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395-397 Church Street - Former Baptist Union Church

Former -Baptist -Union -ChurchBuilding Details

Building Name: Former Baptist Union Church
Address: 395-397 Church Street
Construction date: 1928
Architect: Clere and Clere
Architectural style: Free Gothic
District Plan Category: 2
Building number: 39
Heritage NZ Category: Nil


The Baptist Church was established in Paimerston North in 1894. A year later a site was bought on Church Street and the first Baptist church erected. A simple hall, it was much added to after 1904 with the addition of a two storey section and spires. This building was replaced in 1928 by the present structure. Part of the former building was moved to the rear of the site and used as a hall until it was in turn replaced in 1965. By 1982 the brick church was considered too small for the needs of the congregation and in September of that year the building was sold to the Operatic Society and became the Abbey Theatre. A new church was erected on Church Street (west).


The building is designed in the Free Gothic Style where strict rules of the previous Gothic Revival were dispensed with and a freer interpretation of the style allowed. The building is symmetrical, with the main entrance centrally located and the principal window above. The fenestration follows the Perpendicular Gothic style with idiosyncratic parapetted gables each crowned with a bracketed gable. The interior plan has a simple hall with balcony at the upper level. The timber roof framing is exposed.


Frederick de Jersey Clere was born in Lancashire, the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was articled to Edmund Scott, an ecclesiastical architect of Brighton. He then became chief assistant to EJ Withers, a London architect and follower of the Ecclesiologists. Clere came to New Zealand in 1877, practising first in Fielding and then in Wanganui. He later came to Wellington and practised there for 58 years. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1886 and held office for 50 years as one of four honorary secretaries in the Empire. In 1883 he was appointed Diocesan Architect of the Anglican Church. Clere was a pioneer in reinforced concrete construction, and his Church of St Mary of the Virgin, Karori (1911), is an early example. His Church of St Mary of the Angels (1922), however, is the most outstanding example. As well as being preeminent in church design, CIere was responsible for many domestic and commercial buildings including the Harbour Board Offices and Bond Store Wellington (1891). Clere was also involved in the design of large woolsheds in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa. He was active in the formation of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and served on their council for many years.  He was a member of the Wellington Diocesan Synod and the General Synod. He was also a member of the New Zealand Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. Clere practised on his own and in association with other architects. Among those firms were Clere and Fitzgerald and Clere and Clere, the latter with his son.

Summary of Heritage Values

The building has spiritual and religious values.

The building has associations with the previous parishioners and clergy.

The building is a good example of the Free Gothic style and, because of its design and use of materials, it has urban design values.

The building is a landmark building in an area of landmark buildings, it is largely authentic.

in its previous and new use it shows economic, functional educational, and social values.

Statement of Significance

The Baptist Church was associated with the site of this former church from 1895.  The brick 1928 building itself has the longest association with Palmerston North's Baptist Church and services were held here for 54 years.  The building contributes to the streetscape of Church Street in its style, use of materials and location.

Building Permit Plans, PNCC (Microfilm file), 115/369-373
Building Permit Register, PNCC, Archives Series 4/13/1,granted 2/4/28
NZHPT Register of Architects
GC Petersen 1973, Palmerston North - A Centennial History. AH & AW Reed, Wellington