St Mary's (Anglican) Parish Church, Timaru, N.Z.

Photo taken 1980. Courtesy of Lynne Hyde.
 It took 28 years to build as the parishioners were able to afford it. 1880-1909

St Mary's Memorials  

24 Church St., Timaru. "This church stands on an elevated site, and presents an impressive appearance. It is constructed of Timaru gray stone, lined withSt. Mary's Timaru is registered as Category 1 with the NZ Historic Places Trust.  Historic place of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value. Oamaru stone, and is in the English style of architecture designed by W.B. Armson. The nave, complete, cost 11,000, but the chancel and vestry are at present temporary in their character, and their completion awaits the accumulation of sufficient funds. A tower and spire, after the style of the Christchurch Cathedral, will form part of the completed building. The interior of the church, which provides seating accommodation for 800 worshippers, possess many noteworthy features; the Scotch granite pillars, the highly artistic carved work, memorial brasses and stained glass windows giving it an appearance of dignity, solemnity and repose. The organ is one of Messrs Lewis and Co.'s English instruments. The church was opened and consecrated in 1866. 
    St Mary's vicarage occupies a half acre allotment in Theodosia Street. It is built of brick, is two stories in height, and contains about a dozen well appointed rooms. Immediately at the rear of the vicarage is St Mary's Sunday school room, which is a wooden building on a concrete foundation. It contains seating accommodation for about 500 persons." Reference: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Canterbury edition. 1903

Many couples have been photographed in front of this door, the exist out of St Mary's Church.

Centennial porch. The parish centennial was 28th April 1961.

St Mary's and the bell tower both open for viewing and well worth a detour.
"The tower is about one hundred feet in height, but looks much higher, owning to its position on a hill rising higher than the adjoining streets. It is a conspicuous landmark to ships making for the harbour" wrote Archdeacon Henry Harper.  In 2012 the real bells are now silent and the sound is now electronic due to the earthquake.

Views from the crenellated square stone bell tower taken August 1999. One hundred and fourteen steps to the viewing balconies, 30 metres (100ft) above ground, offer magnificent views from the bay to the Two Thumb Range, 7000 odd feet. Always snow capped in winter. Photo credits: Olwyn.

30 October 2003 Timaru Herald
St Mary's restoration fund committee has been given a reminder from above, of just how urgent their task is. It wasn't windy, there wasn't an earthquake, but part of a 40cm-high Oamaru stone cross came crashing off the roof of the Timaru church on Monday. Archdeacon Philip Robinson said a person cleaning the church heard the almighty crash and went outside to investigate. Part of the Celtic cross from the roof of the octagonal choir room was lying on the ground. Mr Robinson saw the smashed cross as proof of just how soft and crumbly the stone has become - and how urgent the restoration work is. At this stage $168,000 has been raised or pledged for the restoration of the church. All up the work is expected to cost $975,000. It is planned to have the restoration work completed in time for the church's centennial in 2009

Timaru's St Mary's Anglican Church closed indefinitely on February 13 after an engineer's report showed parts of the building were only strengthened to 10 per cent of current building codes. The church sustained "zigzag cracking" up the stonework on both sides of the sanctuary in the September 2010 earthquake. Public buildings are required to be a minimum of 34 per cent compliant.

Evening Post 28 mach 1930 page 5

Chance to take a prowl around Timaru Church
2 December 2006 Timaru Herald

It's "open home" at St Marys tomorrow, a chance to take a look down in the crypt, inside the pipe organ and check out the singing birds. And for the visitor who wants to know more, the historical experts will be on hand, conducting tours from 2-4pm. Anglican churches throughout the Canterbury diocese are opening their doors this year as part of the diocese's 150th anniversary celebrations. While the doors of St Marys are always open to the public, Archdeacon Philip Robinson said tomorrow's tours would include parts of the building the public did not usually have access to. While the first St Marys was built in 1861, work on the existing building began in 1880 with the nave being completed six years later. Tarpaulins covered the roof for a couple of years until the parishioners could afford a permanent roof. It wasn't until 1909 that the chancel, chapel, vestries and tower were finished. But it's not only the building that will be on display. The churches "treasures" will also get an airing. The first Bishop of Christchurch Henry Harper, was given a bible by the "cottagers and servants" of his former parish of Mortimer, when he sailed for New Zealand with his family of 14 children in 1856. His son Henry, who became the second vicar of St Marys and first archdeacon of Timaru and Westland, donated his father's bible to St Marys. The leather bound, brass-clasped bible will be on display along with other old bibles. The church's very first font -- the size of a large cup -- and other religious items will all be on display for the afternoon. The tours, complete with afternoon tea, are free, with the aim of the exercise simply being for the public to enjoy the church for its religious or historical significance, or simply to appreciate the beauty of the historic building. A special ecumenical service will be held at St Mary's tomorrow morning to mark the 150th anniversary of the diocese. It's a big weekend for the church as a Victorian Christmas Market will be held outside this morning, and the church will be open to the public.

November 2007  TH. The tower of the gothic-style church is made of Oamaru stone and basalt, however the Oamaru stone is now crumbling. Contractors are cleaning it by hand to find out which stones need to be replaced. It is the first time recent restoration work on the church had been visible. Behind the scenes work included waterproofing the historic building by mending and replacing gutters and spouting, and also finding out if it needed to be earthquake-proofed. The foundations of the church were not only very solid, but they also ran out from the building, meaning it could stand up to an earthquake. Church people and the public have been very supportive of the whole restoration. The church is such a part of the community.

In Memory of Mary Luxmoore. 1903. Donated by Mary by bequest.

St Mary's has thirty-five stained glass windows. This beautiful stained glass window is to the right as you enter St Mary's Anglican Church in Timaru. One of a pair. Stained glass in churches forms the greatest collection of publicly accessible, large-scale artworks outside museums in NZ. The windows contribute to a church's decoration, style and character and are the most important source of light.  From sunrise to noon to midnight the hues change and gain and loose prominence like the instruments in an orchestra. The blue gains prominence when the light wanes.  To judge a window look at the size of the glass pieces, the smaller the better, and the effect of the lines of the leads, and whether the whole window gives a brilliant jewelled effect or whether it is only a picture painted on glass with landscape in perspective.

St Mary's Anglican Church is located at the intersection of Church and Sophia Streets perched on a hill.  The foundation stone was laid in 1880 and the church was built with durable bluestone stone a basalt volcanic rock (blue copperas) quarried locally and Oamaru stone facings. This beautiful gothic styled church was finally completed between 1907 - 1909 with the addition of the chancel, chapel, vestries and tower.  Designed by W.B. Armson.  The lofty nave, the main part of the church, took six years to build. The church was the vision of Archdeacon Henry William Harper, M.A., who came to New Zealand in Dec. 1855 on the "Egmont" from Oxford with his father Bishop Henry John Chitty Harper, the first Primate of the South Island. Henry was ordained in 1861 and was vicar of St. Mary's from 21 November 1875 until his retirement in 1911. For twenty years he travelled constantly on horseback. He found a church in a small wooden building, built up its numbers, and persuaded his people to build St Mary's.  This they did - it took twenty eight years, and was built in three stages as they were able to afford it.
Stage 1 & 2 Nave. The work was interrupted for six year. 1880
Stage 3. Chancel, Chapel, Vestries, Tower 1907-1909

Litany DeskElaborately carved native and song birds and flowers abound the altar and the panelling of the choir screen and organ case. Study the reredos at the altar feature the Last Supper.  Gurnsey's work is seen on the west doors, pulpit, choir stalls, organ case and altar (1925-50) and Litany Desk at St. Mary's. Also at St. Thomas, Woodbury and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo. 

'For almost fifty years, following his emigration from Britain to New Zealand in 1904, Frederick George Gurnsey was a leading figure in local wood and stone carving.
He taught at the Canterbury College School of Art until 1923 and later worked as a freelance carver on prestigious commissions throughout New Zealand. Among his best known works are the reredos and the Chapel of St. Michael and St. George in the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral and the stone carvings on the 1923 Bridge of Remembrance. The bridge arch is carved from Tasmanian stone. Quid non pro patria - "What will a man not do for his country."
His  technical excellence is shown in a wide range of charming and witty ornamental carvings. He did many ecclesiastical pieces and the carved Tudor rose which Gurnsey used as an affectionate tribute to his wife Rose Ellen. Gurnsey was too modest to sign his works so instead is often identified by his angel and rose monogram. Yet no two of his hundreds of angels, cherubim and putti are ever the same, and his thousands of roses vary from naturalistic flowers to emblematic Tudor blooms.

Timaru Herald, 6 June 1882, Page 2
The second contract for the erection of the new St. Mary's Church, Timaru, is now practically completed, only a few minor matters, requiring the contractor's attention. This contract comprised the construction of the greater portions of the south, west, and north walls. The work is now sufficiently advanced to give some indication of what the building will be like, in general character, when finished. It promises to be in every respect one of which the parishioners may be proud. The bulk of the material used is a light grey dolerite obtained from Mr Couch's quarry, plentifully relieved externally by white Oamaru stone, the interior being completely lined with the latter material. Proceeding round the outside of the building, the northern wall at present shows four windows and a door with porch. The windows have double Gothic openings, separated by substantial mullions, with hooded mouldings add with neatly cut bluestone arches above the mouldings. Neatly weathered buttresses are placed between the windows, in which the varied hues of the material are very effectively disposed. The porch at the door on this side promises to be a very pretty one. The outer doorway has a well-moulded arch, on a pair of polished bluestone shafts, and will be surmounted by high gable, which, is not yet finished. Within the porch are a couple of stone seats, in the olden style, and above each of these small and neat trefoil light, intersected by a triangle. The western wall shows a couple of windows similar in character to those of the north side, but having quatre-foil lights above. In the centre is the principal entrance, the arch of which shows numerous mouldings, some members of which are to be carved. The moulded portions spring from a pair of neat polished bluestone shafts on each side. Above the arch is a well proportioned gablet, with trefoil finial and "slated" coping. Above the gablet is seen a portion of the future rose light, a circular opening about 16 feet m diameter. The south wall presents five windows and intervening buttresses as on the opposite side. The interior presents few striking features as yet, but the excellent finish of the white stone walls attracts attention, as also does the massive responds at the west end, of future internal arches. Another salient and most pleasing feature is the series of slender bluestone shafts supporting the centres of the double windows, corresponding with the stout mullions on the outer side. The contractor for the portion described is Mr P. Clayton, and the work has been carried on under the supervision of Mr Annand, for the Building Committee. The workmanship appears to be that could be desired, and every detail of construction, affecting either the solidity of the walls or their appearance, to have been carefully attended to. Every stone has been out so as to give horizontal bedding and vertical joints, so that a truly solid-looking wall is the result. The next contract will probably include the erection of the granite pillars for the internal arches, the completion of the external walls, and the erection of the tower at the north-east corner, at least to some height.

Press, 26 August 1886, Page 31
ST. MARY'S CHURCH, TIMARU. DESCRIPTION OF THE BUILDING.
The new church of St. Mary's, Timaru, is to be consecrated to-day by his Lordship the Primate. The church iis exceedingly pretty and appropriate in design, and the following description will probably be read with interest :� The style of the church is Early English, the material of the walls being blue stone rabble, from Kirby's quarry, near Timaru, and white Oamaru it one dressings, the whole of the interior being faced with white stone. This blue stone, which is a dolerite, is hard and compact, of bluish grey color, forming an excellent contrast with the Oamaru stone. The external masonry is of a very massive character, and one of the finest pieces of work of the kind in the colony. The portion of the church which is completed at present consists of the nave and side aisles and the foundations with part of one well of the tower, which is situated on the northern side of the building at the intersection of the nave and chancel. When completed the tower and spire will reach 144 ft. On the northern side of the nave there is a handsome porch, with spacious doorway and outer iron gates, the floor being laid with Minton's tiles. At the west end there is a large doorway with richly moulded arch and bluestone columns. All the gates are finished with handsome crosses of Oamaru stone. The roof is coveted with the best Welsh slates, the clerestory walls above the aisle roofs being pierced with small, rose windows, and beaded with, rich moulding and carved work. The interior of the church is very striking. It measures 78ft by 54ft, without the chancel, sanctuary, and organ chamber. The nave is separated from the side aisles by six arches on each side, springing from carved Oamaru stone capitals, on polished Peterhead granite columns, with blue atone moulded bases. The spring of the arches is particularly graceful, whilst the rich red color of the granite snows off to the beat effect the finely executed carving of the capitals. The windows of the side aisles are two light lancets, with central bluestone columns, supporting drop arches in the inside, the inner arch and column adding much to the beauty and depth of the windows. At the west end there is a very handsome rose window of somewhat unusual design, consisting of a circular window of massive traceried stonework set in a spherical triangle of moulding, which is also pierced at the points of the triangle. The windows are all glazed with Cathedral glass of different tints, arranged in patterns, land with stained glass margins. The roofs are constructed of red pine, which is a New Zealand wood of beautiful grain and great strength, the whole of the woodwork being wrought and oiled. The nave roof is probably the finest specimen of work of its kind in New Zealand. It is very massive, having carved ribs springing from small shafts, forming pointed arches with richly moulded spandrils and collar ties, the king posts and small collars near the ridge forming effective cresses. The height from floor to apex of ridge is 55ft. Looking eastward the chancel arch is of noble proportions, leading at present into a temporary chancel, contrived out of the old church, and, therefore, though fairly spacious, having the appearance, necessarily, of a makeshift at the end of the south aisle there is a screen of red pine woodwork, beautifully devised and wrought, through which the choir gain access to the nave, the organ standing a little behind the screen. The nave is seated with fixed seats of good design, of black pine, oiled, and with accommodation, irrespective of the choir and of chairs, for which, there is ample room, for 450. The chancel seats for the choir are also of black pine, with handsome ends, the choir boy's desks, as well as the altar rails, being supported by wrought iron standards, painted and gilt. The church is most effectively lit by an arrangement of gas jets above the capitals of the pillars, and by two handsome braes and iron standard on either side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is, necessarily, small, and there is no east window, a side light in the northern wall being the only one available. In lieu of an east window, there are handsome tapestry hangings, which accord with the beautiful altar cloth, a present to the church. Mention may also he made of the stone font, not yet quite completed, the gift of St. Mary's Sunday School scholars and teachers, and other valuable gifts, such as the alms boxes, brass lectern, alms dish and bags, pulpit velvet hanging, candlesticks, flower vases, cross and carpet. The organ is by Lewis and Co., of  Brixton, London, a most effective instrument, powerful enough to fill the church well, and yet mellow in tone and of good variety of stops. The old church, of which part still remains, affords ample votary accommodation.  The Church has occupied a considerable time in building, three different contracts having been let from time to time, as funds came in, Messrs McGill, Clayton and F. Wilson being the contractors, of whom the latter has had the greater part of the work to perform, and it may be safely said that their work is good enough to satisty the most exacting critic. The church is the design of the late Mr W. O. Armson, of Christchurch, and since his death the work has been ably carried out by his successors, Mesers Collins and Barman, of Christchurch. The building is a lasting memorial of Mr Armson's ability and knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture.

Evening Post, 6 February 1909, Page 9
Timaru, 5th February. David Given, 46 years of age, foreman stonemason on St. Mary's (English) Church building, met with a shocking death this afternoon. He was engaged dressing big slabs of Oamaru stone on end, when, in turning one, a strong south wind took charge and toppled the slab over. Given was knocked down, and fell with his head and neck on a smaller block of stone, being crushed between it and the big slab. Death was almost instantaneous.

Timaru Herald, 6 February 1909, Page 5 A SHOCKING DEATH.
A distressful accident happened in Timaru yesterday afternoon, by which a man named David Given lost his life. The deceased-was employed by Mr S. McBride on the contract for the completion of St. Mary's Church and he was engaged with two other men on the north side of, the grounds dressing some big blocks of Oamaru stone intended for the altar of the church. Being desirous of turning the long slab on which he was working, over, so as to dress the other side of it, deceased got the assistance of his two co-workers; the stone weighing about a quarter of a ton. A strong gale was blowing at the time, and the stone, when half turned round slipped, and falling on the deceased, jammed him against another heavy block of stone which was standing upright close by him. His head was caught between the two stones and was so crashed that he died in a few minutes later without regaining consciousness. Drs. Burns and Talbot were quickly in attendance, but it was, apparent from the first that the deceased was beyond the need of help, and he expired just as he was being placed on a stretcher to be taken in the ambulance to the hospital. Deceased is said to have been an excellent stonemason—one of the best in New Zealand and his employer, as well as all his co-workers speak in the highest terms of him, both as a man and as a worker. He is said to have been the most careful man on the job and always steady and reliable. He had done a lot of important masonry work in-different parts of New Zealand and has been in Timaru for the past 18 months, working first for Mr McBride on the new public library. He came here from, Dunedin, where he has a wife, but no children. Deceased was 46 years of age. This is the first accident that has happened in connection with the work at St. Mary's. The work in the original contract was completed without mishap of any kind, the job on which Mr Given was engaged yesterday, being an "extra."

Evening Post, 6 May 1909, Page 8
Timaru. This Day. The dedication of the new portion of St Mary's Church, which has been completed by the erection of a chancel transcept, vestry, and tower, took place to-day. Bishop Julius, of Christchurch, was assisted by the clergy the diocese. The church was filled. The ceremony was most impressive. Archdeacon Averill preached the sermon. A reception to the visitors was held this afternoon. This evening Bishop Julius preaches.

Evening Post, 23 December 1911, Page 7
A large gathering, representing all classes and creed, assembled at the Lyceum Hall last night to bid farewell and make a presentation to the Ven. Archdeacon Harper, who leaves to reside in England after thirty-six years' service as vicar of St. Mary's, Timaru.- The Mayor presided. Ministers of all denominations were present, and, with several representative citizens, spoke highly of the Archdeacon as a fine example of a Christian gentleman. The presents were an illuminated address and album views of the church, the vicarage, and other scenes, and a purse of 320 sovereigns. The meeting spontaneously sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," and broke up with cheers.

Evening Post, 18 May 1937, Page 13
Mr. James Hood, well known in the building trade throughout New Zealand as a sculptor, died in Wellington recently at the age of 80. Among many public buildings and monuments bearing his work are the General Post Office, Parliament Buildings, the AMP offices, the Basilica, Wellington; additions to the Anglican Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch; St. Mary's Church, Timaru; the Railway Station, Dunedin; the War Memorial Museum, Auckland; and the John Greig Memorial, Ashburton. Born in Scotland, Mr. Hood came to New Zealand at the age of 19 years His wife predeceased him by 18 years. He leaves a family of four sons and two daughters.


Interior of St. Mary's

Photo taken by Margaret Todd in Oct. 2009.
Oct. 2009

Argus (Melbourne, Vic.) Tuesday 24 January 1922 Page 6
Private advice has been received at Christchurch-(N.Z.), of the death in England of the Ven. Henry William Harper, aged 89 years, Canon of Christchurch Cathedral; and Archdeacon of Timaru, from 1875 to 1911.

THE JUBILEE HYMN; composed by Archdeacon Harper
Timaru Herald, 17 June 1887, Page 3

Inside St. Mary's. Oct. 2009. MT.

24 July 2013 Prince of Cambridge arrival announced
For almost 10 minutes just after 9am the "bells" of St Mary's rang out thanks to the church's sound system and the CD Church Bells of England to announce the arrival of the new royal. The church has only one bell, but since 2006 it has had a sound system which gives the impression the bells are being rung in the bell tower. The sound of the church bells had not been heard since the 104-year-old church was closed in February last year after an engineer's report showed parts of the building were strengthened to only 10 per cent of current building codes.


St Mary's Parish Hall


The foundation stone outside the parish hall...the one for the church cannot be found.
To the Glory of God. 25 Nov. 1928.


Inside the door. Architects: J.S. Turnbull & P.W. Rule.
Builder: John T. Hunt.

Oct. 2009 MT

Mr Percy Watts Rule (1889-1953) designed the beautiful screen - the one with carved panels featuring New Zealand birds and flowers, his last work, as he died in May 1953. He had also designed a wall pate below the War Memorial Window, both inside St Mary's. Turnbull & Rule also designed the old Temuka Library.

What what befell a rabbit back in the early 1980s.
The rabbit had been living on the church site for some time. All was fine until a farmer-parishioner spotted it one day, and attempted to catch it. The rabbit ran into the church and the parishioner followed, catching it in the sanctuary. The rabbit was sent on to "a better place" and the church curate had it for dinner. The treatment of the rabbit did not go down well with all the church community - some left the church over the incident.

Timaru Herald, 14 May 1873, Page 3 DOGS IN CHURCH.
"A place for everything, and everything in its place " is an admirable saying, but though most people believe in it theoretically, it does not follow that in practice it will be carried out. The maxim is certainly not adopted by the owners of those canines which in a laudable spirit of affection do persist in accompanying their masters to church. Last Sunday there were three or four of these interesting creatures prowling about the aisles in St. Mary's, and though it must be admitted exceedingly well behaved, still old ladies might be pardoned at being slightly nervous at strange animals sniffing at their ankles. And again the old saying of "dogs delight" &c. might have unexpected verification by a dog fight, which would be unseemly and inconvenient during divine service.

Timaru Herald, 28 March 1878, Page 4 DOGS IN CHURCH.
To the Editor of the Timaru Herald, Sir, I not about inviting a religious dissertation, nor do I intend to treat of vexed questions of creed or doctrine, knowing such matters are inadmissible in your columns ; but I am sure you will allow your paper to be the means of exposing an indecency which Sunday after Sunday takes place in St. Mary's Church. I allude to the practice indulged in by some people of bringing their dogs with them into church. Last Sunday I observed two dogs playing about and indulging in canine pranks during service. The owner of the one, a great brown brute, I know not. The owner of the other dog I know, but I refrain from publishing his name, in the hopes that this calling public attention to the scandal may have the desired effect. Of course it is the duty of the Church Wardens to prevent thus indecency occurring. That this duty has not been performed is clear, for the nuisance of the presence of dogs m church remains. I am, &c,  Churchgoer.

Timaru Herald, 15 August 1881, Page 3 DOGS IN CHURCH.
To the Editor of the Timaru Herald, Sir, Allow me, through the medium of your columns, to suggest to the ladies who will take their pet dogs to church the advisability of using Keating's Insect Powder on them, at it is decidedly unpleasant to a great many people to see the little beasts divesting themselves of their tormentors, and to have their attention to the service distracted by their gyrations and gymnastic evolutions while in pursuit of the agile chamois. Hoping that the hint will be accepted, I am, &c., v.V.


Inside St.Mary's. A W. Ferrier postcard.


South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

Those vivid colours of stained glass
Blue symbolises the tranquility of heaven
Red the torments of the earth
Can be ecclesiastical and domestic
 Mediaeval or classic
The highest style of art full of tracery and mullions
The gifts of old parishioners and landed gentry
Extremely beautiful, handsome, very fine and rich
Memorial windows, money raised by public subscription
An eastern window, unveiled, placed in the chapel
A companion stained glass, a brilliant specimen
A striking piece to attract attention, restored
And be executed in a establishment by a foreign glazier.
And can work better than blinds in darker London in 1915.
Stained glass was for visual education.
Stained glass has never gone out of style.