Part two of Carl Bonniface’s series on Edward Morey’s contribution to built heritage on Banks Peninsula.
Before Edward Morey had finished building Holy Trinity Church in Lyttelton (consecrated 10 April 1860), the foundation stone for St Cuthbert's Anglican Church in Governors Bay had already been laid on 30 January 1860. St Cuthbert’s was designed by George Mallinson who had also designed the Holy Trinity Church, so he and Morey were becoming quite a team. Morey would have been putting the finishing touches to Holy Trinity and starting work on St Cuthbert’s at the same time. A busy man indeed.
It took two years to construct the church because not long into the build, the turret and two gables gave way owing to wet weather and strong winds. The steeply pitched shingle roof caught the wind and shook the building violently. Buttresses were therefore added to the east end and the north and south sides to stabilise the walls, which were made of cob faced with stone from the beach and from nearby Garlick’s Quarry. The white stone for the buttresses and window frames came from Ōtamahua Quail Island. Smaller stones worn smooth from the tides on the beach were carried up Church Lane to the building site by local women in their sacking aprons. These were used as cobblestones in the entrance porch on the northern side of the building.
Morey was assisted with the church’s timber work by Henry Firmston, whose grave is in the tranquil church cemetery, surrounded by bush and birdsong. Over the ensuing years the church had a number of additions – in 1874 a chancel was added to the eastern end, increasing the seating capacity by 40 people. It included a magnificent stained glass window depicting the legend of St Cuthbert. Much later, in 1980, a sturdy stone vestry was built onto the south wall, which survived the devastating impacts of the 2010/2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Unfortunately, the rest of the church was very badly damaged.
It was decided to deconstruct the building (apart from the vestry) and start again from the ground up, with new reinforced concrete foundations and block walls. The church was carefully reconstructed to look as it did before the earthquakes. Due to the amazing efforts of skilled tradespeople and the dedication of the local community, to say nothing of the fundraising work required (rebuilding churches costs a lot of money!) St Cuthbert’s stands proud once again. Despite everything nature has thrown at it, a statement about St Cuthbert’s from Bishop Harper at the laying of the foundation stone in 1860 has come to pass:
“It would remain a blessing to the founders and their children’s children and endure as long as the everlasting hills by which it is surrounded”.
But back to the hard working Mr Morey. Late in 1862 he moved to Okains Bay to build another Anglican church there – St John the Evangelist. The foundation stone was laid on 1 January 1863 by Elizabeth Torlesse, wife of Reverend Henry Torlesse, who was the driving force behind the church project. The walls were built using creek boulders and locally quarried stone and were supported by five buttresses on each side and two at each end – a lesson perhaps learned from St Cuthbert’s. The buttresses, along with the florid Gothic style window frames, were made of white stone from Ōtamahua Quail Island. An interesting design feature is the use of red bricks in the door and window arches, fired locally by the ever enterprising Morey. The slate roof was generously gifted by Mr JE Thacker – the slate and the stained glass were the only materials that were imported.
The actual build took just five months and St John’s was ‘open for business’ on 30 June 1863, although the church was not consecrated until 12 February 1882, some 19 years later. The reason for this is not clear as the main condition of consecration, that of being debt free, was fulfilled in 1863 thanks to local contributions, liberal donations by friends in England and contributions from the Provincial Government. The grand total cost including fittings came to £554, 9s and 8p (NZ$180,000).
St John’s was also badly damaged in the earthquakes but as with St Cuthbert’s in Governors Bay, the local community and some very talented tradespeople came to the rescue. They did not completely deconstruct the church, but skillfully inserted metal rods horizontally and vertically into the existing walls, repaired and reset a lot of the original stone, brick and slate, and replaced the white stone framing around the restored east end stained glass window with lighter materials. A nice touch is that the old stone framing is laid out on the church grounds as a landscaping feature, complete with colourful succulents growing through it. Once again a small community's dedication saved an important historical building for future generations to enjoy.