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.”



Church Name: St Peter.  First Church

Bishop Brodie purchased the former Fisher homestead in 1923 and the parish was inaugurated in 1928. A church was built with a classroom attached.

When the church was replaced it became the parish hall in its turn replacing the former Congregational church building in Tennyson Street used for that purpose.



Church Name: St Matthew

Became parish hall when present church built.



Church Name: St Catherine

This was the start of the Hoon Hay parish. It was opened on Sunday May 27, 1951 by Bishop Joyce. The area was formerly part of the Beckenham Parish, The first parish priest was Father John Galvin.

The Mass Centre was the converted lounge of the former Close home in Cracroft Terrace which was used as the presbytery by Father Galvin and his curate, Father Denis Hanrahan.  It was followed by a temporary brick church in Hoon Hay Road to seat 200 built in 12 working days in November/December 1952 at a cost of £1200. This building later became a school.



Church Name: Probably not named. Later became St Leo’s Academy

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

This church was probably not named.

On Rosary Sunday, October 18, 1860, the first Catholic church in Christchurch was opened. Its construction came after a meeting following a Mass celebrated at the Royal Hotel in Oxford Terrace on September 3, 1860. At that meeting Catholics were told they ran the risk of losing land granted to them in Barbadoes Street by the Canterbury Provincial Council if it was not occupied within days.

In an attempt to meet the provincial council’s deadline the two priests resident in Christchurch, Fr Antoine Seon SM and Fr Jean-Baptiste Chataigner SM, had made a start on erecting a house for themselves three months earlier, intending also to celebrate Mass there for the town’s small number of Catholics, but there is no evidence it was completed.

The arrival of a large number of Catholics on the William Miles in August 1860 made a larger building possible, in fact necessary. Following the meeting a builder, Mr Coxhead, was employed and a foundation stone was laid on September 7 with five people present, including the builder and two of his men.

The church, measuring 24 feet by 18 feet, was built in Mr Coxhead’s yard and carted to the site. It was completed in three weeks, by September 28, at a cost of £75.

A wing was added later in 1860 and another in 1861 to create a living area for the priests and a small sanctuary was added by Mr Isaac Sheath in thanksgiving for his family’s safe arrival in New Zealand. This gave it the form shown in this illustration. After the new Church of the Blessed Sacrament was opened in 1864 the original building was absorbed into the presbytery, a purpose it filled until 1879, when the whole building was converted into a school, St Leo’s Academy.

The school closed in 1885 after which the building had a variety of other uses, including becoming a parish library and a residence for the Marist brothers.   When it was destroyed by fire in 1903 it was being used as the Catholic clubrooms.



Church Name: Blessed Sacrament

Designed by Benjamin Mountfort and erected under the supervision of Fr Chataigner SM. The building was enlarged several times and after the arrival of Bishop Grimes became the pro-cathedral. It was Moved in 1901 to a site on Ferry Road while the present Cathedral was built and was converted to classrooms on that site before eventually being demolished.

A description of the church as originally built is contained in J.J. Wilson, The Church in New Zealand, Memoirs of the early days, 1910:

“The church provided accommodation for over 500 person, and was built of redstone, brick and wood. The stone walls were six feet high and lined with brick. Upon this was erected the woodwork, which carried the walls up to the required height. Brick tiles, made in the adjoining brickyard, were used in the roofing. Mr Thomas O’Connell, father of the Rev J.A. O’Connell SM was employed on the work, and among other operations placed the tiles on the roof of the church. The contractor for the woodwork was Mr Dethier, and for the stone and brickwork Mr John McCosker.

“The church, which cost about —2000, was blessed and opened on May 20, 1864, by the late Right Rev. Dr Viard SM, Bishop of Wellington, who was accompanied by the Rev. Fr O’Reily.”



Church Name: Holy Cross

Opened by Bishop Joyce at 100 Gloucester Street (Corner of Gloucester Street and Chancery Lane) on December 8, 1958, Fr T. Liddy being the first priest.

The building was a former office block (National Airways Corporation).



Church Name: St Mary

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

Bishop Redwood instructed Fr Laurence Ginaty in 1881 to divide the Christchurch parish in two and find a site for a church in the north. A property in Manchester Street was bought in 1885 and in April 1889 Fr Theophile Le Menant des Chesnais SM became first parish priest, with Mass being celebrated in a converted house on the property that had been used as a convent by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

On April 1, 1889 he took the house over as a presbytery, removing some ground floor walls to enlarge the convent chapel. It was not large enough, within weeks the congregation spilling out onto the verandah. However it continued in use as the parish church until August 1890.


Church Name: St Mary’s

(photo courtesy of Marist Archives, Wellington)

The first St Mary’s church was opened in August 1890 at a cost of £1540. It was designed by Timaru architect Maurice de Harven Duval.

In the early 1880s when the area was still part of the Christchurch Parish, Father Ginaty, acting on Bishop Redwood’s instructions to find a property for a second parish, commissioned Dunedin architect Francis Petre to draw up plans for a stone Gothic ‘cathedral’ for the Manchester-Salisbury Street corner. Redwood reacted angrily, saying only a modest church-school could be built. Nothing eventuated other than the former convent being used as a parish chapel until in 1889 Father Le Menant des Chesnais commissioned Duval to build a stone church.

This time it was Bishop Grimes who repudiated the plans, bringing a threat of legal action from Duval. The Bishop authorised a church “temporary but commodious, wood so as to be moveable and so constructed as to be useful for school purposes later on if necessary, and to cost no more than £1200 including fees, excluding furniture”.

The church was built in four months by Timaru builder Jas. Delaney. Archbishop Redwood laid the foundation stone on April 20, 1890 and returned to open it on August 17, 1890. In spite of being intended as temporary, it survived as a church until 1956 when it was demolished to allow the building of a new church.



Church Name: St Paul

Bishop Brodie bought a section of land in Gayhurst Road in 1925 and, using his own money, had a chapel of ease dedicated to St Paul built there for a Catholic population of 20 families. The Bishop celebrated the first Mass there in 1926 and handed the building over to the parishioners.

In 1957 a new church was opened and the old church became a classroom, as in the photo.



Church Name: St Paul

Damaged by the Christchurch earthquake in 2010 and subsequently demolished



Church Name: St Agnes

(Painting courtesy of Patricia Murphy)

Parish returns from 1892 onwards list St Agnes Church at Halswell, part of the Cathedral parish, as having cost £500 to build.

A Short History of Halswell describes it: “The Wesleyans had taken over Edward Morgan’s Dunbars Road School, which he had opened in 1861 and had built a church on the site of their boarding school. It was this unused church that was purchased in 1878 and moved to the present site on the corner of Nicholls and Halswell Junction Roads. The church was then known as St Agnes and was serviced from the Addington Parish. When a new church was built in 1899 the old church became known as The Abbey and was used as a school. By 1904 The Abbey had been sold to Mr Hann who demolished it for its timber and a new school was built.”

Another source refers to it: “The Catholic Church in Halswell was built not long after the one in Shands track. A Wesleyan Methodist church had been built in the early 1860s on the corner of Dunbars and Halswell Roads, but had closed 10 years later. The unused church was purchased about 1878 by the Roman Catholic community and moved to the corner of Halswell Junction and Nicholl Roads, where it became the church of St Agnes and was much admired for its beautiful stained glass windows. When a new church was built the original building became known as The Abbey and was used by nuns who came out during the week from Ferry Rd to tun the school. The person responsible for establishing St Agnes was Dean Lawrence Ginaty.




Church Name: St Agnes, later known as Saints Peter and Paul

(Photo courtesy of Halswell Parish)

Halswell’s second church was built 1899. In 1968 the church became a parish on its own, and Fr Joe Kelly dedicated the church to Sts Peter & Paul, its present name. The photo was taken after demolition had commenced in 1998.



Church Name: Our Lady of the Assumption

“On Show Day 1952 Bishop Joyce signed a contract with R.L. (Bob) Kennedy, a well-known Christchurch builder, for the construction of a temporary church seating 200, and able to be converted later into a school. The request was made that perhaps the church could be finished by Christmas! Bob and his team took on the challenge and completed the building in 21 working days. So Fr Galvin was able to celebrate Midnight Mass there amid great rejoicing.” — parish golden jubilee book.


Church Name: St Michael

St Michael’s Church was opened in Hornby Junction Road (Carmen Road) in 1898, at a cost of £400, on a half acre section sold to Bishop Grimes for £40, when the area was part of the Christchurch North parish.

In 1948 the first Sockburn parish priest Fr (later Bishop) Joyce had the church moved to Tower Street in Hornby. The poor state of St Michael’s building forced its closure in 1983 and the Catholic community in the area for a time used the Methodist church in Springs Road until a new and larger St Bernadette’s was completed in 1985. Its foundation stone is now below the foundation stone of the new St Bernadette’s church in Hei Hei Road.



Church Name: St Bernadette

Owing to building development in the Hei Hei area, a church/hall was built in Manurere Street, Hei Hei in 1957 at a cost of £4000. In 1958 the Hornby Parish under the patronage of St Bernadette was established. Land purchased in Hei Hei Road in 1959 became the site of St Bernadette’s School in 1962 and the church hall from Manurere St was moved to the site of St Bernadette’s Church in Hei Hei Road, where it serves as a hall.



Church Name: St John the Evangelist

(Photo courtesy of Maurice Newton, Halswell)

The first Mass at Little River was in Mrs Keenan’s on the Coach Road. After a while they used to go to the Main School and had Mass there. Then they shifted to the Māori Hall. Then that was not satisfactory so they shifted to the old library up near the doctor’s house.

The parishioners decided to buy a place and have their own church. They bought the old school and half acre of land from a Mr Allan. in 1892 and renovated, it for £100 a sacristy and sanctuary being added at a later date. It lasted until 1924 when it was replaced.

Little River at different times came under the Lincoln and Akaroa parishes. The Lincoln return of 1895 does not mention it but in 1902 the reference is “Small chapel of wood at Little River, good order, no details about cost, Catholic population 78. Two statues, one bell, one confessional. One acre of land.”

The Akaroa 1903 return refers to: “Little River, St John’s, wooden , figures re cost not available. Date of erection, L. River (building having being bought and renovated).”   In 1905 the entry was: “Wooden church at Little River. The building was purchased in 1892 and renovated. A sacristy has since been added. St John the Evangelist.”



Church Name: Our Lady of Fatima

Construction of the church began on January 14, 1952, with W.J. Reynolds the builder, rimu timber ordered by Bishop Joyce from the West Coast costing £550. The church was opened by Bishop Joyce on August 24, 1952. When the new church was opened in 1988 this church became a parish hall.



This church situated in Marshlands Road, was opened in 1927, built from funds raised by Marshlands parishioners.  It was closed in 1974.

It eventually became a Seventh Day Adventist church. Still in use as such in 2006.



The original school/chapel, measuring 39 feet by 19 feet was built in 1878 when the area was part of the Christchurch North parish. In 1888 when the first Bishop of Christchurch arrived, Bishop Grimes, Father Le Menant Des Chesnais included in his report on the diocese that Mass attendance at St Joseph’s was 125.  From 1889 Papanui came under the care of the Marist Priests from the new parish of St Mary. The church was first listed on the 1892 parish returns.

In 1924 St Joseph’s was established as a parish in its own right. This was part of a move which also saw the establishment of Riccarton and New Brighton parishes.

The foundation stone of the new brick church had been laid by Bishop Brodie in 1921.

Fr Jim Hanrahan was the first Parish Priest from 1924 to 1939

The St Joseph’s Parish boundaries were marked by roads such as Marshland, Innes, Heaton, Burnside (now Memorial Ave), Russley and North to the Waimakariri.

All or parts of the following parishes were once part of Papanui:

  • Bryndwr (established in 1950)
  • Mairehau and Somme St (1952)
  • Burnside (1958)
  • Bishopdale (established in 1966, merged with St Joseph’s in 2004)



Church Name: unknown

(Photo courtesy of Canterbury Museum)

Monsignor McKeon recorded that Fr Chervier assisted by Fr Francis blessed and opened this church on December 10, 1874 — the foundation stone was laid on July 30 1874 by Fr Francis.

Another source, the Lyttelton Parish history, says the foundation stone was laid on August 8, 1874. The inscription on the stone was cut by Captain Giovanni Gaggano of the Italian barque Fratelli Gaggano. The captain also gave a generous donation to the cost of the new church.

Mass was said at the Rapaki church up until 1879 but after that the church was not used and was demolished about 1950. The first time in 81 years that Mass was celebrated at Rapaki was when Fr F. Wall SM visited in 1960.

In Rapaki Remembered Arthur (Hiwi) Couch says: “An enthusiastic body of Roman Catholics led by Pita Mutu built their own place of worship on the eastern side of Rapaki. The cornerstone was donated by Captain Giovanni of an Italian barque, and laid by Father Francis of Lyttelton on July 16, 1874. The church was opened for service on December 10, 1874 in the presence of some 200 people. The church has since completely disappeared and despite diligent search the cornerstone cannot be located.”


In 1924 a small wooden church was built in Peer Street near Villa Maria, a small wooden cottage on the site, purchased in 1917, having previously been used as a presbytery and Mass centre. The church was blessed and opened by Bishop Brodie on April 26, 1924 as the first Riccarton Church. It was the parish church until 1929 when the Riccarton parish centre was established in Puriri Street and the first church built there.

This church was later moved to become the first Sockburn church and is still [2007] part of the Sockburn parish centre.



Church Name: St Therese of Lisieux

The stone church of St Therese was built in Puriri Street in 1929 at a cost of £3300. It was later demolished to make way for the present church.



Church Name: St Pius X

The first church at Shirley, in the Mairehau Parish, was a pre-fabricated building in Emmett Street, built in 1958. It was moved in 1974 to the Mairehau parish school in Innes Road to become the school library and meeting hall.



Church Name: Our Lady of Victories

In 1924 a small wooden church was built in Peer Street near Villa Maria by Father Thomas Hanrahan, a small wooden cottage on the site, purchased in 1917, having previously been used as a presbytery and Mass centre. It was blessed and opened by Bishop Brodie on April 26, 1924 as the first Riccarton Church and served until 1929 when the Riccarton parish centre was established in Puriri Street.

When the Sockburn, or Upper Riccarton, parish was established this building was re-dedicated at Peer Street and in 1949 was moved to the present parish site on the Main South Road and became the first Our Lady of Victories Church, serving until 1968. It still exists as part of the Sockburn parish centre.



Church Name: St Martin de Tours

(Photos courtesy of Beckenham Parish)

Although a side church of the Beckenham Parish under Monsignor Kennedy, St Martins operated virtually as a parish in its own right, administered initially by Fr Basil Meeking. Mass was celebrated initially in the St Martins Library but the church, designed by George Fenton and built by Jack and Ted O’Loughlin, was dedicated in October 1955. It was closed in the 1990s. The large stained glass Tree of Life window is now in St Peter’s church, Beckenham.



Church Name: St Anne

Replaced by present church