The beautiful building next to Old St Paul’s was built for the Bishop of Wellington and his family to live in in 1879. It was originally known as the Bishop’s Residence, and then more grandly as Bishopscourt, and today is known as Anglican House. It is a Category 2 building on the Heritage New Zealand list of historic places, significant because of its association with Old St Paul’s and an example of the work of architect William Chatfield, a prominent Wellington architect. It also housed Bishops who had a huge impact on early Anglican life in Wellington.
It was built in 1879 for the then Bishop of Wellington Octavius Hadfield, on the same site as the previous bishop’s residence. Hadfield wrote in January 1879 to his brother: ‘I never complained of the old house, or expressed any wish for a new one.’ However, people began to think that they needed a better house since Wellington had grown in importance.
Original Bishop’s House, c1860
When Hadfield moved into the new building in November 1879, he thanked the Building Committee and said it ‘ought for many years to provide a suitable residence’.
Bishop Octavius Hadfield
He was right, he and his family lived there for 15 years, followed by three other bishops and their families, until 1940, when it became a boarding house until 1963.
Bishop Frederic Wallis and his family lived in it after Hadfield, between 1895 and 1910, when the smoke and congestion from the nearby Wellington Railway Station took a toll on his health. The Diocesan Trustees leased it out as a boarding house.
Right Reverend Frederic Wallis
The next Bishop, Dr Thomas Sprott, moved into Bishop’s Court in 1917. He and his daughter’s family lived there until his retirement in 1936. Tom Coleridge, Sprott’s son-in-law, recalled ‘returning late one night from the theatre, we found a strange female fast asleep on the back sofa of one of the front rooms. It took much shaking and pushing before she came sufficiently awake to draw herself up straight, remark disdainfully ‘Such a fuss about nothing’ and lurch with tipsy dignity out of the house.’
The Sprotts (c1930) and their Bishopscourt living room (c1927-1928)
The last bishop to live in the house was Herbert St Barbe Holland, who moved in with his family sight-unseen in 1936. The noise and soot from the wharves and railway station aggravated his injuries from a previous car crash (he was known for his fast driving), and by 1940 he had persuaded the Trustees to buy a new house at 28 Eccleston Hill.
Holland family, c1936
Between 1940 and 1963 it was again leased out as an accommodation house for single professional ladies, it was known as Harlington House and run by Mrs Inglis.
By 1963 it was a bit dilapidated. It was saved from demolition not so much by the power of the people, as Old St Paul’s was, but because it was deemed useful to the government. It was found to be structurally sound even though by this time it was looking a bit sad – it had been built to an excellent standard. The Government bought it in 1964 from the Diocesan Trustees for £16,500. The Ministry of Works and Development restored it and it was used as a Family Court for two decades, which suited the more domestic feeling of the building. By 1991 the Diocesan Trustees were given an opportunity to repurchase the building. It was rededicated and renamed Anglican House, Ko te Karaiti te Pou Herenga Waka (we shall all be one in Christ, one in our life together).
Today it stands next to Old St Paul’s as one of the only surviving buildings of colonial Wellington on Mulgrave Street, once a strongly Anglican area (along with Sydney Street around the corner), where the church’s parish hall was located.
Sources: A Suitable Residence, Elizabeth Kay, 2014, Wellington; Bishop’s Court, Historic Places List, http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/1361, accessed 5 July 2016. Images: Modern images, Elizabeth Cox; Historic Images, all from Alexander Turnbull Library: Old Bishop’s House, Ref 1/2-021166-F; Octavius Hadfield, Ref 1/4-002166-G; Sprotts, Ref 1/1-018358-F; Living room, Ref 1/2-051252-F, ; Holland family, Ref 1/1-018495-F. Plus Frederic Wallis, AWNS-19020508-9-2, Auckland Libraries.