Topic: Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, 288 Oxford Terrace

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Built in 1881 to a classical design, the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church stood on the corner of Madras Street and Oxford Terrace until its demolition in 2011.

Oxford Terrace Baptist ChurchHistory of the Church
This church was formed by nineteen English Baptists in 1863 – thirteen years after the founding of Christchurch.  The first minister was Decimus Dolamore, who was one of the pioneers of Baptist work in New Zealand.  The congregation initially met in the Town Hall in High Street, then built a church on land it had purchased in Lichfield Street (1864), now marked by a plaque on a building opposite the Bus Exchange.  After an unfortunate division within the membership (1867), the people reunited in 1870 and worshipped in a church in Hereford Street, which was moved to the present site in Oxford Terrace in 1879.  The church has had a long association with the life of the city, has been involved in setting up new congregations in Christchurch, and was a founding member of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (now called TRANZSEND).

History of the 1881 Building

In 1878 the Baptist Association of the Province of Canterbury elected to build a new church rather than extend their current church on Hereford Street. Although half an acre of land on the corner of Madras Street and Oxford Terrace was purchased and cleared, it wasn’t until 1881 that a decision was made to erect the new church there.

Edward J. Saunders was selected as the architect. He designed the new church building in the classical style, possibly influenced by the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

The contract to erect the building was awarded to Morey and McHale. The foundation stone was laid on 14 October 1881. Over 500 people attended the ceremony in which a bottle containing a copy of the New Zealand Baptist, the Lyttelton Times, and Press, as well as a record of the church’s trustees and officers, were laid beneath the stone. The main body of the building was built out of brick and Oamaru stone.

The first service to be held in the church took place on 9 July 1882. At the time of its opening it was the largest Baptist church in New Zealand.

Internal renovations were made in 1893 with the addition of a gallery and vestries. In 1912 a fundraiser was held to replace the former roof with tiles.

The gallery was removed by 1927. In 1929 a two storey vestry was added to the rear of the building. The vestry was later renovated in 1988. Further renovations were made to the interior of the church in 1962 and 1989. During the latter, a new dais was erected, a new foyer constructed, and the pews were repositioned.

The building was damaged in the Canterbury Earthquakes and was demolished in 2011. It was listed as a Category 1 building under the New Zealand Historical Places Register.


Oxford Terrace Baptist Church web site

Oxford Terrace Baptist Church - Earthquake Damage and Beyond

Baptist Church, Star, Issue 4181, 14 September 1881

New Baptist Church, Lyttelton Times, Volume LVI, Issue 6438, 15 October 1881

Quake Studies, Register Records for Baptist church, 288 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch

Oxford Terrace Baptist Church Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1871-1931

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Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, 288 Oxford Terrace

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