Waikaka Church

Between December 1884 and March 1886 new churches were built in Knapdale, Otama, Waikaka Valley and North Chatton when new settlers were also struggling to establish homes, farms and many were involved in gold mining. Prior to 1911 there was no Presbyterian Church building here in Waikaka but there was a church in the true sense of the word. Meetings were held in the local hall, and people’s homes. In Wendon Valley and Greenvale meetings were held in the school and people’s homes. From 1894 Waikaka along with North Chatton was part of the Waikaka Valley parish. In that year the minster was Rev G Miller and the membership was 90 with 7 elders and 10 managers. The parish was divided again in 1899 to comprise Waikaka and North Chatton. A manse was built near the church in North Chatton in 1900. By then the village of Waikaka was growing rapidly and there needed to be a church building here.

That happened in 1911, but not without much prayer and hard work. Discussions began in 1906. A site was purchased. However, it was later decided that it was not suitable and the present site was decided on. The gorse covering it was soon dealt with. The fund raising started off with 4 pounds raised at a social in 1907. Synod provided one third of the required sum and the balance was raised over a period of months, with a significant amount raised by the Women’s Guild. The lowest tender of 388 pounds was accepted and the builder was HM Christie. As time went by the Waikaka Church took a greater role in the parish and it was decided that the manse really should be in Waikaka. After much discussion it was decided to move the manse. It was shifted in two pieces to its present site here next to the church where it still serves as a private residence. The district and the church were growing and in 1935 they decided that the church building needed to be larger. Plans went ahead for an extension. In the middle of the great depression, farmer’s incomes were down significantly, times were very hard in the cities and certainly tough on the farm. This was a brave step to take and it would have been interesting to time travel back to those managers meetings where the decision was eventually made. The cost was 545 pounds, a lot more than the original cost of the actual building 24 years earlier. It was a step of faith. They extended the building with more pews and a new entrance as well as the room vestry room at the west end. The builder was Donald Sinclair from Nightcaps. He was the brother of Mary McQueen who was a grandmother to John Kerse. She and Alex lived at Carslae in North Chatton where Jono and Kayla Gardyne now live and where the North Chatton Church was located. In the same year that Donald and his men completed the extensions to the Waikaka Church, he also built the “new” Carslae house. He would travel from Nightcaps to Waikaka on a Monday morning loaded with materials and would stay with The McQueen’s (and their 6 children) for two weeks before returning home for the following weekend. This would have been welcome work for him in difficult financial times.

1955 saw the arrival of the Sunday School building next to the Waikaka church. Formerly the Waikaka School building it was moved to there from near the Waikaka bridge. Its history is also interesting and has been a great asset to the church. This was not the last time the hammers and saws would be heard in Waikaka church building. Winters in Waikaka can be cool and various forms of heating have been employed starting with the original open fire. Early heating was by heated pipes under the seats which you could rest your feet on but they were hot to touch and probably wouldn’t get the Health and Safety tick today. The furnace was installed in possibly the late 1950’s. It had its own shed between the church and the Sunday School building and hot air could be directed into both buildings. This was a big step forward but it did rely on a keen person to light it an hour or so before church. The high ceiling made heating difficult so in 1974 Stan Kelly led a team of volunteers who pitched in and lowered the ceiling. This was a big job involving scaffolding over the seating area to provide a platform to work on. In 1991 the rooms on the north end of the church were altered to make a small lounge area. This involved removing a chimney and walls and resulted in a very useful room for small meetings and a place for a cuppa. One of the most ambitious projects in the building took place in 2002. The sloping floor was levelled. The old pews were removed and more suitable moveable seating was purchased. This was a big job and amazingly in the same year a large amount of work was also done in the Sunday School rooms including lowering ceilings, insulation, refurbishing the kitchen and toilets as well as painting. Apart from some painting and electrical work this huge project was completed with voluntary labour. Many people gave their time, talents and money to allow these things to happen and Jim Simpson was responsible for a lot of the alteration and finishing work. Wife Joan a few years ago produced a beautiful photographic record of the Waikaka Presbyterian Church.  Some photos from this are intended to be placed here.

The building has now been sold for removal, but the church in Waikaka will always be here while we have a community of believers. They will meet in a different place but they will continue to share the light of the gospel to those around them.