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In 1872, the United Free Methodists built a church at West Oxford. The section had been donated by Thomas Broome. The Oxford Wesleyans had held prayer meetings in private homes under Broome in the early 1860s and it was not until 1876 that they were provided with a place of worship. Two churches were built, one at View Hill, and the other at East Oxford, but it is doubtful whether these could be described as belonging to either of the sects alone. A gale in September 1878 destroyed both buildings. The East Oxford church was rebuilt but later closed about 1893. Two years later, it was moved to a more central position and in 1898, after the West Oxford church had been severely damaged by another gale, the two congregations united and used the central church.
Oxford, Cust and Horrelville Methodists and Presbyterians formed the Oxford District Union Parish about 1972.
The Oxford Presbyterians had been meeting since 1868 in the Road Board office and later in the West Oxford Town Hall. Their church, St Columba, was built in 1882 on an acre of ground belonging to Harry Bell Johnstone.
In 1972 the Presbyterians combined with the Methodists to form the Oxford Union Parish. The St Columba church was demolished in 1960. The parishioners now meet at the former Methodist Church at the corner of Main Street and Burnt Hill Road.
The Catholic community in early Oxford used the Road Board office for their first service in 1875. They later shifted to the Oxford Town Hall. The present church was built by Boyd and Keir of Rangiora in 1879, on land donated by Harry Bill Johnston. John O’Halloran was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Church. There has been no resident priest in Oxford, the priest based in Rangiora serving the parish.
The first St Andrew’s Church was built in East Oxford and consecrated by Bishop Harper on 30 September 1866. Previously services were held in private homes, the old schoolroom and the Drill Hall. Before trees protected the church, a nor’ west gale on 9 September 1878 moved the church from its foundations so badly that it had to be dismantled. A second church was erected in 1879. The architect was Otto Peez, and the builder C Petrie. A third church was built to mark the centennial, and this one was dedicated in 1965.
The Baptist Church was the first established church in Oxford. Services began shortly after settlement and were taken by Mr. T.S. Mannering, who was a run holder associated with Birch Hill, Snowdale and Fernside. They were held in the home of Mr F Bryant. A non-denominational chapel was built by Mannering in High Street, East Oxford about 1859-60 after Bryant's house became too small for the congregation. This chapel became part of the first Baptist Church, and additions were made in 1864-5. The first resident minister was the Rev. Decimus Dolamore, who had arrived in New Zealand in 1865. The new church near the railway station was built in 1921 by Thomas Gainsford. This is still in use.
The Oxford Corps of the Salvation Army was opened on 2 July 1885 by Captain Patrick and Cadet Haldaway. They were known as the ‘Flying Brigade’. The meetings were first held in the East Oxford Methodist Church. The first citadel was erected on Main Street in 1885, before being replaced in 1947.
The present church was built in 1950.
St Cyprian’s was dedicated on 17 April 1936, having previously been the Magistrate’s Court at West Oxford. When the Court sessions were shifted to Rangiora, the Anglican Church purchased the building and moved it to a section in Carleton presented by Mrs R Reid, to serve the people of Carlton and Bennetts.
The name St Cyprian’s was given because of the building’s previous association with the law. St Cyprian was a lawyer born about 200 AD, who adopted the Christian faith in 245 AD, became Bishop of Carthage and suffered martyrdom for his faith.
Prior to this, services were held in the home of Mr Steffens, or the Carleton School. Church services were discontinued in 1977 and the building used as a shed for many years. It is no longer on the site.
With the opening of the Anglican Church at East Oxford the old schoolroom was removed to West Oxford, but it was damaged in transit and never used. Instead, a new church, St Mary’s, was built and consecrated by Bishop Harper on 12 July 1875.
As the population in the west dwindled, St Mary’s was moved to the junction of Coopers Creek (Woodside) and Bush Roads, but before it could be put in position a nor’west gale wrecked it and a new St Mary’s was built. This was consecrated on 24 October 1915.
The building is now a private dwelling.
The Oxford and Cust Presbyterians met to consider a separate charge in 1873, but it was not until 1877 that they obtained a minister. The Cust section of the parish first met in the public school and later in the Institute Hall. By 1885 they had raised enough money to build a wooden church, St. David’s, in Cust Road opposite Early’s Road. [Hawkins] The present church was built in 1935. Designed by Cecil Wood and built by Wadey & Efford, its windows and embellishments are Art Deco, reminiscent of some cinemas built in that era. The old building was shifted to a farm in West Eyreton for use as a woolshed.
St. David’s is the Cust base for the Oxford District Union Parish formed in 1972.
St James-on-the Cust probably possesses the most valuable set of historical treasures of any rural church in Canterbury, including one of the six solid silver chalices brought to the Canterbury settlement by the first immigrant ships, its bell, small pipe organ, stained glass windows and carving.
The land for the church was donated by Thomas Walker and George Searles. Messrs Bury and Mountfort were asked to provide plans, and John Waller was the builder. The consecration was by Bishop Harper on 29 September 1866. In 1872 the church was enlarged with the addition of a Chancel and Vestry. The Sunday school was built in 1878.
The bell tower is a feature of Cust and contains one of the best-toned bells in Canterbury. It was presented by General Sir Edward Cust, after whom the Cust River and township was named. In 1870 enough money was raised to build a wooden belfry. The effects of wind and weather damaged the tower so it was replaced by the present brick belfry in 1882. This was presented by Robert Chapman.
St James and the Belfry are Category II on the Historic Places Trust Register.
The Cust Valley Union Chapel functioned between 1868 and 1886. It was situated on Mill Road near the 'Ingleside' homestead and when the building was sold, the proceeds were invested until 1932 when they were transferred to the Horrelville Church building fund.
In the earliest days, services were held in some of the homes but when the local school was opened, both the Anglicans and the Wesleyans used it for services. The Wesleyans opened their church in December 1880, built on land donated by the Horrell Family. This building is still on the site. A new concrete church was built in 1956. In 1972, Horrelville became part of the Oxford District Union Parish, Methodist/Presbyterian.
The original church is on the Waimakariri District Council Heritage List.
St James-on-the-Cust : a visitor’s guide, prepared October 2001.
St James-on-the-Cust : a short record of its history 1865-1926. 1927.
Kingsbury, Bernard - ‘The Cust Literary Institute Library’ The Custodian, April 1997.
Historical Booklet of West Eyreton School and District 1872-1972, published by the Centennial Publication Committee. Compiled by John E. Horrell.