WESLEY CHURCH

PROJECT TYPE: HERITAGE

USE: RELIGIOUS

LOCATION: TARANAKI STREET, WELLINGTON

CLIENT: METHODIST CHURCH OF NZ

ARCHITECTS: ARCHITECTURE +; PAUL CUMMACK CONSERVATION

PROJECT TIMEFRAME: 2019—2020

The Wesley Methodist Church is one of Wellington’s finest 19th century timber churches. It opened in March 1880 and today is the spiritual home of Wellington’s Fijian, Samoan and Tongan Methodist communities. LT McGuinness’s role was seismic strengthening and heritage restoration of the category-one rated heritage building.

Structural works included buttresses, foundation ground beams, new and reinforced piles, a steel portal frame installed in the front towers and a new roof. A new atrium was also built to connect the church to adjacent parish buildings.

Various items discovered during the job underlined the church’s historical significance — a one-penny Evening Press newspaper, in good condition, from December 1884; and a container of Oak Varnish from Melbourne used to oil the pews in the 1880s.

The church roof’s 300 pitch was so steep that it couldn’t be walked on without safety gear. The lead paint that covered the old church had to be entirely stripped off, a painstaking task carried out by hand over six months.

The biggest challenge was sequencing the temporary propping with strengthening the 12 timber buttresses, six on each side, and installing the huge ground beams. Once the ground beams were poured then two suspended buttresses could be locked in. Each buttress was sandwiched between 16mm steel flitch plates, secured with M20 bolts and tied to new piles driven down eight metres.

The heritage restoration included replacing rotted and damaged kauri timbers, restoring leadlight windows, and new paint for the towers and wooden exterior.

Following the restoration and painting, there’s just two visible signs of the extensive seismic works. One is in foyer, where the portal frame supports the two towers. The frame fitted neatly into place as it was craned down then secured to the new ground beam. The other, inside the church, is a cutaway section which reveals the kauri buttress secured between its two steel flitch plates.

Despite delays from the Covid lockdown, the church re-opened in time for parishioners to celebrate Easter 2021.