On Christmas Day 1883 decorations furnished St Paul’s, a carol service was held and at midnight the choir visited parishioners to sing carols. This year was particularly special however, as St Paul’s was adorned with a new instalment that still hangs in the church today: the ten illuminated panels, erected along both sides of the nave below the clerestory, painted by the noted artist and long-term parishioner Charles Decimus Barraud.
Charles Decimus Barraud was born in London, England in 1822. After marrying Sarah Maria Style the two of them emigrated to New Zealand on the Pilgrim and arrived in Wellington on 20 August 1849. Barraud, having trained as a chemist and druggist, opened a shop on Lambton Quay. Though we know him as an artist, Barraud was successful as a pharmacist in Wellington. He founded the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand in 1879, regulating the selling of medicines, and protecting public health and the reputation of qualified pharmacists. He built an octagonal store on Manners Street called the Pill Box and opened branches in Napier and Wanganui.
Many of Barraud’s brothers were artists and this is likely to have inspired his interest in painting. He would often travel to all parts of New Zealand to sketch and paint. After his pharmacy was burned down for the second time in 1887 he retired and devoted himself to his art. He worked mostly in watercolour and sometimes with oils. He was a founder of the Fine Arts Association (later to become the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts). With a portfolio published in London and paintings commissioned by Governor George Grey, Barraud became a well-recognised artist.
Barraud and his wife were closely involved with the church. Charles was a churchwarden and vestryman for many years, and Sarah was part of the ladies’ circle. His brother, Francis Philip Barraud (1824-1900), while he never came to New Zealand, was also involved in the church; his firm Lavers and Barraud manufactured most of the windows at St Paul’s.
Given his long involvement in the church, it is a shame a painting of the church by Charles hasn’t been found – with the exception of this painting of Wellington from Kelburn from 1870, in which it is possible to see a very small depiction of St Paul’s in the middle distance. This view of Wellington was hung in Government House during the governorship of Sir George Grey.
The panels at Old St Paul’s are made from rimu and kauri and illuminated with oil colour. It isn’t known how Barraud chose the texts he painted on the panels, but one is particularly apt: ‘How amiable are thy dwellings Thou Lord of Hosts’.
Barraud died of influenza in 1897 at his home on The Terrace, Fernglen. A service was held for him in St Paul’s Church. He, and five of his family members, have brasses in the church (his is shown below), and his descendants remain involved in the church to this day.
Sources: Terry Barrett, ‘Barraud’s Illuminated Panels’, n.d., held at Old St Paul’s; Robin Kay, ‘Barraud, Charles Decimus’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 4-Jun-2013
Images: Charles Decimus Barraud (1822-1897). Blundell, John Barraud (Barry), 1904?-1975 : Photograph albums. Ref: PA1-q-037-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23191293; Barraud, Charles Decimus 1822-1897 : [Wellington from Kelburn] 1870. Ref: D-022-006. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23092567; Main image copyright Paul Scott, https://flic.kr/s/aHsk8VnSmh. Other interior photos by Elizabeth Cox.