The granite steps leading up to Christ Church Cathedral from Trafalgar Street are named after Thomas Cawthron, the founder of the Cawthron Institute, a scientific research centre in Nelson. Cawthron financed the construction of the steps in 1912 and 1913, using granite from a quarry in Tonga Bay in what is now Abel Tasman National Park. The first church was built on top of Church Hill in 1851. In 1887 a second church was constructed on the site, mainly utilising the timbers of the original. In 1925 work began on the current building, of Tākaka marble. Due to high costs it took many years to complete. The concrete tower was added in 1965.
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