Sight unseen purchase new era for church
November 2023

Sight unseen purchase new era for church

An Anglican church in a small Otago community has been de-consecrated and is now set to take on a new life.

St Chad’s in Middlemarch has been a place of worship since 1901. Otago manager for PGG Wrightson Real Estate Craig Bates was engaged by the diocese to sell the property, which he says attracted phenomenal interest.

“Cherished through the generations, St Chad’s is a special place featuring leadlight windows, a solid wooden floor and internal walls. However, it needed fresh ownership to breathe new life into it. A property like this inspires plenty of people, though to become its guardian requires some special characteristics,” he says.

Waikato resident Kay Ramsbottom has taken on that role, putting in an offer on St Chad’s without seeing it or ever visiting Middlemarch. Kay has always loved the idea of doing a church conversion and was thrilled when, despite stiff competition, the diocese accepted her offer.

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“My children left home a while ago, and I was ready for a new adventure. I’m an avid real estate watcher and had noted St Chad’s sometime before deciding to make an offer. Although I did that sight unseen, it was a good price from my perspective, leaving scope to refurbish it.”

Originally from Australia, Kay has recently completed a Masters in Professional Writing at the University of Waikato and is looking forward to using the church as a peaceful spot to finish a book she is working on. Aside from that, she has several options.

“I’ve not decided yet whether to refurbish it to live in, or build a tiny house outside and use the church for an art studio or similar creative space. I need to spend some more time working that out, also talking to local people. Whatever I do needs to remain true to the community spirit, and I’m sure others in Middlemarch will have ideas that I’m keen to listen to,” she says.

St Chad’s was planned in the late 19th century and built after concerted local effort, as Rev DO Hampton, the first vicar recorded:

“Mr E Clark, Kia Ora Farmer, Middlemarch, very generously gave us about half an acre, high and dry, as a site which we very gratefully accepted, and on which the church was built in the latter half of the year nineteen hundred, and fitted for Divine Service with all requisites necessary, except a Baptismal font, and from its belfry sounded forth the first church bell ever heard in Strath Taieri, this was on the first Sunday in March in the year nineteen hundred and one, a very blowy stormy day.”

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Several generations later, Middlemarch local Kate Wilson represented the diocese during the sale process.

“While it is a sad day to hand over a community asset and wind down something that’s been in the district for so long, there has been no service at St Chad’s for about a year, and we’ve not had a functioning power supply for about ten years, so it was time to move on. We are delighted to see it pass into the hands of someone who respects the values of a small community and is prepared to ensure it remains used by local people.

“Craig made the transaction simple: that reach that PGG Wrightson Real Estate has was just what we needed, and obviously a very effective way to identify a purchaser,” says Kate.

Craig’s association with St Chad’s dates back to the mid 1980s when he was a Middlemarch-based livestock agent living in the company-owned house next door. His duties then included ensuring the church land was grazed to keep it tidy and presentable for the monthly gathering.



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