Historic Place Category 1
Part of Pt Allot 2 Sec 6 Suburbs of Auckland (CT NA558/251)
Extent of Registration
Part of the land in CT NA558/251 (as shown on Map C in Appendix 4 in the registration report), the Church and Hall and their fixtures and fittings, and two pohutukawa trees adjacent to Khyber Pass Road. Church fittings and fixtures include a pulpit, font, lectern, Brindley & Foster/Norman & Beard organ, and a metal donation box attachment in the nave. Hall fixtures and fittings include screen-printed decorative panels on the ridge piece and internal walls.
Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)
A prominent landmark on the skyline of inner-city Auckland, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its associated hall were erected in the late nineteenth century to serve an extensive Anglican parish. The parish had been established in 1870 to serve the western part of Auckland, incorporating land as far north as Helensville. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 1880-1881, replacing an earlier building of the same name which had been erected as a mortuary chapel in the Anglican section of the nearby Symonds Street Cemetery in 1865. This earlier building was initially used as the parish church, but as the population on the fringes of colonial Auckland increased, demand for a larger, purpose-built structure developed. The Anglican authorities purchased the site for the new church in 1879 in the emerging suburb of Grafton, close to major commercial buildings at the junction of Upper Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road, and in an area of large opulent residences. The site was located on the top of a large ridge to the south of Auckland, with extensive views over its parish and beyond.
A foundation stone for the new timber church was laid in November 1880 by Bishop William Cowie (1831-1902) - the first Bishop of Auckland - who was responsible for a considerable wave of church building in the late nineteenth century. The structure was designed to make the most of its prominent location, incorporating a steeple that was considered to be the tallest in Auckland. Of Gothic Revival appearance, the building was designed by the firm of Edward Mahoney and Son, which was responsible for numerous significant religious structures in the Auckland region, erected primarily - although not exclusively - for the Catholic authorities. It was built by John James, who had previously built St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Ponsonby, also to the design of Edward Mahoney and Son. Costing over £3000, the new church incorporated a well-appointed timbered interior with room for 680 adults, as well as including elements from the earlier mortuary chapel such as seating, a bell and stained glass windows. The building formally opened for worship on 29 June 1881, with the Reverend Benjamin Dudley as its first incumbent. Dudley had previously been secretary and treasurer to the Melanesian Mission, and secretary to George Augustus Selwyn, New Zealand's first Anglican Bishop. He was made an Archdeacon in 1883.
A hall in which to conduct Sunday School and church social events was brought to the site in 1898. The gabled timber structure had previously been erected in Eden Crescent in 1885 as a temporary place of worship and school, replacing St Paul's - Auckland's main and oldest Anglican church - after the latter's demolition. The hall was erected to the south of the church, where modifications included extending its transepts for use as classrooms and adding a small lean-to kitchen and bathroom. The building was also opened by Bishop Cowie, soon accommodating a Sunday School with a membership of 325 children. It was relocated a very short distance to its current position in 1919, allowing a vicarage to be erected further to the south. Alterations to the main church in the 1930s included the creation of a Lady Chapel, designed by the architect Charles Towle. After the complex ceased to function as a standard parish centre, it was taken over by the Auckland City Mission in 1963, and in 1969 became the Auckland Anglican Maori Mission, overseen by the Reverend (later Sir) Kingi Ihaka (1921-1993). This reflected a major movement of Maori from rural to urban centres during the 1950s and 1960s. The church hall subsequently became Tatai Hono Marae (this place where all meet as one). The church and hall have remained in use for significant cultural and social events, including the filming of parts of New Zealand's first Maori language full-length feature film 'Maori Merchant of Venice' in 2001, with the church continuing to function as a major place of worship.
The church and its hall are considered significant for aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historical, social and spiritual reasons, and form an important part of the extensive Upper Symonds Street Historic Area (NZHPT Registration # 7367).
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Hall has historical significance for its close associations with the development of the Anglican church in Auckland - including the Maori Anglican Mission - and with the growth of Grafton as an early inner city suburb. The Church is also historically significant for associations with Reverend Dudley - who was Bishop Selwyn's secretary for three years prior to becoming the parish's first vicar - Bishop W.G Cowie, the first Bishop of Auckland, and with later church leaders such as Sir Kingi Ihaka. The Hall has broader historical importance for its late nineteenth-century use as a temporary church for Auckland's first parish, St Paul's, prior to the building's relocation to Burleigh Street.
The Church and its Hall have architectural value as adjacent and contrasting examples of late nineteenth-century Anglican religious architecture. The Church is particularly important as a well-preserved and significant example of a Late-Victorian Gothic Revival timber church designed by the prominent Auckland architectural practice of Edward Mahoney and Son.
The place has considerable aesthetic value for its landmark qualities derived from the Church's size, tall steeple, steeply pitched roof and ridge-top location. The Church is also aesthetically significant for its external details and for the quality of its interior features, fixtures and fittings, and chattels. Two pohutukawa trees in the grounds also provide some aesthetic significance.
The place has cultural significance as the home of the Auckland Anglican Maori Mission since 1969, as the place of work of Sir Kingi Ihaka who trained many Maori choirs and culture groups, and as the location of scenes from New Zealand's first full length Maori language feature film and other cultural events.
The place has considerable social significance as a place of public gathering and congregation for over 120 years. Since being relocated to the site in 1898, the hall has been used for prolonged periods as a Sunday School, as a dance hall and as a religious marae.
The place has high spiritual significance as a major place of religious worship for over 120 years. Spiritual significance extends to the Hall, which was previously used as a church.
Summary of Assessed Criteria
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its hall reflect important aspects of New Zealand history, particularly the development of the Anglican Church in Auckland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The buildings are also closely associated with the growth of Auckland during this period and its transformation into a major urban settlement. Their more recent history reflects the growth of urban Maori communities in North Island cities in the later twentieth century.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place is associated with significant individuals in the Anglican church, including Bishop Cowie, Archdeacon Benjamin Dudley and Sir Kingi Ihaka. The place is also connected with prominent parishioners such as George Pierce, founding manager of the New Zealand Insurance Company.
(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua
The place can be considered important to tangata whenua as the home of the Auckland Anglican Maori Mission; for its association with Maori Church leaders of note; as Tatai Hono marae; and as the location of significant Maori cultural events, including the filming of parts of the Maori Merchant of Venice, New Zealand's first full-length feature film in te reo.
(e)The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its hall have very strong associations with the local community as a place of communal worship and gathering for over 120 years.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
Incorporating a prominent landmark and community-accessed buildings in Khyber Pass Road, one of Auckland's main thoroughfares, the place has considerable potential for public education on the role of religion in past society, the development of the Anglican Church, and the contribution of Maori to urban life. It can also provide education about New Zealand architecture, particularly the historical use of the Gothic Revival in ecclesiastical architecture and the use of commemorative stained glass windows in Auckland's inner-city Anglican churches.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The main church is of very considerable value for incorporating Auckland's tallest spire at the time of its construction - still a major landmark - and as a striking and little-altered large timber building of Gothic Revival appearance. Its Lady Chapel is significant as a well-executed and well-preserved example of 1930s ecclesiastical interior design. The hall is significant for incorporating the remains of a parish church of similar date to the predominant fabric of the main church, and for its conversion to an urban marae. Two surviving pohutukawa trees reflect nineteenth-century ideas about beautification and ecclesiastical urban landscape design, while also adding to the place's aesthetic value.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The place has some commemorative value for its stained glass windows and other elements that commemorate past clergy and parishioners. The marae has symbolic value as a place for all peoples to gather.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The place is an important part of an extensive historical and cultural urban landscape, recognised as the Upper Symonds Street historic area (NZHPT Registration # 7367). The historic area incorporates other buildings directly related to the church and hall, including an adjacent parsonage. The place is also close to the historic Symonds Street Cemetery - Auckland's earliest major burial ground - which formed the site on which the parish was founded. Other churches in the vicinity include the Baptist Mission Church at the intersection of Burleigh Street and Mount Eden Road; and the Catholic St Benedict's Church at the intersection of Alex Evans Street and St Benedicts Street, Newton.
Summary of significance:
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Hall is recommended for Category I registration as a place of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage value because:
-It has had an important role in the history of Anglican religious development in Auckland, including as a major parish church and as home to the Maori Anglican Mission. Its hall was also used as a temporary replacement for St Paul's Church;
-It incorporates an important and well-preserved example of Gothic Revival religious architecture designed by Edward Mahoney and Son, which at the time of its construction boasted the tallest steeple in Auckland;
-It retains high landmark and other aesthetic qualities, and is an important part of an extensive cultural and historical landscape - the Upper Symonds Street Historic Area;
-It has strong cultural, social and spiritual values, which are ongoing.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a large inner city church, erected in 1880 to 1881 to serve an extensive parish in the western part of Auckland. Its associated hall was originally constructed in 1885 as a temporary church to replace the city's first Anglican place of worship - St Paul's - and was moved from Eden Crescent to the site for use as a hall in 1898.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre replaced a building of the same name, which had been erected as a mortuary chapel in the Anglican section of the Symonds Street Cemetery in 1865. After a substantial parish extending northwards to Helensville was constituted in 1870 - encompassing Auckland's main prison and hospital on the fringes of the colonial settlement - the building was used as a parish church. Initially enlarged for the purpose, the structure proved insufficient for an increasing congregation as Grafton and its neighbouring area developed rapidly during the economic boom of the 1870s from a rural backwater to a prosperous inner suburb. Its location in Auckland's main cemetery, which accommodated the dead of many faiths, may also have been seen as increasingly unsuitable.
In August 1879, the current site was purchased by the Anglican authorities on a ridge-top location, close to major commercial buildings at the junction of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road, and in an area of large opulent dwellings. Part of the reason given for not locating the new church beside Symonds Street - then one of Auckland's major routes to the south - was to avoid traffic noise. The site appears to have earlier been used as farmland. Edward Mahoney and Son had previously been asked to submit plans for a new church in January of the same year. Mahoney's was a prominent architectural practice that had made a name for itself in church design in Auckland, notably but not exclusively for the Catholic authorities. A construction tender by John James was accepted on 23 October 1880. Less than a year before, James had built St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Ponsonby - a smaller timber church in the Gothic Revival Style, also to the design of Edward Mahoney and Son. The corner stone for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was laid by Bishop William Cowie (1831-1902) on 9 November 1880. Cowie had been appointed the first Bishop of Auckland at a consecration service in Westminster Abbey, London, in 1869, and was responsible for a considerable wave of church building until his death in 1902.
During construction work the building was lengthened by 4.25 metres (14 feet) to accommodate 680 adults, giving a completed length of 39.9 metres (131 feet) and a width of 16.7 metres (55 feet). The Church was formally opened for worship on 29 June 1881. To avoid cost, the seating from old St Sepulchre's was transferred to the new building, as was the old bell. Four stained glass windows were also transferred, commemorating important parishioners and benefactors. These are considered to be the earliest surviving examples of stained glass from Anglican churches in colonial Auckland. In 1903 the previous St Sepulchre's was sold and relocated for use as a Baptist Church. It survives as the Girl Guide Hall at 132 Grange Road Mt Eden.
Construction of the new church cost over ₤ 3000 , and it was to be several years before the parish of Holy Sepulchre could afford an organ (1896), church hall (1898), or parsonage (1920). Apart from the windows transferred from the earlier church, commemorative stained glass was introduced elsewhere between 1883 and 1890 through individual donations. Other significant donations included the church's distinctive pulpit, carved with representations of New Zealand flora, which is considered to have been given by the architect Hector Pierce in memory of his father G.P. Pierce. Pierce, senior, was the general manager of the New Zealand Insurance Company for 30 years and a prominent parishioner. He is further commemorated (with his wife) in a stained glass window in the sanctuary. Several pohutukawa trees and other plants were grown to the north of the church, beautifying its grounds, and are likely to have been planted soon after the church's construction. The first incumbent of the new church was the Reverend Benjamin Dudley, who had been secretary to Bishop George Augustus Selwyn - New Zealand's first Anglican Bishop - from 1865 to 1867, and also served as secretary and treasurer to the Melanesian Mission, based in Auckland. Dudley was vicar to the earlier Church of the Holy Sepulchre during its use as a parish church, and was made an Archdeacon in 1883.
The lack of a hall on the site in which to conduct Sunday school and church social events was remedied in March 1898. At a cost of ₤105, the vestry purchased the building used by St Paul's parish as a temporary church and school in Eden Crescent. The structure had been erected in 1885 as a result of the demolition of the St Paul's Church in Emily Place - Auckland's premier Anglican church - and was used for worship until the opening of its permanent replacement on Lower Symonds Street in 1896 (St Paul's Church (Anglican), NZHPT Registration # 650, Category I). The temporary building was moved and re-erected to the south the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1898 under the supervision of Messrs Langley and Son, where its transepts were extended for classrooms, and a small lean-to kitchen and bathroom were added on either side. The remodelled structure was formally opened in July 1898 by Bishop Cowie. The Sunday School soon had 325 children with 30 teachers, and the building also provided rooms for the Church Club and gymnastics club.
Both the church and hall saw modifications in ensuing years. The hall was relocated from its position fronting Burleigh Street to its current site in 1919, allowing an adjacent vicarage to be constructed to the south. Alterations to the hall at this time included the addition of a basement containing a new kitchen and bathroom facilities, an additional room on the building's east side, and a raised stage in the hall's southern end. The earlier transepts also appear to have been heavily modified, with the removal of gables on one side and their conversion to an arcaded aisle on the other. This work was the responsibility of architect Noel Bamford.
Alterations to the church in the 1920s included the provision of a robing room in the west end of the nave. In 1938 a large altar 'of the type ... used in England in the mediaeval period' was introduced (but has since been replaced). A vestry on the south side of the chancel was extended and transformed into a Lady Chapel in the same year by architect Charles Towle, 'the mediaeval effect - increased by the painting of the roof timbers in gold, silver, blue, green and red'. Seating accommodation consists of '18 oaken chairs'. The prominent nature of the church was to prove a problem in the Second World War (1938-1945), when its steeple had to be dulled so that it was less visible to potential enemies approaching the Waitemata Harbour.
The church and hall remained a centre for community activity, with the hall being used for dances for young people through the war and into the 1960s. As outlying districts acquired churches of their own and the character of the immediate neighbourhood became commercial rather residential, however, parish life declined. The parish's last vicar was appointed in 1957. In 1963 the Auckland City Mission took over the church, which then became the headquarters of the Holy Sepulchre Mission District. In August 1969, Bishop E. Gowing, assisted by the Anglican Maori Missioner the Reverend Kingi Ihaka (1921-1993), later Sir Kingi Ihaka, dedicated the church as the Auckland Anglican Maori Mission. This reflected a major movement of Maori from rural to urban centres during the 1950s and 1960s, particularly to inner suburban housing vacated by wealthier residents. The church hall subsequently became Tatai Hono Marae (this place where all meet as one), reflecting its function as a meeting place for peoples of different iwi affiliation and origins. Ihaka, who served as Anglican Maori Missioner from the church until 1976, was later made Archdeacon of Tai Tokerau and from 1981 to 1984 was vicar general of the bishopric of Aotearoa. He also trained Maori choirs and cultural groups, and contributed to a conference in 1989 which established the principle of 'partnership' between Maori and Pakeha in the Anglican Church. In 1990 the ownership of the Church, hall and vicarage was transferred to the Maori arm of the Auckland Diocese, Te Komiti Tumuaki.
The hall, a resource used by the church and also by the broader community, has provided a venue for many cultural productions including in 2003, plays by the Koanga Maori Theatre Company. Arranged around the walls and on the underside of the ridge-piece of the interior are 20 printed panels that were designed in 1973 by silk screen artist Matthew Chote. A kitchen has been relocated from the basement and now occupies the building's east side.
The court room scenes from New Zealand's first Maori language full length feature film 'Maori Merchant of Venice', were filmed in the church in 2001. The church is currently the home of the choir 'Musica Sacra' and has also been made available as a place of worship for a number of other groups. The Fijian Methodist Church has worshipped there for the past 17 years. Since 2001 the Korean Calvary Church (Presbyterian) from St David's Church - on the opposite side of Khyber Pass Road - has held weekly services in the church and a charismatic Sanctuary Church also worships there. The hall continues to be used as a religious marae.
Church: Pews; Sanctuary chairs (3), Lady Chapel oak chairs (18), Lady Chapel carved chair.
- Original Construction: 1880 - 1881
- Modification: 1892 - 1896
- Modification: 1896 (circa)
- Modification - Grand open arches in north and west screens of south vestry filled in with panelling.: pre-1928
- Modification - Boundary picket fence and gates removed.: pre-1929
- Modification: 1920 - 1930
- Modification: 1935 (circa)
- Modification: 1938 (circa)
- Modification: 1950 - 1960
- Modification: 1970 - 1980
- Modification: 2001 (circa)
- Original Construction: 1885 (circa)
- Modification: 1898 (circa)
- Modification: 1919 (circa)
- Modification: 1919 (circa)
- Modification: 1958 (circa)
- Modification: 1970 - 1980
- Modification: 1973 (circa)
- Modification: 2005 (circa)
Church: Timber frame and wall cladding, with corrugated iron roof and brick foundations.
Hall: Timber frame and wall cladding, with corrugated iron roof and concrete block foundations.
- Auckland Public Libraries,Photographs - Special Collections
Negative Numbers: 4 - 7996; 4-1332; 4-314; 4-47981; 4-7994; 4-7991
- Auckland Weekly News,13 November 1880, p.3(3-4); 25 June 1881, p.11(1-2)
- Church Gazette,1 October 1938 p.2(2); 1 December 1938 p.4(2)
- Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.2, Christchurch, 1902
- Dictionary of New Zealand Biography,Ihaka, K., 'Ihaka, Kingi Matutaera 1921-1993', updated 7 July 2005, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
Peter Shaw, 'Mahoney, Edward 1824/1825?-1895 & Mahoney, Thomas 1854/1855?-1923', updated 16 December 2003 URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/
- Lewis, E., 'Through the Looking-glass: An Investigation into the Decorative Glass in Six Anglican Parish Churches of Inner City Auckland', MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 1999
- Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island, Auckland, 1979
- Salmond Reed Architects, 'Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Condition Report and Maintenance Plan', Auckland, 1999 (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland)
- Salmond Reed Architects, 'Report on the Condition of Tatai Hono Marae', Auckland, 2004 (copy held by NZHPT, Auckland)
- Southern Cross,28 August 1865, p.4(5)
- Auckland City Council,Plans - Auckland City Environments (Auckland City Council, Graham Street), Property File 2-10 Burleigh Street:
Building Permit issued 13 December 1918 and 4 sheets signed and dated 10/12/1918
Building Permit (15226?), 10 June 1958
Building 3601137101 p.2, 26 July 2001
A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office.
Report Written By
Martin Jones and Joan McKenzie
this page is correct to the best of the Trust's knowledge. If you have any additional
information you would like to share with the Trust, please
contact the Registrar.
You may wish to contact the Trust to view our paper records.