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St Francis of Assisi, Bideford

St Francis, from the eastern side of the churchyard
The Church of St Francis of Assisi sits on a terrace, high above the Tauweru River. It was built in 1875, on land donated in 1878 to the Church of England by David Carman, a former owner of parts of Bowlands. It has a Category II heritage listing, register number 1285.

The church is built of pit sawn timber, with the weatherboards running vertically instead of horizontally, and bears some similarities to St Andrew's Anglican Church in Martinborough and Old St Paul's in Wellington.  The church was built with a shingle roof, made of hand-split totara shingles, but this was covered with corrugated roofing iron in 1911.

The church is tucked away, hidden from view, in Waterfalls Road, Bideford. Waterfalls Road dips down to cross a low-lying bridge across the Tauweru River. It makes access to the church somewhat challenging when the weather has been wet, as the roadway is very muddy and prone to flooding.

The church interior is simple, the wooden walls set off by the red carpet.

The movable form seats suggest the church's multiple original role as school room and local hall.

The altar came originally from the Church of the Epiphany in Masterton. The altar cross was made by Ernest Wrigley in the late 1950s.

Appliqued banner of St Francis of Assisi.

The prayer desk and font came from the Church of the Epiphany, in Masterton.

The lectern was found outside the church in the 1930s. It was subsequently shortened, as it had been designed for someone about six feet tall.

The small American reed organ has a lovely bright sound, and is a beautiful instrument to play.

Church bell, added some time after the centenary in 1975. Some confusion exists about its origins.

Grave of the Hon. John Falloon CNZM

The Rev. C H Gossett was the first clergyman to live in Bideford. He came from Bideford in Devon and suggested the name Bideford for the district, in preference to Upper Taueru.

Bideford Churchroom, circa 1913

St Francis is part of Masterton Anglican Parish and its first Vicar, the Rev. J. F Teakle, gave permission for Bideford Church to serve as the local hall and schoolroom.  Presbyterian services were also held for a time at the church.  A schoolroom and residence was subsequently built on the section to the west of the church.

Schoolroom, originally located on the western side of the church.

The remoteness of the church within the geographically widespread parish of Masterton, combined with wet weather making access via Waterfalls Road impassable, means that the timetable for monthly services was frequently subject to change.

Notes from St Matthew's parish magazines of the 1920s give some idea of the on-again, off-again nature of Bideford services.

December 1922
We have made a start with the services here again and have met with encouragement. Mrs Falloon kindly acts as organist and the singing so far has been most hearty.  The next service at Bideford will be on December 24th, at 11 am, when we hope to be able to say our prayers and sing our hymns in some shady place outside.  Christmas hymns, please!

March 1923
The services at Bideford are going ahead well, and our thanks are due largely to Mrs Falloon for playing and other small duties, such as letting others know when the hour of a service is altered for unavoidable reasons. At Christmas time we had the Church decorated, a little bit of work and kindly thought which was greatly appreciated.

July 1923
The services here keep up well in spite of the wintry weather of the last few months. If only we could get the Church Room moved into an accessible place when the school is moved!

August 1923
We were sorry that the very bad weather on July 22nd broke the sequence of services at Bideford. It was impossible for both parson and people. We trust that on August 26th, our next Sunday service at Bideford, we shall resume with a good muster of worshippers.

September 1923
We were sorry that, owing to shortage of staff, Bideford had to go without another monthly service. The next service will be held on Sept. 30th, the last not the fourth Sunday in the month.

October 1923
The services at Bideford have commenced again after the break due to bad weather. Mrs Falloon has again been instrumental - in more than one way - in keeping up the service.

January 1924
At Bideford on the Sunday before Christmas we had an unusual Christmas service. The weather being so hot we chose the kindly shade of a big native tree near the river and there sang our Christmas hymns and joined in the worship heartily. Some people imagine that unaccompanied singing is wanting in heartiness. They should have heard us at BIDEFORD and at WESTMERE where we had to sing without an instrument.
July 1926, Bideford
Services have been arranged for the fifth Sunday in the month. Will friends kindly make a note of the new arrangement and intimate the same to any who possibly have not been notified.
Swingbridge (footbridge) which used to provide access over the river.
It was swept away in a flood in the 1940s.
(Pen and wash drawing by Wilma Brown.)

Subsequently the Bideford community, frustrated by years of difficult access to the church and school site, moved the schoolroom to its current location in Mangapurupuru Road (map), and built an public hall.

Centenary: 1875-1975
On 11 October 1975 the Bideford church celebrated its centenary. This was marked by a weekend of festivities, which included a pageant on the life of St Francis of Assisi by children of Bideford School, and by the dedication and naming of the church as St Francis by the Bishop of Wellington, the Rt Rev. Edward Norman, who arrived at the service in a horse and gig.

Sketch of Bideford Church by Roy Steer

The Church of St Francis is part of the Anglican Parish of Masterton. Holy Communion is celebrated on the third Sunday of each month at 9 am. The Rev'd Liz Greville, assisted by Anne Kershaw, has responsibility for St Francis'. Read more about the current Bideford church community here.

The church is available for weddings.

Contact the Rev. Liz Greville, 06 370 8274, or email

Parish Office: phone 06 370 8589 or email

Bideford Church Centenary publication, 1875-1975
Wairarapa Archives


  1. looks a lovely old church, soon to visit it then give feed back!

  2. Loved the church inside and out.. so much history thank you for sharing it with us.. I shall return and spend more time with the little churchyard.
    Adele Pentony-Graham
    Clareville Taphophile.

    1. Thank you for your comments. It is a wonderful little building, steeped in history.


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