St Matthew-in-the-City, is an historic Anglican church in the Central Business District of Auckland, designed in the neo-Gothic style by John Loughborough Pearson and completed in 1905, after Pearsonís death.
As the city expanded, residential and commercial buildings sprang up and to serve the Anglicans amongst the growing population, George Augustus Selwyn, (New Zealand's first Anglican bishop and after whom Selwyn College, Cambridge is named) acquired land from the Crown in 1843 at the corner of Hobson and Wellesley Streets. On it a one-roomed school was built from which Bishop Selwyn first conducted services.
In 1855 Bishop Selwyn appointed the designer of Old St Paul's, Wellington, the Reverend Frederick Thatcher, as vicar of the new parish of St Matthew's and on July 13th of that year, thirty people met in the school room to constitute the new parish. Thatcher (1814-1890) was an English architect and clergyman, born at Hastings to a long-established Sussex family. He was one of the earliest associates of the Institute of British Architects, being admitted in 1836.
In 1896 the parish decided it was time to build the stone church. Pearson, designer of both Truro Cathedral in Cornwall and St John's Cathedral in Brisbane, Australia was engaged but, before he could complete the plans, he died in 1898 and it fell to his son, Frank Loughborough Pearson to complete his work: the cornerstone was laid on April 23rd, 1902 by Governor Lord Ranfurly.
As central Auckland became increasingly commercial the population in the parish declined. St Matthew's took on more of a role as church to the commercial and civic life of the city, a role it continues today. The church's size, location, style and musical tradition have made it a natural place for civic services to be held.
In 1862 Henry Willis supplied an instrument of two manuals and Pedals for use in the original, wooden church, the specification was (as far as can be determined) as follows:
Swell to Great
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Blowing - Hydraulic
In 1907, two years after the completion of the new church, this instrument was moved intact, into the new church but being placed directly on the floor of the south Transept and completely ignoring the purpose-designed, Triforium-level organ chamber provided by Pearsonís design - as at Truro. The new Church, being over eight-times the size of the original church, rendered the old Willis greatly inadequate for the job and in 1938 it was finally decided to rebuild the organ - the contract being awarded to the recently-arrived Ernest Lawton, of Aberdeen, who had set up in business with a local man by the name of Osborne. Lawton and Osborne carried out a substantial rebuilding of the organ which did not improve it and in the 1970s there was a further attempt made by the local firm of Croft. Consequently, little of the nature of the original instrument survives though there are several partially-surviving, original ranks.
Henry Willis & Sons was invited to St. Matthewís in 2006 in order to give an opinion as to the state of the instrument and to recommend a course of action: other recommendations and quotations already having been received from other firms. Our recommendation to the Church authorities was that only the surviving Willis pipework which had not been completely ruined should be retained (which amounts only to parts of five manual stops) and that an otherwise new instrument of four manuals and 54 stops should be designed and constructed, to be placed within Pearsonís organ chamber and with new cases for both the Transept and Chancel elevations.