St. Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin

St Paul's Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, in New Zealand and the seat of the Bishop of Dunedin.


The Cathedral Church of St Paul occupies a site in the heart of The Octagon near the Dunedin Town Hall and hence Dunedin. The land for St Paul's Church was given by the sealer and whaler Johnny Jones of Waikouaiti.

St Paul's Cathedral Church

The first parish church of St Paul was built on the site in 1862–1863. It was made of Caversham stone and could accommodate up to 500 people. Unfortunately it wasn't well constructed. The stone weathered badly and the tall spire was removed after just a few years. The man consecrated to be the first Bishop of Dunedin, but never enthroned, Bishop Henry Lascelles Jenner, visited the Diocese in 1869. He officiated at St Paul’s and gave a lecture on church music illustrated by the St Paul’s choir. He is remembered as the composer of the hymn tune Quam dilecta.

St Paul's Cathedral

In 1871 Samuel Tarratt Nevill was elected Bishop of Dunedin. Initially he made no mention of the need for a cathedral for the diocese and it was not until the 1876 Synod that he broached the subject. The issue was ducked by forming a commission to investigate the whole matter. This commission later recommended that St Paul’s should become the mother church. However, Nevill favoured St. Matthew's Church, Dunedin, and the impasse remained. In the early 1880s the question was revisited, and again no resolution found. However, in 1894, 18 years after the issue was first raised, all sides agreed to the proposal for St Paul’s to become the cathedral. The Cathedral Chapter was formed and took up the responsibility for running the cathedral from 1895. Thomas Whitelock Kempthorne of Kempthorne Prosser Ltd was a generous supporter of the cathedral and a memorial stands inside.

In 1904, William Harrop, a prominent Dunedin businessman died and left the bulk of his estate to fund a new Cathedral. However, release of the money was conditional on the Chapter raising £20,000 towards the cost of the building. Nevill threw himself into the effort, but it was not until 1913 that the £20,000 was raised and work could begin. The first in a series of plans and modifications were submitted by Sedding and Wheatly, an architectural company based in England. The author of the final design was Edmund Harold Sedding (1863–1921). The supervising architect in Dunedin was Basil Hooper (1876–1960).

On 8 June 1915, the foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid. Huge foundations, large piers and a tremendous vaulted ceiling, the only one in stone in New Zealand, rose from the ground, forming the new Cathedral’s nave. Unfortunately, finances precluded construction of anything more. There was no money for the crossing or the chancel, as originally intended. In the end, it was resolved that a temporary chancel should be constructed, using material saved from the old St Paul’s. The new Cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Nevill on 12 February 1919.


During the 1930s the Cathedral began to take up a role as a venue for public services, notably for the state funeral of Sir Frederick Truby King, the founder of the Plunket Society. Social work featured prominently at this time, with the synodsmen, vestry and church leaders all publicly opposed to the government’s Depression policies. The Cathedral administered a food bank and distributed food parcels for the citizens of Dunedin. Shortly after the Second World War, St Paul's suffered the loss of Dean Cruickshank, who moved to the Diocese of Waiapu, and of Professor Victor Galway. The latter, an organist and Professor of Music, had been immensely popular, attracting large crowds to his recitals and performances. He had also regularly broadcast his productions, paving the way for services to be aired on radio.

New chancel

In the 1950s the vestry made the important, though difficult, decision that it wouldn't complete the Cathedral to its original design. The dean suggested that ways be examined to link an extension to the existing structure, and the vestry agreed to investigate the possibilities. In 1966, the decision was made to build a new chancel. The plans had been drawn by Ted McCoy of the firm McCoy and Wixon. Construction began in earnest in December 1969. The old chancel was stripped and demolished and new columns began to rise from the debris. Construction and clearing up finished on Saturday 24 July 1971, and the Cathedral reopened the next day.

The new chancel was modernist, as high as the existing vault, with tall windows reaching from the floor almost to the ceiling. The altar was free standing and the furnishings matched the walls. Features of the new sanctuary were the free standing altar, (unusual for the time), clear glass windows, specially designed candle sticks, a Laudian altar front and a perspex cross containing stripes of the liturgical colours.

The sanctuary was re-ordered in 2003 with the altar moved forward into the nave. This is consistent with the neo-Anglo-Catholic tradition of placing the "table" within the sphere and proximity of those receiving the Eucharist.

In 2004, the perspex cross was moved temporarily (and initially) to the crypt to accommodate a production of the bi-annual Otago Festival of the Arts. Finally, a decision was reached by the current Dean Trevor James to restore the perspex cross to the sanctuary, and it was returned to its position at the end of 2009.

Clergy at St. Paul's
Deans of St Paul's
  • 1st Alfred R. Fitchett (1895–1929)
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th Cruikshank
  • 5th Walter Hurst
  • 6th Peter Sutton (1964–1965, later Bishop of Nelson)
  • 7th Timothy Raphael (1966–1973)
  • 8th Robert Mills (1973–1991)
  • 9th Dr. Warren Limbrick (1991–1996)
  • 10th Jonathan Kirkpatrick (1996–2001)
  • 11th David Cappel-Rice (2002–2008)
  • 12th Dr. Trevor James (15 March 2009 – present)
Consecration of a woman bishop

In 1989, the world's attention was on St Paul's when Dr. Penny Jamieson was consecrated and enthroned as Bishop of Dunedin. Bishop Penny was only the second woman bishop in the Anglican Communion and the first woman diocesan bishop in the world. Her appointment had been paved by the hard work of two Cathedral women: Claire Brown, Assistant Priest at St Paul's from 1985 to 1989 and again from 2006 to the present, and Barbara Nicholas, Honorary Priest Assistant.

New millennium

As the world prepared for the change from 1999 to 2000, St Paul's invited people gathered to celebrate in the Octagon to come into the cathedral, have a moment of silence, light a candle and pray for the new year and the millennium. Over the course of a couple of hours thousands came in and lit a candle. People placed their candles in sand arranged in the shapes of alpha and omega in the chancel, reminding those present that Christ is the beginning and the end.

Music at St. Paul's
St. Paul's Cathedral Choir

St. Paul's hosts an adult, mixed gender choir. Several notable members from the choir have gone on to have international careers as soloists, including Martin Snell, Jonathan Lemalu and Anna Leese. Other members have gone on to sing as professional lay clerks in English cathedrals such as Ely Cathedral and St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

The choir performs a Sunday Eucharist at 10 am and Evensong some Sunday evenings at 7 pm.

The Organ

The St. Paul's Cathedral organ was built in 1919 by Henry Willis III, in London and was installed the following year. In 1972, it was entirely dismantled and repositioned by the South Island Organ Company of Timaru. There are four manuals — great, swell, choir and solo. The organ of St Paul's has more than 3500 pipes and is often used for civic performances.


GREAT ORGAN Double Diapason 16' Open Diapason I 8' Open Diapason II 8' Claribel Flute 8’ Principal 4' Flute Ouverte 4’ Twelfth 22⁄3' Fifteenth 2' Mixture 19:22:26 Tromba 8' Clarion 4' Swell to Great Choir to Great Solo to Great Pedal to Gt Pistons coupler SWELL ORGAN Lieblich Bourdon 16' Geigen Diapason 8' Rohr Flute 8' Aeoline 8' Viole Celeste 8' Octave Geigen 4' Lieblich Flute 4' Flageolet 2' Larigot 11⁄3' Mixture 22:26:29 Double Trumpet 16' Trumpet 8' Hautboy 8' Clarion 4' Tremulant Sub-octave Super-octave Unison off Pedal to Swell Piston coupler CHOIR ORGAN Open Diapason 8' Chimney Flute 8' Viola da Gamba 8' Dulciana 8' Spitz Flute 4' Nazard 22⁄3' Block Flute 2' Tierce 13⁄5' Cymbel 33:36:40 Krumhorn 8' Schalmey 4' Tuba (from Solo) 8' Sub-octave Super-octave Unison off Solo to Choir Swell to Choir SOLO ORGAN Tibia 8' Flauto Traverso 8' Viole d'Orchestre 8' Concert Flute 4' Harmonic Piccolo 2' Bass Clarinet 16' Cor Anglais 8' Tuba 8' Tremulant Solo Octave Solo Sub-octave Solo Unison off PEDAL ORGAN Resultant Bass 32' Open Wood 16' Open Diapason 16' Open Metal (from Great) 16' Bourdon 16' Echo Bass (from Swell) 16' Quint 102⁄3' Octave 8' Flute 8' Super Octave 4' Spitz Flute 4' Mixture 15:19:22 Trombone (from Tuba) 16' Double Trumpet (Swell) 16' Posaune (from Tuba) 8' Clarion (from Tuba) 4' Swell to Pedal Great to Pedal Choir to Pedal Solo to Pedal THUMB PISTONS 7 to Swell 7 to Great 7 to Choir 5 to Solo Swell to Pedal on/off Great to Pedal on/off Choir to Pedal on/off Swell to Great on/off Solo to Pedal on/off Solo to Great on/off General Cancel on/off TOE PISTONS 7 Duplicating Swell 7 to Pedal Swell to Great on/off Great to Pedal on/off Pedal Trombone on/off Full Organ on/off Balanced mechanical expression pedals to: SWELL ORGAN SOLO ORGAN Compass: MANUALS C to c4= 61 notes PEDALS C to g = 32 notes

Dr White controversy

Difficulties between three successive deans, multiple choir boys and the then Director of Music, Dr. Raymond White, came to a head publicly in 1998 when Dean Kirkpatrick dismissed Dr. White. The affairs of the Cathedral were, for a short period of time, headline news. Dean Kirkpatrick resigned in 2001.

Dismissal of Mr David Burchell

Following this has been the recent dismissal of Mr David Burchell as Director of Music in January 2011. An announcement from Bishop Kelvin Wright in a St Paul's pew sheet stated that this was the result of over two years of "ongoing disagreement involving the Director of Music which The Chapter, The Dean and (the Bishop had) tried, with the utmost care and patience to resolve." The dismissal occurred after Mr Burchell had dismissed or removed or been responsible for the resignation of over half a dozen choir members based around the same ongoing issue.