The Main House
On the 29th September 1858 Edmund Hobhouse was consecrated a Bishop in London for Nelson, New Zealand. He arrived in Nelson the following year and announced the need for a Bishop’s residence.
In 1862 he purchased 158 acres (4 parcels of land) in South Nelson for a Bishop’s residence, to be known as Bishopdale. In June 1866 Hobhouse gifted the Bishopdale Estate to the Nelson Diocese. The first residence at Bishopdale was opened in September 1868.
During the early 1920’s a commission looked at the Bishopdale Estate. It was decided to sell the farmland which was of poor quality and to build a new house. In 1924, the first residence at Bishopdale was pulled down because of poor state of repair and the closure of the College made it too large. At a cost of 5267 pounds, the new residence, designed by William Houlker, opened in 1925.
In 1976 approximately 5 acres of the remaining 10 were sold to the City as a permanent reserve. This land surrounds the property half of the property from Waimea Road and is known as the Bishopdale Reserve.
The following years saw extensive domestic renovations to the house. However, in October 1997, the Synod voted to sell the property. In December 1999, the Bishopdale property went on the market.
We purchased the property in November 2015 whilst living overseas. We moved back in early 2021 and are now loving the challenge of transforming it into a modern family home.
Bishopdale Theological College
Plans for a theological college began in 1867 with Nelson’s first Bishop, Edmund Hobhouse. At that time, clergy were sourced from England. Their supply was unreliable and they were challenged in connecting with an independent, colonial culture they were not accustomed to.
Some of the pioneers had a rebellious attitude and were not as willing to conform to church ideals as the English congregations. A systematic endeavour of ecclesiastical education had also begun with the opening of local colleges in the larger cities of Auckland and Christchurch, but Nelson’s isolation meant that student access to these schools was restricted. Towards the end of his episcopate, Hobhouse privately purchased timber and the spacious 158-acre property of Bishopdale Estate, with the intention of creating a college.
The incoming Bishop, Bishop Andrew Suter brought with him four well-trained men to serve as tutors for the proposed school. Construction began on the Bishopdale site in early 1868 and was completed in September. In 1869 students moved in, to live with Suter and his wife and the college began, sparking a new age of growth for the Nelson diocese.
In 1874 Suter created the Board of Theological Studies which set national exams and provided the Licentiate qualification (LTh). By 1876 the college was fully developed, with six students, and the following year, became affiliated with the University of New Zealand. This provided students with the opportunity for specialist subjects and meant that studying for an LTh could be entirely completed at Bishopdale.
The students had seventeen-hour days with much of the time devoted to lessons based on those from England including Evolution, The Meaning Of Hell, Classical Studies, Physics, Structural Botany, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. They were also afforded an intimate look into the life and dealings of the Bishop, who even took the students on his pastoral tours. This would have been a valuable and certainly unique learning experience in their line of study.
Chapel of Holy Evangelists
The chapel at Bishopdale is unique in that it was built in 1877 primarily for the students at Bishopdale Theological College which was adjacent to Bishop Suter’s residence. It also served as a centre for worship by neighbouring residents.
The architect, Maxwell Bury, used a very simple form, being influenced by the primitive churches, with an apsidal chancel. The exterior is board and batten with a slate roof and the chapel is particularly well sited on Bishopdale Hill with fine mature trees to enhance the setting.
The interior is noteworthy for its various adornments and features which include an unusual full immersion font in the Baptistery. Architecturally it is very attractive inside and out, and is very good example of the smaller scale work of Maxwell Bury. Bury also designed the main building of Otago University and the former Provincial Council Chambers in Nelson. The chapel’s association with Nelson’s first two bishops is also significant.