St David's memorial church

St David's memorial church

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On 5 December 1920, both a war memorial tablet and a roll of honour were unveiled in St David’s Presbyterian Church, Khyber Pass Road. The ornately carved wooden roll of honour listed the names of 107 men from the congregation who had seen active service during the war, as well as the names of six nurses (C. Campbell, M. Campbell, S. Clarke, D.R. Commons, H. Sutherland and M. Sutherland). The marble memorial tablet was inscribed with the names of 16 men who had given their lives. (There are three names that are not common to both the roll of honour and the memorial tablet, thus the total number of fallen is eighteen: R.L. Alexander, H.R. Armitage, T.M. Boyd, J. Burgess, R. Clemens, C.W. Coltman, K.W. Commons, A.G. Duncan, R.G. Fordyce, R.G. Gardiner, E.S. Gribble, C. Hall, L.W.B. Hall, R.W. Lambert, R.W. McKenzie, V. Mitchell, James Rankin, and W. Rimmer.)

Planning for a new church building also began in 1920. It was soon decided that this should be a soldiers’ memorial church. The foundation stone dedicating the church to the glory of God and the men of St David’s who gave their lives during the Great War was laid on 25 April 1927. The new church was formally opened on 13 October 1927. 

After the Second World War an additional segment with a further 19 names was added to the memorial tablet. This was unveiled on 9 November 1947.

A number of other plaques and tablets with wartime associations are displayed in the church. These include a memorial tablet unveiled on 3 June 1928 in memory of the 37 members of No. 3 Field Company NZ Engineers who gave their lives in the First World War. This was unveiled on 3 June 1928. A tablet listing the names of the 31 members of 1st Field Company NZ Engineers who gave their lives in the Second World War was later added. The Sappers Memorial Chapel was dedicated alongside on 13 October 2006.

Three plaques relate to the war in the Pacific. One reads: “In memory of / those who made / the supreme sacrifice / whilst serving with / the 2 N.Z.E.F. in the Pacific / during the 1939-45 conflict / Lest we forget”. Two others recall the men of 29th and 30th New Zealand Infantry Battalions who fell in the Solomon Islands campaign. Rev. O.T. Baragwanath and Rev. J. R. Nairn, both sometime incumbents of St David’s, had served as the respective chaplains of these battalions. A three-light stained glass window in the eastern wall of the church commemorates victory and peace in both the world wars. This was unveiled on 6 November 1949.

In September 2014 it was revealed that St David’s fell short of meeting new earthquake building standards and could be in line for demolition. The Friends of St David's charitable trust proposed to rescue the building by repurposing it as an acoustic music centre. In 2015  it organized 'The Art of Remembrance', a memorial art installation by artist Max Gimblett, which highlighted the building's qualities. In 2017 the church was listed as a heritage building. In May 2021 the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees put the church and two adjoining properties on the market. Just two months later, philanthropist Ted Manson, the founding patron of the trust, bought all three properties.

Two histories of St David's have been published: Rev. D.J. Albert, The Story of St David’s Presbyterian Church, Auckland, 1921, (see esp. pp. 78-80), and W.M. Ryburn, St David’s Presbyterian Church, Auckland, 1965, (see esp. pp. 47, 58-64, 85-7-8, 91). See also: ‘Church Has Shaky Future’, NZ Herald, 11/9/2014, A13;  Salmon Reed Architects Ltd, St David's Memorial Church Historic Heritage Assessment Peer Review (2017); and recent recent media coverage, which includes: 'Historic church up for sale as part of Khyber Pass portfolio', Stuff business property, 11/5/2021; 'Charity in bid for church', Herald on Sunday, 25/4/2021, p. 2; 'Tenor sings church's praises', NZ Herald, 12/5/2021, A11; 'Philanthropist Ted Manson buys historic soldier's church'NZ Herald, 6/7/2021.

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