Heritage buildings from another era a problem for living faith communities

Hamilton Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman says the pending loss of the presbytery beside Hamilton’s Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is sad news for Hamilton East as the building was a “fantastic link” to another era.

The situation in Hamilton raises an issue that is becoming a problem for church communities throughout New Zealand – the custodianship of heritage buildings from another era that are no longer fit for use by faith communities living in the present era.

Cathedral administrator Father Richard Laurenson said the presbytery is in a poor state and no longer appropriate for today’s use.

“There are cracks all over the building and the mortar is falling out from between the bricks,” he said.

“I was talking last Wednesday to some of our priests who have lived in the presbytery,” Laurenson said in his recent newsletter.

“No one told me that they loved living in the house.”

“It was designed by religious priests of the Benedictine variety to live in according to their ways, incorporating room for stables, wharepaku and copper at the back of the property.”

“Since then much has changed in Hamilton, but the house firmly remained unchangeable, in spite of a myriad of attempts to improve it.”

Laurenson said an historic photographic record has been taken of the house.

Plans are in place to salvage items like woodwork, flooring, fireplaces, stairs and they will be incorporated into the new home.

The presbytery is the oldest surviving building within the city’s Catholic precinct in Hamilton East.

It was opened in 1912, the same year as the old St Mary’s Church.

The Church was demolished in 1974.

The Hamilton diocese has already gained approval to demolish the nearby Euphrasie House which was built in 1939.

The request to demolish the brick and cement building was made by the Parish Council and approved by Bishop Stephen Lowe.

An architectural historian, Dr Ann McEwan, said the presbytery was a significant heritage building and had retained a high level of authenticity.

“If it goes, it’s just another building in Hamilton East to disappear and the loss of it will erode that character people go to a great deal of length to protect,” McEwan said.

McEwan said the presbytery wasn’t on the schedule of heritage buildings in the council’s District Plan and therefore wasn’t afforded any formal protection.

“If the Hamilton City Council had added new items to its District Plan heritage schedule, instead of just rolling it over, then the presbytery could have been added.”

“Ultimately the council can take credit for not funding the District Plan review to a level that new items could have been added,” she said.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

Tags: , , ,