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Historical Notes 2006

 The first edition (1993) was based on materials in the possession of the Committee. I have been able to add events since then from my own recollections, and   also more material from the Anglican Diocesan history.

  The earliest document we have seen to date is a Consent, dated 5 10 1869, by Bishop Harper concerning 5 acres of land "conveyed in perpetuity to the Church Property Trustees...for a site for a Church and Cemetery", in which he consents to "separate and set apart such portion of this piece or parcel of ground as may not be hereafter used as a site for a Church from all profane and common uses whatsoever and do dedicate and consecrate the same for the purpose afore recited..." What became of the cemetery proposal, and the exact relation to the present half-acre site, would be interesting to know..

  We then have a Deed of 21st May, 1870, in which Charles Ffrench Pemberton, surveyor, of Salt Water Creek, (the developer who subdivided the village of Ashley) conveyed to the Revd Charles Turrell of Leithfield, Elias Willis the younger, builder, of Christchurch and Charles Solly Houghton, of Ashley Downs, farmer, Trustees of the Diocesan Synod, the present half-acre site, clearly shown on a map.

 To an article in the "Press" of May 20, 1982, we owe an account of the consecration of the Church by Bishop Harper on Thursday, June 29, 1871. In spite of threatening weather, the service at 11 a.m. was well attended and 60 invited guests sat down to lunch afterwards. The planned tea meeting was abandoned because of a torrential rainstorm and visitors from the South of the Ashley were lucky not to be cut off by the river "in high flood"

  An article in the New Zealand Church News, July 1871, reports in detail on the Ashley Church, mentioning the site given by Mr Pemberton, and the laying of the foundation stone on "the festival of St Simon and St Jude last" (i.e. 28th October, 1870). The capacity is given as 80 adults, and amongst much building detail, the East and West windows are mentioned, as well as crosses on the apex of each end. It was said to be "painted outside with a warm stone colour, the main timbers picked out darker.
  "The roof is all dressed timber, chiefly black pine; the sacrarium is raised two steps from the nave and the altar-table stands on a footpace. The windows are filled with quarry-glass in lead....
 "The Church is from the designs of Mr Mountfort, of Christchurch, who has also furnished details for the altar, lectern, credence and other furniture."

The Church in early days

Our first picture (photo 1) must date from these early days, since the hedge and trees are entirely absent. How early it is, is not known at present, but the view from the SW shows the highlighting of principal timbers in dark colour and the crosses (in fact, three) referred to in the 1871 report.
 The Altar and East window are the subject of a Faculty by Bishop Julius dated the 25th September, 1905, permitting the installation of the present stained glass window depicting the Good Samaritan, in memory of Charlotte Jane Simpkinson (d. 26 8 1904), the gift of her husband, J.E.G. Simpkinson. At the same time, the Altar received "a Reredos of three panels and gables, of Rimu, the gift of the Ashley Church Workers Guild."

  "A lectern of brass, a thank-offering by Mrs J.E.G.Simpkinson" is no longer in the Church, having been replaced by a wooden one, probably at the time of restoration.

 The minute-books of the Guild are in the Diocesan archives and a preliminary examination yielded the following summary of adornments made over the years, transcribed from the end- papers of the book:

"Works done by the Guild:

1889       Chalice & Paten                                   £ 6 .     .
1890       Sanctuary Carpet                                    4  11   8
1891       Matting for Nave                                    1 12 .
               2 Chancel Lamps                                    4 10 .
1892       Windows (Frosted?)                                  18 .
1893       Altar Rails                                               4 13 .
  "           Platform & repairs                                 1 10 .
1895       Stone Font                                            10.10.0
                   "   Base                                               2.10.0
               Concrete Platform                                  1.15.0
               Strengthening Floor                                 .10.0     15.5 .
1896       Linen Altar-cloth                                       . 7 6
1897       Kneelers and Book
               boards in Nave                                         3 . .
1898       Portières and Hangings
               to Porch Doors                                         4 .6 .
               3 Rochester Lamps                                   4.10 .
1901       Carved Altar                                           10 . .
               Altar Cross-work                                          5 .
               Red Cloth                                                  1 12 6
               East Window in Cathedral Glass              6 2 9
2 Alms Bags given by Mrs Kingsbury
               - (a  volunteer?)                                            15 .
1902       Pair of Brass Candle Standards given to
               the Vicar by Avonside Church
              Organ Cover                                                    8 .
1903-5  Nave Windows in Cathedral Glass             6. 0. 6
             Sanctuary Lamp                                         1 13 9
1905    Green Carpet for Platform, given to the
            Vicar by the Cathedral
            Porch Lamp given by Mrs Booker,- ( ???)      15 .
            Linen Cloth and Chalice Veil, given by Mr
            J.C.G.Simpkinson, to ( ???)

1906    Sanctuary Hangings given to the Vicar

            by the cathedral
            A Lectern of Brass, a Thank-offering by
            Mr & Mrs J.E.B.Simpkinson, (???)                20 . .
            East Window of Stained Glass, given by Mr
            Simpkinson and other members of his family
             in memory of his wife -
            Glass                  68 -
            Charges             17.10.0
            Window Frame  28 . .                                   113.10.0
            2 Nave Windows & the Vestry Window in
            Cathedral glass, by Mrs Simpkinson                3.16 .
            Reredos of Wood, erected by the Guild to the
            memory of Mrs Simpkinson                             15 . .
           2 Vases of Brass, by Mrs W. Booker, to (???)    1.15 .
           Lectern Bookmarkers (collected through
           volunteers by Mrs Willis(?)                                 1 3 .
1908-  Altar Cross in Brass with Altar Desk                7 11 .
           Alms Dish - by Mrs W. Booker, to (???)            1 10 .
1909   Brass Rod etc for Sanctuary Hangings              1 14 .
1911   Chancel Lamps (2)                                            4 14 6
           Stage Ladder                                                        10 . 2
           Heaters for Church                                            3.10 .
           Set of Brooms                                                          7 .
1914   Prayer Desk                                                       12 3 6
1916   Hymn Board - given by Mrs Bowron -                1 . .
           Organ Lamp - given by Mr Simpkinson              18. 6

                                                                               265 8 . 2


                                             The East Window, 1998                                                                                       The Font in 1998

On 16th August, 1915, a Faculty was issued for the Font Cover, with its inscription, in memory of George Bowron.

The Church seems to have  begun as part of the parochial district of Leithfield, together with the Churches of S.Paul, Leithfield, S. Michael & All Angels, Sefton, and, later, S. Martin, Loburn. From 1863 when the Leithfield Church was built, its parish stretched from the Waipara to Saltwater Creek

 In 1874 S. Matthew's Fernside was consecrated, and with Loburn and Ashley  formed a parochial district for a while. But in 1892 the Revd Herbert Edward East, ordained deacon in 1872 and priest in 1876, after serving as curate of Governor's Bay and Little River from 1872 to 1875, and from 1875 to 1892 as curate of Addington and Halswell, became curate of Leithfield, including Ashley, at the time when the old parish was divided at the Kowai river and the northern part became the new parish of Amberley. He served until his death at Easter, 1919. His 27 years of ministry are commemorated in the first of the brass tablets in the Church

 Whether or not his death is to be regarded as the end of an era, the fact is that at present we have very little material concerning the years up to the cessation of Church services, given by sources as 1966 or 1968. There is a caveat and title deed for the site, dated 23 11 1926, a brass tablet dated 1932 in memory of Thomas (1837-1923) and Mary Croft (1841-1932), erected by their children, and a will, dated 6th October, 1953, by Isaac Furby Croft bequeathing £100 each to the Churches at Loburn and Ashley.

 According to a letter of 29 3 1959 from C.Bliss to Mr Allison, there existed a Vestry Book 1895- 1909, a cash book-ledger 1898-1912, and an Ashley Minute Book 1925-1941. These are probably now in the Diocesan Archives, and I hope to research them when time permits. In the same letter, some extracts are given, listing offertories 1896-1912, varying annually from œ9 to œ20. In 1897 the total attendances are given as 1569 and the collections as averaging 3d per person. In 1900, Mr East was paid œ27 10s p.a. (Ashley's share of his stipend) and so 4 parishioners put up a guarantee to meet the deficit. The 19th century Church records often refer to a deficit. There is also a receipt for insurance with the C.P.T., 1 11 1915, as follows:

The church at Ashley                value £425                              premium     £1.13. 4
                                                   Fittings/Furniture                    value £125                              premium      9.  9.  
                                                   East Window                           value £ 85                                premium          6. 8

                                                   Lectern                                    value £ 15                               premium          1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                 £2.11. 0

   The Leithfield parish was dissolved in 1922.  An unsuccessful attempt was made to form  a separate cure out of Loburn, Sefton and Ashley, and in 1928 The Rev. Edward Chard, Vicar of Tuahiwi, was put in charge of these Churches, together with Wooodend, which had existed since 1858.  Mr Chard resigned in 1931 and all came under Rangiora until 1941 when they were again constituted a separate porochial district under the Revd R.F N. Thompson, who was followed by the Revd E.H. Newman. It appears that the Ashley Church remained part of the Woodend Parochial District until its closure.             

Among later Vicars were The Revd W. Bool,  and the Revd W. Childs, formerly of the Church Army.

<>  This part of the story is told mainly in newspaper cuttings and in correspondence of the parties, and is well covered.   On the 8th September, 1973, a photo of the East Window appeared in an article in the "Press".
<>  The East Window: a later photo taken by Mr Lucking in 1998

  In the article Mr H.W.F Hamilton, a vestryman of the parochial district, whose wife was a niece of the Mrs Simpkinson commemorated in the East Window, argued strongly against the suggestion that the Anglican Church should sell the building. In view of renewed building in the district he believed this would be a short-sighted action, and if the Church were removed it might have to be replaced in a few years at great expense. According to the Vicar of Woodend quoted in an article of 16th October,1973, Mr Hamilton's appeal for support had brought no response at all - local or otherwise. "Tenders, therefore, had been called for the Church's removal." He also quoted a letter from the Historic Places Trust saying it "had little historical or architectural merit, and it can be assumed that if there had been an increase instead of a decrease in the number of parishioners, the borer-infested wooden structure would have been replaced in time by one more durable and modern."

Memorial to Mr Hamilton

   Mr Hamilton, however, was not without support. On September 27 the "Press" reported Mr Paul Pascoe, the architect, as having attended a meeting of 20 interested people in the Church to pray that "God's will be done". A working bee of 12 had cleaned it up beforehand, but its sorry state was displayed in a photo. 

The Church stripped of its furnishings.

  After the prayers a discussion was held, leading to a report by Mr Pascoe favouring preservation and restoration, and on the 29th September Mr B.W.Shead, Mrs Ruth Judge and M.Ball, on behalf of "a Committee of Local people at Ashley" tendered $150 for the purchase of the building, "to remain where it is, so that it may be restored and used as an Interdenominational Church and Sunday School". The sum of $50 was tendered for a five-year lease of the land.

  Tenders closed on Monday, 1st October, and in a letter dated 5th October the Church Property Trustees wrote to say the tender had been unsuccessful. A report of the same day pictured the Church without its crosses and buttresses,

The exterior in 1973.
and the font which like other furnishings had been removed and stored. This involved the dismantling of the hoist for the Font Cover (the hoist was not replaced until Christmas 1991).

The Font in 1998

  In fact the successful tender had been for $607 and the tenderer, who wished to remain anonymous, was proposing to dismantle the Church and make a house or other building elsewhere with the materials, which were stated at the time to be of kauri. Mr J.J.Allison was reported as saying that the residents had $500 available to buy out the successful tenderer, who, in reply to the offer on the 20th November by Mr Allison, Mr Ian Baxter, Mrs Judge and Mr Shead, gave his receipt on the 29th November for the sum of $1,000.

  Meanwhile the residents had called on the Bishop, who was not at home (13th October), and Mr Childs, and written a 3-page submission to the Woodend Vestry. They had also covered several eventualities by securing offers from the Hobby family for the lease of part of the site next door, and from Mr Lindsay for the sale of the land opposite the hotel, had collected 10 signatories undertaking to remove the Church from the site (all dated 20th October), and obtained a letter from the Ashley County Council undertaking that a building permit could be issued (19th October).

  In an article of the 15th October Mr Allison was reported as complaining bitterly that the Woodend Vestry "won't give an inch". From the same report it appears that the Bishop and the Vestry were waiting on each other's decision. But by the 31st October the residents had had advice which had cleared the way for them to apply for the lease of the existing site, at a nominal rate of $10 p.a. This was accepted.

  Now the way was clear to consider the restoration and the future of the Church. A meeting was called for December 13. About 30 people attended and 11 were elected as a committee for the overall restoration and care of the Church, with a sub-committee of 4 to co- ordinate the religious aspects. After buying the Church back, the committee had $250 in hand towards the estimated $1500 cost of restoration. The 11 committee members were: Mr B.Shead (chairman), Mrs R.Judge (secretary), Mr.J.J.Allison, Mr G.Hamilton, Mrs L.Williams, Mrs J.Hobby, Mr.G.C.Cochrane, Mr I Baxter, Mrs G.S. Harris, Mr W. Musgrave, and Mr L.Thompson. Several firms offered donations of materials and work, and Mr Pascoe acted as honorary architect.

  The first service was announced for Sunday,the 23rd December. Archdeacon Williams conducted it, and about 250 people attended. The Revd W.A Childs, of Woodend, and Mr W.Kennedy, a Roman Catholic from Loburn, read lessons, a young people's band accompanied singing, and a Christmas tableau was presented.

  Another sevice was planned for January 27, 1974, conducted by the Revd R. Thompson, who had previously ministered at Ashley; and it was hoped to have continuing monthly services on Sunday afternoons so as not to clash with other services.

  The East Window and other windows had not yet been replaced, and the report remarked on the "ventilation" of the open East end, and the plastic sheeting over the other openings. An undated article reporting the completion of the new foundations (mainly the work of Mr Allison) mentions that the Font and East Window were still to be returned.

  In another article (undated) reporting the setting of the Church on the new foundations, and the return of the East Window, a service was reported, conducted by the Vicar of Rangiora, the Revd C.W.Tremewan, (80 present) and the next was to be conducted by the Roman Catholic Fr J. Cuneen, also of Rangiora. At that time Mrs Judge was reported as saying that the vestry was still to be rebuilt, some bad timbers were still to be replaced, and pews needed to be found to replace those which were now unlikely to be returned. At that time there were five or six pews and old chairs, and forms were borrowed for each service from the Ashley School.

  Another undated article reports these tasks as completed, together with obtaining seating and an organ, and the clearing and replanting of the grounds, and the beginning of repainting the outside. The organ was lent by Mrs Judge, and remained in the Church until it was replaced in the late 1980s by one almost exactly similar, donated by Mr Argeo Dobran.

  Mrs Judge had continued to organize monthly services with a variety of guest preachers conducting them, and attendances of 100 had not been uncommon. The photos show the Church in various stages of restoration.
 Restoration inside
The people shown in the photos are still known, and their names will be inserted if those who know them will make a note of them and hand it in.

  On 30th November, 1975, a "late Centennial service" was held with the Revd R. Thompson as preacher. By this time much of the furniture had been returned, including the Altar and Reredos, and new carpet had been given from S. John's, Rangiora, for the sanctuary floor. The Font Cover was at that time in the Vestry, awaiting installation, and the brass lectern remained in the Church at Loburn. It was apparently replaced by a wooden one which is still in the Church.

 The original hitching rails were returned, and were said to be about to be brought back into use, (but even today - 1993 - are not replaced in position, but lie at the foot of an oak tree).

<>  At the annual meeting which followed on the 10th December, Mrs Judge, who was about to leave the area, handed over the organization of the services to Mrs Harris and Miss Stewart.  It appears to be at this annual meeting also that Mr Shead remarked on the holding of 3 baptisms in the preceding year, and that a regular children's Sunday Morning Club, with prayer, songs, and fun and games was being held on the 2nd Sunday of each month. The Rangiora Soroptimists had also held their anniversary service in the Church. Another undated report tells of a religious drama held during the early days of the restoration. It was on the theme of the Good Samaritan, and was written by Mrs Judge and Mr Barry Grant, a Rangiora playwright.

  The Ashley Church appeared again in the "Press" on the 20th May 1982, when John Wilson wrote a résumé of the history, concluding with the fact that a small group, led by Mrs S.Intemann, continued to care for the Church. Services were being held each month by clergymen of different Churches, and weddings were also occasionally held. The group was just able to meet outgoings but had no funds for restoration and maintenance. It was hoped that some organization could interest itself in the preservation of the Church and help the residents' committee.

<>  In Dunedin, in July of that year, I was beginning to look seriously for a country Church in Canterbury in which, after ten years of serving a congregation in the Greek style, I might be able with a few others to present the Christian Faith in a style more familiar to those brought up in the English religious tradition. I was at that time using the Church at Addington on visits to Christchurch and the Revd Peter Williams mentioned the Ashley Church to me. The Revd Philip Charles, an old friend and a former Vicar of the Intemanns, made an introduction. We were invited to visit and hold some services, and in December, 1982, a meeting was held at the Intemann's house: the Church Committee, the Revd John  Rowe,  Vicar of Woodend, and myself. Mr Rowe was well informed about the Orthodox Church and its acceptance among the mainline  Churches of the World Council of Churches. He was able to explain to the Committee the use of icons in the Eastern Rite, and other matters. Although we were going to have to provide services for immigrant Orthodox from Christchurch, I explained that my aim in asking to come to Ashley was to provide a quiet retreat where those of us who had been brought up in Western Churches might continue to enjoy our spiritual culture without too much disturbing the other, ethnic, Orthodox. It was also my hope that these services, being very like old-fashioned Anglican or Catholic services, and using familiar hymns, etc., might be shared with the residents to some extent. I was asked whether I would be able to conduct the regular monthly service which Mr Rowe had been holding (he was to move away soon). I said I thought I could, but when asked whether we could  share Communion with other Churches, I had to admit that, like the Catholics, we were not permitted to do this. It seemed to me that this answer was disappointing to some.
  After a further visit and a public meeting in January, 1983, were permitted to hold occasional further visits until we were able to settle in Ashley at the end of 1984. The visit, and the agreement to use the Church, were reported in local papers. Perhaps by way of arousing interest, the articles highlighted the more exotic aspects of the Eastern services, and perhaps tended rather to cause some prejudice and suspicion, obscuring the basic unity of christian faith. In any case, a spokesman remarked that the approach had renewed interest in the Church, which had been flagging in recent months, and the monthly interdenominational services would continue.

  Another article on the 1st December, 1984, reviewed the history and remarked that a youth group was being held for 10-16 year olds, with attendances between 25 and 30. Mr Tony Armstrong, at that time Chairman of the Committee, remarked that water and toilets on the site, and painting of the roof, were among the Committee's aims. The service on the 23rd December would be an opportunity to contribute to this. (It was about this time that the walls were repainted by P.E.P. workers). Orthodox services began regularly at Christmas 1984, and by mid-1986 the congregation, mainly from Christchurch, found itself sufficiently settled to undertake to make annual donations sufficient to cover all ordinary expenses of the committee, including maintenance and some restoration, estimated at the time at about $500 p.a. After a few years of these quarterly payments, it was possible to pay for the repair and repainting of the roof.

<>After Mass, Lent, 1985

<>   Although much restoration of the interior had taken place in the early 70s, the historic character had been somewhat obscured by the loss of some of the original furniture and other embellishments, and not all had been  able to be replaced. The pews, for instance, were of four sorts, and it was not easy to see how the original character could be made apparent. Over the years of our use, we provided some additional furniture, as well as ordering the pews of one type as choir stalls. Unfortunately, these stalls have not often been used for their true purpose, but they have borne witness to the style which the architect would have wished to impart.
<>  Fr Peter Williams had pointed the Church out to me as having three steps to the Altar, a feature that facilitated the solemn celebration of the Eucharist with three sacred Ministers such as was familiar to him and to me; and apparently, to Mr Mountfort. It is remarkable how many Canterbury Churches have had architects who put in features like this, in places where the offering of a solemn Eucharist, or High Mass, would have seemed rather unlikely. They must have had faith that by bearing witness to their vision in this way the time might come when the hope would be realised. In fact an ecumenical Solemn Eucharist was held by the Vicar of Rangiora with other Ministers including Peter Williams on Pentecost, 2006: probably a first.

<>Ecumenical Eucharist. Pentecost, 2006
  Peter Williams gave the prayer-desk on the left; and the seat and prayer-desk on the right are on loan from Cathedral Grammar Chapel, where they had been in a lumber-room .
In all these contributions we took great care not to cut across the special character of the building. Some may have thought that we wanted to make the Church over in a foreign or exotic manner. Nothing could have been further from the truth. This is why no suggestion was ever made that we might try to buy the Church. From the beginning I regarded it as providential that the Church belonged to others, who were vigilant to maintain its essential character. In order to make this clear, it is time that we said some things that were difficult to say twenty years ago.

  It is unfortunately the case that the Orthodox Western Rite does not always meet with the sympathy that it should amongst Orthodox people brought up on the Eastern Rite. The theological basis for it is undeniable; but many people do not think in theology but by habit; and some jump rather easily to the conclusion that it is a sort of Roman Trojan Horse.  Antiochian Bishops all agree that the Western Rite is accepted in our Church, but they often come under pressure from other jurisdictions. I am able to write of this now because, although we suffered a good deal on this subject from the seventies to the nineties, we are now in a much more favourable position. But at the time we came to Ashley, and for some time after, there were difficulties and I was afraid that if our Church owned the building, the authorities at some time might make it over into the Eastern style. This would be an act of such disrespect that I was not going to risk it in any way. It is still my view that if we need a Church in the Eastern style, we should buy a very plain barn and decorate it according to our fancy. That is in fact exactly what I did in 1992 by installing a chapel in our schoolroom, and we used it for several winters for the Eastern Liturgy.

  So the style in which we tried to adorn the Church was one that we thought would have fulfilled the aspirations of Mr Benjamin Mountford himself: that is, according to the standards of the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement. The use of icons was something of an exception, due to the need to provide for our worshippers, but even so, not entirely, as a number of Churches in our area have wall paintings as well as stained-glass windows, or instead of them: S. Barnabas, Woodend, S. Bartholomew, Kaiapoi, S. Luke's, Christchurch, and Holy Trinity, Lyttelton are some that come to mind readily. And although icons are generally thought to be an Eastern form of Christian image, there is a reference in the History which the Venerable Bede wrote of the English Church, in which he says that S. Augustine and his monks who came to Canterbury at the end of the sixth century came in procession behind an image of the Saviour painted upon a board.

 So perhaps the processional Cross which we made with the help of an icon-book is not out of place either.

  Even so, if, as I have long hoped, we were to find some donors to provide wndows of Biblical scenes etc, worthy of association with the East Window, the icons would have served their purpose and might retire in favour of their traditional Western European equivalent. In conversations with the expert who has been repairing the windows, I was delighted to find that one of the blank glass panels could be transformed into  a good Christian image for about NZ$3,000 to $5,000. 

 In any case, it appears that those who look in on the Church have usually remarked on its beauty, and those who ask to hold weddings there often say that they chose it for that reason. And in particular, one accidental visitor, who was to have a very beneficial influence on the course of events at a crucial time, was so impressed that he wrote a book about it:  Mr George Lucking, the architect, of whom more is told later in this booklet.  

 Since 1986 the Church has been in use daily, with a few exceptions, and, since in its Anglican days the Vicars did not live at Ashley, it has had more frequent use than ever before, although not by large congregations. The Sunday Liturgy was fortnightly, then 3 Sundays a month, until Dunedin received its own priest in October, 1992, when it became weekly; the attendances varied around a dozen, ranging at times up to 20 or down to 5.
    By this time the inter-denominational services had declined in numbers and only a Christmas service remained, which continued to be well-attended (Around 70- 80). Members of the Committee had moved away and finally there was only a secretary remaining. Thus, for two years the conducting of the Christmas service was entrusted to me; but in  November 1992 a public meeting elected a new committee whose chairman, Mr D. Wood, gave his energies both to the Christmas service and to the preparation of a proper legal basis for the Committee's tenure of the Church, which until then had been somewhat informal.         

  In 1993 Mr Allison, who had died in 1991, was commemorated by a new brass plaque provided by the family and dedicated by the Revd G Fitzgerald on the occasion of an Allison family baptism. A number of other baptisms and weddings have been held in the Church over the last few years. During the nineties I tried to promote a few more occasions in the year as opportunities for community ecumenical services: Harvest Festival in March, Mid-Winter Feast in June, Patronal Festival (October 28). There was a modest response to these (20-30).

Before proceeding to more recent events, let us finish our description of the interior by looking at the Altar with its East Window. The latter is the only part of this Church which is still owned by the Anglican Church, which has agreed that it should remain as long as the building continues to be a Church; however, the Trustees and their Committee take care of its maintenance and insurance.
  The East Window commemorates Mrs Simpkinson, and depicts the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which Our Lord told to teach the Pharisees the love of one's neighbour. In the central  panel (see photo p. 3 above) we see the Good Samaritan embracing the almost naked and half dead man who has fallen among thieves, and pouring oil and wine into his wounds. Meanwhile, the Priest, (ironically shown as a Christian Bishop with his face buried in his Breviary) passes by on the other side in the right panel, and so does the Levite in the left panel, this time depicted in stylised Jewish robes.

 During the 90s when the food banks of the Churches were united in the Helping Hand administered from Ashley, and busily engaged in helping needy families, it was a special inspiration to me to have this window  before my eyes as I prayed.

 There is also a mystical interpretation of this parable given by the early Church Fathers:  Christ is the Good Samaritan (his enemies called him that) who finds humanity robbed and wounded by the devil and his evil angels, and heals him by the medicines of his holy mysteries or sacraments, and delivers him to the inn, which is the Church, to be nursed back to full  health.

    The Altar, 1998

  The chief of the Christian mysteries for all Christians is conducted at the Altar. This is always regarded as the most sacred part of a Church, and traditionally was always marked off, either by a  wall (Choir or Rood Screen, or Iconostasion) or else by a low barrier (Altar Rail). It would appear that the Ashley Church did have an Altar Rail - the traces of it can be seen on the walls of the Sanctuary by the second step. However, it did not survive the events of 1973. To mark the edge of the Choir we have a row of four icons stands with candle trays. These also provide the means to observe the ceremonies of the Eastern Rite,  and have recently replaced a rather untidy set which were performing that function for many years.

  The Table of the Altar is kept clear of everything except the necessities of the Sacrament during the Eucharist: Corporal, Chalice, Paten, the Missal with its desk or cushion. Everything else is placed on the shelves (Gradines) provided for the purpose behind the Table or Mensa. Apart from the usual cloths on the Table, there are the gold lurex panels with the emblems of Christ (XP) and Simon and Jude (S and J) which in the early 80s were made to replace red cloth which had become torn.
SS.  Simon and Jude are also represented by detachable gilt panels bearing images of the Saints. These were based on a copy of an icon of S. Jude which is in S. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai. The icon of S. Simon was painted by Julia Witbrock by adapting the copy of S. Jude and then photocopying it to match the S. Jude icon more closely.

   The Altar Cross panel has been composed into a simple Calvary scene with a Crucifix and small icons of S. Mary and S. John who stood there. Beneath it is the Tabernacle where the Holy Sacrament is kept ready for emergencies. There is also an Aumbry on the North  wall where the Holy Oils are kept ready for use. Likewise the Font is normally kept ready for use, being filled with water blessed at Easter and Pentecost. To the right of the Altar, the South side, is the Credence where things stand ready for offering the Eucharist: water and wine, holy water, the Missal, and cards which stand on the Gradine with portions of the text of the service to aid the Priest's memory. A censer hangs nearby ready for use.

   On the East wall left and right of the Altar are icons of the Lord's Mother and of the Last Supper.

   Finally, a white light (torch bulb) burns perpetually before the Tabernacle, (to signify, as the reformation directions of Henry VIII said, that Christ is the Light of the world).

Nearly all the above are to be found in any well known directory of ceremonies, such as The Parson's Handbook, Ritual Notes, or Asdrian Fortescue's Ceremonies.

  The restoration campaign in 1973 had had two aims: to rescue the Church from demolition and removal and keep it on its historic site; and to repair the very serious delapidations that had accumulated over the years. By buying the Church back, and by making an agreement to lease the land for a peppercorn rental ($10 per year), the campaigners achieved the first; and over the succeeeding months they thoroughly repaired the Church, found furniture for it, and began holding ecumenical  services which, although dwindling in support, continued until today.

  The lease of the land was granted for 5 years, with no precise agreement as to continuation. Nevertheless it was renewed 5 times, until in 1998,  25 years after the restoration, the Anglican authorities approached the Ashley Church Trustees about buying the land. The precise figure had still to be negotiated, but it was clear that some substantial fund-raising would be required.

   It was fortunate that at that time Mr George Lucking, an architect who was active on the Historic Places Trust, became aware of the Church and communicated his strong concern for its preservation to others in the Trust. With their support he prepared a brochure on the Church which is available to be read by approaching the Church Committee. Some of the pictures in that brochure appear by his permission on our website and in this history. Mr Lucking made a very thorough inspection of the Church and listed the preservation / restoration work which either had become necessary by 25 years of deterioration, or had been done in an imperfect manner in the 70s and ought to be upgraded..


In section 6 of his Conservation Plan Mr Lucking addressed the question of the Church's classification as an historic place and its recognition and protection in the proposed district plan of the Waimakarariri District Council. The situation appeared to be that the Church was already protected against any substantial alteration, relocation or demolition.

  This was understood to affect the valuation of the site to the extent that it could be sold only as a site from which the Church could not be removed. While the government valuation of the land in 1996 was $31, 000 (and the Church $24, 000) this is understood to have been as a building site. As this was no longer the case, opinions were given that the site might now raise "something in four figures" if it could be sold without removal of the Church.

    After some time the Ashley trustees received a reply from the Church Property Trustees to their letter enquiring as to what price the C.P.T. would consider adequate, and at a meeting  with the Churchwardens in the C.P.T. office a price of $15,000 was agreed on, and by that time two donations had been found to cover this.

   The East Window was to remain the property of the Rangiora parish, but to remain in the Ashley Church, to which it was given at the beginning of the 20th Century, as long as it remained as a Church.

  As a result of his survey in September 1998, Mr Lucking drew up a table of necessary conservation work and its estimated costs. By late 2004 the Committee found itself with enough funds in hand to authorise some of this work.

  External work required included cleaning and painting of the iron roof, replacement of NW braces, (begun July 2006) of plain glass windows, and vestry door, repair of timberwork, repainting of walls, collection of roof water, protective screens for windows,  and formation and sealing of the path from gate to porch: a total  of $24, 365 (partly done in July, 2006).

  A start was made on  the pews, by Community Service workers, and at the time of writing (2006) was almost finished; and a grant was received from Lotteries Conservation for $50,000 together with instructions as to priorities; work was authorised on the East and West windows and the other leadlights, and was completed by July, 2006.

 Internal work was to involve cleaning and oil varnishing of walls and pews and cleaning of the roof trusses and floor,  a pair of doors between the porch and nave, and upgraded light fittings: a further total of $4,975. Apart from the congregational pews, these matters still remained to be done in August, 2006.

General matters: fire protection involving a water supply and sprinkler system; and an architect's fee, ($2, 000) totalling $16,500.

The Grand Total, including GST, was given as $51, 570.

   In support of the restoration of the Church letters were included from Dr Ian J. Lochhead, Assistant Professor of Art History at the School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury; Sir Miles Warren, Architect; and Guy Sellars, FNZIA, Convenor of the Heritage Buildings Sub-Committee of the Canterbury  Branch of the NZ Institute of Architects.

  Appendices contained detailed drawings of the Church by Mr Lucking; old and new photographs recording the history and the present condition of the Church; the faculties for the East Window and Font; a letter offering the support of the        19
Canterbury Branch of the Historic Places Trust; the Trust Deed setting up the Ashley trustees; and a  Memorandum of appointment of the deceased original trustees of the land by the Church Property trustees (25 6 1976).

 Legal work was to be completed with the IRD to secure recognition of all donations to this cause as tax-deductible: this was confirmed as done in 2001.

The Church, newly painted as in October 2004


The Secretary, Carol McQueen, has provided this list of  grants applied for and received, and tasks completed, as at the time of the AGM in September 2006:
                        Lotteries Heritage Board: applied for $72.350.62; received  $44,000.00

                        First Part:
                        $9.742.50      leadlighting by Graeme Stewart: complete, paid.
                        $600.00      reveals, paid $633.00
                        $3,037.50      consulting engineers Hanham & Tyndall

                        Second Part:
                        $28,520.00    remainder of grant for sprinkler system ( a further $30,000.00 needed  
                          to complete)
                        Lion Foundation Grant: $6,637.50
                        Used to paint Church exterior (Graham Day painters) completed and paid.

                        Waimakariri Contestable Fund: $5,700 awarded; jobs still in progress, consisting of:
                        $1,884.00        toughened glass over  E. window
                        $2,100.00        two interior doors in porch
                        $2,396.80        buttresses

                        $1,056.00       beam
  Although grants were received as related above, this could not have happened without evidence that considerable local fund-raising effort had been made. In this respect it was fortunate that Mr Gerry and Mrs Jan Leaper had joined the Committee as Treasurer and President. Their considerable experience led to a new impetus in functions to attract public interest and raise funds. One of the most notable of these was the Edwardian Country Fair, held on the 12th March, 2005, in conjunction with a very large floral display by Mrs Leaper in the Church, and a Battle between Alf's Imperial Army and local defenders, ostensibly for the possession of the Church, on the ground behind the Church.
                                                 Battle, 2005                                                                                  Flower display, 2005

  Edwardian Fair, 2005
  In 2006 the event was repeated and although the battle and the floral display were once again most impressive, the stalls were rained out and the funds raised were consequently small  ($334.42).  Mr George Lucking, the Historic  Places architect to  whom  so much is due  in  persuading the Trust and  the public to take the Ashley Church seriously, died the day before the 2005 Fair. 


Benefactor of the Ashley Church
Born 16 4 1923 died 11 3 2005
May he rest in peace.

  Mr Lucking was succeeded as Historic Places Trust Architect by Mr Jim Espie. Mr Espie, however, died also, in 2006. Much of the carpentry was done by Mr Arthur Simmonds, who also joined the Committee and inspired the holding of mock battles.


  The Church is kept open for visits and prayer during daylight hours, and we want to continue this if at all possible, even at the risk of occasionally losing a few things. Help from neighbours in keeping an eye on the Church is much appreciated.

 To sum up: the present state of the Church is surely one that would give some satisfaction both to those who built it and used it over a century, and to those who saved it from destruction. Some of the adornments of the interior, listed in the Guild Minute Book and lost in 1973, were never returned, but others have been found over the years to replace them, and the interior today  presents an appearance that conforms fairly well to the ideals that prevailed when Benjamin Mountfort was making his designs: a traditional English Church, adapted to the use of wood and to New Zealand conditions.

The interior, 1998.

 All that remains to be achieved is to develop a continuing and regular local appetite for worship in familiar and traditional forms in harmony with the Church's character. The revival that the restorers anticipated from subdivisions in 1973 may have been short-lived, and is not likely to be a fruit of current "developments" either, but it ought to be possible, without cutting across existing congregations, without eccentricity or hard selling, to use the Church to enrich and deepen the spiritual life of the community. To find such a niche, and help rebuild the faith of our society, is surely the most important remaining task of restoration.

 Mr D. Woods, summing up his work for the Committee in the 90s, remarked on the fact that although the Church was available  for use by all denominations, it had been little used for ordinary services except by the Orthodox, and others might seem to have been deterred from using it. "This", he concluded, "cannot be helped."

  Nevertheless efforts do continue to encourage a wide use: 51 baptisms (24 of them Orthodox) have been held since 1973, and 22 weddings (7 Orthodox) from October 1981 to September 2006, as well as the Christmas carol services which remain popular.  And it quite often happens that I come in to read the prayers of the Hours, to find someone has been in and left a little donation and sometimes a complementary note about the appearance of the interior.
 We very much hope that the residents who own this Church will increasingly feel at home in it and find it a place of spiritual refreshment.

 I ask your indulgence for any inaccuracies or omissions in this little history, and should be most grateful for assistance in updating it again in the future.
Fr Jack,
Ashley,  September, 2006

  From a pen-and ink drawing by Julia Witbrock, c. 1989

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