The Octagon, Christchurch

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The Octagon
Trinity Church, Christchurch, NZ (crop).jpg
The Octagon in 2007
Restaurant information
Closed4 September 2010 (2010-09-04)
Street address124 Worcester Street, Christchurch Central City
City Christchurch
CountryNew Zealand
Coordinates 43°31′52″S172°38′22″E / 43.53114°S 172.63942°E / -43.53114; 172.63942

The Octagon, Christchurch, the former Trinity Church or Trinity Congregational Church designed by Benjamin Mountfort, later called the State Trinity Centre, is a Category I heritage building listed with Heritage New Zealand. Damaged in the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and red-stickered after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the building was threatened with demolition like most other central city heritage buildings. In June 2012, it was announced that the building will be saved, repaired and earthquake strengthened.

Christchurch Metropolitan area in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.

Benjamin Mountfort English architect, emigrant to New Zealand (1825–1898)

Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort was an English emigrant to New Zealand, where he became one of that country's most prominent 19th-century architects. He was instrumental in shaping the city of Christchurch's unique architectural identity and culture, and was appointed the first official Provincial Architect of the developing province of Canterbury. Heavily influenced by the Anglo-Catholic philosophy behind early Victorian architecture, he is credited with importing the Gothic revival style to New Zealand. His Gothic designs constructed in both wood and stone in the province are considered unique to New Zealand. Today, he is considered the founding architect of the province of Canterbury.

Heritage New Zealand

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga is a Crown entity with a membership of around 20,000 people that advocates for the protection of ancestral sites and heritage buildings in New Zealand. It was set up through the Historic Places Act 1954 with a mission to "...promote the identification, protection, preservation and conservation of the historical and cultural heritage of New Zealand" and is an autonomous Crown entity. Its current enabling legislation is the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.



State Insurance Old State Insurance Building.jpg
State Insurance
Old Government Building The Old Government Building, Christchurch, NZ.jpg
Old Government Building

The Octagon is located on the south-west corner of Worcester and Manchester Streets. [1] The three buildings on the south side of the section of Worcester Street leading into Cathedral Square are all registered heritage buildings and together, they form an important setting. [2] The neighbouring buildings are the State Insurance Building, an art deco office tower designed by Cecil Wood and registered as Category II, [3] and the Old Government Building designed by Joseph Maddison and registered as Category I. [4]

Cathedral Square, Christchurch square

Cathedral Square, locally known simply as the Square, is the geographical centre and heart of Christchurch, New Zealand, where the city's Anglican cathedral, ChristChurch Cathedral is located. The square stands at the theoretical crossing of the city's two main orthogonal streets, Colombo Street and Worcester Street, though in practice both have been either blocked off or detoured around the square itself. The Cathedral has been badly damaged in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

State Insurance organization

State Insurance is an insurance company based in New Zealand. As of 2011 "State" serves as a business division of IAG New Zealand Limited, a subsidiary of Insurance Australia Group.

Cecil Wood (architect) New Zeelandian architect

Cecil Walter Wood was a New Zealand architect.


The church tower with bracing after the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake The Octagon with bracing 42.jpg
The church tower with bracing after the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake
The tower collapsed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Christchurch Earthquake 220211.jpg
The tower collapsed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
Early beginnings

The Congregational church was brought to New Zealand by Barzillai Quaife. Congregationalists had their first meeting in Christchurch in 1861. [1] Meetings were held at Bonnington's Hall until July 1864, when that property changed hands and was no longer available. [5] A society was formed, four members raised funds (Samuel Farr, Mr Gee, James Jameson and Mr Lewis) and members bought the property on the south-west corner of the Manchester and Worcester Streets intersection for a church. [5] Farr was chosen as the architect for the original church and the affairs were progressed by the first minister, William Habens. [1] The original church, built in stone, was opened with a series of opening services starting on 23 November 1864. [6]

Congregational church religious denomination

Congregational churches are Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition practicing congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.

Barzillai Quaife was an English-born editor, Congregational and Presbyterian minister, bookseller and teacher active in both Australia and New Zealand. He was a fierce advocate for the rights of the Māori.

Samuel Farr (architect) New Zealand architect

Samuel Charles Farr was a 19th-century builder and architect in Christchurch, New Zealand. He intended to emigrate from England to Auckland, but significant shipping problems saw him end up in Akaroa in 1850 instead. From 1862, he lived in Christchurch. Farr has a number of firsts against his name: the first marriage in Canterbury, he designed Akaroa's first church, designed New Zealand's first iron verandahs, and he started Sunday schools in Canterbury. As a leading member of the Acclimatisation Society, he stocked almost every lake and river in Canterbury with fish and was instrumental in introducing the bumblebee to New Zealand. His most notable building is Cranmer Court, the former Normal School, in the Christchurch Central City; this building is to be demolished following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

By 1870, the church had become too small for the congregation, and there were problems with ventilation. Four architects were invited to provide designs for a new building: Farr, Benjamin Mountfort, William Armson and Robert Lawson. Although Farr was a Deacon of the Trinity Congregational Church and had designed the first church, the design of Mountfort was chosen, who was a devout Anglican. [1] [7] Farr's name is listed on the foundation stone as the church's Deacon. [8]

William Barnett Armson was an architect, surveyor, engineer in colonial New Zealand. A co-founder of the Canterbury Association of Architects, and an architect to the provincial government, he established the architectural firm of Armson, Collins and Harman in 1870, which remained active until 1993. It was one of the two oldest architectural firms in New Zealand. His most important work was the Bank of New Zealand building in Dunedin.

Robert Lawson (architect) 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.

Deacon ministry in the Christian Church

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Some Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state; in others, the deacon remains a layperson.

Mountfort was given the requirement of an open preaching space, which he met by choosing an Early French rather than a High Gothic style. [2] For this reason, the church has a large gallery at the northern end, so that the minister could be seen by all attending a service. [1] Stylistically, the church shares many design elements with Canterbury Museum, which was also Mountfort's work and which was built in stages starting in 1870. [2] [9]

Gothic architecture style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch museum

The Canterbury Museum is a museum located in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in the city's Cultural Precinct. The museum was established in 1867 with Julius von Haast – whose collection formed its core – as its first director. The building is registered as a "Historic Place – Category I " by Heritage New Zealand.

Pacific Islanders' Congregational Church

The church began to be also used by the Pacific Islanders' Congregational Church in the 1960s, and the congregations formally merged in 1968. In 1969, the Congregational church and the Presbyterian church combined throughout New Zealand as part of a worldwide trend under the auspices of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In Christchurch, the Trinity-Pacific Congregational Church joined with the Presbyterian congregation of St Paul's Church in Cashel Street. [1]

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) was a fellowship of more than 200 churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation, and particularly in the theology of John Calvin. Its headquarters was in Geneva, Switzerland. They are now merged into the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

St Pauls Church, Christchurch Church in Christchurch, New Zealand

St Paul's Church in Cashel Street, Christchurch, was a Category I heritage building registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It was demolished after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

State Trinity Centre

Financial pressure led to the sale of Trinity Congregational Church in 1974 to the State Insurance, [10] who own the building immediately to the west of the church. [1] [2] The insurance called the building the State Trinity Centre. [11]

Trinity Congregational Church was used as a performing arts centre for the community. [1] The new owners undertook significant earthquake strengthening, with the walls internally extended by adding a layer of reinforced concrete. [12] Consent to have the tower earthquake strengthened was declined by the Historic Places Trust, as it was necessary to temporarily remove the tower's roof. [13] The modified building opened to the public on 22 November 1975. [10] For years, Christchurch pupils would sit their piano exams at Trinity. Ownership changed to private individuals and the building was used as a wedding chapel for Japanese tourists who wanted to get married in Christchurch. [1]

The Octagon

Alan Slade bought the building in 1993 while on holiday in Christchurch. The owner of a wedding business in Australia already owned several churches, but he was awed by the internal beauty of the Trinity Congregational Church, especially the timber ceiling. His wife described the spontaneous purchase as one undertaken "by a guy with a big heart and very little brain". Restoration work took 13 years in total and in 2006, they opened the restaurant. [13] It was both a restaurant and a training venue for music students. The students worked at the restaurant, trained in music during times the restaurant was closed, and performed for the diners while the restaurant was open. [13] The restaurant's name, The Octagon, makes reference to the octagonal floor plan of the church. [14]

The church was damaged in the 4 September 2010 Canterbury earthquake and the tower braced with an external steel structure; it was a much photographed item for its decoration with mannequins. Within two months, the restaurant was operating again. The building suffered further damage by the strong aftershock on Boxing Day of that year that was centred underneath the central city. Within two days, the restaurant opened again. [13]

In the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the tower collapsed. The engineer who had designed the 1975/76 strengthening work had only recently warned that the tower was "severely compromised". Slade blamed that the consenting authorities (Christchurch City Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust) were responsible for much of the loss of Christchurch's historic buildings due to their bureaucratic attitudes, which prevented much earthquake strengthening work from going ahead due to it being too intrusive. [13] Slade, who had spent NZ$500,000 on remedial work prior to the February earthquake, had run out of funds and had reluctantly applied for the building to be demolished. [14]

In June 2012, it was announced that the building will be saved, repaired and earthquake strengthened. [14] In the 2012 Canterbury Heritage Awards, the building won the Heritage Retention Award, and the Supreme Award. [15] In March 2013, Christchurch City Council's community, recreation and culture committee voted to give NZ$1m towards the restoration and strengthening costs. [16]


Mountfort had designed other stone churches previously, but Trinity Congregational was the first to be built. [1] Stone rubble walls are contrasted with Oamaru stone, which results in a striking juxtaposition of building materials, with most visual impact on the saddleback tower. [11]

The floor plan of the church is octagonal. The timber roof structure is a double barrel vault, which is regarded as an elegant solution to roofing over such a floor plan. [1] The overall appearance of the building is Gothic. [2]

Heritage registration

The building was registered as a heritage building by Heritage New Zealand on 2 April 1985 with registration number 306 classified as B. With the change of the classification system, the building later became a Category I listing. [1] [11]

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Canterbury Club

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Wilson, John (2007). City and Peninsula: The Historic Places of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula. Christchurch: Rainbow Print Group. p. 106. ISBN   978-0-473-12239-3.
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  4. "Old Government Building". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand . Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Congregational Church, Christchurch". Lyttelton Times . XXI (1241). 26 May 1864. p. 4. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  6. "Congregational Church". Lyttelton Times . XXII (1321). 22 November 1864. p. 6. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
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  10. 1 2 "Christchurch: a chronology - 1974". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
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  12. "Down but definitely not out". New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Plummer, Matthew (12 March 2012). "A building weakened by red tape". The Press . Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  14. 1 2 3 Broughton, Cate (9 June 2012). "Technology to save Trinity Church". The Press . p. A13. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  15. Stylianou, Georgina (14 September 2012). "Trinity Church wins supreme award". The Press . p. A4. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  16. Cairns, Lois (6 March 2013). "Council to dip into fund to help save landmarks". The Press . p. A7.