church HIStory


Built on land donated by Mrs Sarah Percival, the first church was opened in 1870 and was served by visiting clergy.  The present larger church was opened in 1886.  The old church then became the first St Joseph’s school opened in 1887.  A northern parish was created in 1877 when the Rev. Father Binsfield was appointed resident priest.  Binsfield lived in Rangiora but served the area between the Waimakariri and Conway Rivers.

The first Presbytery was where the present Chervier Centre is now.  The Centre was opened in 1971.  It was named after the pioneer French priest, Rev. Fr. John Chervier who had opened the first church.  A new Presbytery was built on the north side of the church.  Before the Chervier Centre opened the Celtic Hall in nearby Buckham Street was used for parish activities.

Designed by Benjamin Mountfort, the first Rangiora church was opened on July 31,1870 by Fr Chervier. By 1885 it was considered too small and a new church was opened on October 17, 1886 by Bishop Redwood, the foundation stone having been laid on September 13, 1885 by Bishop Moran.

The decision to build a new church rather than enlarge the first one appears to have been made because a schoolroom was also needed. The old church served that purpose for many years.

It consisted of a nave, transepts and chancel with a tower at the north-eastern junction of transept and chancel. The walls were clad in vertical boards and battens, the roof was shingled and there was an open-framed north porch. What distinguished the Rangiora chapel was   the complete assurance with which all elements were brought together in a tightly composed, finely proportioned but economical design.

The timber frame was exposed throughout the interior, revealing the unpainted reverse sides of the exterior weather boards.

The parish cemetery was located west of the present buildings but when the school became integrated in 1986 the headstones were removed and a memorial stone inscribed with all known names was built.

Following the earthquake in 2011,  the church has been temporarily closed since then, and Mass is now  celebrated at the Chervier Centre next door.


The first St Patrick’s Church was opened in Kaiapoi on January 15, 1882 by Bishop Redwood, a cottage having previously been used as a Mass Centre.

According to one district history: “The Roman Catholics had been using Hutchinsons Store in Peraki Street for their Masses from the middle of the 1860s. By June 1881 there were sufficient numbers to build a church. It was decided to build it on the site of Hutchinsons Store. Designs were submitted to the building committee which chose a design submitted by Theodore Jacobsen. The church, dedicated to St Patrick, was a substantial timber building on a concrete foundation two feet in height. The nave was 44 feet long and 24 feet wide. The church was lit by single-lighted Gothic windows with margin lights of coloured glass in the sides of the building. There was a belfry surmounted by a spire on the western end. There was enough room for 200 worshippers. The church was opened by Bishop Redwood.”  The cost was £1100, including the land, three acres in extent.

St Patrick’s School was established in 1926.

A new complex was opened in Fuller Street in 1978 and a new Presbytery

opened in 1982 replacing the much larger house in Peraki Street.


The Sacred Heart Catholic Church has stood at its present address in Oxford since 1879. 

The Roman Catholic community first held services in the Road Board office from 1875, and afterwards the West Oxford Town Hall. It became clear to all that a church was needed. Harry Bell Johnstone – an early Christchurch solicitor and land speculator donated a plot in the centre of town. In 1859 he applied for two rural sections in Oxford at the junction of Harewood Road and Main Street. It was subdivided into sections and sold with the area becoming known as Johnstone’s Township. He is said to have donated to the Catholic Church the section on which they built the church in 1879. The cost of the building was seven hundred pounds. John O’Halloran was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the church and with the help of the hardy bushman and labourers of Oxford a Gothic-styled church was built, with foundations of concrete and iron belt reinforcements to protect from nor’westers. The wooden structure has since been stuccoed.

Beautiful features of the church are the many stained-glass windows which are now under refurbishment and strengthening.

Oxford has always been part of the Rangiora Catholic Parish now known as the Waimakariri Parish. The priest travelling up to Oxford – by horse, gig or car….over the years. In the early days the paddock at the back was very handy for the priest’s horse and those of the faithful who used horse and gigs to attend mass.

The church was dedicated by Archbishop Redwood in November 1879.

A celebration Mass was held at 8.30 a.m. Sunday, 30th November 2014 officiated by Bishop Barry and Fr Denis. It was followed by the unveiling of a plaque commemorating 135 years in Oxford, North Canterbury.


St Brigid’s Church, at Loburn, was built in 1875, this preceded the building of the Rangiora church. It is a simple wooden building (now stuccoed over) in gothic style, nestled at the bottom of a slope on the Loburn Whiterock Road. St Brigid’s is one of very few Catholic churches in the Christchurch diocese with its own cemetery – possible a factor in ensuring the survival of the church itself.

From the outset St Brigid’s was not intended as a parish church, but as chapel of ease, in an area where many Irish Catholic immigrants settled. Until the mid- 1960s Mass was celebrated there every Sunday and on Christmas Day.

In the mid-1980s St Brigid’s was revived by local Catholic families, supported by the parish priest of the time, Father John Coleman. The on-going maintenance of the church has been in the hands of the local people ever since. We are extremely blessed to have the financial support of Shelagh Engstrom (nee Mercer) who has numerous family members buried in the cemetery. Through her generosity the beautiful little church at Loburn has undergone a make-over. Mike Henry painted the Stucco walls in early 2015 and Wilson Decorators were contracted to complete the painting of the roof and the woodwork. Dave Smith ensures that the environs of the church and cemetery are kept in fine order.

In recent years the cemetery has become a resting place for an increasing number of deceased relatives in the parish.