Letters from New Zealand 1857-1911
October 1st, 1886
I have let some time elapse before continuing this letter, which I can now do with a light heart, for the "days of adversity" are ending, and those "of prosperity" are at hand again. In August last we were able to consecrate the completed nave of St. Mary's, with a temporary chancel, sanctuary and vestry. Before describing it, let me tell you how this came about. New Zealand, with its small population, page 219must needs have a market over-seas for its produce. Till lately this consisted of wool and wheat and gold. Gold finds a ready sale under any circumstances, but the goldfields, as usual, have seen their best days, and when wool went down in value in the English market, and New Zealand's export of wheat was small, a general stagnation of business set in throughout the country. Then came the invention and perfecting of the process of freezing meat and other articles of food for export. The result is incalculable; it means assured success to an agricultural and pastoral country, which numbers its flocks already by many millions. Wool may fluctuate in value, but people must eat, and the old country will soon discover the quality of New Zealand mutton.
Six years have passed since the foundation stone of St. Mary's Church was laid, but the delay has been an advantage, allowing time for the thorough settlement of the stonework, and seasoning of timber. Armson's design will, I think, compare favourably with any modern building at home. The massive walls allow for deep setting of the double lancet windows, with a wide interior splay of opening; the large western rose window is a fine specimen of plate tracery; the high pitched roof has handsome open woodwork, in which the king-posts, in the form of Celtic crosses, rise from crenellated tie-beams; the wood being Rimu, a native red pine, comparatively light, very strong, and in colour equal to oak. The pillars of the nave are monoliths of red Aberdeen granite, nineteen inches in diameter, standing on stone bases. These are the gift of Mrs. Luxmoore, in memory of her husband. Their capitals, as well as the bosses of the dripstones above the arches, and the corbel tables page 220which support the ribs of the roof, are boldly carved in Early English foliage. We have raised funds also for an organ, not large, but sweet and powerful, by Lewis, of Brixton; the font was given by the teachers and children of the Sunday School, and the lectern presented by my Mother, the temporary furnishings of the Sanctuary, also, by friends.
You may imagine what preparation there was for the consecration, which took place on Thursday, August 28th. We had, as guests, the Bishop of the Diocese, the Bishop of Dunedin, and fourteen clergy. Great interest was taken in the day's proceedings, not only by Churchpeople, but by the citizens generally; the Consecration Service at 11 a.m. and Evensong at 8, being crowded to the doors. The Choir, consisting of fourteen boys and twelve men, well trained by Mr. Ziesler, and Mr. Gooch, our Organist, formerly a Norwich Cathedral choir boy, and trained as organist by Dr. Buck, did their part effectively. At the Luncheon which followed the Morning Service, much was said of the architectural beauty and solid construction of the new Church, which, many think, has no equal in New Zealand, and of the energy and liberality of St. Mary's people who have accomplished such a work. Looking forward to the future, perhaps not very distant, when South Canterbury will become a separate diocese, the Bishop of Dunedin did not hesitate to express his opinion that St. Mary's would become its cathedral, and, when completed, would be in every way worthy the honour. It has been, as you know, an undertaking costing much labour and anxiety, and which means, probably, many a year more of similar effort, but as I listened to the enconiums so generally given, of what has been so far page 221accomplished, and so full of reward for it all, my great satisfaction was in the congratulations which I heard on all sides, during the day, not so much to myself, but to themselves, by Churchpeople; "Our Church, our work,—what a grand day we have had." This is, indeed, "a crown of rejoicing," for it is their work, the work of many,—not a few rich donors, or of large legacies or endowments, but of people, who, in a new land, have to build up their Church, support its ministry, enable it to pay its way, and do its appointed work. "Wouldn't you like to hear that someone has left a large sum for the completion of St. Mary's?" said a man to me, "as one hears is often done in the old world." "No," I said, "I would much rather—if we do ever complete it, see it done by St. Mary's people, for if they do it, I shall be sure they love their Church."
The day following the Consecration was a specimen of the climate here, which I believe some American has described as "a climate of samples." August is equivalent to the English February, but generally milder. We woke to a white world, snow several inches deep. Going down to the 10 a.m. service, we found the choir boys building a snow man in the Church grounds, and the roofs of the building, as if for its baptism, snow clad.