Newtown Community Centre

Church of Christ, Newtown Community and Cultural Centre

Corner Rintoul Street and Colombo Street, Newtown, Wellington
Map
  • Constructed

    1913

  • Architect(s)

    William Gray Young

  • Builder(s)

  • The former Church of Christ/Newtown Community Centre is a very good example of an early 20th century ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ church that was built in the Italianate style.  

    This former church was built by the Church of Christ – a ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ religious movement that has been active in Wellington since the 1870s. The building was adapted for use as a local community centre in the 1970s and remains in this use today.  The building also has historic significance for its association with prominent Wellington architect William Gray Young.  

    This building has considerable social and cultural value for the Newtown community, firstly as a church, as a landmark, and more recently as a community centre.


  • close History
    • Newtown as a suburb was first planned out in 1840, but large scale development did not begin until the 1870s. In 1878 the hospital was moved from Thorndon to Newtown, which acted as a catalyst for urban development. The land upon which this building is situated was subdivided by the 1890s, and was purchased by the Church of Christ in the early 1900s.

      The Church of Christ was established in Wellington in 1869, three years after Thomas Jackson brought the religious movement to New Zealand and began to evangelise on the streets of Nelson. The Church has its origins in the British Protestant Restoration Movement of the 19th century which sought to unify “all Christians in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament.” It is made up of autonomous Christian congregations that have a bible-based anti-denominational focus, and currently has over 42,000 congregations and five million members internationally.

      The Wellington branch had initially held meetings in the Oddfellows Hall on Lambton Quay in 1870 and the congregation did not have its own church until 1883, when one was built on Dixon Street. A contingent of followers who lived in South Wellington broke with the Dixon Street congregation in 1896, and in 1889 built their own church on a site next to the Newtown School. When this building was deemed unsatisfactory for the growing congregation’s needs it was decided that a new, larger, church should be built. The site on the corner of Rintoul and Colombo Street was purchased. A new church was designed by William Gray Young and built by P. Watt. It was completed in February 1915, for the cost of £4000.

      From the beginning this building has played an important role in the Newtown Community. In addition to ordinary Sunday service (which eventually were broadcast on the radio), the church became a social hub and was the venue for regular dances, first aid classes, and (in an attempt to foster cooperation between different denominations) hosted interdenominational meetings. The Church also held regular talks and additional services on topics that varied from ‘The Soul’s Civil Warfare’, to ‘Why are there so many churches’.

      In 1942 the building was damaged by a fire, but was reinstated later the same year. It remained in use as a church until 1970 when it was damaged by a second fire, when vandals pushed fire crackers through the external grilles. The congregation abandoned the church and moved to new premises.

      The fire-damaged building remained empty for some years and there were several proposals for its adaptation - the most controversial was for its reuse as a storage warehouse. This was met with strong opposition within the Newtown Community, with arguments against the proposal stating that ‘former parishioners and all churchgoing people would object to this church building being used as a warehouse.’

      In November 1975 the building was purchased by the Wellington City Council, which proposed three development schemes:

      1. Demolition of the building and erection of residential flats
      2. Structural alterations and continued use as a church
      3. Conversion of the existing building to a community centre

      The proposal for a community centre was met with enthusiasm. The previous Newtown Community Centre on Constable Street had been abandoned in 1973 when a fire in an adjoining timber yard made it uninhabitable. Major renovations were undertaken and eventually this building reopened in 1977. The community centre was at first staffed by volunteers; however in 1978 Pat Cumming, a previous deaconess of the Church of Christ, joined the centre as the first official manager.

      Since the 1970s the centre has continued to play a central role within the Newtown community - offering social and supportive services, school holiday programmes, youth mentor groups, professional counselling services, a narcotics anonymous group, and permanently housing the Pacific Island Women’s Project Aotearoa, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The centre is also the venue for fitness classes, dances, drama, language, and music classes, and music events. In the 1990s the building underwent a major renovation which included re-piling and levelling, re-flooring, and the re-lining of the walls and ceilings.




    • Modifications close
      • unknown
      • (original plans could not be accessed)
      • 1915
      • Original construction of building
      • 1942
      • 7 Colombo Street, reinstatement of church building (00056:279:B22460)
      • 1962
      • Rintoul Street [7 Colombo Street], church repile (00058:227:C10254)
      • 1976
      • 22-28 Rintoul Street, 7 Colombo Street, convert church into community centre (00058:1067:C46304)
      • 1986
      • 7 Colombo Street, fire escape (00059:16:D3625)
      • 1991
      • 7 Colombo Street, upgrade of Newtown Community Centre (00059:448:E22066)
    • Occupation History close
      • 1915 - 1974
      • Church of Christ
      • 1974
      • Wellington City Council – Newtown Community and Cultural Centre
  • close Architectural Information
    • Building Classification(s) close

      Not assessed

    • Architecture close

      This building is an early 20th century ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ church that has been converted for use as the Newtown Community Centre.

      The church is unusual architecturally in its adoption of the Italianate style, which is most clearly evident in the tall square tower that marks the corner of the building and the intersection of Rintoul and Colombo Streets. The tower has deep horizontal eaves and a hipped roof, and round headed windows to its upper floors. The main body of the building has a gable roof, again strongly emphasised by deep overhanging eaves and gable ends. The simplicity of the original form has been disturbed by additions, in particular on the Colombo Street elevation, although this has been carefully designed with matching eaves and round headed windows. The building is an early one in the career of important Wellington architect William Gray Young, and is an unusual venture in the Italianate style.

      The interior of the building has been altered and adapted to cater to the functional needs of the church and then the community centre.

    • Materials close

      Timber

      Concrete foundations

    • Setting close

      The Newtown Community Centre stands on the corner of Rintoul and Colombo Streets in Newtown, surrounded by residential housing, and commercial retail and hospitality services. The Newtown Centre is visible from the main shopping area of Newtown (listed as a heritage area in the WCC District Plan), and helps to provide a visual link to the suburbs past. This building has townscape value principally for the prominent tower which stands high above a highly visible street corner.


  • close Cultural Value

    The former Church of Christ/Newtown Community Centre is a very good example of an early 20th century ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ church that was built in the Italianate style.

    This former church was built by the Church of Christ – a ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ religious movement that has been active in Wellington since the 1870s. The building was adapted for use as a local community centre in the 1970s and remains in this use today. The building also has historic significance for its association with prominent Wellington architect William Gray Young.

    This building has considerable social and cultural value for the Newtown community, firstly as a church, as a landmark, and more recently as a community centre.

    • Aesthetic Value close
      • Architectural

        Does the item have architectural or artistic value for characteristics that may include its design, style, era, form, scale, materials, colour, texture, patina of age, quality of space, craftsmanship, smells, and sounds?

        The former Church of Christ/Newtown Community Centre is a very good example of an early 20th century ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ church that was built in the Italianate style.

      • Townscape

        Does the item have townscape value for the part it plays in defining a space or street; providing visual interest; its role as a landmark; or the contribution it makes to the character and sense of place of Wellington?

        This building is a local landmark for its highly-visible tower and prominent corner site at the intersection of Rintoul and Colombo Streets.

    • Historic Value close
      • Association

        Is the item associated with an important person, group, or organisation?

        This former church was built by the Church of Christ – a ‘Free-Church’ or ‘Non-Conformist’ religious movement that has been active in Wellington since the 1870s. The building was adapted for use as a local community centre in the 1970s and remains in this use today.

        The building also has historic significance for its association with prominent Wellington architect William Gray Young.  


    • Scientific Value close
      • Archaeological

        Does the item have archaeological value for its ability to provide scientific information about past human activity?

        Archaeological risk is unknown, but this building is within the NZAA Central City Archaeological Area R27/270, and is known to be in an area with Maori Sites of Significance.

      • Technological

        Does the item have technological value for its innovative or important construction methods or use of materials?

        There is some technical value in the timber construction of this building, in particular the timber trussed roof.

    • Social Value close
      • Public Esteem

        Is the item held in high public esteem?

        This building is held in high public esteem both as a local landmark and for the different communities that it has served since its construction.

      • Sentiment Connection

        Is the item a focus of community sentiment and connection?

        This building has considerable social and cultural value for the Newtown community, firstly as a church, as a landmark, and more recently as a community centre. This connection was demonstrated by the public opposition to its sale and reuse as a warehouse, and by the subsequent WCC decision to purchase the building and adapt it for use as a community centre.

      • Symbolic Commemorative Traditional Spiritual

        Does the item have symbolic, commemorative, traditional, spiritual or other cultural value for the community who has used and continues to use it?

        The building has had a symbolic and spiritual function as a church – but this association will continue to diminish over time.

    • Level of Cultural Heritage Significance close
      • Authentic

        Does the item have authenticity or integrity because it retains significant fabric from the time of its construction or from later periods when important additions or modifications were carried out?

        Although the interior of this building has been much-altered, the exterior retains a significant amount of authenticity in materials, form, and details.

      • Local Regional National International

        Is the item important for any of the above characteristics at a local, regional, national, or international level?

        This is a locally important building, in particular for the Newtown community. It has historic and spiritual value due to its association with the Church of Christ, as well as social and cultural value for its role as a community centre. It is also of architectural value as an original expression in timber of the Italianate style designed by a prominent Wellington architect. This building retains authenticity, particularly on the exterior, of form, materials, details, and setting.

      • Representative

        Is the item a good example of the class it represents?

        This building is a good representative of a 20th century purpose-built church designed in timber in a competent and interesting Italianate style. It is also a good representative of William Gray Young’s early work.

    • Local / Regional / National / International Importance close

      Not assessed

  • close Site Detail
    • District Plan Number

      6/ 261

    • Legal Description

      Pt Lot 1 & 2 DP 1312

    • Heritage New Zealand Listed

      2/ 3597

    • Archaeological Site

      NZAA Central City Archaeological Area R27/270, Maori Site of Significance

    • Current Uses

      unknown

    • Former Uses

      unknown

    • Has building been funded

      No

    • Funding Amount

      Not applicable

    • Earthquake Prone Status

      Not Earthquake Prone

  • close Additional Information
    • Sources close
      • Finigan, Nina. “Newtown Community and Cultural Centre.” Unpublished Heritage Conservation Plan, prepared for Wellington City Council 2011
      • Historic Places Trust, ‘William Gray Young’, Professional Biographies, accessed 30 July 2013
      • Wellington City Council. Wellington Heritage Building Inventory: Non Residential Buildings. Wellington City Council 2001.
      • 00056:279:B22460
      • 00058:227:C10254
      • 00058:1067:C46304
      • 00059:16:D3625
      • 00059:448:E22066
    • Technical Documentation close

      Not available

    • Footnotes close

      Not available

Last updated: 11/27/2017 10:31:14 PM