Of the many fine small country churches in South Canterbury this is one of the most beautiful in both design and setting. This picturesque limestone church, prettily situated at the end of a generous driveway bordered with mature oak trees, has a tragic story attached to the origin of its construction on a low ridge overlooking Esk Valley.
In the 1870’s Mrs Ellen M. Meyer would take walks over the sloping ground where she lived on Blue Cliffs Station and view Esk Valley to the east and the Hunter Hills rising to the west. She had often expressed the wish to see a church on this site which was clearly visible from her home. Unfortunately the young woman was never to see her dream realised and died following an operation, on the 30th Jan 1878.
After her untimely death her husband, Mr Charles Meyer, returned to Scotland but before he did he made arrangements with his trustees to have the little stone church built to fulfil his wife's wish and to her memory. He left £6,000 as an endowment for the Waimate Parochial District and £1000 for the building of the church. Rather tragically he never had the chance to come back and view his gift to the district as he himself died in Scotland on 30th August 1878, the same year.
The church was designed by B.W. Mountfort, the architect responsible for the Canterbury Provincial Buildings. In 1879 the estate was sold to Robert Heaton Rhodes and he was appointed church warden along with John Bradshaw in 1880 when the church was consecrated by Bishop Harper and dedicated to St Mary. The Rev. Laurence C. Brady arrived soon after and served this parish for thirty-six years. These days it is part of a co-operating parish and services are held here fortnightly.
A simple and solidly constructed building, it was made using limestone from the Albury district and roofed with wood shingles - later replaced with iron. The interior is rich with colour from windows dedicated to members of some of the early settler families in the district. There is a small churchyard cemetery attached where many local families have their loved ones buried and remembered here.
It is very gratifying to see this Heritage 1 listed building in such great condition, it is obviously treasured and still has an active role within the community that surrounds it.
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