Church of St Michael and All Angels, Christchurch

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Church of St Michael and All Angels
St Michaels Church, Christchurch.jpg
St Michael and All Angels
Coordinates: 43°32′04″S 172°37′59″E / 43.53444°S 172.63306°E / -43.53444; 172.63306
LocationChristchurch Central City
CountryNew Zealand
Heritage designationCategory I
Designated2 April 1985
Architect(s)William Fitzjohn Crisp
Architectural typeGothic Revival style

The Church of St Michael and All Angels is an Anglican church in Christchurch, New Zealand. The church building at 84 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, is registered as Category I by Heritage New Zealand. Its freestanding belfry is registered separately.


The structure stands on the site of the first church built by the Canterbury Association settlers in 1851. Henry Jacobs preached the sermon and conducted the service at the opening of the church in July 1851.[1] St Michael & All Angels served as the pro-cathedral until the completion of ChristChurch Cathedral in 1881.[2]

Belfry dating from 1861

The architect of the current church was William Fitzjohn Crisp (1846–1924). He had come out from England in 1864 as the pupil of Robert Speechly who had been appointed by George Gilbert Scott to supervise the building of the Christ Church Cathedral.[3] The cornerstone of the church was laid in a ceremony on the Feast of St Michael & All Angels, 29 September 1870.[4] However, problems with the construction of the building led to Crisp returning to Britain in 1871 and Frederick Strouts (1834–1919) was appointed as supervising architect in June of that year.[5]

The church was opened on 2 May 1872. Because of a lack of money the chancel was not completed until 1875, and the planned bell tower and spire were never constructed. The church is constructed mostly of mataī timber on rubble stone foundations. It is one of the largest timber Gothic Revival churches in the Southern Hemisphere.[2] The only alteration to the church structure has been the removal of a tie-beam and secondary arch to give a better view of the east window in 1896.[6]

The separate belfry is a survival of the previous church building. It was designed by Benjamin Mountfort and constructed in 1861. The bell it houses was brought out with the First Four Ships in 1850 and was rung every hour of daylight to indicate time to the first settlers.[7]

Alfred Averill came to New Zealand in 1894 to be vicar of St Michael and All Angels and rose to be Archbishop of New Zealand.[8]

Associated with the church is St Michael's Church School.

Heritage registration[edit]

The Church from the north

The church was registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust as a Category I heritage building on 2 April 1985 with registration number 294. It is significant as it was the first church on the Canterbury Plains and was the pro-cathedral for some years. Architecturally, it is notable as a timber Gothic building.[2] The belfry of the church is also recognised as a Category I structure. It was registered under number 295 on the same day.[9]


The wooden building survived three major earthquakes in 2010/11 almost unscathed and is the only Anglican church that remained in use in the central city.[10] The plans had been drawn with regard to the threat of tremors. At a meeting of parishioners held on 14 December 1869, the general concept for the new church was agreed on, including the building material: "Owing to the late severe shocks of earthquake the vestry came to the conclusion that it would be useless to attempt building any part of stone. Therefore it was decided that wood should be the material."[11] The earthquake referred to was the one that hit Christchurch on 5 June 1869, with Julius von Haast giving some scientific commentary.[12] St John's Church in Hereford Street, the first Anglican church in Christchurch built of permanent materials in 1864–1865, was damaged in that earthquake.[13][14] The earthquake, centred under Addington or Spreydon, had an estimated magnitude of 5 and a ground shaking intensity of MMI 7.[15]

In March 2011, a Lenten service at St Michael's and All Angels Church was attended by Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch, and Kevin Rudd, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs. As part of the service, Rudd lit a candle in memory of those who died in the 22 February 2011 earthquake.[10][16]

The organ[edit]

The present fine Henry Bevington and Sons pipe organ was installed in 1873. It was enlarged in 1895/6 by Fincham and Hobday.[17]

The organ was damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake and subsequently removed for repairs. A temporary replacement was an organ built from parts of instruments damaged during World War II bombing raids on Britain.[18] The church is fund-raising to help meet the last of the NZ$500,000 organ restoration costs.[19][20] The Bevington organ was reinstalled with improvements by the South Island Organ Company in 2013.

List of vicars[edit]

The following vicars have served at St Michael and All Angels:[21]

Rev. Octavius Mathias
Rev. Henry Jacobs
  • Octavius Mathias, 1852–1860
  • Henry Jacobs, 1863–1873
  • Henry J. Edwards, 1873–1876
  • Edward Gorton Penny, 1876–1881
  • Walter Harper, 1882–1893
  • Alfred Averill, 1894–1910
  • Harry Darwin Burton, 1910–1915
  • Charles E. Perry, 1916–1936
  • Cecil Muschamp, 1937–1951
  • Cecil Gault, 1951–1963
  • Tim Raphael 1963–1965
  • Philip Baker 1965–1986
  • Ivan Smith 1986–1990
  • Jonathan Kirkpatrick[22] 1991–1996
  • Peter Williams, 1997–2013
  • Andrew Starky, 2013–2017


  1. ^ The Very Reverend Henry Jacobs The Cyclopedia Of New Zealand
  2. ^ a b c "Church of St Michael and All Angels". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Cathedral History". Christchurch Cathedral. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  4. ^ "The new church of St Michael and All Angels". The Star (735). 30 September 1870. p. 2. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  5. ^ Mane-Wheoki, Jonathan (March 1998). "Brief Careers in Christchurch". NZ Historic Places (67).
  6. ^ Church history
  7. ^ S. Michael and All Angels, Oxford Terrace on
  8. ^ Limbrick, Warren E. "Averill, Alfred Walter – Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  9. ^ "St Michael and All Angels Belfry (Anglican)". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Kevin Rudd lights candle for Chch". Anglican Taonga. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  11. ^ "St Michael's & All Angels". The Star. 15 December 1869. p. 2. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  12. ^ "Dr. Haast on the Earthquake at Christchurch". Daily Southern Cross. XXV (3716). 16 June 1869. p. 4. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Severe Earthquake in Canterbury". Daily Southern Cross. XXV (3712). 11 June 1869. p. 3. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  14. ^ "St John the Baptist Church (Anglican)". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Our Shaky History". Environment Canterbury. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  16. ^ "Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lights Candle in Memory of Earthquake Victims". Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand. 26 March 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Organ". St Michael and All Angels. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  18. ^ Greenhill, Marc (19 May 2011). "Organ of the Blitz takes stand-in role". The Press. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  19. ^ "Church Organ Restoration". St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church and School. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  20. ^ Moore, Christopher (17 July 2011). "The lost chord". The Press. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  21. ^ Blain, Michael. "BLAIN BIOGRAPHICAL DIRECTORY of Anglican clergy in the South Pacific" (PDF). Project Canterbury. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  22. ^ Robinson, Michelle; Robinson, Victoria (28 July 2011). "Former vicar in missing $500k probe". The Press. Retrieved 17 October 2014.