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St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Christchurch a wooden structure

Dorothy - 21/04/2011


The history of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Christchurch has been written about in many publications. Since February 22 2011 the building has particular significance as it demonstrates the flexibility and durability of a sturdy wooden structure.

The first church was opened for worship on Sunday, February 1, 1857.
It was a rectangular wooden building with an entrance half way along one side. The specification required that the church be fifty feet long and twenty four feet wide with a "session house" on the south side and an entrance porch on the north.

In 1864 St Paul's Church was founded on the eastern side of the city, and in 1880 that parish founded Knox Church on the northern boundary of the inner city.

When with the growth of the St Andrew's congregation more space was needed the building was not pulled down but enlarged by the addition of two transepts. At a later date the existing nave was lifted high enough to become the upper portion and a roof over the new nave was built to make the building wider, with aisles and new seating. This was done in accordance with the design of the architect Robert England. The work was completed in 1892. With a wooden church these adaptations could be made more readily and at less expense than would have been possible with a stone church.

With the purchase of a pipe organ further alterations were made to the eastern end of the church in 1902 so that an organ chancel and a vestry could be added. The external appearance of the church then remained unchanged until 1986.

St Andrew's church before 1986
St Andrew's church before 1986
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Moving the church building
By the 1980s declining church attendances and increasing urban development in the inner city area presented a difficult decision for the parish either to close or to find a new purpose for the church building. It was suggested that the church be moved to Rangi Ruru Girls' School and have a combined function as a parish church and the school chapel.

This was an expensive proposal, but was funded by Brian Perry's Family Trust in memory of his wife Janice who died in 1984.

On 29 March 1987 the church building which had been divided into three sections was transported to a site on Rangi Ruru land in Merivale Lane where it was joined with another new fourth bay to enlarge the nave.

St Andrew's Church on its original site divided into three sections ready for the move. The vestry and chancel section on its way to the new site.
St Andrew's Church on its original site divided into three sections ready for the move.
The vestry and chancel section on its way to the new site.
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The strengthened and enlarged building became the church for the parish of St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru and also the school chapel.

When Heritage Week was celebrated in October 2010 the church was given a heritage award which is commemorated by a plaque in the church. A service was held in the church to mark the award. The value of St Andrew's church as a heritage building has increased greatly.

After the February quake
Little did anyone know then that after the earthquake which hit the city on February 22 2011 most of the Christchurch heritage buildings would be destroyed. St Andrew's Church suffered little damage except for the fall of some organ pipes. The organ still functions well. St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru is the only inner city Presbyterian Church which has survived the destruction.

St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru in April 2011 The interior of St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru in April 2011 as people gather for a service
St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru in April 2011
The interior of St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru in April 2011 as people gather for a service
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Knox Church which was built in brick was damaged in the September quake and collapsed in the February quake.

The remains of Knox Church in March 2011
The remains of Knox Church in March 2011
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St Paul's Church had extensive damage to the masonry. We have not been able to take a photograph of it as it is inside the cordon which limits access to the inner city.

Now in April the St Andrew's congregation holds its services in the church at 10am and St Paul's Trinity Pacific holds its services at 11.30am and 1pm.

Jim Anderton campaigns for wood to be used in the rebuilding of the city.

A veteran Christchurch politician, Jim Anderton, Member of Parliament for the Wigram electorate , floated the idea of using wood to revitalise the timber industry after the September earthquake. In March 2011 he repeated his call that wood be used to rebuild the shattered city, declaring that now the idea is even more relevant.

Brick buildings had to be a thing of the past, he said.

Wood would be a uniquely New Zealand solution to help the city recover from the country's worst natural disaster, Anderton said. It was environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and recent New Zealand research showed building with wood could be 8 per cent cheaper than using steel or reinforced concrete.

Wood would be more earthquake-proof and fire-resistant too, he said.

The durability and flexibility of St. Andrew's wooden building certainly supports Jim Anderton's case.

Sources of material on the history of St Andrew's

Centennial History of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Christchurch, New Zealand 1856 1956
Author Graham M Miller

Shifting Starr A Presbyterian Drama
St Andrew's at Rangi Ruru, 1956 2006

Author W. David McIntyre



 
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