St Matthew’s Architecture

Although looking at the church building from the outside it seems as one unit, it is in fact two: the original timber church, opened in 1886 with an extension in reinforced ferro-concrete dating from 1915.

 The structure is a successful example of the work of two significant architects of their time. The whole was cement rendered and painted to give the appearance of one unit many years after the two buildings were built.

The wooden church, designed by B W Mountfort and his son C J Mountfort, was erected by Robert Holt for the cost of L1,500. The plans and ‘on site’ working drawings survived and have been placed with the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington for safe keeping. It has aisles, clerestory, fine scissor-braced roof trusses and tall lancet windows with geometric leadlights. The exterior has flared eaves on a steeply pitched roof, decorated bargeboards and gable, three porches and a lychgate. Its style is described as Early English Gothic, lofty and well-proportioned.

The extension, designed by Frederick De Jersey Clere in the relatively new method of reinforced ferro-concrete, was built by J C Monk at a cost of L5,250 and consecrated in 1915. This was designed to be of graphic contrast to the original church yet respecting Mountfort’s work. The style is described as Modern Perpendicular Gothic. It has wide flat arches; mullions running the whole length of the windows with horizontal section over; the doors have square head moulds.
The austere nature of the wall surfaces and gentle curved and coffered ceiling in the Chancel, an echo of Greek and Roman fans, gives a certain pleasant contrast and an excellent foil for the beautiful stained glass windows which are a feature of this building.

From the outside, there are broad windows, subtly battlemented parapets and a 15th century style louvered tower, originally 80ft high and as tall as the transepts are wide. This tower did not survive the earthquake of 1931 and, when rebuilt, was made 20ft lower than the original, giving a more balanced look to the building as a whole.

Clere gave the new extension smaller windows on the same scale as the Mountfort � cusped square-headed like his, forming a stylistic link between the two porches of the church.

The interior of the extension was enhanced by the addition of oak panelling made by Bridgeman�s of England, and carved pulpit and choir stalls, the work of J L Ellis of Wellington.

A special meeting of parishioners was called on 20 March 1907 when brothers-in-law, James N Williams and William Nelson offered the parish a free gift of a pipe organ to be built by Messrs. Norman and Beard of London at a cost of �700. Arrangements were made to build a loft over the west door to accommodate the choir and the organ.� The organ was later moved to its present position when the extension was built. It has recently been rebuilt and enlarged. The organ is a fine instrument appreciated by visiting organists and musicians as well as our congregations.

Fine examples of stained glass are to be found in St. Matthew�s.

In the Lady Chapel the window above the altar and three smaller windows are by Karl Parsons of England. Depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi with Minstrel Angels, the altar window was the first of� Parsons� commissions for churches in New Zealand.This window was donated by Lady Harriette Julia Russell in memory of her husband Sir William Russell and six of their sons. Their initials and the year of their respective deaths are incorporated in the window. 1914.

The Sanctuary Te Deum window is the work of Bonner of England.� These two windows, along with three other large windows and two smaller ones, were given in thanksgiving or as memorials. They are all beautiful examples of the artists� work

Many other gifts enhance the interior.� There is a fine Flemish Reredos above the altar in the Lady Chapel and a carved wooden one of the Last Supper in the Sanctuary.� Many memorial tablets on the walls honour past clergy and church workers.

Of recent years, changes have been made to the placement of various furniture to better reflect the needs of the church community of today.� Space has been made in the Sanctuary which enables the dance choir to provide visual spiritual enhancement, and which is useful for more intimate smaller groups to worship together.