New Zealand History

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The Saving of Old St Paul’s

November 6th, 2018

ec_thumb.jpgSoon after the opening of Old St Paul’s church in Mulgrave Street, Wellington, in 1866, Charles Abraham, the first Anglican Bishop of Wellington, said of the church that it was ‘a very handsome building of wood, and the interior is a great success. Being built of tōtara, it may last, unless some accident occurs to it, several centuries’.

However, less than a century later, the future of the church was under threat, as the Wellington Anglican authorities, at the time building a large new cathedral in nearby Molesworth Street, contemplated what do to with Old St Paul’s when its congregation moved to the new building.

The ensuing battle to save the church - which lasted over a decade - tested New Zealander’s understandings of heritage, community value, private property rights and spirituality.

In this Public History talk about the heritage battle to save Old St Paul’s, historian Elizabeth Cox will focus on this period of crisis in the 1950s and 1960s, when Wellington was divided over the future of the church, and follow the efforts of those trying to decide its future.

Elizabeth is a Wellington historian and heritage consultant, and a Senior Historian at the Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Her book A Friend Indeed: The Saving of Old St Paul’s was published earlier this year, and she writes about the social history of Wellington, through the lens of Old St Paul’s, on her blog She also blogs about Wellington heritage issues at

These monthly Public History Talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Recorded live at the National Library of New Zealand, 7 November 2018.



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