Notown 1st Church

Church Name: St Laurence O’Toole

Bishop Viard gave permission for the erection of a church at Notown when he visited in 1865, staying with a Mr Gillin at Twelve Mile. Materials for the prefabricated church were shipped from Auckland and up the Grey River. Fr Royer of Greymouth celebrated the first Mass in 1866. The church, which was a little distance from the township, served until a new one was built in the town 20 years later.

After 36 years standing unused it was moved to Ngahere in 1922 where it served until 1960.It was moved to make way for the new Ngahere church in 1960 and served as the parish hall until 1965. It was then sold to the Matthews family and in 1970 was given by them to Shantytown, the newly constructed tourist village at Rutherglen, south of Greymouth. It is still there today.

In Valley of Little Towns Rona Adshead says of the church at Shantytown: “ “The opening ceremony was preceded by an authentic, and reverent, wedding in the 105-year-old Notown church that had been donated in excellent condition by Mr E. Matthews five months after the first Shantytown project meeting had been called. It was a magnificent gesture of faith that stimulated all those who were becoming involved in helping.

“The church has an absorbing history. By 1876 Notown, 17 miles inland from Greymouth, in the Grey Valley, was flourishing as a properly laid-out, booming gold town. A church was considered an essential addition. Correspondence was entered into with Bishop Philip Viard SM, Wellington, who authorized Patrick Gillan of Kamaka (upstream of Stillwater) to order all building requirements from Auckland and have them shipped to Greymouth. From there they were barged to Kamaka and then taken by sledge miles inland to Notown. Messrs Arnott and Seabrook, a building partnership in Greymouth, erected the church at a cost of £254 and the first Mass was celebrated in 1866 by the foundation priest of Greymouth, Rev. Father Emmanuel Royer, a Frenchman. By 1922 Notown was a ghost town and the church was disused.

“Its second journey took place. Michael McLaughlin of Red Jacks financed the removal of the church to Ngahere, further along the Grey Valley, where it was never closed for a service until its successor was built in 1958. A great-grandson of P.J. Gillin, E. Matthews, then bought the church and kept it in excellent condition until he handed it over to Shantytown. The West Coast Master Builders adopted the project of dismantling, shifting and rebuilding the church as their contribution. The bell has been preserved from the original Greymouth Anglican church.”


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Notown 1st Church