Anthony and Liz Marino's dream of owning St David's Church
in Luggate came true last June, and now the couple are busy
renovating it while living in their house bus. Photo by
Anthony Marino has been mistaken for a minister, almost
buried under a hay bale-sized bird's nest and literally smoked
out of his latest handyman project, but he and wife Liz say the
hazards and humours of transforming Luggate's former
Presbyterian church into their home are all worth it.
The former Albert Towncouple took "a bit of a gamble" and
bought St David's Church in Luggate from the Upper Clutha
Presbyterian Church parish last June.
"We always used to have visions of owning it ... it was kind
of like a fantasy," Mr Marino said.
"We'd driven past it a million times and loved it but we'd
never been inside so we just trusted our judgement and it was
even better probably then we expected. We walked in and it
was like 'Wow'," Mrs Marino added.
"It was just pristine, everything had just been so well
"Apart from the 80 years' of birds' nests," Mr Marino joked.
During the renovations which began last month, a bird's nest
"the size of a hay bale" had tumbled out when Mr Marino
removed a ceiling panel, showering him with birds, eggs and
They had also been amused by the tourists who had stopped for
impromptu picnics on the lawn or to take photographs of the
church, unaware it was now a private home. One Japanese woman
had asked Mr Marino, "Are you a preacher?"
The couple have been living in their house bus next to the
church since October and will shift into their new home in
about a month.
Mr Marino, a former hotel maintenance manager and "jack of
all trades", is carrying out all the renovations himself,
which have so far involved insulation work and installing a
new bathroom, laundry and kitchen. Mrs Marino helps out when
she has time off from her job as a dressmaker.
Past parishioners and admirers of the church, which was built
in Hindon in 1927 before being moved to Luggate in 1931, were
assured the exterior would remain untouched.
"It will always look like this," Mr Marino said. "It's got to
still look like a church, not a church converted into a home
... if you do too much to it, it loses its character."
The couple has sold some of the pews to local residents, but
kept four, along with other features such as the pulpit and
organ, which would be incorporated into the living space.
The church's long-serving potbelly-style fire would also be
retained purely for aesthetic purposes after a test of its
heating capabilities filled the church with smoke and
confirmed the need for a more modern logburner.
While many Luggate locals had suggested the Marinos turn the
church into a dairy or something similar, they had no
immediate plans for a commercial project at the site.
"We just love it so much that we want to live in it for a
while," Mrs Marino said.