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Our Environment: Issue 27 Winter 2001

 Our Environment: Christchurch City Councils Environmental Newsletter

S. Michael And All Angels Church And School Celebrates Its Sesquicentenary

No 17 In Our “Still Standing” Heritage Building Series

Still standing on its original site in Oxford Terrace, the Church of S. Michael and All Angels and day school will celebrate its sesquicentenary at Michaelmas 2001. S. Michael’s, founded in 1851, is Christchurch’s oldest Anglican parish. From 1872 until 1881 the church functioned as the pro-cathedral of Christchurch. As such it was an integral part of the life and development of the Anglican settlement of Christchurch.

The present church, school and vicarage buildings occupy a site set aside by the Canterbury Association for ecclesiastical and educational purposes. Today it remains one of the few Canterbury Association sites that still functions entirely under its original inception. As a consequence this historic site, that of the procathedral, Mother Church of the Anglican diocese, contains a number of significant heritage buildings.

S. Michael And All Angels ChurchThe church of S. Michael and All Angels was designed by English architect William Fitzjohn Crisp and built in 1872. It stands on the site of the first church built in Christchurch, a rudimentary V-hut, built on the site in January 1851 by the first colonists of the Canterbury Association. It was replaced in the May of that year by a small colonial timber church which served as both a school and church.

The present church, one of the largest timber Gothic Revival churches in the Southern Hemisphere, stylistically embraces the vernacular; that is it is constructed from locally available material, rather than the use of colourful brick and masonry as employed in English stylistic counterparts. The belltower, a Christchurch landmark and outstanding essay in the Gothic Revival style, was designed by the pre-eminent Gothic Revival Architect, Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort.

Though S. Michael’s presents a restrained rather chaste architectural quality, it is considered one of the finest examples of colonial timber Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture in New Zealand. Of cruciform shape, the nave of the church has a central aisle flanked by two side aisles divided by columns each fashioned from a single matai tree. During a period of forty years (1872-1912) S. Michael’s became the repository for some of the finest examples of Edwardian and Victorian commemorative stained glass in Canterbury. The school buildings form an integral part of the built heritage significance on the site. Until 1976 the school had Sisters from the Anglican Community of the Sacred Name as part of its teaching staff and from 1937 to 1976 as Head Mistresses of the school. The school buildings include the stone school built in 1913 and designed by prominent architect of the period Cecil Wood, and the school hall, which was designed by the early Canterbury Education Board architect Thomas Cane in 1877. The architecture of this timber structure carefully reflects the Victorian Gothic nature of the church and was originally built as a Sunday school.

The site has also always contained a vicarage and despite a number of alterations, the current imposing two-storey timber vicarage reflects the architectural style of the earlier Victorian Gothic buildings. Built c.1900, it replaced a much earlier vicarage of picturesque Gothic Revival stylistic convention. The heritage significance of the site is recognised by both the City Council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga which list and register four of the buildings.

Jenny May
Senior Heritage Planner

The sesquicentenary celebrations of the Church will be held at Michaelmas, 29-30 September 2001, beginning with a Solemn Pontifical Mass at 10.30am on Sunday 29th followed by a Festival Luncheon. The school will hold events on the site at the end of the Carter Group Heritage Week at Labour Weekend. These will include an evening function on Friday 19th October, a breakfast for past pupils, parents and staff and celebration dinner on Saturday 20th and a celebration Mass at the church on Sunday 21st followed by a luncheon to close the festivities. The school will commemorate the 150th celebrations with the laying of a memorial stone.

For further information about the church celebrations ph 379 5236 or contact  
For the school celebrations ph 379 9790 or contact  

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