Chalmers Church: a landmark is born

Last updated 14:50 06/05/2014

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Chalmers Church was decommissioned over the weekend, ending the first 111-phase of its life. Today, we look back to when the church was in its planning stages, and clearly going to make its mark on the skyline of Timaru.

February 19, 1903
Chalmers Presbyterian Church

Details of the new buildings

Mr Jas. Turnbull, the architect whose design for Chalmers Church was selected when competitive designs were invited, is now calling for tenders for the erection of a building, the working plans of which are based upon the accepted design.

These show that the church will be a commodious and handsome building, and as it is to occupy one of the highest spots in the north end of the town, of the old borough at all events, it will serve for a landmark, as Parr's windmill, which formerly stood upon a neighbouring section, used to do, whilst it will stand out boldly on close view, as it will occupy a corner section with, as it happens, wide street spaces on three sides of it.

The building is in the main oblong in form, but a suggestion of the ecclesiastical cruciform ground plan is provided by lateral projections containing vestries and porches, and in the general aspect of the building this suggestion is also given by a slight but wide projection from the general line of each side wall, carried up into a gable and cross- ridge roof.

The distinguishing feature of the structure exteriorly is a tower and spire, occupying the central third of the north end.

The tower is to be 70ft high, and from the top rises a spire which, with a tall ornamental finial measures 50ft more, making the total height 120ft.

The elevation plan gives the impression of height; the walls being 30ft to the eaves, and the roof-ridge is 54ft from the ground.

The material of the walls is to be brick, cemented outside, and lined as ashlar work.

Each angle will be strengthened by buttresses in the line of each conjoining wall, and similar buttresses will be placed at intervals along the main walls to relieve these of the lateral thrust of the roof.

The spire will be of wooden framing, covered with patent interlocking zinc tiles.

The tower at the north end is balanced, architecturally, by a group of structures at the south end - a projecting choir chancel with splayed roof at the end, and two gables near it on each side of different heights, one of a vestry the other of the transept projection before mentioned - the balance giving the impression of a finished building.

The tower is pierced with several lights, and half above and half below the level of the roof ridge, there are large louvres for a bell-chamber.

There are three entrances, the principal one being through the base of the tower.

The doorways of this are on each side, so that a weather side door may be closed when necessary to make a sheltered porch.

The other two are one each under the vestry roofs, giving access to the vestries as well as to the front seating of the church.

The building is 112ft long over all, and 66ft wide. The main floor is 72ft long and 42ft wide.

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A portion of this length is cut off to give access to the gallery stairs, and a further portion, 16ft wide, is partitioned off to form a class-room, 16ft square, on each side of a central vestibule 8ft wide.

The partitions are made to swing, in such wise that the class-rooms can be thrown into the church, or the two rooms and vestibule converted into one large room.

The seating space in the nave is 50ft by 42ft.

An important feature of the internal structure is a large gallery, extending over and beyond the class-rooms, the front of it, in fact, being about mid-way of the building, and so large that while the floor space is to be seated for about 360, the gallery will be seated for about 240.

Access to the gallery is gained from the towers entrance, by two flights of stairs, each 5ft wide, and broken by three landings.

Care has been taken in designing the gallery so as to ensure a good acoustic quality. Another striking feature of the interior is the piercing of the southern end wall with a large and handsome Gothic arch, behind which is the choir chancel 25ft by 22ft.

The floor of the chancel is level and raised 3ft above the floor of the nave.

The front portion, projecting about 5ft in front of the arch, will be the minister's platform, the choir being seated behind the minister, facing the audience.

The organ, when obtained, will be placed behind the choir, and the arch will make, so to speak, a framed picture of them that should look very well.

The church will be lofty, with a coved ceiling. The ceiling will be a handsome one, divided into bold panels filled with painted Lincrusta Walton.

Beneath each roof principal will descend supports in cut sweeps and moulded wall posts which will relieve the blank walls between the windows. In keeping with the ceiling the gallery front, which will present a series of graceful curves, will be decorated with a design in fibrous plaster.

The seating will be of ordinary character, with book-rack instead of book-shelf.

The floor will rise 12 inches from the front to the back at the class room partition.

The lighting arrangements are novel and should be efficient and also look well.

The principal lights are large triple windows, one on each side near the southern end; northwards of these are a double series of smaller windows, a lower to light the space beneath the gallery and the class-rooms, the higher to light the gallery.

The total window space is large, and the light will be reduced by the use of cathedral glass throughout.

There are also windows in the sides of the chancel.

The interior of the church will be plastered, fine finished and coloured.

Careful attention has been paid to the two important requisites of ventilation and acoustic properties. The former is secured by two exit trunks through the ridge, capped by Boyle's ornamental exhausts, and inlets are provided by a series of Tobin tubes.

The architect's plans promise a building of which the congregation may well be proud, and an opportunity will, we understand, be given to the public in the course of a day or two, to form an opinion on the subject by the display in some window of a perspective drawing.

- The Timaru Herald

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