Winton Church built for a growing congregation of gold diggers and farmers

It is well known that Southland is full of old buildings, but which are the oldest? In this five-part series, Georgia Weaver uncovers the stories behind some of Southland’s oldest remaining structures and what they are used for today.

In the late 1850s, 30 km north of Invercargill, there was little more than a stream.

Farmer Thomas Winton regularly camped along the creek as he searched for stray cattle he drove through the area.

The creek was named Winton Creek, and from there Winton Township began to develop.

In 1861, as a result of the movement of Southland settlers inland for agriculture, Winton became a rural service town with the construction of the railroad north of Invercargill.

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Workers were drawn to the new settlement to help with the railroad. But when construction stalled in 1864, it completely disrupted Winton. Construction resumed in 1871 and in 1876 Winton became a municipality.

The city also rose to prominence during the Gold Rush, being one of the stops on the goldfield route.

From 1862, Anglican services at Winton were held intermittently at available locations, while churches were already established in the nearby town of Invercargill.

By the 1870s the local Anglican community had grown to the point where a purpose-built place of worship was desired and feasible. The architect of Invercargill, Frederick William Burwell, therefore designed Winton Holy Trinity Church, one of the oldest buildings in the city.

An important figure in Southland history, Burwell is credited with converting Invercargill from a border town into a visually impressive place worthy of its position as the capital of Southland. He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1880 at the age of 34.

The depression during this decade led to a decline in commissions and he moved to Australia in 1887, settling in several locations and eventually settling in Fremantle in Western Australia, where he found success amidst a construction boom. He died there in 1915.

Normally, Burwell was known for its commercial buildings, including The Crescent streetscape and almost all of the buildings along Dee Street, both in Invercargill.

Winton’s Holy Trinity was potentially the first of a group of churches he designed in Southland in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

The earliest sketches of Burwell’s Church had a proposed construction cost of £ 400.

The plans were described in Southern times like: “… a design for a pretty, well-kept Gothic building capable of accommodating around 120 people.” It consists of a nave, a porch and a chancel, and standing as it will on the best site of Winton, will be a very great ornament for our already beautiful little town.

It is believed that the submission of plans was unsolicited, but by the end of 1875 the church committee had investigated the possibility of obtaining a loan to build on land donated by Henry Armstrong of Fern Bush Farm.

The committee wrote to Burwell asking for his lowest price for the design and oversight of the church constriction.

The main street in the Township of Winton.

Alden Williams / Stuff

The main street in the Township of Winton.

After the construction contract was awarded, a construction committee was formed, and they began the key task of securing financing for the construction alongside a partial loan. The community came to the aid by donating money, and Burwell also offered to donate to the building fund or present to the church a cast iron, a free-standing stone receptacle used to hold baptismal water.

The committee went for the money.

Built in 1876, the church was one of the first churches in Southland and the oldest Anglican church in the area.

By 1884, the debt for the construction of the church still had not been paid and the prospect of selling or renting part of the property was started as a revenue-raising measure.

In April of the same year, the land south of the church was put up for sale and the rest of the property was transferred to the diocesan trustees.

After the subdivision, a fence dividing the property was replaced with a hedge, but ongoing maintenance had become an issue for the sacristy, and they decided to build a concrete block wall in 1918.

This was greeted with concern as World War I caused the cost of concrete to rise. However, a working bee took place where the hedge was cut and burned and then replaced with a concrete hedge.

While many of the older buildings along Winton’s Main Street have been replaced by choice or necessity due to fire, the Timber Church stood out among them. He had a few close calls with the fire but is still up today.

The first major upgrade to the church took place in the late 1930s, with interior painting, window replacement, and the removal of the choir stalls.

Another restoration and extension took place in the 1980s, with a new sacristy and new entrance, a modified extension, reconstruction of the bell tower, repair of the windows and a covered passageway up to the new entrance to the church. thanks in large part to fundraising and funds donated by various organizations.

In 2003 a lynh-gate, which was originally built for Limehills St Albans Church in 1965, was brought to Winton Church after it closed, along with an organ.

An example of Gothic Revival architecture, it was constructed from timber and still stands on Great North Rd.

Pouhere Taonga Heritage New Zealand has described it as of considerable social and spiritual importance as the center of its Anglican community since 1876.

“Their initial commitment provided the impetus for building the church, and then subsequent generations of Holy Trinity Church devotees continued, expanding the church, its features and facilities, and also funding ongoing maintenance. . “

It has been listed as a Category II Historic Site on the New Zealand Heritage Register.

A Christian presence was first brought to Southland by Anglican Maori missionaries from the North Island in the late 1840s.

Reverend Alexander Bethune is believed to preach the first Christian sermon at Invercargill in late 1856, shortly after arriving in New Zealand.

Jerry B. Hatch