Ormondville's Church of the Epiphany has a proud and rich heritage and on Sunday will celebrate its 135th anniversary, with a Thanksgiving service, followed by a mix and mingle and a barbecue.

"This old church creaks and groans in the wind, but is still standing and it's been the place of some wonderful celebrations over the years," Reverend Dorothy (Dot) King, priest associate of the CHB parish, said.

"It will be a wonderful celebration on Sunday, with the Thanksgiving service acknowledging the Webb family, who came here and made great sacrifices."

The first meeting to discuss the building of a church in Ormondville was held on April 18, 1881.


Reverend E Robertshawe of Dannevirke appealed for funds with £54, 12 shillings and sixpence subscribed by those present.

Others in the community offered building materials and a labour-only tender was called on November 21, 1881.

Built of a combination of totara and matai, the church is sound, despite its 135-years.
The completed church was consecrated by Bishop Stuart of the Waiapu Diocese in 1883, six months before the arrival of Reverend AS Webb, the first resident vicar, in 1884.

Under Heritage New Zealand, the church has a Category 2 listing - signifying it is a "historic place of historical or cultural significance or value".

When Webb arrived the church was a modest unlined building, with plain windows and a steep roof.

It had few furnishings other than eight chairs and a small table.

There was no provision for lighting or heating and during high winds, for which the area was renowned, the walls moved drastically in and out. By 1891, church foundations had been stabilised against wind, the building was lined, the chancel, transepts and tower added with a large bell. It was described then as "one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest, in Hawke's Bay".

Currently at the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke's Bay is an exhibition, House of Webb: A Victorian family's journey to Ormondville.


"I just love this church to bits. There's something very special about it," King said.

The church is a beautiful landmark. The bell still rings, a massive key still unlocks the main door, the pews and linings of local timbers shine as they once did.

And now an appropriate church-style toilet has been built and a new kitchen installed by the Friends of the Epiphany, ensuring the church can go forward into the next century as a gathering and function space for the community.

"After 134 years we have a toilet and running water," King said.

On Sunday Shane Story will explain how the Friends of Epiphany was set up to receive donations for the toilet project which allows the church to be used for functions.

Everyone is welcome to the service and the hospitality which follows and the organisers would appreciate a contribution to the shared finger food lunch to accompany the barbecue.

* Ormondville's Church of the Epiphany Thanksgiving service, Sunday, January 20 at 11am.