The skills of some of the very first architects to establish practices in Christchurch are also evident in South Canterbury: Frederick Strouts at Mt Peel Station and other country houses; W B Armson at St Mary's Church in Timaru; and Benjamin Mountfort with much loved churches at Waimate and Esk Valley.
A vast and impressive study of the work of Mountfort was written by Ian Lochhead the pre-eminent architectural historian of the Canterbury region. Mountfort's career did not start well in Christchurch with one or two serious setbacks, but his ability to compose beautifully picturesque arrangements soon cemented his career. He was immersed in deep ecclesiastical dialogue with the Church of England.
Given the task of creating the character of a new city built upon rather dull, flat terrain Mountfort opted for the thrill of sharp gables, peaks and spires. The exteriors are inviting; the interiors are often highly worked and take the visitor to an even higher level.
The Christchurch Modern movement of the 1960's often copied these intricate small scale forms, with Peter Beaven stating later in life that it was the work of Mountfort that always drew him back to Christchurch as his natural home.
St Augustine's at Waimate shows a clever assembly of forms, incorporating the lych-gate, the separate belfry, the gable end of the nave, all leading to the climax of the exaggerated central lantern tower. Inside, the nave is formed by intricate timber scissor trusses, together with (typical of Mountfort's spirit) a change in truss type to hammer beams above the choir. Altogether a tour de force on full public display.
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