Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

05 August 2009

Country Churches of NZ 81. South Island New Zealand and St. John in The Wilderness, Koromiko, Marlborough

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.

St John’s, Arrowtown door.

THE SOUTH ISLAND COLLECTION

I toured the South Island clockwise; down the east to Southland, a roam through Central Otago then up Westland and into the Nelson area. The first church I illustrated was at Koromiko, south of Picton, the last a not too distant neighbour at Havelock.

In trying to determine whether there might be essential differences between North and South Island country churches I concluded that they were influenced by their origins. There was far more of the 'missionary' up north, whereas in the founding provinces of the south, religion - Anglican and Presbyterian in particular - had been imported with the setttlers as part of their well-established social mosaic.

In view of the pre-European distribution of population, it is only to be expected that, with notable exceptions, Maori churches are far less evident than in Northland or the East Coast, for example.

I'm not sure to what extent those differences affect the external appearance of the churches although I'm sure that they do in subtle ways. But the characteristics of building materials certainly provide distinctions. There's far more stone in the South Island - scoria, limestone, schist - each has its own special colour and texture. And the architecture itself is different; there are fewer of those elegant belfries with their de Jersey Clere fl├Ęches. The works of architects such as Benjamin Mountfort seem more serious and authoritarian.




ST JOHN IN THE WILDERNESS, KOROMIKO

'Built 1871, first service 4 April. No graves in churchyard but large ankle-breaking Wellingtonia roots lie along surface because of stony substrate. A photograph in the church of it just built shows it surrounded by a hideous wilderness of shattered tree stumps. Inside, nave is bone-dry kahikatea (borer evident) with rimu trusses.' (SKETCHBOOK NOTE 30/10/01)

Koromiko is south of Picton where the land starts to open out into the old Waitohi Valley. St John in the Wilderness was designed by a Mr Alexander; the builder was Mr Pugh of Picton who had quoted £132.

Mill owner Captain Dalton, an early settler, gave most of the timber for the building. It is said that all of his employees gave a week's wages to the building fund - how willingly is a matter for speculation.

Here a swarm of bees interrupted the baptism of future Governor General the Right Reverend Sir Paul Reeves. Several generations later bees continue to be a problem. They seem to inhabit many of the churches I've visited - I wonder what attracts them?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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Blurb

RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
By Don Donovan