In nothing were the founders of the Canterbury Settlement more deeply in earnest than in their resolve to plant the Church of their forefathers in their new home. And no greater proof of this could be given than that of their self-imposed taxation, paying, as they did, a sum of $6 for every acre of land purchased by them, one-third of the price to be devoted to “Ecclesiastical and Educational purposes”.
Soon after "The Pilgrims" arrived, the Mother Church of Christchurch, St. Michael and All Angels, was built, and served till 1881 as the Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese. Other parishes grew up as offshoots from the Mother Church as Christchurch expanded, and in 1858 the Parish of Riccarton, with its quaint and picturesque old Church of St. Peter, came into existence, having the Revd. Crossdaile Bowen as its first Incumbent. Fendalton formed part of Riccarton Parish in those days and its people had a rough and troublesome journey to make over jolting roads and boggy tracks, with several creeks to negotiate, before the worshippers could reach their Parish Church at the corner of the Riccarton and the West Coast Roads.
Among the Fendalton pioneers we find the names of Inwood, Acland, Cuddon, Ellis, Mayo, Fereday, Latter, Jeffreys, Hanmer, Willcock, Bruce, Carleton and Fendall; the last-named family gave the name to our Parish, which was called Fendall-Town for a while, until it was afterwards contracted into the euphonious “Fendalton” of today.
In 1875 the Church people discussed the question of building a small chapel-of-ease at Fendalton. The Hon. John Barton Dyke Acland, who lived at that time at “Willowbrook” on the Fendalton Road, led them on with much zeal and enthusiasm. Mr C C Bowen (afterwards Sir Charles C Bowen), had helped to secure a church reserve of nearly five acres of glebe land on Clyde Road, but as the greater part of the population lived some distance nearer to the present church, a suitable section of land for a church site, measuring 1 rood, 24 poles in area, was given by Mr. Daniel Inwood.
The Old Sunday School on Clyde Rd
The bell of 1½ cwts (made by Taylor at Loughborough), was given by the Hon. J B D Acland, and the communion vessels of silver (still in regular use) were given “for the service of St Barnabas Church, Fendalton, New Zealand, from the Brothers and Sisters of J B Acland, A.D.1876”. For a while, till this gift arrived, the communion vessels from the Church of the Holy Innocents, Mt Peel, were temporarily used at Fendalton. The bell-tower was a copy of the one originally planned for Holy Innocents. Mr Acland suggested the name “St Barnabas” for the new Church, and this was decided upon.
The building of the first St. Barnabas Church was begun in January 1876, and was ready for use four months later, when the Church was consecrated by the Primate, the Most Revd. Bishop Harper on Ascension Day (26 May). The "Incumbent" of the Parish, the Revd Crossdale Bowen (afterwards Archdeacon of Christchurch) was away at the time for a two years visit to England, and the Revd Francis A Hare was temporarily priest-in-charge of Riccarton-cum-Fendalton. Mr Acland (in a letter) records that a large and happy gathering assembled after the service for a luncheon party at “Willowbrook" where there was great joy at the completion of the Church.
The First St Barnabas opened in 1876
From this time onward a service was held in St. Barnabas Church every Sunday. The life of the Church went on steadily for some years, the congregations were small, for of course the population was then but sparse. About 1883, however, as the settlement had grown, it was decided to enlarge the church, and the chancel, apse and transepts were added; this was done at a cost of $920. The congregation increased, and there grew a wish on their part for independent existence as a Parish. In 1883 Fendalton was constituted a separate Parish and the Revd T Jasper Smyth, who had just come out to New Zealand from the South of Ireland, was appointed priest in-charge of Fendalton till the first Vicar, the Revd Jeremiah Chaffers-Welsh, took up his duties early in 1884.
The Revd. James West Stack (afterwards Canon Stack) became the second Vicar, and successfully carried on the work of the Parish for ten years. During his ministry the Sunday School room in Clyde Road was built, chiefly through the efforts of Judge Gresson, Mrs T W N Beckett and Mr H W Bishop, Stipendiary Magistrate of Christchurch. The texts adorning the school walls were the work of Mr Alfred Cox of Merivale. After ten years as Vicar of Fendalton, Canon Stack resigned in 1898, and went to Italy, where he lived for some years at Bordighera. Later on he made his home at Worthing, in Sussex, England. There he celebrated his golden wedding. Both he and Mrs Stack passed away in 1920, being highly honoured and esteemed for their love and for their work’s sake. One of Canon Stack's last acts was to send a cheque for the Fendalton Memorial Church Building Fund, towards which he also left a legacy.
The third Vicar, the Revd T.K. Hamilton was formerly Vicar of Temuka and Ashburton. The population of Fendalton at this time (1898) began to grow on all sides, and many new streets were formed, later on trams and electric light superseded the old coach and kerosene lamp lighting and new responsibilities were added to the new Vicar's work.
Canon Hamilton (as the Vicar became) carried on his work in Fendalton for over 20 years and in September 1919, resigned his charge. The great farewell gathering in St Barnabas’ schoolroom showed Canon and Mrs. Hamilton the great love and esteem felt for them by their Fendalton parishioners.
The Revd Hugh Leach became the fourth Vicar in October 1919, having been Vicar of Sydenham-cum Cashmere for six years previously.
In June 1914 a meeting of Parishioners resolved that the time had arrived to consider the question of building a permanent Church, and that steps should be taken to collect funds. In his Easter report for 1918, Canon Hamilton made the first suggestion that the permanent Church should be built as a memorial to the men and women who had died in the Great War, and the Vestry adopted a Box collecting scheme.
Rev Leach with the 1926 Vestry
In September 1918 Major K M Gresson was appointed Organizing Secretary, and a special Building Committee was appointed: Messrs T D Harman, W T Edgar, S W Jameson and F G Gurnsey. At the Easter Meeting held in 1919 a Building Scheme was launched. The fund then stood at $944.
Mr Cecil W Wood was chosen as architect, and was invited to draw the provisional plans of a suitable village church, to cost approximately $20,000 (without the furnishings). This was done, subscriptions were asked for, and the interest and sympathy of the whole parish were aroused. Old and young, rich and poor, present and former parishioners were filled with zeal and the money came in steadily. Gifts of furniture and memorials were promised and the prospects were excellent. For a while there was a slight check to the movement when a "slump" in financial circles overtook our Dominion but soon there was a renewal of the steady determination to see the work accomplished. There was an excellent organizer, a devoted Treasurer (T W Edgar) and a vigorous Building Committee, and faithful collectors. The work went on steadily so that Archbishop Julius was asked to place the foundation stone of the new Church a few days before he laid down the charge of the Diocese of Christchurch, which he had held for 35 years. On Sunday afternoon, 22 March 1925, in the presence of many clergy and a great gathering of over 800 people, the stone was laid.
The only drawback to this great and historic function was the absence from the gathering of the children, due to an epidemic of infantile paralysis throughout the land. The contract for the Church building was let to Messrs Peter Graham and Son for $19,622, (omitting the foundation of the Tower which was a separate contract of about $200). In the following year, 1926, the present Church was dedicated and consecrated, being free of debt.
Canon Redgrave became Vicar in 1929 and despite the economic depression of the early thirties, the Vestry set about collecting for the present Parish Hall. The main block was opened in 1941 with the East wing added in 1951.
In 1947 Archdeacon Purchas followed Canon Redgrave, and four years later the Revd L A Barnes became Vicar. During this period that part of the parish now known as Bryndwr was developed and services were begun in St Aidan’s, Bryndwr. In November 1957 Bryndwr became a separate parish with the new church of St Aidan’s, a gift from the Mother Parish of Fendalton. In 1959 the present Vicarage in Makora Street was built. Mr Barnes resigned in 1960, and after 12 months interregnum, the Revd M L Underhill of the Diocese of Carlisle accepted the cure.
In his 5 years as Vicar, Mr Underhill exercised a vigorous ministry and the present Sunday School building was built. He resigned in 1966 to become Dean of Christchurch, and Canon Bob Lowe then became Vicar.