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This architectural tour de force in the decorated Gothic style was designed in 1862. Construction was delayed after the Otago Provincial Council decided to reduce Bell Hill, on which it was to stand, by some 12 metres (40 ft) the hill had proved a major impediment to transport in the rapidly expanding city.

The church is dominated by its multi-pinnacled tower crowned by a spire rising to 54 metres (177 ft). The spire is unusual as it is pierced by two-storeyed gabled windows on all sides, which give an illusion of even greater height. Such was Lawson's perfectionism that the top of the spire had to be dismantled and rebuilt when it failed to measure up to his standards. It can be seen from much of central Dunedin, and dominates the skyline of lower Moray Place.

Externally First Church successfully replicates the effect, if on a smaller scale, of the late Norman cathedrals of England. The cathedral-like design and size can best be appreciated from the rear. There is an apse flanked by turrets, which are dwarfed by the massive gable containing the great rose window. It is this large circular window which after the spire becomes the focal point of the rear elevations. The whole architectural essay appears here almost European. Inside, instead of the stone vaulted ceiling of a Norman cathedral, there are hammer beams supporting a ceiling of pitched wood and a stone pointed arch acts as a simple proscenium to the central pulpit. Above this diffused light enters through a rose window of stained glass. This is flanked by further lights on the lower level, while twin organ pipes emphasise the symmetry of the pulpit.
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Additional Photos by Eugene Fu (eugenefu) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 22 W: 0 N: 103] (522)
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