The history of these ruins is integral to the history of St Peter’s. In 1869 a meeting in the old Town presented a rare spectacle – a gathering of parishioners all in agreement with building a grand new church because they felt that St Peter’s was old and in poor repair. The dilapidated parish church was in danger of being knocked down.
Fortunately, the Governor of the day offered the site of the old Government House (which is where the Unfinished Church now stands) to the vestry. This, together with concern that the demolition and rebuilding of St Peter’s might spread disease from the many yellow fever victims buried in the graveyard, caused the vestry to start building on the newly acquired site. St Peter’s was saved from destruction but slipped into further decay.
In 1874 construction began on the new church and continued very slowly. Unfortunately the unity amongst the parishioners did not last. They had become divided along high church (Anglo Catholic) and Low Church (Protestant) lines, and couldn’t agree on designs for the new altar and pulpit etc.
It didn’t help that in 1884 the main church in Hamilton was almost completely destroyed when arsonists torched the building. The Diocese decided to build a big new a cathedral in its place and money which might have gone to the St George’s church went instead to the cathedral project. So construction work proceeded even more slowly. Finally, however, the new St George’s church was roofed in 1897.
Meanwhile, during all this time, venerable old St Peter’s had continued to serve as the parish church and by now, animosities had faded away. Old and antique was fashionable, and the desire for a new church was no longer there.
It was almost as though the fate of what is now known as the Unfinished Church was sealed by an Act of God when a freak tornado took off much of the roof in 1925. It was a remarkable tornado – nothing else was damaged in St George’s, not even the flowers in the garden adjacent to the Unfinished Church. Since then, it has been left to the mercy of time and weather and has become a picturesque ruin and a popular place for weddings.