This week we made an historic discovery. The original hand drawn plans for the third St Paul’s building – dating from 1893 by architect William Henry Skinner – have been lost for as long as anyone can remember. The Diocesan Archive had concluded that they had likely gone back to the UK with the Welsh architect, hence their disappearance from the records.

Before Christmas I mentioned the missing plans to historian Earle Howe, who’d come across them years ago in an antiquarian bookshop on High Street. It was our only lead and two weeks ago Simeon (who shares a love of history) and I resolved to track them down. My email enquiry to the bookshop went unanswered but soon after Jonny attended an evening at the Venn Foundation and sat next to a man who had spent some time studying in Oxford. Over dinner he mentioned that he and his wife had attended St Paul’s a long time ago and that Jonny might be interested to know that a friend who had also spent time in the UK had some architectural drawings of St Paul’s on his study wall.

There have been lots of plans drawn over the years for not only the three St Paul’s buildings (Emily Place, the temporary church at Eden Terrace and the final St Paul’s on Symonds Street), but also for various changes to the building. There were no guarantees that these plans would be for the current building.

This week I met the couple, who have since moved back to New Zealand. To my joy I discovered that the stunning plans they fell in love with 25 years ago in that antiquarian bookshop on High Street are indeed the full and original plans for our beautiful church! There are four large pages dated ‘1893’, each backed with linen, which have hand drawn elevations and details for the North, South, East and West. 

The discovery of the plans is invaluable to the future restoration work, as there are several parts of the building that have been significantly altered over the past 122 years and many more that were never completed. The current owners were delighted to know what a treasure these are for our church and have given them to us on loan so that we can have them professionally scanned and replicated for our use.
Framed copies will be gracing our church walls soon!

Esther Grant