Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Otahuhu

In late June, I visited Otahuhu to give a talk to the local historical society there. Elaine Read from the Otahuhu Historical Society very kindly took me on a walk around the suburb's central area.

Otahuhu's Holy Trinity Anglican Church is at 18 Mason Avenue. The first Anglican or Episcopalian Church in the district was built by Fencible soldiers in 1851 on Church Street, at the site now known as the Holy Trinity Memorial Park. John Fairburn donated land on what is now Mason Avenue to the church, and the second Anglican church in the district was erected in 1863, consecrated in 1866.

This makes the foundation stone laid for the third and present church somewhat perplexing. I've yet to find the fire which destroyed the first church, as referred to on the stone. Judging by reports in the 1920s, the first church did burn down, but the second church didn't result from that fire.

Ref 4-8789, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Holy Trinity Church, Otahuhu, one of the oldest houses of worship in the province, is to be replaced by a dignified brick building, in the Gothic style. The sum of £7000 is to be expended on the new church, and as the parish has only £1800 in hand, a vigorous appeal is to be made for money. To-morrow is Trinity Sunday, and it has been decided that the money shall be subscribed by direct giving rather than by means of entertainments. Tenders will be called for the erection of the church on the present site.when,the £5000 has been subscribed. A design has been, prepared by Mr J C Blechynden, of Hamilton, and this has been adopted. An appeal for a pipe organ is later to be made. The nucleus of the building fund was established some years ago, when £800 was subscribed, and at a meeting a few weeks back, when parishioners. inaugurated the present scheme, those present gave £1000.

Special reference will be made to the appeal to-morrow, when his Grace Archbishop Averill and Canon H. Mason, now vicar of Howick, who for 21 years was vicar of Otahuhu, will take part in the services.

The present building, erected in 1863, is a wooden structure, and the parish is in real need of a new place of worship. The passing of 63 years has left its mark on the church, and it is felt that the provision of a new one, in permanent material, will be an appropriate addition to the already picturesque little town. Four hundred worshippers will be seated in the church that is to be built.

During 63 years Holy Trinity parish has been unique, in that it has had only two vicars -- Canon Gould, from 1863 to 1905, and Canon Mason, from the latter date until he was succeeded by Mr. Seton. The history of the church, however, goes even farther back, its initiation being the combined church and school erected by the military settlers, with the Rev. S. Ward as its first minister and schoolmaster. He was followed by Mr. Carter, then Mr. Johnstone, and later Canon Gould. Later the church was removed from the old cemetery site, but some years ago it was burned down, being replaced by the parish hall now used as a centre for Sunday school work. The existing building was consecrated by Bishop Selwyn in December, 1863. It is notable that on this occasion he was accompanied by Bishop Patterson, of Melanesia, who afterwards fell a martyr in the South Sea Islands.

Auckland Star 29 May 1926

The second or Selwyn Church was removed to Mangere East in 1928, to make way for the new church.

23 July 1928, Auckland Star

30 November 1928, photo by James D Richardson. Ref 4-8791, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

The new church was opened and dedicated 14 October 1928.

When I took a photo of this WWI memorial cross, I had no idea that this was its second site, until I found the image below, from Auckland Library.

"The unveiling of the 'Wayside cross', a memorial to those who died in WW1. It was formerly located at the junction of Great South Road and Mason Avenue, but is now outside the Anglican Church, Otahuhu." Ref 653-345, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

At a vestry meeting held recently the question of erecting a memorial for the boys of Holy Trinity Church, Otahuhu, who lost their lives in the great war was brought forward by the vicar, the Rev. H. Mason. The form of memorial suggested was a column of granite, placed upon a stone base. Opinions of the vestry being divided as to the nature of the memorial, it was decided to refer the matter to a meeting of parishioners. The meeting eventuated last evening in the Parish Hall, after the church service. Mr. Mason presented a plan of the proposed structure, and after explaining the objects and the desirability of erecting such a memorial, it was resolved to adopt the proposal. A committee was appointed to supervise the erection of the memorial, which will be placed near the front entrance, thus presenting a conspicuous view to the main thoroughfare.

Auckland Star 7 July 1919

Wayside memorial to fallen soldiers unveiled at Otahuhu on Saturday.

The unveiling of the soldier memorial to men belonging to the Holy Trinity Church, Otahuhu, took place on Saturday afternoon [7 August]. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Nelson, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Sadlier. Assisting him were the vicar of the parish (the Rev. H Mason), Archdeacons MacMurray and Hawkins, and the Archdeacon of Taranaki also assisting were the members of St. Mary's choir, St. Stephen's Maori boys, and several visiting clergy. There were between 400 and 500 residents assembled, including the local fire brigade and municipal band. The memorial took the form of a basement of big stones with a column of rough-hewn granite standing about twelve feet high. The names of the fallen heroes, numbering eighteen, are inscribed on the base of the column. The speakers were Dr. Sadlier, Archdeacon MacMurray and Major Wyman, D.S.O.

Auckland Star 9 August 1920

I haven't yet found out why the memorial was moved, but at the time of writing it doesn't appear on the war memorials pin-map at nzhistory.net. I'll try to let them know.


  1. Jo Douglas nee StanawayFebruary 1, 2018 at 6:24 PM

    There was an old wooden hall at the rear of the church in the 1950's where the Brownies and Girl Guides met.Is it still there?

    1. Don't know, sorry. You might like to try getting in contact with the local historical society.

    2. It was demolished late last year/earlier this year. I'm uncertain why but it may have been to enable a modern replacement or associated with the new development next to the church.

    3. Yep -- the vicarage and the hall have gone.

  2. Sad I grew up there in the 60s my father was the vicar in those days there was the church church hall vicarage scout den and assistant curates house a wonderful piece of land I'd say looking at photos the kauri tree we planted 63 years ago has gone

  3. My great great grandparents Dr Joseph and Lydia Elmsly are buried in the cemetery. of the Holy Trinity Anglican church, cnr of Luke and Church st. I would be grateful if historians could contact me. Joseph was a surgeon at the Ōtāhuhu military camp from the 1870s and practised until 6 months before his death 1892.Please contact Dr Deborah Quilter 0212989814 and at deborahdeberriquilter@gmail.com