St James' Church – Going Strong

Loose stones on the spire led to urgent repair works on St James’ Presbyterian Church in Palmerston. The Category 1 historic place is a Palmerston landmark. The Waitaki Heritage Fund provided $10,000 towards a condition report and $15,000 towards the urgent repairs.

Tracey Hartley of the conservation practice Salmond Reed Architects led the repair and strengthening work. Marcus Wainwright and Company completed the stonemasonry work. These repairs are the first stage of a three-stage repair and restoration project. Hartley’s specialist knowledge, and the Wainwright team’s traditional skills were key to the seismic upgrades and repairs.

The sensitive seismic upgrade of the stone/brick spire to 67%NBS involved using non-ferrous tie rods linking the walls of the hollow spire to the top of the tower and horizontal ties at the top of the tower and internal stainless-steel straps inside the spire.  The collaboration of the engineer, architect and mason has meant a sensitive solution which is completely hidden from view and compatible with the heritage fabric.

Hartley says the combination of minimal piecing in of eroded limestone and repointing the whole tower in lime mortar has brought the stonework into good condition without over restoring it. The cleaning to remove pollutants and consolidation using natural limewash to protect the fragile stone has made a big aesthetic improvement and will assist to keep the stonework in good condition.

Using traditional techniques and materials has been key to the project, Hartley says. The Timber louvres and the iron weathervane have been repainted in a natural linseed oil paint to match the original rich red colour found on the building.

Further stages of work are planned, including re-roofing and seismic upgrade to the remainder of the David Ross designed building. Ross (1827-1908), a prominent Dunedin architect, designed the church in Gothic Revival style. The church was built using locally quarried stone. Parishioners attended an opening service in December 1876.