Presbyterianism began in Marlborough with the 1857 arrival of the first minister, the Rev. Thomas D Nicholson.
After settling at Renwick he opened the first church building there in 1859. Renwick lay well clear of the frequent river floods which more often than not beset The Beaver (later renamed Blenheim). Nicholson’s vast parish stretched from the Marlborough Sounds southwards as far as the Flaxbourne district which became present day Ward. His successors enlarged their cure to include the Wakamarina goldfields and Kaikoura town.Meanwhile, from 1859, the river port of Blenheim gained prominence as the foremost settlement in the newly proclaimed Province of Marlborough. It soon acted as the main locale for Presbyterians and Nicholson’s successors.
After building a manse the Blenheim congregation opened their first church in 1858, naming it after St Andrew.
Sited in Russell Terrace, hard by the oft-flooding Omaka River (known today as the Taylor), St Andrew’s had its share of trials from these damp events and so was very much a ‘river church’. The growing congregation opened a second and larger wooden church, capped with a soaring spire, in 1892.
Elsewhere in the Province, a newer church had also been opened in Renwick by this time, as well as the first churches for the Awatere Valley, Kaikoura and Picton.
Following World War II, St Andrew’s Session felt the need for extension of its work in the Redwoodtown portion of Blenheim, where new housing was bounding ahead. In due course this led to the forming of the Wairau Parish in 1957, based upon St Ninian’s Church, located in Alabama Road.
St Andrew’s, after 90 years as a ‘river church’, sought and acquired a fresh, more convenient site adjacent to nearby Seymour Square. The present Sunday School hall, fashioned from pink Wharanui stone, opened in November, 1958. The same year St Andrew’s celebrated its First 100 Years, dating from the opening of the original church building in Russell Terrace. The second wooden church was by now at the close of its economic life and, after vigorous fund-raising, the third and present stone-clad church, was dedicated October, 1969. In the 1990s the roofed-over breezeway separating church and hall was closed in to create an inviting and warm entry lounge, together with other renovations completed to the hall.
For more detailed information St Andrew’s church office can suggest several print sources.
Another good site for Marlborough or Nelson history is theprow,