History with Photos

ca 1865

Figure 84. Durham Street Methodist Church, which opened on Christmas Day, 1864. This is the earliest-known photograph (probably taken soon after completion) of the first stone church on the Canterbury Plains, and one of the city’s earliest Gothic Revival stone building. Rice GW, p 37, Brittenden Collection, CHAC/CM


ca 1885

From  Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood, by M. Mosley (Publication details: J. T. Smith & Co., 1885)

The Durham Street Wesleyan Church. The circuit of which this church is the centre, is the premier circuit of New Zealand Methodism, and has more churches, members, Sunday scholars, and adherents than any other. Durham Street Church, which is the Methodist Cathedral of Canterbury, is a handsome stone building, at the corner of Durham and Chester Streets. Two large towers surmount the front, and the sides are protected by heavy balustrades. The foundation, stone was laid early in 1864, by Mr. Samuel Bealey, then Superintendent of the Province, and the opening services were held on the 25th of December, of the same year. The land and building cost about £12,000. A few years later galleries were erected in the church, at a cost of over £1000, and an organ—at the time one of the best instruments in the colony—was introduced. Subsequently the stone schoolroom adjoining the church was erected at a cost of £2000. The parsonage stands on the church grounds, facing Chester Street, and was erected, together with a caretaker’s residence, in 1889. A year later the interior of the church was renovated, the rostrum brought forward, and the choir gallery enlarged; and altogether over £20,000 have been spent on the property.

From The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], 1903. [http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d21-d80.html]

Wesleyan Methodist Church, Durham Street, Christchurch
[ca. 1921]

Durham Street church is a Victorian Gothic building which was opened on Christmas Day 1864, the first stone church built on the Canterbury Plains.  The supervising architect, Samuel Farr (1827-1918), modified the original plans submitted by Messrs Crouch & Wilson of Melbourne.  It was Farr’s largest building to date, and probably the first time he worked in stone.  The church was built from local stone, in a mixture of Halswell and Port Hills basalt.  The lighter facings are Charteris Bay sandstone.  Originally there was to be a spire on the south-east corner.  The pinnacle which topped the centre took on a dangerous lean following an earthquake in 1888, and was removed.

File Reference CCL PhotoCD 12, IMG0038 [http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/photos/disc12/img0038.asp]

ca 2000

Photo by Cashmere Heights Weddings.
Note the stonework …


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole Morley
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 17:32:12

    Do you have any photos of the plaques displayed.
    I would like to see the ones of William Morley and his wife in particular.

    Thank you
    Nicole Morley


    • W Woodley
      Jul 15, 2012 @ 14:50:22

      Hello, Nicole
      I have a copy of the book, A House Not Made With Hands (W T Blight) in which there is a photo and description of some of the life of Rev William Morley and his time at the Durham Street Methodist Church. Feel free to contact me if you wish to follow this up.
      Wallace Woodley


  2. durhamstreetmethodist
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 18:23:13

    I do not have any, but I will do my best to track them down …

    Morley House, in Latimer Square, is currently in the Red Zone and so inaccessible at the moment until further notice, and I have contacted the Archivist to see if she can assist with this matter.

    The Canterbury Museum is now open again, and I will pop in there to check out their photographic collections in the next week.

    The Christchurch City Libraries photographic collections may also contain some further information.

    Best wishes –



  3. durhamstreetmethodist
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 22:06:03

    Nicole, this is the reply I received from Jo Smith, the Archivist at the Merthodist Archives Collection”

    “Unfortunately due to the Christchurch earthquakes, we are unable to access the Methodist Church of New Zealand Archives Collection, and this is likely to continue for some time.

    “However, my recollection is that we do not have photographs of any plaques that were in the Durham Street Methodist Church held within our Photographs Collection.

    “I do know, that there are books published about the Durham Street Methodist Church, and there may be mention or a photograph of the plaque in these.

    “Again, unfortunately I am unable to access our library, but the person making the enquiry, may have access to an open public library in their area.
    The titles are:

    “Blight, W T. A house not made with hands. A history of the Durham Street Methodist Church Christchurch since the present church building was erected. 1864-1964. [Christchurch: The Trustees of the Durham Street Methodist Church]

    “Christchurch Methodist Central Mission Durham Street Church, 120 years anniversary brochure, 1864-1984

    “Lovell-Smith, Margaret. Durham Street Church: the heart of a mission. A recent history of the Durham Street Methodist Church 1964-1989. [Christchurch: Christchurch Methodist Mission]

    “Pratt, M A Rugby A sketch of the Durham Street Methodist Church Christchurch, N.Z. Issued to mark the opening of the second century of Methodist work in Canterbury and to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the erection of the Methodist Church in Durham Street. [n.p.]

    “Durham Street Methodist Church has been demolished, and any records held within the Church have not survived demolition.

    “I am sorry not to be able to help further.

    “Any changes to the availability of the Methodist Archives Collection will be posted on the Methodist Church website http://www.methodist.org.nz

    I have also checked the Christchurch Central Libraries digitised photographic collection [http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/Photos/], and found no photographs of the plaques you mention.

    I have yet to get to the Canterbury Museum Documentary Research Centre, and plan to do this on Thursday of this week.

    Best wishes –



  4. durhamstreetmethodist
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 09:39:06

    Unfortunately, the Documentary Research Centre at the Canterbury Museum remains closed to the puiblic, although the rest of the Museum is now open – I have sent an email to the Documentary Research Centre on your behalf, and expect a reply within 5 working days.

    Best wishes –



  5. Christchurch Revisited II | Between the ocean and the sea
    Dec 31, 2016 @ 16:59:30

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