Jul 21, 2008

Historic Church For Sale


Faced with a declining congregation and situated on what is now a valuable commercial site opposite The Palms shopping mall, the church which gave its name to the suburb of Shirley, is for sale.

Built on Craddock's Corner in 1919, the Normanesque tower was added nine years later. Both were designed by Joseph Salkeld (1866-1935), the son of an early Lyttelton Builder & Contractor. The architect was also the Choir Master of the Wesleyan chapel.

In the 1980s extensive alterations were made to the church and a new entrance was established. The exterior Sandstone facings were painted Pink, to be replaced by an equally unfortunate shade of Blue more recently.

Except for the 1938 pipe organ, the extensively modified chapel is of no particular architectural distinction and probably not worth saving. However, the 1928 tower, if restored, could prove a significant landmark as part of a commercial development of the extensive site. We trust that it will not be declared yet another "earthquake risk."

Conventional aesthetic considerations do not appear to be part of the restrictions upon exterior colour schemes within the realm of the local Council. Accordingly, something along these lines could be considered.

Further reading
Shirley Methodist Church One Hundred Years of Witness, 1966 Centennial History of the Parish (full text).

More Shirley Stories - The Press, 26 December, 1981.

Christchurch Library - Heritage: Shirley Methodist Church

Canterbury Heritage gratefully acknowledges the copyright of Jessica Park, the Methodist Church of New Zealand and New Zealand Newspapers Ltd with respect to the above images.

7 comments:

kuaka said...

I wouldn't hold my breath for preservation, except as you say, some developer might keep the tower. Perhaps a searchlight on top to beckon in all those eager shoppers to a dollar or $5 dollar store? Congestion around the Palms, and Chch's current policy stance towards historic buildings, suggests anything worth preservation stands little chance of avoiding the wrecker's ball. It probably won't be there in Dec. when I next go by.

Canterbury Heritage said...

One seems to recall that the pious denizens of deepest Shirley, allured by the scent of a fast buck, tried to flog their white elephant a few years back. That apparently failed when they sought a preservation covenant as part of a deal. However, upon examining their collective conscience at leisure, it might seem that in the light of economic rationalism a more pragmatic ethic will probably prevail.

Sad to say that the Methodist version of a current mania for applying the business model to just about everything resulted in that church's op-shops being turned into second-hand haberdashers. It takes quite a lot to send an entire city-wide chain of charity outlets bust, but they managed it.

In view of the foregoing it might appear unsurprising that, lacking both acumen and vision, these suburban dissenters have not entered into a mutually beneficial partnership that could have seen their large site developed as a lower level retail complex, with a double-glazed wrinkly farm above and possibly a sky walk to that adjacent temple of another era.

kuaka said...

ah, a stairway, er, skyway to heaven...

Canterbury Heritage said...

Zimmer framed mall-rats on a slow moving travelator to consumer heaven.

Cheryl Bernstein said...

Though the Shirley Church might be of dubious architectural merit in whatever way these things are measured, I've always thought it held the corner site rather well. And it is surely of a million times more architectural merit than many buildings which are going up in Christchurch currently. A city concerned to preserve its cultural heritage? Hah! Soon it will be just one big carpark festooned with concrete slab warehouses and fibrolite flats, with the poor old cathedral clinging on for dear life like a barnacle in the middle...

kuaka said...

actually, i'm surprised there hasn't been a proposal to subsume the Cathedral within some higher rise structure to get around the inconvenience of it taking up such prime real estate space. Perhaps Canterbury Heritage could float such a proposal to gauge public (dis)interest? Naming rights to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, of course. But as mother used to warn, it might give people ideas...

Canterbury Heritage said...

Agreed, even in its defiled state the Shirley church is probably much better than anything that the local peddlers of Shackitecture could conjure up to replace it, however...

Such considerations as architectural merit and cultural heritage will always be subjective evaluations, only tempered to the extent that they achieve an expedient balance between developer's ambitions and the wider public interest, but...

In the case of a city that continues to lose what is probably the most significant third of its populace to the North and West Islands, it would be all too easy to opine somewhat less than charitably on what has become consequential to the predominance of a Trash Culture at the remotest frontier of the European tradition.

Had one need of an apt example of that cultural decline then a necessity to run a gauntlet of money changers, with their cheap souvenirs and all-day breakfasts, to gain entry to that quaint behemoth in the middle of the Square, will quite adequately suffice.

Had the cathedral been built, as originally proposed, of glass and iron in the style of London's 1851 Great Exhibition building, then it might have been be a worthy rival to the premises of that other franchise, sited in what was then an industrial area (thanks to the mean spirited burgers of that era). Instead it took forty years of squeezing the coffers to complete their neo-Gothic folly. Now we're stuck with a relic that has succumbed the ethos of a cultural mall.

And yes, satire is the most devastating form of criticism, and to that effect this old blogger ruminates upon an intention to satirise the Annual Canterbury Settlers Ball for next April Fools Day. First held in 1851 the Ball eventually fell by the wayside at some undetermined date. The opportunity to offer a hoax to posterity by ridiculing the hubris and ostentatious displays of stage-managed dignity by Swamp-City's Haute Bourgeoisie is bordering on the irresistible...