Old St Paul's is one of New Zealand's most important historic places, and is a magnificent example of timber Gothic Revival architecture. The building was erected in 1866, the second Anglican church in Thorndon. It was built on land bought by Bishop Selwyn in Mulgrave Street in 1845, augmented with a Crown grant of Maori reserve from Governor Grey in 1853.

Plans for the church were drawn up in 1862 by Reverend Frederick Thatcher (1814-1890), then vicar of St Paul's parish. Thatcher was an English-born architect, who later trained as an Anglican Minister at the College of St John's, Auckland. Both Thatcher and Selwyn were heavily influenced by the teachings of the English Ecclesiological Society (a movement that advocated a return to a Gothic style of religious architecture) and the design of the new church reflects this.

The foundation stone was not laid until August 1865. It was built by John McLaggan for 3,472. The church was finally consecrated the following year.

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