Ōamaru Baptist Church, Severn Street

Image credit: Oamaru Baptist Church, Severn Street, Collection of the Waitaki District Archive. Id 101881

The Ōamaru Baptist Church, Severn Street was built in 1889 as a permanent place of worship for the Ōamaru Baptist congregation. Mr Gideon Rutherford generously donated the land at section 4, block 25, Ōamaru Town along with a contribution towards the construction of the Church. The balance of construction funds were raised by the congregation and the Church opened on 14 July 1889 with the Baptist community largely free of debt. The total cost of the Church construction and land was L775 (1) ($164,000 today (2)).

The Severn Street Baptist Church was tendered for by Edwin William Hardy (3) who is likely to be the architect. Among other buildings in and around North Otago Edwin Hardy designed the first wooden Presbyterian Church at Maheno (4) , Delargy’s Hall at Kurow (5), Waddell’s General Drapery at Kurow (6) .

Edwin Hardy was born at Middlesex, England and arrived in New Zealand aged 8. He was the son of prominent early Ōamaru citizen, civil engineer, surveyor and architect John Hardy (7) . The family lived and farmed at Tokomairiro before moving to Ōamaru. Edwin Hardy published some interesting reminiscence of his early life to New Zealand and his association with Gabriel Read in the Otago Daily Times in 1922 (8) (9). Hardy began to tender for construction projects in Ōamaru from early January 1883 (10) . He married Anna Elizabeth Erentz on 10 November 1885 at St Paul’s Church Ōamaru (11) and they had five children together. By 1896 Hardy was living in Kurow and working as a builder. Edwin Hardy died on 30 May 1929 at age 84 in Kurow (12) and is buried at the Ōamaru Cemetery.

Masonry work on the Baptist Church was completed by Tempero and Hossack for a tender of L275 ($58,000 today). John Sinclair undertook the woodwork, painting, varnishing, gas fitting and fencing for a tender of L320 ($68,000 today). The original flooring was inclined to give a better view of the pastor to those at the rear (13). It took three months to complete construction of the Church. The Church was 64 feet long and 32 feet wide and was capable of seating 300 people. The design was of a puritanical simplicity, ornamentation was spared in favour of a functional and comfortable space to worship.

Over the years the Church had many improvements, by 1957 a manse was built in Eden Street (14) . The Reverend Gordon Jackson oversaw the construction of a youth hall, minister’s rooms, lounge, kitchen, infant room and toilet facilities during his time as minister between 1957 and 1963 (15) .

The Church was the focus of Baptist worship in Ōamaru for 123 years. Numerous weddings, funerals, Sunday schools, choir practices and gatherings were held there over the years.

The Church was sold by the Ōamaru Baptist congregation in 2012 after it was found to be an earthquake risk. The Ōamaru Baptist congregation moved to a new site, the former Ideal Services (IHC) property in Sandringham Street. The new site provided considerably more facilities, better parking and access, and room for more activities in the future, particularly day-based community programmes (16) .

After standing for 130 years the Ōamaru Baptist Church, Severn Street was demolished on 12 February 2020 to make way for a Trust Power customer service center (17).

Important Ōamaru Baptist Church records held by Waitaki Archive include; Minute books 1883-1907, Deacon’s Minute books 1891-1904, Sabbath School roll books 1907-1914, Marriage registers 1892-1949.
Photographs of the Ōamaru Baptist Church, Severn Street can be found on our Collections online here: https://collection.culturewaitaki.org.nz/objects?query=baptist+church+oa...

(1) Turning back the pages : Oamaru Baptist Church centenary, 1883-1983. by Stewart, David H.
(2) Reserve Bank of New Zealand inflation calculator
(3) North Otago Times, Volume 6671, Issue XXXIII, 23 January 1889, Page 3
(4) Oamaru Mail, Volume XIV, Issue 4561, 27 December 1889, Page 3
(5) New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero, Delargy’s Hall (Former),
(6) New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero, Waddell’s General Drapery (Former)
(7) Oamaru Mail, Volume IV, Issue 1322, 22 September 1882, Page 2
(8) Otago Daily Times, Issue 18655, 9 September 1922, Page 18
(9) Otago Daily Times, Issue 18661, 16 September 1922, Page 17
(10) North Otago Times, Volume XXVIII, Issue 3306, 31 January 1883, Page 3
(11) Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Register of New Zealand Presbyterian Marriages 1848 to 1935
(12) Otago Daily Times, Issue 20734, 4 June 1929, Page 7
(13) Oamaru Mail, Volume XIV, Issue 4421, 15 July 1889, Page 3 https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OAM18890715.2.22
(14) Turning back the pages : Oamaru Baptist Church centenary, 1883-1983. by Stewart, David H.
(15) High Country Herald 11 October 2006, Page 4
(16) Otago Daily Times 21 March 2012
(17) Otago Daily Times 13 February 2020

Chris Meech