History of the Churches in Kaiapoi

Baptist Church – 67 Fuller Street, Kaiapoi

Baptist meetings were held infrequently in Kaiapoi’s early years, and it was not until the turn of the century that this congregation displayed any strength. Small groups had met in private homes or the Institute Hall.

The foundation stone for their first church was laid on 25 March 1899, and the first service was held the following May. The Rev. W Lamb was the resident pastor. The Rev. W H A Vickery, who had come to New Zealand in the early 1920s, was their most well known pastor. He had had local body experience in England and had not intended to do so again, but was persuaded in 1927 to stand for the Kaiapoi Borough Council and in 1930 stood for the Mayoralty and was elected. He remained Mayor until 1941 when he was defeated, but was re-elected in 1945-1947 when he retired. During his Mayoralty he was very concerned with the effects of the Depression years.

A new church and social centre was built in 1977 on the same site after the old church had been dismantled. Most of the work was done on a voluntary basis.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Carew Street, Kaiapoi

The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is in Hills Street, off Carew Street. A new Kingdom Hall was built over a weekend in 2005. Members came from far and wide to assist in the construction.

Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish – Corner of Peraki and Fullers Streets, Kaiapoi

Although Canterbury was predominately Anglican, this was not so in Kaiapoi where the Wesleyans were most influential. They were the more determined group and were having house meetings in the 1850s. The settlers on the small farms led independent, sober and hard working lives and when the Woollen Mill opened more North of England immigrants arrived in Kaiapoi. Along with these characteristics, there was also a genuine concern for the well being of their fellow citizens. This led to a number of those pioneers serving on public bodies and this community involvement has continued to this day.

James and Sarah Baker arrived in Kaiapoi in 1853. They built a sod house somewhere near Otaki Street. This house became the centre of religious worship for Kaiapoi and was used by other denominations for services until they were able to build their own churches.

The first Wesleyan Church was opened in Fuller Street, just west of the present church on Easter Day 1860. Kaiapoi was part of the Christchurch Circuit and preachers came out to Kaiapoi. Otherwise local lay preachers conducted the services. Unfortunately, the building rocked badly during nor’west gales and had to be stabilised by buttresses to counteract the steep and heavy roofing.

 In 1868 Kaiapoi, and the area to the north as far as Leithfield and west out to West Eyreton, formed a circuit separate from Christchurch, with the Rev. J  B  Richardson the first resident minister. I

n 1871 a new church on the site of the present building at the corner of Fuller and Peraki Streets was opened. This building was extended in 1877. The old church survived another twelve years and was used as a Sunday school. In 1882 a new Sunday school was erected on this site. This building was considered 'the model of a modern Sunday School' and lasted until 1975 when it was demolished.

Also at this time in Kaiapoi were two other branches of Methodism. The Bible Christians worshipped at what was known as the North Kaiapoi Church. This building was sold to the Clarkville Wesleyans when the Bible Christians joined with the Kaiapoi Wesleyans in 1891.In 1882 the Primitive Methodists opened a church in Raven Street, but only for a short time.

In 1896 the Wesleyans, the United Free Methodists and the Bible Christians united to form the Methodist Church of New Zealand. The Primitive Methodists joined in 1913.

The present church was opened in 1935. The architect was Mr R Lovell-Smith and the builder, W C Tourell of Kaiapoi. The lounge at the rear of the church was opened in 1978, and the latest extension was added in 2002.

The Kaiapoi Methodist and Presbyterian congregations joined together in 1979 to form the Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish. At first both church sites were retained but since 1996 all activities have been based at the Wesley Centre, corner of Fuller and Peraki Streets.

The church and parsonage are Category II on the Historic Places Register.

Kaiapoi Riverside Christian Fellowship – 45 Charles Street, Kaiapoi

The Kaiapoi New Life Fellowship began meeting in the mid 1970s at the High School, then moved to rooms in the Old Post Office about 1980. In 1988 they bought Gulliver and Tyler’s chapel and residence at the corner of Williams and Sewell Streets. When that building was sold for a shopping complex about 1995, they joined with the Assembly of God fellowship, and purchased the Community Centre building, this was the former Art Deco Rialto Theatre. In 1997 the name was changed to Riverside Christian Fellowship.

The building was listed as Category II on the Historic Places Register, but was demolished in November 2011 because of damage sustained in the Canterbury earthquakes.

Salvation Army – 164 Williams Street, Kaiapoi

The Salvation Army had come to North Canterbury about 1884-85, establishing meetings in Kaiapoi, Rangiora and Oxford. For many years the Corps’ Hall was at 164 Williams Street which had previously been the rest room and hall of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that had opened in 1926. The building is now used for business purposes. The Army’s first barracks were in Hilton Street behind that building, in what had previously been a grain store. They had also met in the old WCTU tearooms at 115 Raven Street for a time. The Corps no longer has a meeting place in the town.

St Paul’s Presbyterian – 198-204 Williams Street, Kaiapoi

As more Presbyterians came to the Kaiapoi area, funds were raised to erect a school and church building in Sewell Street in 1860.The Rangiora and Kaiapoi parishioners were able to employ a minister, the Rev. William Kirton in 1863. A manse was built in 1865.This house still stands at 56 Sewell Street.In 1870, more land was acquired near the manse and a new church was built in 1874. The first building was sold and was moved to become the Orange Hall.  Rangiora became a separate parish in 1880.
The area in Sewell Street at that time had many problems with drainage, so it was decided to purchase a house and section at the corner of Sewell and Cookson Streets (now Williams Street). The church was shifted by traction engine to its new site in 1912 and the old manse sold.

A new youth centre was built in Sewell Street to the west of Williams Street and opened in February 1968. In 1976, the church was demolished and the land sold and all activities and services were then held in the St Paul’s youth centre.

The Presbyterians and Methodists joined to form the Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish in 1979. Church services were held in the Methodist Church, with other activities held at the youth centre. It was decided to concentrate all parish activities at the Methodist church in 1996 and St Paul’s was sold to the Waimakariri District Council for continued use as a community facility. This is now the Kaiapoi Community Centre.

St Bartholomew’s Anglican – 23B Cass Street, Kaiapoi

St Bartholomew’s was built in 1855 on a sand hill in Darnley Square, using designs by Benjamin Mountfort and a Mr Luck. The builder was Henry Jones. The parishioners thought Darnley Square would be the best site as it was the highest point in Kaiapoi and safe from floods, but erosion of the sand around the foundations by the nor’west winds revealed that it was an unwise decision. The church was moved to its present site in 1860. In 1862 the transepts and chancel were added to the original nave of totara and kahikatea.

The Rev. John Raven was appointed the first vicar for the district, including Rangiora, from 1853 to 1858.

St Bartholomew’s is Category I on the Historic Places Trust Register.

St Patrick’s Catholic – 63 Fuller Street, Kaiapoi

The Kaiapoi Roman Catholics first met in an old store in Peraki Street from the middle 1860s. In 1882 a church designed by Theodore Jacobsen was built on the same site. The church was a substantial timber building set on a concrete foundation. The nave was forty-four feet long and twenty-four feet wide. There was enough room for two hundred worshippers. St Patrick’s School was established in 1926.

A new complex was opened in Fuller Street in 1978 and a new Presbytery opened in 1982 replacing the much larger house in Peraki Street.



Kaiapoi Museum file.

Hodgson, C W D - The Parish of Kaiapoi 1853-1982. Kaiapoi : The Parish, 1982.

Woods, Pauline - Kaiapoi : a search for identity. Rangiora : Waimakariri District Council, c. 1993.