History of the church
In 1859, John Hyde Harris gave the sections on the north-east corner of King and Frederick Streets as a site for the church. The foundation stone was laid on 23rd November, 1859. At first it was known as the second Presbyterian Church, but Hyde Harris suggested that it should be called Knox Church after John Knox.
Knox Church was initially opened on 6th May, 1860 at a different site from the current building on the corner of both Great King Street and Frederick Street. Because the church had been founded with the intention of serving the needs of a broad section of people, it soon became an important centre of religious life. Knox Church was fortunate enough to have a minister (Dr DM Stuart) who was ‘large-minded, prudent, affable, gentle’, and soon became well known on the streets of Dunedin.
This meant the church became very popular and by June 1861, the church needed to be enlarged. In November 1862 again further expansion was required but it wasn’t possible on the existing site on the corners of both Great King and Frederick Streets.
So in 1871 it was agreed to build a new church on the current site on the corner of George and Pitt Streets. The land cost £369, and the cottage and stable on the lands cost £200. The new church was designed to seat 1000 people and a choir of 30. There would have to be a belfry and a gallery, the total cost of the building was fixed as £5000.
A competition was held to design the new church, and 17 plans were submitted. The first choice was the plan by RA Lawson, but this design could not be achieved within the budget allowed. The budget was raised to £6000, but it soon became clear that this would not be enough. On 22nd August, 1879, David Ross (Architect of the Otago Museum) was appointed as architect with £7200 allocated to build the church and to provide seating and lighting. However, David Ross disagreed with the building committee about which stone to use, and whether or not they required an inspector. These arguments caused many issues, and Ross was given notice after his contract ended on 16th January 1873. The Church Deacons offered generous compensation, but Ross went to the Supreme Court and came away with only 40 shillings.
A new building committee was formed and RA Lawson was appointed as the new architect. The foundation stone was laid on 25th November 1872, exactly 300 years since the death of John Knox. The building took four years to complete, and cost over £18000. The new Knox Church can seat around 900 people and has been a place of worship since November 5th 1876. This building is the one we see today. The Knox congregation was a union in 1860 of members from First Church (one third of its membership) and from the independent congregation, except for its Wesleyan and Baptist members who formed their own churches at the time. These people had worked together for 18 months planning their new church and calling a minister, the Rev Donald M Stuart from Falstone in Northumberland, England.
The chancel window was installed in 1964 in memory of the women of Knox Church. It features Christ in glory surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists with Peter and Paul kneeling below.
The ceiling is one of the features of the church which was completed in 1876 for a cost of 18,333 pounds.