Church Name: St Patrick or Our Lady and St John

The first Methven Catholic church was built on a half-acre site at the corner of McKerrow and Blackford streets. The shell of the building cost £240. It was damaged by strong winds that twisted the frame while being built, and was braced externally as a result.

The church was built by Dean Nicholas Binsfeld SM during a two-year period he was administrator of Ashburton parish while the parish priest, Fr Stephen Chastagnon, was overseas trying to raise funds to clear the parish debt. Fr Chastagnon left instructions that there was no need to say Mass in Methven, but the people there complained to Dean Binsfeld, and there was a regular attendance of 60 once Mass was celebrated there.

In May 1888 Methven parishioners formed a committee and purchased the land behind the Canterbury Hotel from the Bank of New Zealand for £18. In August they wrote to Dean Binsfeld asking if he would draw plans for a church, as he had a reputation as an architect. They felt they could raise £150.

Dean Binsfeld passed the letter on to Bishop Grimes with a recommendation that a church be built in Methven.

In 1896 an additional 1 3/4 acres adjoining the church was bought for £152.10.0. In 1902 the church was lined and enlarged at a cost of £284.

In 1912 the first Methven parish priest, Dr J.A. Kennedy, bought a 10-acre site on the eastern side of Methven and had the church moved there in 1913, towed by two traction engines. The shifting operation was overseen by David McCrenor.

When the second Methven church (the present church) was opened in 1963 the old church became a classroom for a time then parish centre, but was eventually demolished in 1985.

It appears the first church was not dedicated when new. In the 1892 parish returns Fr Chastagnon reported its name as St Patrick’s, but in the 1895 returns Dean J.J. O’Donnell said it was not dedicated. In 1905 he said its name was Our Lady & St John.

The parish later became the Holy Family parish and the present church, opened in 1963, is dedicated to the Holy Family. However, one Christchurch Press report at that time still used the Our Lady & St John name.

(Photos courtesy of Methven Museum)


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