Historic Place Category 1
Lots 4-6 DP 2528, Pt RS 18
The stone church of St Barnabas at Fendalton, picturesquely set amongst mature trees, is a notable feature of Fendalton Road. It was built to replace the 1876 timber church and was consecrated as a memorial to the dead of World War I in 1926.
Fendalton was originally part of the parish of Riccarton and the 1876 church of St Barnabas was constructed as a chapel-of-ease for the local residents. Fendalton became a separate parish in 1883, the same year the 1876 church was enlarged. Plans to build a second church in permanent materials first took shape in 1903 when the Vestry acquired shares in the Christchurch Building Society in order to establish a fund for the construction of a new church. In 1918 the vicar, Canon T.A. Hamilton (1849-1937), suggested that the new church be erected as a memorial to the dead of the First World War. His suggestion was adopted and noted Christchurch-born architect, Cecil Wood, (1878-1947) was invited to draw up plans for a 'suitable village church' to cost around £10,000.
The foundation stone was laid in 1925 with over 800 people attending the ceremony. (Interestingly no children were present at the ceremony because of a nation-wide infantile paralysis epidemic.) Mention was made at the ceremony that the church was to honoured both the dead and the alive who had fought in World War I. One of the speakers, Mr K.M. Gresson, a returned serviceman, also stated that he was sure that the memorials being established throughout the Dominion would 'do much to restrain men from the hideousness of war'; that is it would have an educational function as well. The church was completed by November 1926 and representatives of the army were present at the consecration ceremony.
The church Wood had designed was long and low, built in stone from a local quarry, with facings of redstone and Oamaru stone. It is roofed in slate with a pattern of lighter coloured diamonds. The long plan, with a squat square tower over the main entrance, is similar to other of Wood's churches. In her thesis on Wood, Ruth Helms made the comparison between the long plan, the low stone walls, the massive timber roof, and the lack of differntation between nave and chancel of St Barnbas's with the English tradition of medieval tithe barns. Such barns were seen as pure examples of vernacular design by Arts and Crafts architects whom Wood was influenced by. He was not, however, committed to the tenents of the movement, choosing for example, jarrah and oak for St Barnabas rather than an indigenous timber. St Barnabas is set back from the road because the old timber church remained in situ and in use until after the new one was consecrated.
St Barnabas is significant as one of the few churches erected in New Zealand as a war memorial. While church communities were one of the likely to erect memorials to the dead, it was far more common to have memorials erected within existing churches, than to have the church itself built as a memorial. Maclean and Phillips, in their book on New Zealand's war memorials argue that the number of World War I church memorials reflect both the importance of religion to New Zealanders at the time and 'the close involvement of the church in encouraging and supporting the war effort'. (Maclean & Phillips, 1990: 83)
Set back amongst trees which date from the 1870s, St Barnabas is the largest of Wood's Arts and Craft-influenced churches and its success led to further commissions for him. With its carvings by Frederick Gurnsey (see Notable Features) St Barnabas is also a fine example of the combined work produced by these two men, first seen in the Hare Memorial Library at Christ's College. St Barnabas's English antecedents were appreciated by the congregation and, at the time of its opening, it was described as 'further enrich[ing] the heritage left by the Anglican founders of the province'. St Barnabas continues to be used for Anglican worship today.
St Barnabas has a number of commemorative stained glass windows, one of which (the East Window) had originally been installed in the 1876 timber church. The West Window was donated by Kate Gerard to commemorative those Fendalton men who served in the First World War. It consists of four lights depicting, from left to right, Chivalry, Fortitude, Self-Sacrifice and Justice.
Many of the windows in St Barnabas were vandalised in a incident in February 1982. After they were repaired a further window was built from the leftover pieces of the smashed windows. This window also included a piece of glass from Westminster Abbey, which had been damaged in a bomb attack during the Second World War, and is estimated to be around 500 to 600 years old. These pieces of glass were auctioned off for charity and a parishioner of St Barnabas, who had purchased a piece, donated it to the church.
The oak reredoes in the sanctuary and the statue of St Barnabas in the niche above the main entrance were both carved by Frederick Gurnsey, the noted Christchurch sculptor. The central panel of the redoes contains a carved relief of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper'. Gurnsey also carved the roll of honour.
Canon Hamilton, along with other members of the congregation, planted a 'peace oak' in 1919, at the east end of the 1876 church.
- Original Construction: 1925 (circa) - 1926 (circa)
- St. Barnabas' Church (Christchurch, N.Z.), Information files, Fendalton Library, Christchurch
- Mark Stocker, Angels and Roses: the art of Frederick George Gurnsey, Christchurch, 1997
- Christchurch Press,22/11/1926, p.11; 27/4/1956, p.8; 12/11/1982, p.2; 23/3/1925
- A Potted History of the Fendalton Church, Christchurch, [196?]
- Ruth M. Helms, 'The architecture of Cecil Wood', PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, 1996,pp.150-184
- Lyttelton Times,17 November 1926
- Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990,p.83
- University of Canterbury,'Arts and Crafts churches of Canterbury: School of Fine Arts Gallery, 12 to 30 August 1996, (exhibition catalogue)', Christchurch, School of Fine Arts, 1996
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