St. Paul’s Anglican Church Cemetery, Papanui

Brief History

Papanui Anglican Cemetery

When Christchurch was settled, sawyers were drawn to the Papanui bush, one of the few places containing timber for house construction. Land was sold at a good price four or five pounds per acre and the village soon had, ‘in addition to the inevitable hotel, store and blacksmith’s shop’, a clothing store, butchery and pharmacy, while the settlers included several market gardeners. Although Papanui Road was a cattle track, the district was ‘full of dells and shady vales where many a picnic party spent a truly delightful day’.

In 1852 artisans began building an Anglican church. It is likely that no donor came forward and that the faithful purchased a site. William Guise Brittan, owner of 50 acres of bush land, gave the timber. The date when the church was opened is unknown. In 1856-57 the first resident clergyman, Reginald Robert Bradley, housed his poultry beneath the church. One Sunday, while standing in the pulpit, he roused a sleepy parishioner with the order to go and drive those guinea fowl away.

The first church was so inadequate that, when the children were seated, there was room for only a modest number of adults. The vicar and vestry decided that a new building should be erected and, in 1876-77 commissioned the architect, B. W. Mountfort. The kauri-built St. Paul’s, with its tower and broach spire, was a much grander affair than most of the churches which Mountfort designed for country and outlying Christchurch districts. The new church stood further back from Harewood Road than had its humble predecessor.

Vicar-elect George Dunnage, who had selected land on Papanui Road between Grants Road and the Main North Road, died on 19 May 1853 and was the first person buried in the churchyard. Of the 20 burials which followed most were of small children. In 1859 the Rev. John James of Oxfordshire, England, who, in 1850, had purchased Rural Section 151, 100 acres at Papanui, presented 10 acres to the parish. Two and a quarter acres were added to the cemetery.

The destruction of the bush left Papanui as an area of farms and seed nurseries. Towards the end of the 19th century growers established apple orchards while prosperous people built homes in the district.

Post earthquake update

The church was badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 and was closed. Repair and restoration took place including returning large windows to their original style and removing 1970s panelling to reveal the original tongue and groove angled wood detail. Insulation was added where possible and the porch and front area of the church raised to meet public access requirements. Timber that had deteriorated was also replaced.

The church was formally re-opened in October 2013.


Province of Canterbury, New Zealand: list of sections purchased to April 30, 1863


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