St Thomas’, Woodbury

St Thomas' Church, Woodbury

St Thomas' Church, Woodbury

In the early days of the settlement this area was known as Waihi Bush and it developed rapidly due to a plentiful supply of large trees to supply several sawmills which moved into the area.

One of these sawmills was owned by Messrs Taylor and Flatman, and it was the vesting of nearly two acres of land with the Church Property Trustees in 1877 which enabled a movement begun by Rev J. Preston in 1871 for a Church to be built in the rapidly growing village – now called Woodbury.

Mr J.Dean of Woodbury submitted a plan for a wooden church at a price accepted by the building committee. All exterior timber was to be totara and the church was to be lined with timber and filled with clay at the back of the lining.

This wooden church was dedicated to St Thomas in 1879 and there are several versions of how the name was chosen, but it is very likely that the name was chosen by Mr C.G.Tripp of Orari Gorge Station who was a man of Devon, and would have had fond memories of the lovely old church of St Thomas, in Devonshire.

Woodbury grew over the next years with shepherds and other workmen from stations like Orari Gorge joining sawmill workers in cottages in the village.

There was obviously a need for a larger church but the First World War delayed plans until 1925 when the Chancel, Sanctuary and Tower were completed in concrete and stones gathered from local paddocks. The builders were two Woodbury men, Oswald Scott and Bert Cooling.

The wooden Nave and the Stone Chancel served until 1937 when the Tripp family submitted plans to complete the church with concrete and stones replacing the failing original wooden Nave.

Inside St Thomas' Church, Woodbury

Inside St Thomas' Church, Woodbury

The new Nave built as a memorial to Howard and Eleanor Tripp was completed in 1938 and dedicated by Bishop West Watson in April of that year.
A feature of the church is the beautiful stained glass windows three of which are the work of two English artists, Veronica Whall and Joseph Nuttgens, who were trained in the principles of the Art and Craft Movement which developed from the work of William Morris during the Gothic Art Revival of the 19th Century.

Also of note inside the church building is the intricate carving of Frederick Gurnsey, whose work is also to be found in the Christchurch Anglican Cathedral.

The Church of St Thomas is in regular use twice a month for normal services plus local weddings, funerals, and special services like the Woodbury District Carol Service held during the week before Christmas.

The fine church building we enjoy today is a lasting tribute to the foresight of the Tripp family and the building skills of Messrs Scott and Cooling.