One of the oldest wooden churches in the Christchurch Anglican Diocese is turning 150.
St Anne's Church, of Pleasant Valley, built in 1863, has reached the milestone while still in its original form and still standing on its original site.
It was the second church to be built in South Canterbury. The little wooden church of St Mary's, Timaru, took out first place when it was built in 1861, but has since been replaced by the stone building, on Church St.
Pleasant Valley and Geraldine residents have started preparations to mark St Anne's 150-year anniversary, to be celebrated early next month.
Pleasant Valley is flanked by the Geraldine Downs and Te Moana Hills, which the Hae Hae te Moana River runs through.
In the 1860s the valley, which at that time was covered with native forest, was home to a bush-felling and sawmilling industry. A store, blacksmith's shop and school were also built in the area.
Before St Anne's was established, the Rev Laurence Lawson Brown, an Anglican clergyman, arrived in the district.
He had arrived at Lyttelton with his wife and five children at the end of 1860 and was licensed to the assistant curacy of Lower Heathcote and Sumner.
However, on November 26, 1862 he was appointed to the pastoral district of Orari, starting his duties in early 1863. He was the first minister of any denomination to live in the district.
He lived in Geraldine, where he boarded and taught about four boys.
Parson Brown, as he was known, also held services and conducted marriages and baptisms in homesteads and woolsheds until a church could be built.
Local man Thomas Hardcastle, who had bought a block of land in Pleasant Valley in the early 1860s, was understood to be as anxious as the parson to have a church in the district.
Their wish was granted thanks to William Grace, another pioneer, who had bought a block of forest land. He gave half an acre of it for the site and timber for the building.
Much of the work was offered voluntarily, helped by horses, and bullocks, drays and wagons.
Plans for the church were the work of Lieutenant Belfield Woollcombe. He focused on designing a "very simple structure", designed to hold about 40 people.
The church was built by John Huffey, a builder, and William Young, a carpenter, who both gave their services for free.
Mr Huffey adopted some Kiwi ingenuity during the process, by marking his route to the valley by tying strips of white rag to trees in the dense bush.
Totara was used for the high ridged roof, while the studs, adzed rafters and weatherboards were crafted from white pine and black pine was used for the flooring.
Three latticed windows were placed on either side of the nave and three above the altar.
Settlers celebrated the completion of the church by hosting a dance in it. However, no record has been found of its dedication. Early records of the Geraldine parish were lost in a fire.
It is believed that the name St Anne's was possibly a tribute to Anne Grey Brown, wife of Parson Brown, who, with some of their family, is buried in the churchyard.
St Anne's marked its first baptism on August 30, 1863, with children Athol Richard Meredith, Catherine Anne Bennett and Margaret Paterson.
The first wedding took place on January 15, 1865, when William Chambers, a shepherd, married Mary Quaid.
The church has undergone repairs over the years, including in 1961 when it was in need of extensive restoration to save it from being demolished.
In 1962 the National Historic Places Trust helped with the repairs. Pit-sawn weatherboards were replaced, the matai flooring was swapped with rimu, except in the sanctuary and supporting buttresses were added to the building's exterior.
Celebrations marking 150 years
A range of events are being planned to mark St Anne's upcoming milestone.
Although the celebrations are being held to commemorate 150 years since the church's establishment, a wider celebration of what the Pleasant Valley and Geraldine areas have to offer will also be incorporated into the festivities.
Saturday, March 9, from 10am to 5pm:
- Geraldine Museum exhibition celebrating the valley in past times.
- Talks will be held in St Anne's Church.
- A display of the work of the Sisters of the Community of the Sacred Name, who own the small cottage at St Anne's, will also be on show.
- A one-kilometre guided bush walk along the hillside.
- A view of the valley from a hilltop house will also be on offer.
- Open day at the old school and playground with the Pleasant Valley Playgroup.
- Marie Temple's patchwork studio to see historic Temple paintings.
- Meet author Jan Hill at her home. Explore her secret garden and hear how the Magnus & Maungati Mouse stories were born.
- Gather at the Pleasant Valley Hall from 3.30pm to 5.30pm for a tea dance with local band The Waihi Roof Orchestra.
Sunday, March 10, from 10.30am:
- The Rt Rev Bishop Victoria Matthews will preach and dedicate a commemorative patchwork wall- hanging by Marie Temple. The ceremony will be followed by a pot-luck lunch and speeches in the Pleasant Valley Hall.
English artist Veronica Whall crafted an altar window, now on display in St Anne's Church.
The creation was Miss Whall's first production for New Zealand.
The window was later donated by a Mrs Burdon in 1925, in memory of her friend Ethel H Moffat. Miss Whall was a niece of the late Mrs Moffat.
Her work consists of two lancets. The motif for the major lights is of grape vines - the vine being the symbol of Christ "the true vine" and the grapes signifying the sacrament of the Holy Communion.
The vertical vine trunks emphasise the main framework of the window.
Two cerubims, holding a rose between them, feature in the apex of the window. Above the rose feature the letters I H S, which are the first three letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus.
- The Timaru Herald