Dunedin City First Church of Otago

Dunedin’s primary Presbyterian church and most impressive of nineteenth-century churches

This prominent building dates back to 1800s. It was regarded as the most impressive of nineteenth-century churches and listed by Heritage New Zealand as a Category I structure. One of the tallest building on the South Island, with a capacity of 1000+, it can be admired on the skyline from most of central Dunedin.

The church stands on the stump of Bell Hill and has views to the south across Queen’s Gardens towards the Otago Harbour and South Dunedin. In the early years, the hill was a notable obstacle to the development of Dunedin, and a decision was made by the Otago Council to make a substantial excavation in the hill, which resulted in the reduction in the height of Bell Hill by 12 m.

The Gothic style building was designed in 1862 by Robert Lawson and the foundation stone was
laid in 1868 by Dr. Thomas Burns, and was officially opened in 1873. The church is dominated by its tower crowned by a spire rising to 56.4 m, which is pierced by two-storey gabled windows on all sides, giving it an illusion of even greater height.

The building is constructed of Oamaru stone and basalt breccia from Port Chalmers, featuring detailed carving on both the exterior and interior. Today, regular services takes place on Sunday mornings and significant holidays.

The city’s primary and most impressive Presbyterian church

15 minutes

First Church of Otago

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