Chalmers Presbyterian Congregation, Timaru, New Zealand

Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Timaru -  decommissioned, not deconsecrated.
It is a big church... lots of room upstairs, like a theatre!
- closed 2011, put up for sale in 2013. Sold. Decommissioned 4 May 2014.

Chalmers Presbyterian Church, corner of Theodosia and Elizabeth streets, at 2 Elizabeth Place, Timaru, in the inner city, is a grey plastered exterior with a high spire, a landmark.  A beautiful church inside but can be a bit cool. Designed by J.S. Turnbull.  Registered as category 2 with the Heritage NZ as a historic place of historical or cultural heritage significance or value. The foundation stone wasChalmers Presbyterian Church is registered as category 2. Historic place of historical or cultural heritage significance or value. laid on 14 May 1903 and the Gothic style church was opened on 11 September 1904.  Within walking distance of St. Mary's but not as fine. The morning worship service was at 10 am on Sundays until the earthquake. Regular services have not been conducted at St Paul's since October 2010. The church was sold by the Presbyterian Parish and decommissioned in May 2014. The church has fifteen stained glass windows with "The Ascension" designed by John Brock of Dunedin commemorating parishioners who served in WWI and WWII. Dedicated 12 Nov. 1950 by Rev. M. Wilson. WWI & WWII Honour Boards. Records of the Presbyterian Parish of Chalmers, covering the period of 1865-2008 are held by South Canterbury Museum. The collection is comprised of marriage records, minutes, correspondence, financial records, records of individuals.

Chalmers Presbyterian Congregation, Timaru. This congregation was founded in March 1902 when 170 members left Trinity Church for the purpose. The adherants number about 400 adults. Services were at first held in the theatre, Stafford Street. At the end of 1902, the congregation arranged to build a handsome church on the site of Elizabeth and Banks Streets, at an estimated cost of 5000 pounds, including the price of a pipe organ. The church is to hold 600 adults. A Sunday school connected with the congregation has already about 100 scholars in attendance. Reference: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Canterbury edition. 1903 

 Photo taken November 2nd 2002. Courtesy of Han Freeke.   

Situated on the corner of Elizabeth and Banks Street, the church was opened in 1904.

1910. P.W. Hutton No.174178

Timaru Herald 29 August, 2007

One hundred-years-and-a-day ago a car bringing the blushing bride to Timaru's Chalmers Church caused quite a stir. It was the first wedding in New Zealand where a motorcar was used for transport. The big event took place on August 28, 1907, when Miss Charlotte Knowles 31, arrived by car to marry Hugh Corbett, 60. A Timaru woman was reading the Herald's regular brief, "Today in South Canterbury History," which noted the motorcar wedding and realised it was one of her relatives and she had photos. "Charlotte or Lottie as she was known was my grandad's sister. "She met her future husband when his wife died and she went out to work on his farm at Cricklewood as the housekeeper." Mr Corbett was "of means" and a procession of seven cars toured down the main street honouring the wedding "attracting considerable interest" the Herald of the day noted. After the marriage they went on a world tour for their honeymoon. "Who knows what a world tour meant back then, probably going to Europe." They returned to the farm, and Mrs Corbett had a son who died after three months. Eventually the couple retired to Auckland where they later died.  [Charlotte Emma Knowles was born 1877 in Beverley, Timaru, New Zealand. She died 2 Aug 1940 in Auckland]

This custom made leadlight inside the entry hall at 1926 built Chalmers Church Hall.

Chalmers Church Hall was opened by the Rev. P. Gladstone Hughes, B.A. 15th Sept. 1926.

A 1904 leadlight window. Above the front door of Chalmers Church. Aug. 2010. Photo by M.T.

 "Suffer the little children to come unto me"

The alter in August. 2010 with the font.

Papers Past
Otago Witness
14 January 1903, Page 15
The deacons of Chalmers Church, Timaru, are now arranging for the erection of a church which, with bell-tower, spire, and pipe organ, is estimated to cost �5000.

Ashburton Guardian, 1 June 1903, Page 2
A Chinese Convert. A Chinaman was baptised in Chalmers Church, Timaru, last evening by the Rev. R. Jackson. The congregation are worshipping in the Theatre until their new Church is built, and the building was packed to witness the unusual ceremony. [Ng Moon Jem (birth name Ng Fook Sau; European name Eng Gooe Jim, who was baptised by Rev. R. Jackson in Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Timaru]

Timaru Herald, 18 January 1905, Page 2 Chalmers
The organ for the church is in the steamer Kaipara, which is due at Port Chalmers on the 20th inst., and at Timaru a few days later. Mr Hathaway will fit up the organ. Mr Carnegie's cheque for his handsome contribution of �350 towards the cost of the organ, was received on Saturday by the San Francisco mail. It may interest the members of the congregation to learn that the builders of the instrument for Chalmers Church supplied the organ for Mr Carnegie's home, Skibo Castle. [Carnegie's interest in music led him to fund construction of 7,000 church organs and 3,000 libraries.]

Otago Witness 1 February 1905, Page 60
Mr Irving Moore of this city has been appointed organist of Chalmers Church, Timaru, and takes up his duties there on March 1.

Ashburton Guardian, 13 September 1904, Page 2
Chalmers Church, Timaru, was opened on Sunday with Dr Nesbitt, of the First church Dunedin, preaching. The collections totalled �193 18s. Of the total debt of �7000 on the church the congregation has already paid �4000.

Otago Witness 9 August 1905, Page 4
Among the excuses made by non-churchgoers, said Mr Chappie at Chalmers Church (Timaru) on Thursday night, were:
 "The scats are that hard I cannot get a wink of sleep" (excuse by an old woman);
"Too much one-man yabber " (excuse by an argumentative man).

Otago Witness 14 July 1909, Page 29
A memorial service was held on the 4th at Chalmers Church. Timaru, as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Rev. Robert Jackson whose death in Canada was reported last week. The late reverend gentleman was for six years the revered minister in charge of Chalmers Church, and the sermon preached at the service by the Rev. R. H. Catherwood was a very touching one, and one which served (says the Timaru Herald) to bring out the good qualities of the deceased pastor in a clear and expressive manner that could not but appeal deeply to all members of the congregation, whether they had been personal friends of Mr Jackson or not. The departed one, said the preacher, was a leader of men, and for many years laboured successfully in New South Wales, where his character was stamped on the people. Ill health drove him to Now Zealand, and he took charge of St. Andrew's Church, in Dunedin, whilst Dr Waddell was away for a holiday. It was in Dunedin, Mr Carherwood said, that he had first met Mr Jackson. The latter was not long in winning the hearts of the congregation there, and he had an excellent faculty for remembering faces. Away in out-of-the-way places he visited the humbler people of the district and comforted them. After serving in Dunedin he had come to Timaru.

Timaru Herald, November 1915, Page 7
The Roll of Honour of Chalmers Church, containing 60 names of members of the congregation who have gone to the war some of whom have lost their lives, was unveiled at the evening service on Sunday by the Rev. Evan R Harries. In his address at the unveiling the minister said that the gratitude of the congregation was due to those who were fighting the battles of the Empire, and that the roll would prove a source of inspiration and would be the means of inducing others to offer their services should they be required, although he was satisfied that, the congregation contained no shirkers. The list includes the names of two nurses one of whom Sister Isabella Scott, who returned by the Willochra was present at the ceremony.

1918 The Rev. R.E. Harries, of Chalmers Church, Timaru

Evening Post, 30 May 1925, Page 11
A wedding of much interest in Canterbury was solemnised recently at Chalmers Church, Timaru, by the Rev. Gladstone Hughes, when Miss Elsie Matheson, third daughter of Mrs. John Matheson, Tighnafeile, Wai-iti road, was married to Mr. Charles Cresswell, third son of Mr. and Mrs. Cresswell, England, and formerly of Christchurch. The church had been beautifully decorated by friends of the bride, with white and pale pink chrysanthemums and trails of greenery. Mr. Axel Newton presided at the organ. The bride, who was given away by her brother, Dr. D. Matheson, of Kurow, wore a lovely gown of ivory georgette, cut on- straight lines, and exquisitely beaded in silver. At one side was a cluster of orange blossoms, a trail and the long stems reaching to the hem. The sleeves, of georgette, were caught in at the wrist. Her long court train, which was also of georgette, fell from the shoulders, and had a heavily beaded motif in crystal and silver, and a cluster of orange blossom. An embroidered veil, which previously had been worn by her mother, was held in place by a coronet of wax orange blossom buds. She carried a shower bouquet of hothouse flowers and asparagus fern. The bridesmaid, Miss Mona Matheson, .wore a frock of salmon pink georgette beaded in silver, with a big silver tissue rose on the hip, and a pink tulle veil bound-to-her head with silver-leaves; hey bouquet was of salmon pink begonias and asparagus fern. Little Marjory Martin, who carried the train, was in a dainty salmon-pink georgette, frock, with rosettes of silver lace and tissue ribbons, a pink tulle veil, and wreath of tiny silver leaves. Mr. Douglas Cresswell was best man. A reception was afterwards held at Tighnafeile, the house being a mass of pink, and white chrysanthemums and flowering; shrubs. An orchestra played during the afternoon. The wedding breakfast was served in the billiard-room, the long table being artistically arranged with white and pink chrysanthemums in cut crystal vases. The shaded lights overhead were festooned with garlands of asparagus fern and white ribbons, which fell to the table beneath, ending with little silver horseshoes. The bridal party stood under a beautiful floral bell. Mrs. Matheson received her guests wearing a handsome gown of black georgette, heavily beaded with chenille, with onyx and brilliant buckle, a smart, hat of black hatter's plush, with lace veil, and a seal and skunk wrap. She earned a bouquet of bronze chrysanthemums and asparagus fern. Mrs. Parr (Wellington), sister of the bride, wore a striking frock of jet-beaded georgette, black hat, and ermine necklet. Mrs. Claveiley Martin, another sister, wore a silk woven coat and skirt of fawn and blue, blue satin hat with lace veil, and marabout [feathered ]stole. Mrs. D. Matheson, mastic coat and skirt, gold and blue-shaded marocain toque. There was a large gathering of relatives and friends of both families. Later Mr. and Mrs. Cresswell left by motor for the South, the bride travelling in a tailored suit of chestnut brown velour, and collar of fur, and brown, hatters' plus hat, and motif of gold and blue embroidery, the upturned brim being lined with blue to match. She also wore a beautiful musquash coat (a gift from her mother).

Evening Post, 31 October 1925, Page 1
SIMMERS - MACDONALD.-On the 26th August, 1925, at Chalmers Church, Timaru, by the Rev. P. Gladstone Hughes, George Archibald Keith, second surviving son of Mr. and Mrs. G. A.. Simmers, of Timaru, to Jessie May, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P. Macdonald, of Timaru.

Evening Post, 15 December 1934, Page 27
A decision to extend an invitation to the Rev. P. Gladstone Hughes to fill the vacancy of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Auckland caused by the resignation of the Rev. I. E. Bertram, was made by members of the congregation tonight. Mr. Hughes has been for twelve years minister of Chalmers Church, Timaru, and has been supplying the St. Andrew's pulpit for the past three months.

Evening Post, 21 November 1936, Page 18
MACLEAN�HUME. A wedding was solemnised at Chalmers Church, Timaru, last week, when Gretchen, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hume, formerly of Kelburn, and granddaughter of Mrs. and the late Mr. James Craigie, "Craigielea." Kingsdown, Timaru, was married to Peter Ian, second son of Mr. and Mrs. P. H. Maclean, Waimumu, Southland. The Rev. Llywelyn Williams was the officiating' minister. The bride, who was escorted by her brother, Mr. James Hume, wore a classical gown of champagne-satin, the neck being softly cowled and the skirt falling gracefully to form a train. Her veil of tulle was held in place by a circlet of orange blossoms. She carried a bouquet of deep red roses. The bridesmaids, Miss Kathleen Hume (chief), sister of the bride, and Miss Kathleen Bartholomew, cousin of the bride, wore dresses of azure blue cloque. They wore pink rosebuds in their hair, and carried bouquets of pink roses. Mr. T. Maclean was best man. The reception was held at the Grosvenor Hotel, when Mrs. Hume received relatives of the bride and bridegroom. Mr. and Mrs. Maclean left later for a motor tour of the Lakes, the bride wearing a brown pin stripe costume, with hat and accessories to match.  

Evening Post, 15 November 1940, Page 9
The Rev. P. Gladstone Hughes, M.A., who is to take charge of St. John's Presbyterian Church in Wellington, graduated with honours in 1906 at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. In the following year he was the Dean Edwards prizeman and obtained the Osborne Morgan postgraduate studentship, studying at Cambridge University under Professor James Ward and Dr. McTaggart. During the next seven years he held several scholastic appointments in Wales, and was ordained in 1915 to the charge of Beulloch, Anglesey. Coming to New Zealand he was at Chalmers Church, Timaru, from 1921 to 1933. Between 1933 and 1934 he was in temporary, charge of St. Andrew's Church. Monkseaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, but returned to New Zealand in 1934 to take charge of St. Andrew's Church. Auckland, where he has since been. Mr. Gladstone Hughes was an associate member of the Children's Court in Timaru, and he established the Boys' Welfare League in Timaru during the depression. He is Dominion vice-president of the League of Nations Union and, amongst other activities, has lectured for the .W.E.A.

Perfect time of year to take a photo of Chalmers. Mid August. 2010. Photo by M.T.
 The spires of St Mary's Anglican and Chalmers Presbyterian churches, as well as the domes of Sacred Heart Basilica, still dominate Timaru's skyline. St. Mary's just down Sophia St. with Elizabeth Place to the right. Map. The one year  $120,000 restoration of Chalmers Church was completed in April 1998. The restoration involved replastering the church to cover surface cracks, which began to appear in the 1960s, which allowed water to seep in to the brick layer.

April 29 2011. The Utmost for the Highest. 

Chalmers Friendship Centre. Above the door the plaque reads My Utmost for His Highest. My Utmost for His Highest was written by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) and a compilation of Chambers Christian preaching to students and soldiers. Published in England in 1927, the book has become one of the most popular religious books ever written. The book is a devotional, broken down in 365 sections for each day of a year, meant to be read daily for inspiration. A notice on the centre's door states it is "closed for meetings and public use on the recommendation of structural engineers". 28/4/2011 Timaru Herald Chalmers Church Friendship Centre in Elizabeth St cracking grew more pronounced after the Sept. 2010 quake and declared unsafe after the 16 April 2011 aftershock. The Centre was used regularly by several community and church groups. The Elim Church ran its Sunday school in the building on a weekly basis. 

Timaru Herald 4/11/2011
On 3rd November 2011 the doors to Chalmers Church, on Elizabeth Pl, were locked over growing concerns about the building's safety in an earthquake.  Engineers had cleared Chalmers for use and there remained no immediate danger, the Timaru Presbyterian Parish Council  made the decision in light of growing unease about the building, Reverend Dr Susan Jones said. Worship services planned will now be held at 9.30am on Sundays at Trinity Church on College Rd. The parish's Friendship Centre adjacent to Chalmers Church was closed in April. Chalmers was well known for its acoustic qualities. Chalmers and St Paul's in Seddon St, were out for public worship or use. Both churches were damaged by the September 4, 2010 and February 22 quakes. Regular services have not been conducted at St Paul's since October last year.

Timaru Herald 10 Dec. 2012 Chalmers Church
While the earthquake damage to the building was not serious, estimates for upgrading the double brick building's structural strength were around $1m. Strengthening of St Pauls church is estimated to cost between $400,000 and $800,000. Decisions on the future of the two properties as well as Trinity Church in College Rd will be made by the Timaru Presbyterian Parish over the next two years. The four congregations, St Stephens on Wai iti Rd, Trinity on College Rd, Chalmers Church, and St Pauls on Seddon St, are now working towards moving the parish to a single site at the Wai iti Rd property. That decision was made last month with 92 per cent of those voting being in favour of the single location, minister Dr Susan Jones said.

Timaru Herald  03/05/2014 & 4th
Chalmers Church was decommissioned on 4th May 2014, a week before the new owner, businessman Dean van Buuren, took over. The service started outside the church, as it has not been earthquake strengthened, and proceeded to the Theatre Royal on Stafford St in remembrance of former parishioners' first services. The year before Chalmers was built in 1903, parishioners worshipped at the theatre. Decommissioning service was a really important ritual to mark the "letting go" of the church. The service will include the symbolic carrying out of the symbols and closing the door. The removal of worship and sacramental items such as the pulpit Bible, baptismal jug and communion chalice were steeped in symbolism and represented closure. "It's a nice circle that we will go to the Theatre Royal where the first service was held," Ministry team leader of the Timaru parish Reverend Dr Susan Jones said. It is an icon of the city and can be seen well out to sea. It's the first thing they see on the horizon.  "The church is not only a building, the church is people carrying faith into daily living, sharing Christ's love in action ... the legacy lives on in different forms now." After singing a hymn on Sunday 4th May the church key was handed over to the acting parish clerk of Timaru Presbyterian Parish before the congregation made its way to the Theatre Royal to continue thanksgiving. Prayers, a reading and recollections then the choir filled the air before a blessing and benediction ended the service.


Bowie, R. H. (Robert Hislop) History of Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Timaru, N.Z. Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Timaru, 1902-1923 [Timaru, N.Z. : Chalmers Presbyterian Church, 1923] Book 32 p. : ill. ; 22 x 29 cm. Held by: Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of NZ.

Farr, E. F. (Edward Francis), 1912-1994 and Kemshed, Frances E. The builders: a short history of Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Timaru, published on the occasion of the golden jubilee, 1952. Timaru, N.Z. : Chalmers Presbyterian Church, 1952] (Timaru : Gordon C. Pope) Book 52 p., [12] leaves of plates : ill., ports. ; 22 cm. Held by: Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of NZ.  

All Welcome. Minister Dr. Susan Jones. Aug. 2010.

Chalmers Church Hall foundation stone 1926.This stone was laid by the R.H. Bowie, Esq., J.P. and Robert Davie, Esq. May 17th 1926 Chalmers Church foundation stone 1903. This stone was laid by the Rev. Geo. Barclay 14th May 1903. Chalmers Church restoration 1998
Foundation stones.

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