A Brief History of St John's Trentham

The material on this part of the site has been abstracted from the booklet "Our First Hundred Years..." published in 1961 on behalf of the Parish of Trentham, and is similarly dedicated to those who pioneered the work of this parish in the Upper Hutt Valley.

In the Beginning...

The area presently known as Trentham was originally a 100-acre farm belonging to Richard Barton, who had come to New Zealand from his former position as Supervisor to the Duke of Sutherland's estates in Staffordshire, then known as Trentham Hall. In 1846 the Bartons settled in Upper Hutt, and their house was named Trentham.

The Barton family memory lives on in the area, with Barton Road, Barton Avenue and an area of native trees called Barton's Bush, which is within the reserve now known as Trentham Memorial Park. Richard Barton was interred in the grounds of St John's Church, and there are also memorials to him in the form of brass plaques within the Church building.

The actual construction of the Church itself was overseen by Rev Frederic Thatcher, who was a noted church architect of the time. The first Vicar was Rev J E Herring, who visited on December 27, 1861 and performed his first baptism as Vicar on March 30, 1862.

At that time, the upper valley was largely an area covered in trees, and the main activity was logging of the totara forest. The land was largely covered in stumps, and most unattractive to look at (in the words of Rev Herring, "...as repulsive and desolate as possible.").

Rev Herring's tenure was quite short, and he was succeeded by Rev Amos Knell on September 27, 1863. Earlier that year, in January, Mr and Mrs Barton had, according to local tradition, given the money to purchase the land on which St John's church now stands. In addition, Mrs Barton gave significant support, both financial and otherwise, to the later construction of a vicarage in 1894.


The Rev Thomas Abraham (not Rev Charles Thomas Abraham, son of Bishop Charles John Abraham) served as a Deacon in charge of the parish from August 1865 to April 1868. By this time, the original central portion of the present church building was completed, but it was not until 17th December 1865 that Bishop Abraham consecrated the building and its church-acre.

In the years that followed, considerable development occurred in the area, with an increase in settlement encouraged by the railway line, completed through to Upper Hutt in 1876. In 1884, the chancel and sanctuary were added to the church building, and a Vestry added in 1914. However, it proved difficult to retain clergy in the area, and for several periods in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the parish was without a Vicar, and parish life had fallen to a very low ebb.

New Life

In January 1903, Rev Cecil J Smith arrived at Trentham, and proceeded to re-invigorate the parish and the local area. He held services at Kaitoke, Mangaroa, Wallaceville, Whiteman's Valley and Silverstream, as well as at other venues in central Upper Hutt. In August 1908 he was appointed to Otaki parish. However, the Parochial District of Upper Hutt continued to grow, and was finally elevated to full Parish status in 1946, by decision of Synod.

Stained Glass

The present church is well known in the area for its many stained glass windows. The first of these, the large triple east window, was designed and manufactured by Messrs Smith and Smith of Dunedin, and was erected to celebrate the 50th Anniversary.

Since then, many pioneers, clergy and their families have been remembered by the erection of new windows, gradually filling the entire church.

St John's Daughter Churches

Originally constructed on the site currently occupied by McDonald's restaurant, St Hilda's church was built in April 1910, as part of the Trentham parish. This was divided into a separate Parochial District as the result of a Synod decision in 1951, and later became a parish in its own right.

St Mary's church at Silverstream was originally mooted at a meeting on November 8, 1919, but construction was delayed by the difficulties of raising funds and the building was not completed until March 1931. St Mary's is also now a parish in its own right.


During the 1950's, growth at St John's was so significant that two major events occurred; the first was the enlargement of the church building by extending the sides, completed in 1955, and the second was the completion of the present Parish hall in the 1960's.

The only other change to the building at St John's has been the completion of a foyer in the 1980's, and the more recent replacement of pinex ceilings with gib, completed during 2004.

Needless to say, there is much more to the history of this parish than it is possible to include here; the contribution of many hundreds of faithful parishioners over the last one hundred and fifty years means that they are too numerous to name. However, their legacy lives on in the church today.