A century-old South Island church has been burnt to the ground in a suspected arson.

Fire and Emergency NZ was called to the blaze at the tiny Winchmore Church, near Ashburton, at 11.32pm last night.

Southern shift manager Riwai Grace said multiple calls were received about the blaze at the former church on Methven Highway (State Highway 77).

Firefighters from Ashburton were sent to fight the blaze but "unfortunately when we arrived the property was burning well", Grace said. The last truck left the scene at 2.10am.


Nobody was reported to be inside the single-storey 30m x 15m building at the time of the fire, Grace said.

The fire is suspicious, he said. Two letterboxes were seen on fire on the way to the blaze.

A fire investigator and police would be meeting at the church to determine the cause today, he said.

However, Ashburton's firefighters are busy, having just been called to a hedge fire next to the church, which is also suspicious.

The construction of Winchmore Church began in 1911. It was no longer being used for services and had recently been sold, according to an online real estate listing.