The great majority of New Zealand’s 19th century churches were built in the Gothic Revival style, but using timber rather than traditional stone. With its vertical board and batten cladding, pointed windows and traditional form of nave, transepts and chancel, St Peter’s is one of the country’s finest small wooden Gothic churches.
The town’s first resident Anglican clergyman, the Rev. W.J. Aylmer, arrived in Akaroa in 1851 and the first St Peter’s was built on Church Street in 1852. The second St Peter’s, built on a new site in 1863, was designed by A.G. Purchas, a clergyman-architect, who also designed the similar-looking St Stephen’s, Tuahiwi, north of Christchurch. There are hints of the predominantly North Island “Selwyn style” about both these churches. (Selwyn was New Zealand’s vigorous first Anglican bishop).
When the church needed enlarging in the decade after it was built, Benjamin Mountfort designed the transepts and chancel that completed one of Akaroa’s most pleasing buildings.