Knox Church, Dunedin
History and museums
Knox Church is a notable building in Dunedin, New Zealand. It houses the city's second Presbyterian congregation and is the city's largest church of any denomination. Situated close to the university at the northern end of the CBD on George Street it is visible from much of the central city.
It was designed by Robert Lawson in the 13th century Gothic style and construction began in 1872. It is the second building for the congregation. The first, completed in 1860, was the second Presbyterian church in the settlement. It was a large wooden structure sited in Great King Street, close to the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry building. Though this was only ever intended to be a short-term home for the Knox congregation the onset of the Central Otago Gold Rush intensified the need for a larger, permanent structure.
Church officials held a competition which was won by Lawson. His plans, however, would have exceeded the church's £5,000 budget and the deacons fell back on a design by David Ross. Because he insisted on employing an inspector of works who "could be bought at any time with a pot of beer", Ross's contract was annulled within two months. The church authorities approached Lawson again and he took over the project. (Ross successfully sued but was awarded a mere £2 in damages.).
The building eventually cost £17,757 and was opened on November 5, 1876. Constructed of bluestone from quarries close to the Water of Leith, and with Oamaru stone dressings and spire, its plan forms a Latin cross, with a nave 30 metres in length and 22 metres in average width. The spire rises to a height of 51 metres. Unusually for a New Zealand church, it contains two pipe organs, a large Hill, Norman, & Beard one installed in 1931 and extensively refurbished in 1974, and a smaller oak-case instrument originally installed in a church in Christchurch.
Because of maintenance requirements and the need to install a new fire sprinkler system the church was closed for the first time in June 2008. The congregation joined that of First Church for the duration of the three-month project. The building was reopened after renovations were completed in September 2008. While the primary reason for closing the church was to install the sprinkler system there was also a need to restore some of the windows. Faces, feet and other details had faded over time and work was necessary to make these visible again.