The story, and sale, of Wallaceville Church

Open2view 298904 church Upper Hutt

We shoot a heap of houses at Open2view. But a church? Well, that’s somewhat less common.

Wallaceville Church was built in 1893 by the Presbyterian Assembly, and now it could be yours. You’ll have to be quick though, if the experience of current owners, Alan and Heidi McGhie, is anything to go by.

“We purchased the church in November, 2002,” Heidi told us by email. ‘We drove past it one summer when we were dating, and it looked so lovely we stopped, waded through the long grass and peered through the windows. I even commented to my now husband, Alan, “Wouldn’t it be neat to own one day?”

“And what do you know, not long after that, it was mentioned in our local paper that they had three offers on it already and it was going to be decided the next evening who they would sell to. Within 24 hours we had an offer faxed through and we won the tender. Just like that.”

Open2view 298904 upper hutt Wallaceville Church

‘One Hundred Years of Worship,’ compiled by Len Gorrie and Phyllis Macnab, contains plenty of the church’s history up to 1993.

The history of the church is essentially the story of Wallaceville. It was intended that the building be the hub of the village, and for a while it appeared it would be.

The 108-seat church was built by a Mr Whitcher of Petone at a cost of 97 pounds. At the opening ceremony/picnic social in November 1893, the Petone Chronicle reported excitement unseen in the valley since Pakeha first settlement.

Sunday services were heavily attended in the church’s early days. In 1905 it hosted its first wedding. Records also show suggestions that the building host socials “in the week previous to the full moon.” Perhaps, surmised Gorrie, “the moon played a part in the success of the social.” Alternatively, perhaps full moons gave rise to behaviour unsuitable in a place of worship.

With some churches in the area struggling to balance the books, the Co-operating Parish (a union of the local Methodist and Presbyterian congregations, later renamed the Upper Hutt Uniting Parish) was formed in 1976.

By 1983, however, Phyllis Macnab reported an average of just eight people coming to services. Many families had, she wrote, “moved away, or married into a different denomination or prefer to attend worship at Upper Hutt… [the building] is no longer the centre of the district.”

Open2view 298904 Upper Hutt church

Fast-forward to 2002. New owners Alan and Heidi bought the building from the Parish and hosted many weddings in the 11 years since. It has also found use as a film set, the host of a poetry evening, county school fairs and was “part of many garden tours raising money for the Life Flight Trust.” Annual Christmas services, run by the Parish, are also “a big hit.”

Little about the building has changed; the powder room is a relatively new feature, but much is as it was when built. The wrought iron gates are the originals. The pedal organ is “nearly as old as the church” and still forms the soundtrack for many a wedding. The christening font remains there, along with, says Heidi, a “record of christenings which… dates back to the very early 1900s.”

Open2view 298904 church organ

Open2view’s local, Liz Evans, jumped at the chance to photograph the property.

“The church would be up there in uniqueness,” she said. “I haven’t photographed a church before!”

Photographing a church brought its share of unique challenges. “It was dark inside and full of wood,” explains Liz, “which absorbs the flash produced from the camera’s external flash instead of bouncing the light off walls. So I exposed for the windows and had a slow shutter speed.” Ultimately, as with any challenge, the secret to successful photos is to take a whole lot of them.

So what now for the McGhies? Heidi and Alan plan to carry on with their other business, Almack Electrical, and do some more crayfishing.

“We love adventures and life is short,” says Heidi, “so, for us, it is time to move on. We’ll certainly miss the place!”

Check out the photos of this amazing property and it’s easy to see why. There’s an on site auction on 19 October; check out the photos on our site, then head along for your chance to own this wonderful slice of Upper Hutt history.

Open2view 298904 Wallaceville Church front

4 thoughts on “The story, and sale, of Wallaceville Church

  1. We were married there in 2005. The hottest day that summer and it was lovely and cool inside the church. It’s a lovely building and Heidi has done great things in the last decade to preserve the history. It is a shame it couldn’t be purchased by Upper Hutt City Council as a venue site.

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