St John's Presbyterian Church memorials

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The congregational First World War roll of honour at St John’s Presbyterian Church, Willis Street, Wellington was unveiled in 1920. It consisted of two brass tablets, one bearing the names of 215 men and women who served, and the other the names of 38 men who died. The two stained glass windows on either side of the organ were also donated to the church as a war memorial.

These items can all be seen in the church today, along with the church’s Second World War of honour (20 names) and the Kelburn Presbyterian Church’s First World War rolls of honour. The latter were placed in St John’s when the two parishes combined in 1993.

The church’s most substantial war memorial, however, has long since disappeared. In 1919, members of the St John’s Young Men’s Bible Class decided that an appropriate memorial would be a hostel in which returned soldiers and other young men living away from home could find comfortable lodging at reasonable rates. The church thus acquired the late Mr E. W. Morrah’s substantial house and grounds on the corner of Upper Willis and Aro Street. The St John’s Young Men’s Memorial Hostel, which provided accommodation for up to 40 men, was formally opened there on 24 February 1920. A brass memorial tablet was placed in the vestibule to commemorate the occasion.

After several years, it was found that the hostel was not financially viable. It was closed in 1936. The property was leased out the following year and sold in 1940.

Sources: ‘A Memorial Hostel: The Morrah Residence Secured’, Dominion, 7/8/1919, p. 4; ‘St John’s Hostel To Be Opened This Evening’, Dominion, 24/2/1920, p. 8; St John’s Presbyterian Young Men’s Bible Class: Jubilee History, Wellington, 1938, pp. 40-2;St John’s Through 100 Years, 1853-1953, Wellington, 1953, pp. 9, 11, 42; Margaret Galt, ‘The story behind the First World War memorials on the wall of St John’s’, 2009 (this and other documents available via the history pages on the St John’s website).

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