Lawrence, New Zealand

Last updated
Lawrence Ross Place 005.JPG
Ross Place (State Highway 8), the main street of Lawrence
New Zealand location map.svg
Disc Plain red.svg
Coordinates: 45°54′S169°41′E / 45.900°S 169.683°E / -45.900; 169.683 Coordinates: 45°54′S169°41′E / 45.900°S 169.683°E / -45.900; 169.683
CountryNew Zealand
Region Otago
Territorial authority Clutha District
 (2006) [1]
Time zone UTC+12 (New Zealand Standard Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+13 (New Zealand Daylight Time)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu

Lawrence is a small town of 474 inhabitants (as per the 2001 New Zealand census) in Otago, in New Zealand's South Island. It is located on State Highway 8, the main route from Dunedin to the inland towns of Queenstown and Alexandra. It lies 35 kilometres to the northwest of Milton, 11 kilometres northwest of Waitahuna, and close to the Tuapeka River, a tributary of the Clutha.



The discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully by Gabriel Read in May 1861 led to the Central Otago goldrush with the population of the gold field rising from almost nothing to around 11,500 within a year, twice that of Dunedin at the time. Gabriel’s Gully was quickly dotted with tents and workings, stores and government “buildings”. [2]

By December 1861, there were some 14,000 people on the Tuapeka goldfield and it continued to climb and by February 1864 was around 24,000. Around a third of these miners were English, a significant proportion were Irish, while some were European, with others of Chinese origin. The ground under the makeshift township site, was also gold rich. Gradually, the commercial and administrative services for the what became known as the Tuapeka fields were concentrated on non-gold bearing ground 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away at the entrance to the Gully. [2] A new town was surveyed in 1862 by Robert Grigor and named Tuapeka with sections in the town auctioned on 5 November 1862. [2] By 1864 most people had shifted from the canvas town across the stream to which quickly became the focal point for Otago's goldfield with a bank, hotels, ironmongers, drapers, a watchmaker, bookmaker, newsagent, and various other stores. The town became a municipality in 1866 and was renamed Lawrence in honour of Sir Henry Lawrence, hero of the Lucknow military campaign of 1857. The development of large scale sluicing in the area in the 1870s caused flooding of the low lying areas of the town, which forced government buildings, churches and schools to relocate up the hill to Colonsay Street, while Peel Street became the business street. [2] In mid-1862, it is estimated that twice as many people lived around the banks of the Tuapeka River as did in Dunedin itself. By 1870 the settlement of Chinese miners just outside the town had 300 residents. The Black Horse Brewery, was established in the town in 1866. It closed in 1923. The tune to New Zealand's national anthem was composed in Lawrence by John J. Woods, a Lawrence school teacher. [3]

View of Lawrence from 1926 View of Lawrence, Clutha District, in 1926. ATLIB 59044.png
View of Lawrence from 1926

In 1877, a branch line railway was built from the Main South Line to Lawrence, and the town remained the terminus of the line until an extension was built in 1910. Although originally known as the Lawrence Branch, this line ultimately became known as the Roxburgh Branch. The railway closed in 1968 and the town's station has subsequently been demolished, but some relics still remain, including the goods shed.

In 1978, two lions named Sultan and Sonia escaped from a circus in Lawrence. The circus' tranquiliser guns had accidentally been left behind in another town so they could not be shot with tranquillizer darts. They were eventually shot by police but not before one of them had scratched a seven-year-old boy across the face. [4] The lions were stuffed and are now on display at Otago Museum.

In 2011, Lawrence became the first town in New Zealand to offer town-wide free Wi-Fi internet. [5]

The Lawrence Rugby Football Club is based in the township.

Lawrence's sister city is Jacksonville, Oregon.

Attractions / Amenities

Holy Trinity Anglican church

Moves to establish the first Anglican Church in Lawrence were made in December 1866, but it was not until February 1868 that the first clergyman Rev. H.W. Martin from Victoria, Australia, was appointed. Initially the Anglicans held their services in the Methodist Church before constructing the original church at 9 Whitehaven Street constructed of timber, plainly-detailed, with Gothic elements complete with a small belfry at the gable end. It was opened by Bishop-Elect Samuel Nevill in May 1871. [6] The first permanent vicar was the Reverend George P. Beaumont who had arrived in the district in 1870 and remained in that role for another 30 years. A freestanding wooden Gothic-styled belltower was built in the late 1890s beside the church. It was retained when the original church was demolished to make way for the current brick church, which was designed by Invercargill based architect E. R. Wilson. [7]

Its foundation stone was laid in March 1925 and it was consecrated in August of that same year by Bishop Isaac Richards, a previous vicar of the parish. [7] The belltower was restored and rededicated by Bishop Peter Mann in June 1980. It was granted Heritage New Zealand historic place category 2 status in 2005. [7]

The regular congregation was down to less than 10 people, by the time the church held its last service in January 2015. [8] With a ratable value of $90,000 it was sold in 2016 for use as a holiday home. [9]

Lawrence Methodist church

The first services for Methodists in the district were provided by the Reverend Isaac Harding of Dunedin towards the end of 1862 in two canvas churches, one in Munro’s Gully, and another in Gabriel’s Gully. Eventually these were replaced by a permanent church at Gabriel’s Gully in 1870. [10] In Lawrence itself a Methodist church was constructed of brick on Colonsay Street and opened free of debt in 1865. [6] Unfortunately it was then discovered that due to a surveying error part of the building had been constructed on Catholic land. [6] It was used for eight years and then pulled down. Meanwhile a new site was obtained on the corner of Whitehaven Street, where a 28 feet (8.5 m) by 24 feet (7.3 m) wooden church which cost £320 was constructed. [10] It was officially opened on 14 September 1873, by the Rev. C. W. Rigg. [10]

Lawrence Presbyterian church

The first Presbyterian services were held in the district in open air at Gabriel's Gully in July 1861 by layman John Gillies. [11] By 1864 with the support of local congregation and the organisation of a soiree, enough money (including a donation of ₤50 from Gabriel Read) was raised to allow for the erection of a wooden church building at 7 Colonsay Street. [6] The church's first permanent minister was the Reverend Dr James Copland.

By the mid-1880s it was decided to replace the existing church with a new church on the same section of land. The new building which was opened in September 1886 by D. M. Stuart of Knox Church in Dunedin was designed by Dunedin architect R.A. Lawson. [11] The original church building remained on site and was used as a Sunday School. The new church was constructed of red brick on stone foundations and featured crenellations above the entrance. It was the first church in Otago to have an organ. Up until then a precentor had been used to lead the congregation. Over time the brick exterior was plastered, the spire and pinnacles were removed and a shorter belfry created. [6]

Due to a declining congregation the church was sold around 1994 to a private owner who intended to use it as a holiday home. [11]

In 1998 a fire started by an arson attack severely damaged the building. [6] The building languished for a period, with much local concern expressed about its condition. In 2002 the building was purchased by Jo and Mike Romanes bought the church in 2002, who then spent the next six years, stabilizing the building, installing a new roof and floor before converting it into boutique accommodation. [11] [12]

The building was granted Heritage New Zealand historic place category 2 status in 2004. [11]

St Patrick’s Catholic church

While Otago was established as a Presbyterian settlement the discovery of gold, resulted in miners of all nationalities and creeds emigrating to the province, among them a large number of Irish Catholics. [2] To service their spiritual need, Father Delphin Moreau began visiting the goldfields from Dunedin, from the first weeks of the gold rush. [6] Up until Cobb & Co’s established their coach service to the goldfields in October 1861 Moreau’s made his visits to Tuapeka on foot, holding Mass there once a month. By 1862 he was travelling to and holding Mass every alternate Sunday in a tent in Gabriel’s Gully. In October 1863 a section on the corner of Colonsay and Lancaster Streets house a church and school was donated by local businessman John Donovan. In 1864 Father Joseph Eccuyer was made the first priest permanently resident in Lawrence. A corrugated iron church named St Gabriel’s was erected on the site and blessed in November 1864 by Bishop Viard. It was the first Catholic church in Otago. [2]

By the end of May 1871 Father William Larkin had been appointed Parish priest to Tuapeka and he was able to organize the construction of the large wooden Gothic church-school of St Patrick’s which opened on 17 March 1872, across the road from the now superseded St Gabriel’s. During Larkin’s tenure calls intensified for a separate church, distinct from St Patrick’s as it was felt that the existing building was essentially a school rather than a church. A building fund for a new church was initiated in 1880 and noted architect, Francis Petre, was selected to design the church, issuing tenders for its construction in November 1890 on the site of the former St Gabriels on the corner of 12 Colonsay Street and Lancaster Street. The contract was awarded on 7 December 1890 to Dunedin based Daniel W. Woods, who had submitted a price of £3000. [2]

By the time the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Patrick Moran on 17 March 1891 the walls were at almost at their full height. The completed brick Gothic church with a belfry of Oamaru stone with seating for about 600 worshippers was officially opened by Bishop Moran on 6 January 1892. The six bay nave of the brick church is 70 feet (21 m) long by 27 feet (8.2 m) wide while the transept was 50 feet (15 m) long by 27 feet (8.2 m) wide. [2] A convent for the Dominican nuns, was later constructed directly to the south of the Church and opened on Sunday 3 February 1893. In 1902, a Presbytery was constructed to the east, adjacent to the church. [2] To protect the decaying bricks and mortar the church was roughcast in 1926. [2] By the 1990s the church needed significant repairs, which were undertaken in 1995. The Presbytery is still owned by the Church, but is now rental accommodation.


Lawrence Area School is a co-educational state primary school for Year 1 to 8 students, with a roll of 143 as of March 2021. [13]

It was a high school until the 1960s, when it became an area school catering to primary pupils as well. It also provides secondary education for students from Waitahuna School. [14]

There were other primary schools previously in Lawrence. Blue Spur School closed some time in the 1930s or 40s; Forsythe School closed in the 1960s; and St Patrick's School closed at the end of 1980, leaving Lawrence Area School as the sole remaining school in Lawrence. [14]

Notable residents

Related Research Articles

Waikouaiti Town in New Zealand

Waikouaiti is a small town in East Otago, New Zealand, within the city limits of Dunedin. The town is close to the coast and the mouth of the Waikouaiti River.

Dunedin City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Milton, New Zealand Town in New Zealand

Milton, formerly known as Tokomairiro or Tokomairaro, is a town of 2,000 people, located on State Highway 1, 50 kilometres to the south of Dunedin in Otago, New Zealand. It lies on the floodplain of the Tokomairaro River, one branch of which loops past the north and south ends of the town. This river gives its name to many local features, notably the town's main school, Tokomairiro High School.

Port Chalmers Main seaport of Dunedin, New Zealand

Port Chalmers is a town serving as the main port of the city of Dunedin, New Zealand. It has a population of roughly 3,000. Port Chalmers lies ten kilometres inside Otago Harbour, some 15 kilometres northeast of Dunedin's city centre.

Gabriels Gully Human settlement in New Zealand

Gabriel's Gully is a locality in Otago, New Zealand, three kilometres from Lawrence township and close to the Tuapeka River. It was the site of New Zealand's first major gold rush.

Gabriel Read

Thomas Gabriel Read was a gold prospector and farmer. His discovery of gold in Gabriel's Gully triggered the first major gold rush in New Zealand.

Otago Gold Rush Gold Rush that occurred during the 1860s

The Otago Gold Rush was a gold rush that occurred during the 1860s in Central Otago, New Zealand. This was the country's biggest gold strike, and led to a rapid influx of foreign miners to the area - many of them veterans of other hunts for the precious metal in California and Victoria, Australia.

Kavanagh College is a Catholic, state-integrated, co-educational, secondary school located in central Dunedin, New Zealand. The school was founded in 1989 as the successor of several other secondary schools the oldest of which was founded in 1871. Kavanagh is the only Catholic secondary school in Dunedin and is open to enrolments from throughout the entire city. The school's proprietor is the Bishop of Dunedin.

Robert Lawson (architect)

Robert Arthur Lawson was one of New Zealand's pre-eminent 19th century architects. It has been said he did more than any other designer to shape the face of the Victorian era architecture of the city of Dunedin. He is the architect of over forty churches, including Dunedin's First Church for which he is best remembered, but also other buildings, such as Larnach Castle, a country house, with which he is also associated.

Sir George Fenwick was a New Zealand newspaper proprietor and editor. He is best known for his time as manager and editor of the Otago Daily Times, during which time he supported the campaign initiated by Rutherford Waddell against sweat shops.

Hyde, New Zealand

Hyde is a locality in Otago, New Zealand, located in the Strath-Taieri. It is close to the northern end of the Rock and Pillar Range on State Highway 87 between Middlemarch and Ranfurly. Hyde is best known as the site of the Hyde railway disaster of 4 June 1943, in which 21 people were killed when an express train on the Otago Central Railway derailed at high speed in a cutting near the town. At the time, it was the worst railway accident in New Zealand's history; it has only been passed by the Tangiwai disaster of 24 December 1953, which claimed the lives of 151 people. The site of the Hyde disaster can now be walked as part of the Otago Central Rail Trail and a monument, a 2.5 m high cairn, stands as a memorial to the victims.

John Joseph Woods was a New Zealand teacher and songwriter. He is best known for winning a competition to set "God Defend New Zealand", a poem by Thomas Bracken, to music. By doing this, he composed the tune to what later became New Zealand's national anthem. Woods was also the Tuapeka County Council clerk for 55 years.

The following lists events that happened during 1861 in New Zealand.

Vincent Pyke Australian and New Zealand politician

Vincent Pyke, born Vincent Pike, was a 19th-century politician in Otago, New Zealand and Victoria, Australia.

The third New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. Elections for this term were held between 12 December 1860 and 28 March 1861 in 43 electorates to elect 53 MPs. Two electorates were added to this during this term, Gold Fields District and a new Dunedin electorate created by splitting the existing City of Dunedin into Dunedin and Suburbs North and Dunedin and Suburbs South, increasing the number of MPs to 57. During the term of this Parliament, six Ministries were in power.

All Saints Church, Dunedin

All Saints has been open since 1865, and is presently in the Dunedin North parish which includes the northern part of the city of Dunedin, New Zealand and is made up of the former parish of All Saints and the former parish of St. Martin's North East Valley. It is part of the Diocese of Dunedin. The parish boundaries include North East Valley, Pine Hill, North Dunedin, Ravensbourne and Leith Valley. The building is the oldest church still used as a place of worship in Dunedin. All Saints Church is the chapel of Selwyn College, Otago. The College was built around the church and the college and parish have a close relationship. Selwyn College was built as an Anglican theological college in 1893, from the beginning it also housed non-theological students from the university. All Saints' is located close to the campuses of the University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic.

Henry Beresford Garrett was a habitual criminal who served prison sentences in England, Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand. He is the only bushranger to have a town named after one of his alias.

Joseph Barnes Borton was a New Zealand goldfields warden and cricketer. Along with William Gilbert Rees, Gibson Turton, James Fulton, and John Kissling, he is credited with reviving interest in cricket in Otago in the 1860s.

<i>The Cromwell Argus</i>

The Cromwell Argus was a newspaper in Cromwell, New Zealand from 1869 to 1948.


  1. "QuickStats About Lawrence". 2006 Census. Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Susan, Irvine. "St Patrick's Church (Catholic)". Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved March 26, 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. New Zealand's National Anthem's history - Ministry for Culture and Heritage
  4. "The Lawrence Lions". Otago Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-02-12. Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  5. "Small town maintains pioneering streak". One News . 2 May 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Hamilton, Derek; Hamilton, Judith (2009). Early Churches in and Around Dunedin (Paperback). Christchurch, NZ: Self-published. pp. 100–103. ISBN   978-0-473-15950-4.
  7. 1 2 3 Bauchop, Heather. "Holy Trinity Anglican Church Bell Tower". Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved March 11, 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. Porteous, Debbie (January 8, 2015), "End of an era at church", Otago Daily Times, retrieved March 26, 2021CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. Hawkes, Colleen (February 4, 2016), "Holy Trinity Church in Lawrence is sold sight unseen", Otago Daily Times, retrieved March 26, 2021CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. 1 2 3 "The Centennial of Methodism in the Tuapeka" (PDF). Methodist Church. 1961. Retrieved March 26, 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Bauchop, Heather. "Lawrence Presbyterian Church (Former)". Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved March 11, 2021.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. de Reus, Helena (June 16, 2012), "Saving grace", Otago Daily Times, retrieved March 26, 2021CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. "Lawrence Area School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  14. 1 2 "Lawrence Area School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Lawrence, New Zealand at Wikimedia Commons