Mt Peel Church of the Holy Innocents re-opening after earthquake repairs

It took seven years but finally the Church of the Holy Innocents at Mt Peel has been restored after being earthquake ...
Timaru Construction

It took seven years but finally the Church of the Holy Innocents at Mt Peel has been restored after being earthquake damaged and will be rededicated at a service on Sunday.

After seven years and $1.6 million, the earthquake-damaged Church of the Holy Innocents has been restored.

To celebrate the restoration of the Peel Forest church, and its re-opening, Bishop of Christchurch Victoria Matthews will preside over a re-dedication service this weekend.

Recovery project manager Suzanne Price said work had been slow in their bid to retain the original church, instead of rebuilding it.

She said churches in Christchurch that had been built in the same era, in the 1860s, had walls and roofs collapse during the September 2010 quake.

The Mt Peel church's east gable, the largest opening, partially collapsed and had to be reconstructed and the roof strengthened. The roof and walls are now pinned together so they will not concertina in another big quake.

"A lot of work has been done to bring it up to the minimum building code."

Using a method invented by the Etruscans in Europe, stonemasons painstakingly precision drilled holes between stones and pumped a grout mixture of lime and pozzolan (silicate based material) in with syringes.

The mixture travelled to the voids and eventually sets like cement, Price said.

"They (Etruscans) used it for lining their viaducts and wells in about 250 BC."

Freezing temperatures over winter forced the job to be delayed. The water used for the project wet the floor and the carpet has been stripped and replaced.

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"It has been a very special project. It was lovely to be involved."

Contractors discovered the inside of the walls were filled with debris left over from the original construction of the stone church and some walls just had a handful of stones in the voids.

Though the church was insured, its heritage indemnity value payout of $483,000 did not cover replacement and there was a significant funding shortfall for repairs, Price said.

A grant from the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage New Zealand fund of $30,000, $48,500 from the parish and $500,000 fundraised through the efforts of John Acland enabled the project to be completed.

Acland's great grandfather and namesake, John Barton Arundel Acland, built the church in 1868 and gifted it to the community. 

The money donated to the church was from a range of people in New Zealand and overseas who had a connection with it.

"It meant a lot to a lot of people. ..It's a special spiritual place," Acland said.

Weddings and baptisms were likely to continue to be popular at the quaint country church, he said.

"It's marvellous it's all back together after seven years."

Surrounding the church are gravestones which tell part of its history. Author Dame Ngaio Marsh is buried there.  

The fiction crime writer was friends with Acland's grandfather, Sir Hugh Acland, a prominent surgeon.


To celebrate its completion and re-opening Bishop Matthews will preside over a re-dedication service, accompanied by Arch Deacon Peter Carrell, on Sunday at 10.30am.

 - Stuff


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