The Centenary of St James', King Street
Interesting Celebration of Historic Edifice— Some Early Recollections — Intended for a Courthouse
St James1 Church, in King-street, doesn't look its age, but it will cele brate its hundredth birthday on Tues day. It is a church with a variegated and wonderful past. It has experienced a thousand vicissitudes to keep alive the memory of the vicissitudes of its birth. For when the foundation-stone of St. James' was laid it was intended to be the foundation-stone of a courthouse.
Mr. Commissioner Bigge arrived in the colony of New South Wales on Sep- tember 25, 1819. He had great powers, and was in some ways a remarkable person. He was actuated by a sense of duty and a deep determination to have his own way. He didn't care much about local popularity. He didn't mind offending the Governor, the excellent and estimable Macquarie. Mr. Com- missioner Bigge generally knew what lie wanted, and, whatever he wanted he was invariably set on getting. Convicts at Church Convicts had to go to church; it was part of the discipline, and it was inci- dentally held to be for their souls' good. So we find Commissioner Bigge report ing: The attendance of the convicts in places, of worship has been enforced to as great extent as the accommoda- tion in them would allow. At Syd- ney the convicts living out of barrack arc mustered by the Chief Engineer and principal Superintendent on Sun- day mornings at the door of the church (St. Philip's) and occupy the whole length of 'the side gallery, which con- tains nearly 500. At 8 o'clock also on the Sunday morning, prayers are read, and a sermon is preached by one of the chaplains at Sydney to the convicts in the barrack, and in the evening the ticket-of-leave men and the convicts at Sydney, not in the service of the Government, are re quired to attend at Church. St. James' was designed primarily to afford accommodation for the great crowd of prisoners. It seems that the convicts generally made no bones about going to church; they probably took an interest in it, enjoyed it rather — it was a religious age. Officially and socially Sydney was never so religious at any other time as it was in the days of the System.
Governor Macquarie's Vision Meantime, however, change came with - expansion. Sydney was already much more than a convict settlement. The place had thriving trade and wealth in plenty. Huge possibilities were definitely in sight. Macquarie saw that the infant colony was destined to be come a great Dominion, though it is not probable that he ever put it to himself in that way. He was all for improving Sydney. He thought in stone and. sani tation — devised beautiful buildings, ex tended streets, planned all sorts of im provements. In 1819 he was already planning a Metropolitan Church, and had laid the foundations of it across George-street, near where St. Andrew's Cathedral now stands. And Macquarie wanted a worthy courthouse. The Government had given . £500 to the project, and private donations (Macquarie's own £50) had brought the sum in hand up to £2000. In September, tenders were called for the building. Macquarie asked Commis sioner Bigge to attend the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone. The site selected was that on which St. James' Church now stands. It formed part of Sydney Common, which had been dedicated to the public in 1792. Church Instead of Court The foundation-stone was well and duly laid, and then Commissioner Bigge began to think. The could not think big, as Macquarie did. The imposing thoroughness of Macquarie's faith rather alarmed the Commissioner. Within a fortnight he had forbidden the carrying on of Macquarie's Metropolitan Church, Market House, and Town Hall, and he had ordered that the Courthouse should
not be built, but that a church should go up on that site. And so St. James* Church was built with the foundation stone of a courthouse to start on. As to the laying of that stone there is a notice in the Sydney Gazette for October 9, 1819: — On Thursday His Excellency the Governor returned to town, having completed the muster of the Hawkes- bury and all its districts. At 2 o'clock His Excellency, attended by his Staff, and other officers, proceeded to the site which is to be occupied by the new Courthouse in Hyde Park, where His Excellency performed the ceremony of laying the first stone. The Original Courthouse. Commissioner Bigge found that his action in upsetting Governor Macquarie's plans had made him unpopular, which troubled him very little. But he made provision for a courthouse by converting Part of the General, Hospital in Mac quarie-street to that use. There the court sat for a long time. But Governor Macquarie was not the man to own himself defeated. If he couldn't have one thing he'd have an other. On March 20, 1820, he laid the foundation-stone of the Georgian School, for the education of the poor. Commis- sioner Bigge presently returned from Van Diemens Land and ordered that the
building should be a courthouse. So a courthouse.it became, with a foundation stone declaring it a school. There stands the Supreme Court still. Building Delays. While these things happen the building of St. James' Church goes on. Com- missioner Bigge is still not satisfied 'with everything, for he reports: By a change that I recommended, and which the Governor adopted, in
the destination of the new Courthouse at Sydney, the accommodation of a new church is probably by this time secured, and would have been obtained sooner if Mr. Greenway, the Colonial Architect, had not succeeded in persuading Gover- nor Macquarie to allow the addition of two semi-circular projections in the centre of this building, one of which might have formed a useful addition in affording room for a vestry; but the other was constructed with so little at- tention to the nature of the ground, and to the width of the street, that the principal object, which was that of making a large ornamental entrance, was of necessity abandoned. It was not, however, till a late period that this took place, and a large square portico was substituted, by which the character of the building will be pre served, and less encroachment will be made upon the street. As I conceived that considerable advantage had been gained by inducing Governor Mac- quarie to suspend the progress of the larger church, I did not deem it neces sary to make any pointed objection to the addition of these ornamental parts of the smaller one. He compliments the Colonial Architect With some cordiality, and as to the church, states later that "it was nearly covered in at the end of 1820, and must soon have been in a state to admit of the attendance of convicts." But the building went on slowly. Little was done in 1821, though the Catholics and the Weslcyans put up places of wor ship that year. Governor Macquarie himself laid the foundation stone of St. Mary's Chapel, at the corner of Wool- loomooloo and College streets. It stood in the bush overlooking Commissary Pal- mer's farm, which occupied all the bay below. The First Service. The first service, in a very unfinished St, James', was held on January 6, 1822. Says the Sydney Gazette, January 11: On Sunday last January 6) Divine Service was for the first time performed in the new church of St. James1 at this place. The prayers commenced at half-past ten in the forenoon, after which a discourse most appropriate to the day (being the Epiphany and the first Sunday in the year), the occasion, and the assembly, was delivered from Isaiah, 6th chapter, 1st verse: 'Arise,
shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' We are informed this neat, strong, and elegant building, erected for the wor- ship of the Living God, when fitted up with pews, etc., and furnished with a gallery, will accommodate about 2000 souls. The congregation last Sunday was composed of the Crown prisoners, seve- ral hundred of whom had previously been without any means of public wor- ship for the want of a suitable place, and it is most gratifying to our feelings to be assured that a more soberly, re- spectful, and attentive audience was never seen in New South Wales. Such occasional intelligence as this, we flat ter ourselves, will render Australia in creasingly beloved and respected by her ever kind and considerate parent — Great Britain. St. James' Consecrated. Macquarie left, and Governor Bris- bane succeeded him. From 1822 to 1824 little was done towards completing St. James'. But on July 1, 1823, Governor Brisbane laid the foundation stone of Scots Church, and the parishioners of St. James' began to take notice. Then the completion of St. James' was rushed. It was opened and consecrated on Febru
ary 11, 1824. The Sydney Gazette, Feb ruary 12: The new and elegant church of St. James' was yesterday opened and con- secrated pursuant to public advertise- ment. The Rev. Samuel Marsden, Principal Chaplain, officiated as conse crator, aided by the Rev. Messrs. Cow- per and Hill. The sermon was de- livered by the Principal Chaplain, the text being taken from I. Kings viii., 27, 28, 29 verses. The First Minister.
And so the church began its career. Louisa Watt, born in Phillip-street, was the first baptised, February 11, 1824. A fortnight later the first marriage, John Layton to Roseanna Roberts. The first burial, James Godfrey Goodsir, February 29. The Communion service, still in use, was presented to St. James' by Wil liam IV., 1835. The first minister of St. James' was the Rev. Richard Hill, in all respects an admirable man. It was no sinecure. Divine service three times on Sunday and every Friday and Holy Day, with prayers read every morning at 9. Mr. Hill was also secre tary of the newly-established (1818) Benevolent Society, and he had many other charitable and philanthropic in terests. He was a sound, earnest, and moving preacher. The secretary of Commissioner Bigge had been Thomas Hobbes Scott, who re turned as the first Archdeacon of N.S.W. in 1825. He had £2000 a year and a seat in the Governor's Council. On his se cond visitation in 1827 he conceived a dislike for a well-known citizen who rented a pew at St. James' — an upright man, punctual in his religious duties, the father of six motherless daughters. Arch deacon Scott made a frivolous pretext for
depriving this citizen of his pew, and the citizen declined to be deprived of it. A Disgraceful Incident. Then a disgraceful state of things set in. Every Sunday constables attended the church to see that the citizen and his daughters did not get into the pew, which was filled with young clerks of the establishment. The citizen was editor and proprietor of a newspaper, and had the fighter's instinct that marked every true journalist. In the end the Arch deacon had the pew boarded in, the boards clamped with strong iron bars. The citizen appealed to Dr. Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta, in whose jurisdiction Sydney then lay, and he also appealed to the law. He got redress, and he got damages. And the Archdea con found himself so unpopular that in 1828 he resigned his fat billet and re turned to England. This most unworthy parson has a memorial window in St. An drew's Cathedral. Governor Darling was assaulted by a man named Shelly as he came out of the church on December 20, 1829. Although a brace of pistols and a carving knife were found on him. Shelly was allowed to leave the colony. Meanwhile, Mr. Hill stood high in the
esteem of all men. He solemnised mar riages for people of the sects outside the church. Even Wesleyan mission aries came to him to be married. He dropped dead suddenly in the vestry at St. James', May 30, 1836. His wife, who was two years his senior, lived till 1863. The Official Church. The facts here cited cover the earliest history of the church of St. James'. For the rest a volume might be written, prob- ably will be written some day. From the beginning St. James' has been closely in touch with the life of New South Wales. It became the fashionable church early. It was the official church. It had an atmosphere of unaffected dignity. To-day, its hundredth birthday almost here, the church has few marks of age. It was very faithfully built; it has been very loyally tended. It will probably stand where it stands now, in much the same condition, in another hundred years' time.
ST. JAMES'' CHURCH— INTERIOR.
REV, RICHARD HILL, First Incumbent.
THE REV. P. A. MICKLEM, The Present Rector.
ST.- JAMES' IN 1865.
ST. JAMES' CHURCH TO-DAY.