A History of St Oswald's Anglican Church

St Oswald’s Anglican Church has its origins in a meeting of interested church people in October 1925. The twenty-two people present formed a committee which made sterling efforts over the following years to establish the Church of St Oswald, struggling all the time against almost overwhelming financial odds. The Rev. Stanton and Archbishop Averill toured the district searching out a suitable site for the church and decided on an elevated section in Campbell Rd, One Tree Hill. A sub-committee was formed, a bank account was opened and by November donations totaled £40. ($3,478 in 21st century money.) There were many fund raising activities for the church, culminating in the first service held on the site on 13th December 1925.

The first services were held under canvas but after the tent blew down it was decided to hire a French timer-framed tent and regular services began on 21st February 1926. Harvest Thanksgiving was celebrated on 18th April.

Sunday School commenced shortly afterwards, the roll swelling quickly to seventy children, a certain vindication of the decision to start the church activities in One Tree Hill.

In April 1926 it was suggested that the name St Oswald be adopted as the name of the church. St Oswald was the Christian warrior king of Northumbria in the 7th century. Over the years the Patronal Festival has been held on or near St Oswald’s Day, 5th August, the day of Oswald’s death in a battle against the heathen King Penda. King Oswald and the saintly monk, Aidan, worked together to bring Christianity to the north of England.

The church building was the next priority. Plans were drawn up, foundations organised, some of the framework was prefabricated, a stone laying ceremony was arranged and with a small army of willing workers, the church – later to become the church hall – was erected on Saturday 1st May 1926 at a cost of £600. ($52,184 in 21st century money.)

During 1947 great efforts were made to reduce the church debt and at the AGM in April 1948 the church hall and land were declared debt free.

By early 1954 ideas and plans for the church were taking shape and by February 1955 £2,796 ($243,178 in 21st century money) had been raised.

Dr. R.H. Toy was asked to design the church for St Oswald’s and although progress appeared slow, that careful consideration resulted in the beautiful church that we have today with its simple but distinctive style and attractive interior.

The design involved what were, at that time, unconventional methods of construction. Even after the faculty had been granted, Bishop Simkin expressed misgivings about what he saw as lack of supporting pillars for the roof. He said that he was prepared to accept the ruling of the Diocesan Architect, but that the church committee of St Oswald’s was to accept full responsibility for any untoward happening. After assurances from a consulting engineer and the Diocesan Architect were received, authority was given to dispense with pillars in the church.

Faith in Dr. Toy was justified and a very open and uncluttered church interior resulted. In later years Dr. Toy brought many of his pupils to inspect the church and the new and unusual building method.

Busy months on the site followed with blasting and clearing of rocks. Many of the residences of the One Tree Hill area are built on lava flows from the nearby One Tree Hill volcano, with igneous rock just below the soil. The foundation stone was laid in December 1957 by Canon F.C. Truman. An audio recording and photographs were taken of the ceremony, copies of which are held in the Auckland Diocesan Archives.

The completed and almost fully furnished church was dedicated by Bishop Simkin on 2nd November 1958 and records of that day are also held in the Auckland Diocesan Archives.

Now that the church hall was free for general use, table tennis and indoor bowls were started, social evenings began with dances and fancy dress parties and young people’s activities. All parish groups benefited now that worship had moved into the new church.

When the church was completely paid for it was possible for the church to be consecrated and the service was held on 24th August 1969.

St Oswald’s is very fortunate to have had parishioners on hand to record proceedings and once again the resultant photographs and audio recordings have been deposited with the Auckland Diocesan Archives.

The opportunity to freehold the vicarage, at the Ellerslie end of Campbell Rd, came in June 1970 and freeholding was completed shortly afterwards.

Maintenance on the large, lovely building became too much of a financial burden in later years and so the decision was made to sell the house in 1999 and a modern, maintenance free vicarage, was purchased.

 The golden jubilee of the first service held at the church of St Oswald’s in December 1925 was held in December 1975 with a Golden Jubilee Ball in the hall on Friday 12th December.

A complete history of St Oswald’s Church is available from the church office and a DVD was produced commemorating the 50th anniversary. The half hour DVD tells, in words and pictures, the history of the church of St Oswald’s from the beginning to the present day. Speak to our secretary for a copy.

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