History of the Church

All Saints’ is the oldest Church still used as a place of worship in the Dunedin urban area. With a long history of serving the Dunedin North community, All Saints’ is the closest church to the university campus.

The nave was designed by William Clayton of Mason and Clayton in 1865. The transepts and chancel were added in 1873, designed by William Mason of Mason and Wales. The church was built in a gothic cruciform style, which is relatively rare in New Zealand and especially so in Protestant churches.


In 1969, All Saints’ Vestry opposed the advice of consultants and the fashion of the day (demolishing old buildings in favour of more modern multi-purpose venues) and fought to retain their church. They raised $35,000 and with the blessing of the Historic Places Trust the foundations, hard wood floor, and slate tile roof were replaced. Stabilising tie rods were also added to strengthen the building.

Four decades have elapsed since that restoration and the roof tiles have served the church building for longer than expected and urgently need replacing to protect the valuable interior of the building. It is also hoped that modern engineering solutions will enable the removal of the tie rods, so the beautiful timber ceiling will again come to prominence.

Campus connection

The church as a theological site has a significant presence on the University Campus. It is the only church effectively on Campus and many passers by use it for reflection and a place for prayer. The church is a venue for over 10 services a week. It also serves as a part of Selwyn College, with the Vicar acting as Chaplain to the College. This is an historic association dating back to the beginnings of the college as a divinity school. Several past clergy have acted as lecturers to the college and to the University. Between 2002 and 2006 the adjoining Hall was the home to the Bible College of New Zealand, Otago Centre, so once again, lectures and tutorials were part of the day-to-day activity associated with All Saints’. Unfortunately the Bible College of New Zealand changed its service delivery model and closed all the regional centres in 2007, so bringing to an end a growing relationship.


All Saint’s has a history of famous parishioners; the more notable include local personalities:

  • William Larnach (who donated £100 towards its construction)
  • the Howlisons of Cook Howlison Motors
  • Sir James Allen MP a famous benefactor of the parish and founder of Arana Hall (now Arana College)
  • Percival Neill, who established Chingford Park in North East Valley, and whose great grandson is the actor Sam Neill
  • Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, who once visited to give a guest lecture to raise £53 13s for its construction.

The interior of the church has a breath-taking array of stained glass windows and plaques dedicated to past parishioners and those fallen in War. There is a unique plaque erected by the Otago Volunteer District for Captain J.A. Harvey who fell in the Boer War in 1900 - a rare piece. Also above the sanctuary is a huge kauri Hanging Rood, depicting the Christ Triumphant, this was hand carved by F.C. Gurnsey. These are but a few of the historic pieces found in the church’s interior.

One other family of historical note is the Hanlon family of the lawyer, Alfred, who defended the “baby killer” Minnie Dean. His wife (daughter of Hudson of Cadbury Hudson) and children attended All Saints’ on a regular basis. His son Jack Hanlon oversaw the restoration work of All Saints’ in 1969 and the building of the new vicarage in 1957. His daughter Mrs Harty was a Vestry member for many years as was her daughter Dr Harty, lecturer in English at Otago University.


All Saints’ has a Category One Historic Places classification.

» Reports of the building of the church

All Saints’ is the only existing church building in the region with polychrome brickwork.

Vicars of All Saints’

Detail from one of the beautiful stained-glass windows that adorn the church.