Church Name: St James and St Philip.  First Church

The first church in what was to become the Christchurch Diocese was built in 1840 at the instigation of Bishop Pompallier using the same method of construction used for what is now known as Pompallier House in the Bay of Islands. The church was replaced in 1843 and allowed to fall into disrepair but because its replacement was itself destroyed by wind in 1849 the original church was refurbished and used again for up to 10 years.

One reference locates it as being  “built in front of the house occupied by Mr J. Kerridge, the structure being composed of a wooden frame with clay walls, and was 20ft x 14ft in dimensions”.

Another reference describes its building:  “During October 1840 Bishop Pompallier visited Akaroa for the first time. While there he commissioned the building of a small temporary church, built of trimmed branches and rammed clay (pise), about six metres by four. Labour was in short supply. Felling and rough sawing the timber cost 800 of the 1200 Francs (about $100) it cost. Frs Comte and Pezant who had been at Akaroa and Fr Tripe would have preferred a larger building of cheaper construction but Pompallier insisted on pise. After Pompallier left at the end of October Fr Tripe complained the church was too small and inconvenient. It was completed in 1841.”

The church was replaced, with a new one being built by French sailors, but it was destroyed by strong winds, causing the old church to be refurbished:

“When Frs Seon and Bernard came to live in mid-1850 [captain] Berard and the [ship] Rhin were gone and the fine new landmark church…. was a heap of timber. So they had the clay and log chapel refurbished and it was used until at least February 1859. Three baptisms and two marriages took place there that month.”


Church Name: St Mary.  Second Church

In 1843 Bishop Pompallier commissioned a new church for Akaroa and opened a subscription list for it. It was about twice the size of the first small church but more lightly built, and on the slope of a hill so that considerable terracing was required to provide a shelf for it. The bulk of the work seems to have been done courtesy of the French navy. The ship then on station was the Rhin and its Captain Berard reported in mid-June that his crew had just begun to build a larger church which they expected to have finished about September. By this time it was clear that the Mission was the Station of the Assumption. The second church was called St Mary’s. It blew down in 1849 and was never rebuilt.

“In 1843 a large church, 40ft x 20ft, was erected on the church property below the cemetery. It was a wooden building and was blown down in 1848. The priests lived for three years in a whare made of toi toi, there being no timber to be got, facilities for cutting it not being available.”


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