Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 August 2009

Country Churches of NZ 116. Former Presbyterian Church, Lawrence, Otago

I wrote and illustrated Country Churches of New Zealand. It was published in 2002 by New Holland, Publishers and is still on sale in bookshops. The publishers have kindly agreed to me re-publishing some of the book’s images and descriptions in this blog.
Forgive me this flight of fancy - I wasn't at the burning of the old Presbyterian Church at Lawrence. But the shell from which the flames issue is as it was when I visited it.

It was another of R. A. Lawson's designs, built in 1886 in one of the richest of New Zealand's goldfields.

As for the fire: I can do no better than quote parts of a report from the Otago Daily Times of 1 October 1998:
'... Lawrence police believe [the fire] that destroyed the historic Presbyterian Church [was] deliberately lit. The church, built in 1886 ... has been used as a dwelling since a new church was built. The building was not demolished because it is protected by the Historic Places Trust. The Lawrence and Waitahuna Fire Brigades were called to the church at 4.15 am yesterday. They arrived to find the building well alight ... The owner... was believed to be in Dunedin and police were trying to contact... A Ford Escort van, parked outside the house, was also on fire. The church and the car were both extensively damaged and a fire brigade spokesman... said he believed the church would have to be demolished.'

But it's still there...*

* By 2008 the building had been restored and is now ‘luxury boutique accommodation, with a touch of the monastery’.


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By Don Donovan