Historic Place Category 2
Lot 4 DP 45969 (CT CB26B/911), Canterbury Land District
Extent of Registration
Registration includes the building, its fittings and fixtures, and part of the land on CT CB26B/911(red line on aerial photograph, p. 9 of registration report, defines extent of registration).
The founding of an Anglican seafarer's church in western Lyttelton, in a parish separate from the Holy Trinity church, was first proposed in 1883 by former Lyttelton vicar (1851-9) Archdeacon Benjamin Woolley Dudley (1805-92). The Holy Trinity vestry supported the concept of a second church, but in light of the straitened economic circumstances of that decade, opposed the idea of it being carved off into a separate parish. Dudley however succeeded in his aim by leaving an endowment of land to his late parish to provide for a clergyman to minister specifically to the people of western Lyttelton and visiting seamen, and to assist the building of a church, but which could be uplifted only if the Lyttelton parish were divided. There was also a small but vocal group of people in Dampier's Bay (later West Lyttelton) who supported the idea of having their own church.
In April 1885, the Rev. E. Elliott Chambers was appointed Curate of Dampier's Bay. Before ordination, Chambers had been a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and was a naval historian of some note. Soon after his appointment a building committee was formed, and Christchurch architect Cyril Mountfort was commissioned to design a church to seat 200, but which could be extended later to seat 350. On 23 June 1885 a tender for £673 was let to local builders Sutton and Weastall, to construct the chancel and transepts of Mountfort's plan. The building was constructed in sections, and assembled on site on church land at the corner of Brittan Terrace and Simeon Quay by bolting the sections together. In the event, the growth predicted for the congregation did not take place, and three bays of the nave and a steeple that apparently featured in the original plans were never built.
Cyril Mountfort (1852-1920), the second son of eminent Canterbury architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort, assisted his father from the 1870s, ran the practise during the latters absence in Europe in 1883-4, and then took over the practice following Benjamin's death in 1898. Stylistically, Cyril's architecture resembled that of his father, but is regarded as being generally less successful. Two of his important ecclesiastical designs were those for the Church of St. Luke the Evangelist, Christchurch (1908-9, Cat II), and St. Johns, Hororata (1910, unregistered). Cyril also extended his father's Church of the Good Shepherd at Phillipstown (ext. 1906-7, Cat I), and built the neighbouring vicarage (1883, Cat II).
West Lyttelton was constituted a Parochial District on 22 October 1885, and seven days later the new church was consecrated as St Saviour's, at a total cost of £869. Inducted as first vicar, Chambers was to minister to seamen and parishioners for thirty-six years. Church parades, when the companies of visiting warships would march up the quay to the church headed by their marine bands, were long remembered by townspeople. Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the crews of the Discovery and Terra Nova also worshipped in the church, and a plaque commemorates their association with the building. In 1901 the building was repaired and re-roofed by builders Hollis and Brown at a cost of £100. Five years later, in 1906, the same firm extended the vestry. During 1916, a new buttress was installed by Messrs. Fletcher and Walsh. After Chambers death in 1921, grateful parishioners subscribed to the cost of a large stained glass window dedicated to his memory. This window Christ Calming the Waters was produced by Smith and Smith Ltd of Christchurch, and installed in 1922.
Following Chambers death, the Rev. J. M. Curnow, the father of poet Allen Curnow, was appointed vicar. At this time there was a proposal from Holy Trinity for a reunification of the two parishes, but this was firmly rejected by St Saviours. In 1930 the parish was extended to include Governor's Bay and Teddington. Despite this enlargement however, church attendances at both Lyttelton parishes were in decline through the 1930s, and eventually the West Lyttelton parishioners themselves requested that the two parishes be reunified. This took place on a trial basis in 1938, though the congregations kept their separate identities. In 1946 however, it was realized that one man could not effectively minister to such a large area, and the two parishes were again split. St Saviours became part of a new West Lyttelton and the Bays parish, which extended as far as Diamond Harbour. This arrangement remained until 1964, when the urban area of Lyttelton was reunited as a single entity. St Saviour's thereafter became increasingly peripheral to the activities of the new parish - particularly so following the renovation of Holy Trinity in 1974. As a consequence, parishioners gave the church to the Christchurch Diocese in 1975, with instructions that a new home be found for it. Requests for the building were received from the Parklands parish; and from the Cathedral Grammar School, who were the successful applicants.
The Cathedral Grammar School had utilized ad hoc various buildings on its site for worship since its foundation in 1881. The first real chapel was a classroom converted in 1930, and replaced with another, first floor space in 1936. Due to increasing numbers of pupils in the late 1940s, the former gymnasium was adapted in 1951-2 to serve jointly as a war memorial hall and chapel. It was not until the acceptance of its bid for St Saviour's in July 1975 however, that the school acquired its first 'purpose-built' chapel. The West Lyttelton church was dismantled and moved in sections over Evans Pass to be assembled (and reoriented with the altar to the west) on a new site on the corner of Park Terrace and Chester Street in January/February 1976. The old site was subsequently redeveloped for elder housing, whilst the church's original altar was placed in the chapel at Scott Base in 1980. In March 1976 the Historic Places Trust granted $250 towards the approximately $20, 000 cost of reinstating St Saviours. The renovated chapel was officially reopened on 26 June 1976 by Bishop Pyatt.
In 1987 Cathedral Grammar applied to the NZHPT and the Christchurch City Council for financial assistance with painting, roof repairs and interior refurbishment. The Trust granted $1000 and the Council $2, 000 towards the estimated cost of $5, 500. During 1999 the roof was replaced. There is presently some discussion about enlarging the building to allow for larger numbers of pupils to attend services.
Historical significance for its associations with Antarctic explorer Robert Scott, and the generations of seafarers who worshipped at its altar.
Architectural significance as the work of Canterbury architect Cyril Mountfort, son of and heir to the practise of pre-eminent gothic revival architect Benjamin Mountfort.
Social and spiritual significance for having served variously through its 120 year existence as a seamen's church, parish church and school chapel.
Summary of Assessed Criteria
(b) its association with Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his expeditions;
(e) the esteem in which the community hold the building, such that when the church became redundant, considerable effort and money was expended to relocate it to Christchurch;
(g) the design of the place as an example of the work of Canterbury architect Cyril Mountfort;
(h) its commemorative value as a memorial to the expeditions of Captain Scott, the selfless service of long-time minister E. Elliott Chambers, and the wartime sacrifices of Cathedral Grammar pupils. The school's memorial tablets were placed in the church in 1976.
- Original Construction: 1885 (circa)
- Modification: 1901 (circa)
- Modification: 1906 (circa)
- Modification: 1976 (circa)
Board-and-batten with a corrugated iron roof.
- Christchurch City Council,Heritage Unit File
- Fiona Ciaran, Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury, New Zealand. A Catalogue Raisonne, Dunedin, 1998,p 122.
- Robyn Gosset, Ex Cathedra. A History of the Cathedral School of Christchurch, New Zealand 1881-1981, Christchurch, , pp 69-76.
- Ian Lochhead, A Dream of Spires: Benjamin Mountfort and the Gothic Revival, Christchurch, 1999
- G.R. MacDonald, Dictionary of Canterbury Biographies, Canterbury Museum, n.d.,D466: B. W. Dudley
- St Saviours Church Archives,St Saviour's vestry minute books 1885-1921.
- New Zealand Historic Places Trust,File 12004-190; Field Record Form; Glossary of Architects, Engineers and Designers
- Weekly Press,18 July 1885.
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.
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