21 August 2013

More Teutenberg heads

I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs about the marvellous sculptures of Prussian immigrant Anton Teutenberg that he was also responsible for the adornments to be found on the Pitt Street Methodist Church here in central Auckland.

The church, c.1898

The church, originally known as the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church, was built in 1865-66 and was much admired at the time. I defer for a fulsome description to the eloquent, if rather verbose writer of this article in the Daily Southern Cross of 13 October 1866 (I have deleted a lot of this piece):

The foundation-stone of the Wesleyan Church, Pitt street, was laid on the 15th November, 1865, with befitting ceremony. The church has now been completed, and will be opened for public worship to-morrow (Sunday), with, appropriate religious services. We purpose giving some details of the building, in order that our readers may form an estimate of its architectural character. It was constructed from designs prepared by Mr. P. Herapath, architect, Queen-street. The style of architecture adopted is the Gothic of the second period. The site chosen is eligible in every respect, as being more central for the increased population of the southern and western suburbs of the city. It is in close proximity to the Karangahape Road and from its elevated and commanding position the building presents a noble and imposing appearance, viewed from any direction.
… The structure is 78 feet by 48 feet, clear of the wall, the outer dimensions being 82 feet by 52 feet. On the flank walls are four massive buttresses, with two on the back wall, and one on each angle. … We may here remark, in justice to the contractor, Mr. Kaye, Parnell, that this piece of scoria masonry is considered by all competent judges to be one of the best specimens of scoria mason-work in the province.
… The whole of the brick walls are faced with pressed bricks, manufactured by Mr. Henry Holland, North Road, set in putty. The facade of the edifice has two hold buttresses running up the entire height, and which above the hue of intersection with the gable are surmounted with masonry of an ornamental character. The apex of the gable is finished with four gablets crocketed, from the centre of which springs a pinnacle surmounted with a boldly-carved finial. There are, also, two corresponding buttresses on the angles, terminating at the base of the gable. A freestone string course runs across the front at the height of the springing of the arches of the doorways, and intersecting them. Between the two central buttresses in the facade is a large and handsome traceried window, 28 feet high and 13 feet wide, in three lights, the head of which is filled in and enriched with elaborate tracery. On each side, between the central buttresses and those on the angles, are two single-light windows, 16 feet high and 2 feet wide, Gothic-headed, and filled in with trefoil tracery. Over the central window is a trefoil louvred opening for ventilation. The heads of all the windows in front have hood moulds around, terminating in masks.
… The cost of erecting and completing the building will be about £7,000. In concluding our notice, we have only to add the expression of our opinion that the building, for architectural beauty, uniformity of design, consistency of details, and solidity of construction, is unsurpassed if, indeed, equalled by any ecclesiastical edifice in any city of the Southern hemisphere, and redounds to the credit of Mr. Herapath, and those who had the carrying out of the designs under his careful supervision.
As we have stated, the opening services will be held to-morrow, as notified by advertisement. There will be a public prayer-meeting at 7 o'clock, a.m. The service in the forenoon will be conducted by the Rev. J. Warren. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the Rev. James Hill will conduct public worship and the Rev. J. Buller at half-past 6 in the evening. At the close of each service, which no doubt will be largely attended, a collection will be made in aid of the building fund. On the following Wednesday evening, a musical soiree, which promises to be an attractive and successful entertainment, will be held, the proceeds of admission tickets to be devoted to the building fund.

Surprisingly, given the detail of this report, Teutenberg’s work on the church’s decoration is not mentioned but it has since been recognised and acknowledged. Only two of his carved stone heads have been identified; those on either side of the large traceried window on the main façade depict, appropriately enough, John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist faith.

As can be seen from the old and recent photographs, there have been some structural changes to the church since its initial construction (the NewZealand Historic Places Trust website provides more information). The bricks may have disappeared beneath a coating of paint but this remains one of Auckland’s most impressive heritage buildings and boasts fine examples of Teutenberg’s magnificent sculptural work.

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