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A steeple for the people recreated

Men’s Shed members Murray Campbell, Barry Clement, Wayne Harrison with the restored steeple and belfry. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

A reconstructed steeple and belfry made its way from Henley Men’s Shed back to the rest of Tinui Church on Thursday.

A crane was required to lift the steeple for transportation.

The structure was hoisted with great care by crane, though further engineering work would need to be done before it could be attached.

Men’s Shed manager John Bush said it had arrived about 17 months earlier in much worse condition.

“It was waterlogged, rotten, and what you call falling apart.”

The belfry had been reconstructed using some of the original wood; however, the steeple had been made of all new materials.

The biggest challenge had been learning how to create an authentic imitation, Bush said.

“The research into knowing what was allowable in building something from that period,” he said.

“For example, shingles are very rarely done in the modern-day.

“It had to look that same as it would have, so while the materials were new, it looks authentic.”

It had been a long project, and it was good to see it finished, Bush said.

“That’s what the shed is about, community projects. We drive past, we see them, and we know we made that.”

The Tinui Church opened in 1903 and was listed as a Category 2 Historic Place.

It was the first church in the country to hold an Anzac memorial service on April 25, 1916.

Men’s Shed member Murray Campbell agreed the research had been one of the more challenging aspects of the reconstruction.

“The church is listed, so the architect from the historic building trust had to come and look at it,” Campbell said.

“He said he was impressed.”

The steeple had a three-inch hole in the top so rain would run down into the beams, he said.

One beam had even housed a bees’ nest, though the bees had vacated before the steeple was taken apart.

“To get it back together was like a thousand-piece jigsaw without the picture,” Campbell said.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s one of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken.

“But it was also the most interesting.”

Some of the Men’s Shed members had lived or grown up in Tinui. One member’s parents were married in the church.

At the church’s centennial celebration in 2003, the bell was rung 100 times.

Those sitting on the surrounding hills could see the old steeple swaying to-and-fro with the reverberations, Campbell said.

The Men’s Shed had also replaced the church’s altar after the fabric covering was removed to reveal “a scungy old door” as the altar’s flat surface.

“It’s those little stories that come out.”

Vicar Steve Thomson said the new steeple and belfry were “excellent”.

“It was something that needed a lot of intricate work done.”

As well as the steeple and belfry, Tinui Church was undergoing extensive renovations to its interior and exterior.

The work was originally planned for completion by autumn 2020, but was now being managed by the Anglican Diocese of Wellington.

“It was quite a big job for such a small parish,” Thomson said.

“It’s taken a lot longer than we anticipated … There’s quite a bit of work involved.”

He would like to have the church fully restored by the end of next year.

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