The Construction of the Cathedral 1879-1886

In June 1879 a tender for the first stage of building the new Cathedral was accepted. The successful contractors were Parker and McNamara, and their tender was two thousand, nine hundred and seventy pounds. The work comprised the base courses of cut bluestone for the aisles and the nave foundations, the construction of the walls, including the fourteen tracery windows in the lower walls, the centre main doorway and the side entrances to the towers, and decorative archways on the inner wall of the Cathedral porch.
Construction of the Cathedral moved slowly. Bishop Moran adamantly refused to get into debt. He had a clause inserted in the contract that if at any time money was not available, the work would stop until further finance could be obtained. This was the reason why the opening of the Cathedral took place seven years after the laying of the Foundation Stone.
The main wall construction is Water of the Leith bluestone from the concrete footings finishing one foot below floor level. This is followed by two courses of the imported hard Melbourne stone is the softer Port Chalmers aglomerate stone which forms the moulded plinth. Within and without the Cathedral there is abundant evidence of the use of Oamaru stone. Waihola freestone and West Coast white marble were mentioned in the original specifications, but it would seem that they were replaced with other materials.
Towards the end of 1884 the walls of the Cathedral were completed and ready for the roof. For over five years the Catholic community in Dunedin, by their generosity and considerable self-sacrifice, had taken the Cathedral to its present stage. Every responsible Church member was urged to contribute "at least one shilling a week". Bishop Moran realised additional funds were required to do the roofing in one continuous job. Monsignor Coleman's successful Diocesan Appeal bought the required finance.
Opening Day, February 14, 1886 "The weather on Sunday morning appeared very threatening. There was a thick mist, and those who got up to attend the early Masses in the old church - where Holy Mass was offered for the last time, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 9 a.m. - were very much alarmed lest a heavy downpour of rain might be the result. Their fears, however, were not realised, and nothing more than the mist occurred during the day. At 10 a.m. the Most Reverend Dr Moran, attended by cross bear, acolytes and assistant priests, circumambulated the walls and blessed the new building."

N.Z. Tablet, Friday, February 19, 1886.

By June 1886 the North Tower had been erected and the Cathedral completed in its unfinished state. The final size of the Cathedral would have been twice as long as it is now. The Cathedral cost twenty-two thousand, five hundred pounds, and in May 1889 Bishop Moran was able to announce that the Cathedral was free of debt.

THE ORIGINAL CONTRACTORS FOR ST JOSEPH'S CATHEDRAL WERE:
Carpentry and Joinery Daniel W. Woods
Findlay and Company
Masonry Parker and McNamara
George Munro
Carving Louis John Godfrey and Sons
Glass Taylor and Oakley (Christchurch)
David Scott
Franz Mayer and Company (Munich) Suppliers
Plastering Ferry and Washer
Roofing George S. Williden
James Brennan
Metal Work Barningham and Company
Dunedin Iron and Woodware Company
(formerly Guthric Larnach and Company)
Painting John J. P. Fottrell
Organ Reconstruction Edward H. Jenkins (Christchurch)

History pages:
History | The Architect | The Cathedral Site | Construction | Sculptor and Carver
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