HISTORIC CHURCHES — A Guide to Over 60 Early New Zealand Churches by Linda Burgess, photography by Robert Burgess (Penguin Random House New Zealand, to be published September 1); $50. Reviewed by ANNE GIBSON.

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The beautiful little wooden St Patrick’s, Washdyke, to the north of Timaru, was demolished some years ago, although its congregation still worships, but now in different churches.
St Patrick’s was where my ancestors prayed before 1934, when it was shifted from Waimate to the now-industrial area on Timaru’s outskirts, where it was hunkered down on its site, a church without a steeple. That drew taunts from the anti-Catholic brigade and the jibe “you lot can’t even keep the top on your church!”
That church, of course, doesn’t feature in this lovely book, but Timaru’s Basilica of The Sacred Heart, one of architect Francis Petre’s masterpieces, warrants an entire fascinating chapter.
This guide gives each church its due, strongly if plainly photographed without much ornamentation, sometimes interiors and exteriors, each one taking a chapter.
The striking cover features St Gabriel’s, Pawarenga, in the historic Hokianga.
Not all the churches are registered as Category 1 by Heritage New Zealand, but many are strikingly pretty and feature strong aspects of Maori art and architecture.
Author Linda Burgess points out many interesting facts and one has to admire the amount of work and travel to produce such a comprehensive work.
She and photographer husband Robert live in Wellington and what they have produced is certainly no hardcover oversized glossy coffee table dust-gatherer, but a soft cover easy-to-read, dip-in-and-dip-out tour from Northland to Otago to Southland.
A hearty congratulations to them both.
Publisher Penguin Random House notes this is a companion to the author’s previous Historic Houses, published in 2007.
St Patrick’s, Washdyke, isn’t in this fascinating book of churches the Burgesses have chronicled. But that sturdy little place of South Canterbury worship remains in people’s heads and hearts still.
Anne Gibson is property editor for The New Zealand Herald.

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