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Among the early Rangiora settlers was a group of the Calvinistic Baptist faith. The majority were members of or connected to the Ivory family, whose head was the Rev. Charles Ivory, the former pastor of the Costessy Baptist Chapel in Norfolk, England. About 1857, they commenced holding services in their cottages. In 1863 a chapel was built, the first Baptist one in Canterbury. 'Little Bethel' as it was called, was erected by the congregation themselves on a section in Victoria Street (where Queen Street now goes through to Ivory Street) donated by William Ivory, and was built of timber from bush which he owned.'Little Bethel' was closed at one stage and its members went to other denominations in Rangiora.
However, in 1895 the Canterbury Baptist Association took over the church and services continued there until 1962, when they moved across the road to the church formerly owned by the Exclusive Brethren on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets. This in turn was sold for the Woolworths supermarket development, and a new complex was built in East Belt near Rangiora High School about 2002.
Both the Open and Exclusive assemblies were founded in the 1880s. The evangelist, W Corrie Johnson, who associated with mainly the Exclusive Brethren, preached at Fernside in 1882. West Eyreton and West Oxford were also meeting places.
The Rangiora Brethren met in their hall at the corner of Victoria and Queen Streets, from about 1930 until sold in 1962 to the Rangiora Baptists. Their next hall was in Ivory Street and is now Backpackers’ accommodation. Their present complex is in Newnham Street.
Rangiora was originally part of the Kaiapoi Parish. A church and school building had been built in Kaiapoi in 1860, and in 1863 the Rev. William Kirton was called to the Kaiapoi-Rangiora charge. This continued until 1880 when Rangiora became a separate parish.
J J Robinson built Rangiora’s first Presbyterian Church. It was opened and dedicated in 1872 under the name of John Knox Church. It was situated in High Street on the site of the present police station. Five years after it opened, it was enlarged. A manse, which is still standing, was built at 87 Church Street in 1888, but this has been in private ownership for many years. When the Rev. P R Monro was minister from 1891-96, he was not happy with the simple lines and setting of the church and had it turned so that it stood parallel with High Street.This building was sold to the Orange Lodge about 1922 when the present John Knox building on the corner of High and King Streets was built. The architect for the new church was Duncan Brown and the builder was C Calvert.
A Sunday school hall was built in 1934, and in 1932 Mrs T Wyllie gave a gift of the stone and iron fence along King and High Streets.The church itself was considerably altered in 1957 and in 1964 the house adjacent in High Street was purchased.
Both this house and the hall were demolished about 2003 when a joint venture between John Knox Parish and the Presbyterian Support organisation built a hall and function rooms for use by the parish and the welfare organisation. Jonty Rout was the architect of this development.
This Christian Centre is in the former New World Supermarket building.
The first Methodists in Rangiora gathered at cottage meetings in their homes but at quite an early date a division appeared in their ranks and they split. The more numerous were the United Free Methodists who built a church in Victoria Street in the early 1860s, on a site about opposite the present Roman Catholic Church.
The second group was the Wesleyans, but they were not able to build until 1871.Their church was on the Blackett-Ashley Street corner.In 1873 the Club Hotel opened on the opposite corner of Blackett Street. Because of its bad reputation and the construction of the railway to Oxford nearby, the congregation decided that it was not a suitable site and sold the building to the Southbrook Wesleyans.
The Wesleyans built a new church on the present site in King Street in 1875. They dedicated it to the Holy Trinity. The architect was John Rutland and the contractor, J J Robinson.
The Wesleyans and the United Free Methodists joined in the union of 1896. In 1898, the Victoria Street church of the United Free Methodists was hauled to a site in High Street opposite the Red Lion Hotel where it became part of a painting business.It lasted until 1932 when, as R J Logan’s newspaper office for The Rangiora Record, it was partly destroyed by fire.
The combined congregations now used the Trinity church in King Street.Because of the increased congregation, it was necessary to extend the building. This building was used until 1952 when the present church was opened.
In recent years the present church has been extended to include function rooms and these are used as an amenity for the entire community.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is in Southbrook Road.
The Rangiora New Life congregation opened their complex, including a year 1-13 school in Southbrook Road, in the 1980s. It is now known as the Gateway New Life Centre.
The Open fellowship in Rangiora was founded by the Neilsen family, who had emigrated from Denmark before 1880. From about 1885 they assembled in the “Dame School” on the town belt, and then the Templar Hall. In 1902 a Gospel Hall was opened.The present site in High Street next to the War Memorial Hall has been their meeting place since 1945.
Built on land donated by Mrs Sarah Percival, the first church was opened in 1870 and was served by visiting clergy. The present larger church was opened in 1886. The old church then became the first St Joseph’s school opened in 1887. A northern parish was created in 1877 when the Rev. Father Binsfield was appointed resident priest.Binsfield lived in Rangiora but served the area between the Waimakariri and Conway Rivers.
The first Presbytery was where the present Chervier Centre is now. The Centre was opened in 1971. It was named after the pioneer French priest, Rev. Fr. John Chervier who had opened the first church. A new Presbytery was built on the north side of the church. Before the Chervier Centre opened the Celtic Hall in nearby Buckham Street was used for parish activities.
The imposing convent building of brick and stone on the corner of Victoria and George Streets was consecrated on 3 March 1907. It is now a private residence.
The parish cemetery was located west of the present buildings but when the school became integrated in 1986 the headstones were removed and a memorial stone inscribed with all known names was built.
The convent is Category II on the Historic Places Register and the church is on the Waimakariri District Council Heritage list.
The corps was officially established in the town in 1884, meeting in various buildings until it was granted the use of the hall of the Good Templars in Albert Street. Within a year or two the corps had a band to accompany hymn singing.They acquired a building of their own in Ashley Street about 1893. It served until 1961 when the present larger, modern hall was built.
Settlers of the Anglican faith in the Rangiora district first met for worship in private houses or traveled to Kaiapoi. A schoolroom was erected in Victoria Street about 1857, where services were also held. Planning began for a church about 1859. Ingram Shrimpton donated land and Benjamin Mountfort designed the church building. The church was built of timber that was pit-sawn and hauled from the nearby Rangiora bush. St John’s was consecrated on 25 April 1860 and the Rev. B W Dudley was appointed the first vicar.
The pit-sawn timber ceiling of St John’s ranks among the finest examples of colonial Gothic carpentry in New Zealand. The impressive main pillars of the nave are made from large matai or totara trunks.
Alterations and additions to the church continued until November 1882, when the new part was consecrated, finally completing the church and giving it the appearance it now has.
St John the Baptist is Category II on the Historic Places Trust Register.
The Seventh Day Adventist building was constructed during the war years about 1944, which restricted the materials that could be used. In 1980 a modern, well-appointed church next to the original was opened.
Methodist services had started at Southbrook about 1867 and their first church was opened in 1872. When it was built it was found to be a little small, so the Rangiora Wesleyan church in Ashley Street was bought and moved to the site about 1873. On its journey to Southbrook the church fell off its trolley into the North Brook. A bullock team had to be brought from Oxford to haul it out. The original church was moved to the rear of the section and used as a Sunday school. Until the new church in King Street opened, the Rangiora Wesleyans travelled to Southbrook.
The church in Southbrook Road remained until 1952 when the site was sold.
The pioneering mission of the Church of England in the district ended in 1880 with the consecration of St Mary’s, an appendage to St John’s, Rangiora. In 2005, Rangiora funeral directors Gulliver and Tyler bought the church property with the intention of making it the company’s headquarters, but with the church still available to the parish for services.
The land for St Matthew’s church was gifted by Mr F W Rickman and John Thomas Brown of Mount Thomas was the chief benefactor. The Mount Thomas Road was used by the Browns in preference to the longer road through the Ashley township to Rangiora. The small settlement of Fernside grew where this road joined with the Swannanoa Road, but it was not there but a mile up the Mount Thomas Road near the Fernside homestead that the church was built.
St Matthew’s was designed by Benjamin Mountfort, built by Allen and Son, and consecrated on 20 July 1874.
The Brown family lived at the Mount Thomas station on the other side of the Ashley, and forded the river to attend church each Sunday.
St Matthew’s is on the Waimakariri District Council Heritage List.
Hawkins, D N - The Various Methodist Churches, Rangiora & Districts Early Records Society July 2002 Newsletter.
Wood, Pauline - St Matthew's Fernside: one hundred years 1874-1974. 1974.