of Nelson and to the Anglican Church. Bishopdale is recognised by the community as an important part of Nelson's heritage. Since its establishment, Bishopdale has had thousands of visitors from throughout New Zealand and overseas for religious gatherings, for worship, for educational training, for arts and cultural events.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

This historic area was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. This report includes text from the original Historic Area Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Architectural Description:

The Chapel of the Holy Evangelists (consecrated October 20th , 1877), was designed by

Maxwell Bury, 1876/77 and built in 1877 by John Scott, with interior woodwork fittings by G. Fleming, both of Nelson. It is a simple Chapel of timber construction with vertical boarding and battens. The Holy Table (altar), in the Chapel was presented to the bishop by the clergy of the Diocese. It is constructed from totara and rimu with some parts of kauri, rewarewa and akeake. It is a true table, six feet long by three feet wide and high. There are two large carved pillars on each side of the Holy Table to bear lights. These stand five feet high flanking the Holy Table and were designed after capitals in some of the early Italian churches. Around the altar are the cedilia (fixed seats) for those assisting at services.

A further unusual feature of the church is the bapistry - built in addition to the font which

enabled full immersion baptisms to be carried out. The bapistry was concealed from view

when not needed.

Over the porch facing the Bishopdale residence was a reminder of the earliest days of the

Anglican Church in Nelson. This was a mitre, a relic of the large tent which Bishop

Selwyn used for services when he first came to Nelson in August 1842. It has since been

Lost. An opened-sided pulpit designed by Bishop Suter was introduced later. In the

sanctuary are stained glass windows, the central one, the Good Shepherd, is in memory of

Bishop Suter and the four surrounding windows depicting the Evangelists, commemorate

Mrs Suter, dedicated 1904.

Originally, the Chapel had a campanile crowned by a weathercock. A stone font stands

outside the West side of the Chapel; it is believed to have come from the first Cathedral.

The Bishop's Residence. The first residence opened in 1868. The following eight years

saw many additions to cater for students, including a large library holding over 100

persons. With the closure of the residential college, the house was too large and needed

repairs and maintenance.

The second house, built in 1925, was designed by Architect William Houlker (1880-

1964). Houlker designed many fine Nelson buildings including Wath Brow, Marsden

House (Cat II), The Deanery, Hotel Nelson and the Memorial Church (at Wharanui, south

of Seddon). The design of the new residence was based on that of Wath Brow which had

been left to the Diocese by Miss Marsden and where the fourth Bishop, Bishop Sadlier

lived while decisions were being made. The Residence faces North, the walls are rough

cast and the building is noted for its arched verandahs. They are situated on the NE and NW corners on the ground floor of the residence. Upstairs, two small verandahs are either side of the central window facing north, one is now enclosed. There is a "Romeo and Juliet" type verandah which faces west looking directly towards the Chapel. In 1985, a window was inserted for ventilation. This verandah is topped with two urns.

The north entrance to the residence with its large centre arch has an interesting feature tile with Latin words, which translated into English mean "God will provide". This possibly emanates from Bishop Suter, Bishop of Nelson from 1867 to 1891. Bishop Suter is recorded as giving tiles to Vicarages. The residence was re-roofed and slates removed in 1985. The structure of the walls is of interest. William Houlker patented a construction system described in a letter called "decrete" - two walls of brick with a gap in between filled with coke. This method was used for both internal and external walls; of interest when a wall was opened for a door to be inserted, coke just poured out!

The panelling in the hall and dining room is rimu, approximately six feet in height with a 12 foot stud. The small hall is dominated by the stair well. The staircase is wide and partly panelled and in three stages with two turns arriving at the landing with the balustrade surrounding the stairwell on three sides. Topping this and high in the roof is a lead light dome with some stained glass. The dome dominates the hall. The upstairs stud is much lower than the ground floor.

Other buildings at Bishopdale include a Garage near the west side of the residence,

facing north, built in roughcast, with a gabled slate roof, with a weathervane and cock

formerly on the Chapel.

There is a Groundsman's Wooden Cottage situated on the left inside the entrance, built about the commencement of WWI. It faces north and has had several upgrades. A Double Garage next to the Cottage is a 1970's block and houses a workshop and machinery. A Woodshed and Toilet, built in 1965 is a small concrete block and largely hidden between the back of the residence and bank.

Construction Dates

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Central region 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.

Historic Area Place Name

Chapel of the Holy Evangelists (Anglican)
Double Garage
Groundsman's/Gardener's wooden cottage
Small concrete building
The Bishop's Residence