Edmund Anscombe (1874-1948) was an important New Zealand architect, well known for his design of the 1925 New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition (Logan Park, Dunedin) and the 1940 New Zealand Centennial Exhibition (Rongotai, Wellington), as well as for his art deco buildings in Hawkes Bay (especially Hastings), and in Wellington.
This article explores Anscombe’s contribution to New Zealand’s early twentieth-century church design by presenting new archival research and examining his distinctive use of secular imagery, notably the architectures of the house and schoolhouse. The article locates these designs simultaneously within traditions of Nonconformist architecture and within a Victorian interest in the home as productively informing a spiritual understanding of church building. While some architectural examples of this thinking were apparent in late nineteenth-century America, there are no other known examples in New Zealand. Anscombe’s use of this secular and domestic imagery in his church design enabled fashionable and theologically-informed architectures to co-exist.