A piece of Cromwell history has been given a secure future after its ownership was finalised.

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust (OGHT) chairman Warwick Hawker said the trust had completed the purchase of the former Methodist church at the corner of Donegal and Erris Sts.

‘‘It’s been quite a long project.’’

It had taken about five years and meant the trust could confidently plan for the future, Mr Hawker said.

Members of both the OGHT and Methodist Church of New Zealand had worked towards finalising the purchase. The 132-year-old church was fitted out as a small theatre, which had previously been run by the community as Arthur’s Cinema, named for the stonemason who built the church.

When the group running Arthur’s Cinema decided not to renew its lease, the OGHT bought the theatre equipment and fittings to ensure it was retained, Mr Hawker said.

Now the building purchase was complete the OGHT would devote its time and energy to earthquake strengthening and renovation.

However, it would factor the greater development of the surrounding area into any decisions about the building’s future.

The Old Cromwell heritage area had been designated as a cultural and arts area in the Cromwell master plan and the trust was conscious of what that might mean, Mr Hawker said.

However, the building’s theatre could complement the one in the proposed new Cromwell hall and events centre as a much more informal and smaller space.

At present it was hired out to private groups and created a small income for OGHT, which did not have an income stream, he said.

The purchase of the building was made possible by grants from Central Lakes and Otago Community Trusts and Te Puna Tahua — the Lotteries Grants Board, along with private donations.

It seemed appropriate the OGHT purchased the building as it was built in 1891 after the heady days of the Central Otago gold rush. Stonemason Leslie Arthur, former prime minister Helen Clark’s great-grandfather, built the church. The building served as a Methodist Church until 1960.