The ‘Weekly News’ reported in February 1901 that James Wilkinson of Auckland, who owned a 24-acre block west of Church Street,
“has given a piece of land at Swanson for the building of a place of worship, but it is conditional that the place be erected in twelve months, which is rather hard lines on Swanson… (in October 1901) busy preparations for the erection of a Congregational Church at Swanson is taking place.”
The residents of Swanson must have kept to the condition imposed by James Wilkinson as it was reported:
“on 29 December 1901 two lady missionaries from Samoa held a service at the new Congregational Church at Swanson. The church was crowded, seats being placed in the aisle.”
At the front of the church (now a private dwelling), the foundation stone reads: ‘Laid on 9 November 1901 by S.W. Smeeton’. The church was used by various religious denominations in the community for services and meetings. In 1912 John Taylor married Jane Osborne in the Congregational church and the following year Edith Mettam married Percy Mason. Other couples include Arthur Roy Stansell and Mary Elizabeth Guy (1924), George Pegler and Edna Christian (1927). Daphne Taylor (nee Strahan) remembers attending Sunday school in 1915 and Dawn Pegler recalls attending Sunday school up to the late 1940s.
Thelma Groves (daughter of the local grader driver) is remembered as the Sunday school teacher who left in 1949 to go to Borneo as a missionary. Church services were held each Sunday without a minister. Ruth Cremer took over the Sunday school and ran it for five years, involving all her family. Mr and Mrs Cremer used to go around the district and collect all the children to take them to Sunday school. Their 1939 Chevrolet would take up to 18 children at a time. Ruth went overseas to Ethiopia as a missionary. From 1954 to 1956 the Sunday school was taken over by Ruth’s sister Joan Cremer with the help of Eric Jackson and in 1956 it moved to Swanson Hall.
In 1956 the church was taken over by the Methodists. A kitchen and a hall were added to the side and back of the church in 1958. Resident Sister Joy Thompson laid the foundation stone. During the construction the bell tower was removed from the roof and ended up in the Solomon Islands, where Sister Joy was working as a missionary.
Longtime resident Enid Corfield recalls that the community helped raise money for the hall with several bring and buy events and talent quests. The entertainment included a barbershop quartet, Peter Posa and weightlifter Bill Scott. In 1961 an annex was added to the hall and used as a kindergarten. The church hall was used for a lot of different activities including various social nights. There was Scottish dancing, and Frank Ward and Alex Waugh ran a wrestling club for young boys and men. Girls’ Brigade used the hall in the 1960s.
The community obviously regarded the hall as a community space and there was great disappointment when the building was sold by the Methodists around 1976 to a private owner. The church building has a New Zealand Historic Places Trust number two category placed on it which means the outside cannot be changed.
Rugged Determination, p82