Central Canterbury


Church Name: Holy Name

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

The name of this church is likely to have been Holy Name, as all later churches in the parish were known, but there is one reference to it having been called St Augustine’s

The first church of what was to become the Ashburton Parish was designed by Benjamin Mountfort at the time when the area was still part of the New Headford Mission under the care of Fr Jean Claude Chervier SM. It was opened on July 16, 1876 by Fr Claffey and Fr Chervier. The small wooden building was designed to seat about 200 and served a Catholic population of 900 widely scattered throughout the rural areas of the Ashburton County. When Bishop Redwood visited in 1879 canvas was used to extend the church so the crowd could be accommodated

When Fr Chervier opened a school in Ashburton in October 1880 the church also became the classroom.

Fr Edmund Patrick Coffey became Ashburton’s first parish priest on March 9, 1881. At his first meeting with parishioners he told them they would have to build a new church. His thoughts were reinforced when Bishop Redwood asked him if he still had a tent for a church in Ashburton.

By May the decision to build a new church had been made. Fr Coffey announced “I will have the foundation stone of a new church laid before the year is out and two thirds of the cost must be in the bank before the stone is laid”. He immediately collected £590 from his congregation.

The need to build a presbytery first slowed progress slightly and it was Easter Monday 1882 before the men of the parish cleared the way for the new building by moving the little wooden church to a new site in Havelock Street where it became the parish school.

It continued in that role until 1951 when it was moved sideways to allow a new school to be built. It then became the parish hall, and at times overflow classrooms, continuing in that role until 1974.




Church Name: Church of the Holy Name of Jesus.  Second Church.

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

The foundation stone for Ashburton’s second church was laid by Bishop Redwood on January 22, 1882. The church was designed by Dunedin architect Francis Petre and was built by a Dunedin builder, Mr Small, of concrete faced with Oamaru and Mount Somers limestone. The style was Flemish Gothic. It was planned to be a large building, 82 feet long, 28 feet 6 inches wide, with a height to the ceiling of 40 feet and to the ridge 52 feet. The square tower housed the baptistery and organ loft. It was to be surmounted by a 120-foot spire and the church was to have two transepts, each 27 feet by 40 feet. The interior was finished in varnished wood and plaster, with the clerestory roof being supported on columns. Coloured glass windows had a design of various coloured crosses on a green background. A feature of the exterior was metal flying buttresses supporting the clerestory.

The church was estimated to cost £2000, but by November 1882 £2300 had been spent and the decision was made to stop building. The sanctuary, transepts and spire were never built, and the rear wall remained corrugated iron

The church was opened on December 10, 1882 by Bishop Redwood with a choir formed from members of all local denominations under the baton of the choirmaster from St Stephen’s Anglican church performing Mozart’s Twelfth Mass.

The church, with its very high walls, was built side on to the prevailing nor’ west wind. Following earthquake damage in 1888 the lower walls were strengthened with large timber props to prevent the wind further damaging them. In 1888 parish administrator Fr Nicholas Binsfeld SM wrote that the church had deteriorated to the stage where “the first severe nor’ wester may throw it down.”

When Fr James O’Donnell arrived as parish priest in November 1892 he had the building surveyed by an architect, who found it to be in better condition than generally thought.

Money was collected to repair and complete the church, and a sanctuary and sacristies were added, but by 1905 it became apparent replacement was the only option. However, with large sums being collected to pay the debt on the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, replacement could not be contemplated at that stage. World War One continued to put plans on hold and it was 1930 before a new church was started, this church being demolished in 1931, some of its fittings such as pews and statues being re-used in the new church.



Burnham Camp was served by Military chaplains during World War Two. After the war Catholic services continued, not only for soldiers but also for the wider Burnham community, inside and outside the camp.

The building used was known simply as “The Catholic Hut” but on November 21, 1966 it was dedicated to St Michael. Military priests served Burnham until the early 1990s when the Christchurch Diocese took over responsibility. In the late 1990s Bougainville community leaders involved in peace talks became a part of the St Michael’s community.



On the road between Coalgate and Glentunnel stands  the little wooden Church of St Teresa built on land given by Mrs Reed of Whitecliffs.

In February1911, Bishop Grimes SM opened the church, originally dedicated to St Agatha, but a later date renamed as St Teresa.  The trees surrounding the church, now grown tall, were donated by James Dean of Homebush, who sent his gardener David Yeoman to plant them.

Electricity did not make an appearance until 1961.  Before that, parishioners brought their own various lamps and lanterns to light the Church.



Church Name: Holy Angels

The Church of the Holy Angels was built under the supervision of Fr Chervier SM and opened October 31,1880, costing £248/9/0 plus £67/4/0 for the seats. In 1892 Fr. J.J. O’Donnell reported it was too small and wanted a vestry, confessional and font. He said it was about to be enlarged.

Another source says “The original church was opened debt-free on October 31, 1880. It stood on a two-acre section donated by a Mr Maxwell of Racecourse Hill. The Gothic-styled church cost £248 to build and £67/8/0 to furnish. No-one knows the cause of the fire that destroyed the church one Saturday night in 1935. Father McMonagle, the priest at the time, had visited the church about 8.30pm, when everything was in order. An hour later the church was in flames. Most of the volunteer firemen were at the Darfield picture theatre at the time. They rushed to the blaze, but were unable to save the church. The loss was estimated at £1000.”



Church Name: St Thomas More

Mass was celebrated at Waterton as early as 1888 when the Ashburton parish administrator, Fr Nicholas Binsfeld SM, received complaints from Catholics at Longbeach and Waterton that Mass had never been said there. The first Mass in the Waterton Hall had a congregation of about 60. In later years the nearby Eiffelton School and the Eiffelton Hall became Mass centres.

On June 4, 1961, 300 people were present at Eiffelton for the opening of the Church of St Thomas More by Bishop Joyce, assisted by Ashburton parish priest Fr Gordon Daly and Fr Gerard Kane.

Seating 80, the church had originally been the refectory block of the old Ashburton convent. The land near the Eiffelton Hall had been donated by Gerald McQuilkin.

With the establishment of the Tinwald parish in June 1965 the Eiffelton church became part of that parish. From the early 1970s Mass was celebrated only monthly and on November 7, 1976 the church was closed, the final Mass being celebrated by Tinwald parish priest Fr Patrick Foley.

The altar from the church went to the Hinds church and the building was moved once again, to a site further along Longbeach Road, to become part of the Eiffelton scout den.



Church Name: St Ita

The church of St Ita at Hinds was opened on November 5, 1911 on a one-acre site west of the township, at a cost of £550, including furniture. Prior to then Mass had been celebrated in the Hinds School, but the installation of a different type of desk at the school made it difficult for an adult congregation to use it.

Ashburton Parish Priest Dean James J. O’Donnell chose Hinds as a Mass centre because it was equidistant between the southern boundary of the parish and the parish centre at Ashburton. He named it after St Ita, patron of his Irish home county, Limerick. He had earlier named the Rakaia church after St Ita for the same reason, and even earlier, while stationed at the West Coast town of Ahaura, had named a new church at Totara Flat St Munchin’s, after the church in his home town.

St Ita’s became part of the Tinwald parish in 1965. With Mass being celebrated only monthly, attendances dropping, and the parish again being served from Ashburton, the decision was made to close the church in 2005. The closing Mass was celebrated in April 2005 by Bishop John Cunneen and Ashburton Parish Priest Monsignor James Harrington.

The building was gifted to Diana, Lady Isaac for her Heritage Village on the outskirts of Christchurch, and moved there in April 2006. An oak tree, planted in the church grounds by Bishop Denis Hanrahan to mark the 75th anniversary of the church, was also moved to Christchurch with the building.


Church Name: St John the Evangelist

(Photo courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries)


The first Leeston church measuring 40 feet by 20 feet was built by Fr Chervier and opened on December 5, 1869 at a cost of £456. It was situated on the site later occupied by the Leeston Band Hall. It was replaced by the present church, which was opened on April 1, 1894, the old church becoming a school on a site behind the new church. The 1895 parish returns say it was called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary but by 1905 it was listed as St John the Evangelist.

Ian Lochhead attributes the Catholic chapel at Leeston to Benjamin Mountfort.



Church Name: Church of the Blessed Sacrament

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

Situated at New Headford in Shands Road.

This church was called The Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament but some Baptismal records refer to the Church of St Stephen. This is puzzling, especially as the nearby Anglican church in Lincoln was called St Stephen’s.

In June 1871 Fr Chervier took charge of the country parts of Canterbury when Christchurch became a separate parish under Fr Ecuyer. Fr Chervier took up residence on Shands Track, near Lincoln, at a place he called New Headford, the land being given by Patrick Henley who gave one acre on the corner of Shands Track and Boundary Road for a church. In 1869 tenders were called for a church that would measure 40 feet by 20 feet. It was opened on New Year’s Day, 1871. Before it was opened Patrick Henley gave four more acres. A large presbytery that doubled as a school was built in 1871.

Once a new church was built in 1882 this building was used as a school and parish hall.

In the book Lake Ellesmere to Te Pirita Sarah Penney says: “Father Chervier made his headquarters at Patrick Henley’s house in Shands Road, which he called New Headford. At Mr Henley’s house Mass was said three or four times a year by priests on visits from Christchurch as Fr Chervier was away for long periods making visits throughout his large parish, mainly on foot. An acre of land was given by Mr Henley and a school was built that was used as a church. In 1870 Fr Chervier went to reside permanently in the locality. He obtained more land (1.2 hectares) from Mr P. Henley near the school and built a presbytery for £2000. The presbytery was a large one by the standards of the times and this may explain how it was possible to have some boarders there. Records seem to indicate that Fr Chervier was a keen educationalist by the facts that the buildings he had built in Lyttelton and Ashburton seemed to be church schools in the morning; that on weekdays they were used for teaching children, and that they were used on Sundays for religious purposes. With all the travelling that had to be done and with so few clergy, there would be Sundays without services.



Church Name: Church of the Reparation

Situated at New Headford in Shands Road

By 1880 the first church at New Headford, Shands Track, built in 1871, was found to be too small and Fr Chervier had this larger church built alongside the original church, at a cost of £2000. (In 1892 Fr Chervier said £1363/1/6.) It was dedicated by Bishop Moran of Dunedin on September 19, 1880 .

Its full name was “Sanctissimi Sacramentia Eucharistia Reparationis”, and it is referred to variously in parish returns as the Church of the Reparation and the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

It was known to the largely Irish congregation as St Paddy’s and featured a large statue of St Patrick. The 1892 parish return begins “Sacred Heart and the name of the church The Reparation.” The Sacred Heart name may refer to the name of the New Headford Mission.

Plans were made to relocate the church to Lincoln in 1908, but in spite of a new presbytery being built there, this did not happen. In 1909 a bell tower was added to the front of the church by Fr Drohan MSH. The New Headford church survived until the present St Patrick’s church was opened in Lincoln in 1956, when it was sold to Mr Hubert Kraak and demolished, although some materials were used in the new church.

In the book Lake Ellesmere to Te Pirita Sarah Penney says: “Over the years at Shands Track church parishioners had disagreed about the suitability of the site of a church. Two main groups of parishioners took issue. One thought the church should remain where it was. This was known as The Plains group and comprised those living at Broadfields, West Melton, Templeton, Springston and Rolleston. The other group, The Swamps, comprised residents of Lincoln, Greenpark, Tai Tapu, Motukarara and Ladbrooks who favoured the church being centrally placed at Lincoln , where there was rail access, considered to be a desirable asset. It was the Presbytery that precipitated the final move. Conditions in the building had deteriorated to such an extent that the roof leaked, borer was prevalent in the struts and rafters and repairs were needed. Mr Henley resisted the suggestion to move the church centre. He had given generously the sum of £1000 towards the building of the Cathedral. About that same time a section of 1.6 hectares was purchased by Fr James Foley SM in Lincoln .

Early in the first decade to the twentieth Century Shands Track Parish passed from the control of the Marist order to the secular clergy, the first secular priest being Fr Robert Richards. About 1906 or 1907 the Swamps group was faced with the task of raising a sum which was beyond its means, so the old church remained for some further years. The school ceased in 1903 or 1904. The church remained, the advent of the motor car making the journey of those further away less of an ordeal. The new brick church at Lincoln was built on the section bought previously.

(Photos courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington and Lincoln Historical Society)


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)


Church Name: St Teresa of Liseux

The Mount Somers church was dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux and opened in 1926 at the corner of Hoods Road and Buccleuch Street on land given by Mr Haziel Morgan, during the term of Fr Price as Methven parish priest. It served the area between Springburn and the Rangitata River.

The church was closed in November 2005, with a thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Bishop John Cunneen and Monsignor James Harrington who at that time was priest with pastoral responsibility for the Methven parish and Fr Frank Kennedy SM, a former parish priest.

The building   and land were sold at auction in April 2006 to a private buyer for $128,000.



Church Name: St Joseph

The Church of St Joseph was opened on September 8, 1878 at a cost of £580/8/6. It was built by Samuel Early. About this time Fr Chervier had moved to Leeston as the first resident priest in the district. In 1894 a more substantial church was built on a more suitable site and the old building was moved to the new grounds where it was used as a school-room and hall.



Church Name: St Joseph

In 1894 a more substantial church was built at Southbridge, on a new site. In later years the Catholic Church it was sold and converted into a house, all services are now centred on Leeston.


Church Name: ?

A section was bought for £10 on the main West Coast Road about a mile west of Springfield about 1907. A building from the Christchurch Exhibition   was bought by a Mr Cassidy and locals raised £200 to convert it to a church. Bishop Grimes opened the church, which seated 120 people, in 1909. The steeple at the West end was later blown down. The last Mass was celebrated by Father Hunter on December 14, 1974. The building was later demolished.