History of Temuka Trinity Presbyterian Church

Source: Shirley Armstrong

As early as 1867, the Temuka Presbyterians were fundraising for a church building. At that time the whole of the South Canterbury area was served by pioneer minister Rev. George Barclay who had arrived at Lyttelton in January 1865. The size of his parish was daunting, approximately 7000 square miles in area, from the Rangitata to the Waitaki and the sea to the mountains. The first services were held in the schoolhouse at Georgetown but as the population grew it became evident that Temuka should build a church and call a minister of its own. The first wooden church was built in 1871 on the south-west corner of Wood Street and Railway Terrace (now Hally Terrace), opposite the present-day fire-station. The parish included Geraldine and Pleasant Point and the first manse was at Geraldine Flat, considered a central location for this large parish. Eventually, in 1879, Rev. Barclay’s charge was divided into three: Pleasant Point, Geraldine and Temuka parishes. Rev. Barclay remained with Geraldine and Rev, D. Gordon was inducted at Temuka.

The first manse at Temuka, a 2-storeyed wooden house, was erected in 1880 on 12 acres on the west side of the Temuka river near the present Manse Bridge. The foundation stone for a new church was laid on 1 February 1900 and the new building opened a year later on 19 January 1901. The old wooden church was moved to the south end of the new church site further along Hally Terrace, to be used as a Sabbath School. By 1910, although only 30 years old, the wooden manse was so borer-riddled and rotten that replacement became necessary and a 2-storeyed brick residence was built on the same site. The location of the manse was a contentious issue, considered by some too far from town and without a road bridge there were access problems when the river was high. Others thought the site appropriate as a large proportion of the congregation lived west of the river. Eventually this building was sold and in 1934, a single-storey brick manse built on the corner of Davie Street and Ewen Road was occupied.  In recent years this large section has been subdivided and a modern manse erected alongside.

Source: Shirley Armstrong

At the AGM of the church in August 1915, Mr Isaac Smith, superintendent of the Sabbath school, made an impassioned plea for a new building “as the present building was not fit for 150 children and 14 teachers to work in.” The following month the church managers learned that the Guild family had decided to pay for a new building in memory of the late James Guild. A cottage on the site was sold and removed, then the old building, despite its decrepit state, was cut in two. Half each went to Rangitata and Orari for use as preaching places. Sadly, Isaac Smith did not live to see the new building completed; he was the superintendent for 36 years.  The Senior Young Women’s Bible class raised funds for a hall piano, rather costly at 78 pounds; the thrifty Presbyterians sold a heap of old scrap iron and the packing case from the piano for 9/6d. After many years of use by hundreds of children, the hall was sold in 2002 into private ownership, it is now in use as a residence. A new hall complex was opened in 2003.

Bible Class groups also flourished from 1905 and around 1930 a brick building for the use of these groups was constructed in the area between the church and the hall. By the 1980’s this building was no longer suitable for use and it was demolished.

Many groups associated with the church were established. Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union (PWMU) began in 1919 and continues today reformed in 1964 as the Association of Presbyterian Women (APW). Busy Bees, Boys Brigade, a harrier club and currently, Trinity Netball, were associated with the church. Tennis courts and a croquet green were constructed on land leased from the Railways opposite the church and clubs for these sports were strong for many years.

Source: Shirley Armstrong

Annual Sunday School picnics were a feature of the early days when large numbers of children and parents boarded wagons towed by horses or traction engines and headed to bush areas as far away as Geraldine or McCallum’s Bush (later Lyons). These trips were so well catered that it was usually necessary to gather the children the following day to dispose of the leftover food. A re-enactment of the picnics took place in the millennium year, using vintage tractors to haul wagon-loads of parishioners across the Temuka river.

Preaching places were established at Rangitira Valley, Waitohi, Winchester, Milford, Clandeboye and Seadown, all now closed. Clandeboye church was relocated to Maungati as a dwelling and Milford church likewise to Thomas Street.


1872 George Barclay; 1879 D. Gordon; 1885 A. Macintosh; 1887 John Dickson; 1903 Charles Macdonald; 1923 H.R. Fell; 1930 Charles A. Kennedy; 1937 W.F Nichol; 1952 Donald D.M. MacLachlan; 1959 W.S. Brettell; 1966 Frank D. Ross; 1980 Bob Sinclair; 1986 Russell Thew; 1997 John and Myrtle Rough; 2007 Helen Martin.

Contributed by Shirley Armstrong

Additional notes: 

The church was designed by John Burnside, architect of Dunedin. Construction was carried out by contractor Joseph Manning of Port Chalmers, assisted by local painter and plumber, Mr J. Cooper.

 At a meeting held 10 Feb 1919 it was reported that the iron pedestal from the steeple had fallen on and damaged the gatepost opposite the front door of the church. Estimates were to be sought for the renovation of the church steeple. The spire is missing in a 1925 picture taken of the church.

The tower is 84 feet high and was originally topped with an iron finial, adding 10 feet to the height. A ventilating spirelet, 23 feet in height was originally located in the centre of the building.