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12 corrections, most recently by inkywhiteghost - Show corrections

A Historic Church.



Among the old monuments of this new country, none is more interesting than the old Anglican Church of St. James, in King- street, next to the Supreme Court. In the early days of Sydney, the local pilots were

instructed in the sailing directions of the time to keep their eye upon the spire of St. James's in navigating vessels up the " beautiful " harbor. The old wooden and copper spire in its present dilapi- dated state, would be an eyesore to a mariner's or anybody else's eye, were it not that Sydney people, particularly old citizens, cherish a venera- tion for the old church and its shabby looking spire, which increases with the age of the church and of the colonist. The spire, which so long served as a guide to mariners coming up Port Jackson, is 150ft in height, and surmounted by a Latin


St. James's was the third church erected in New South Wales, and the second built in Sydney. The first place of worship erected in the colony was the old Church of St. John at Parramatta. The Rev. Mr. Johnson, the first Church of England chaplain at Sydney, built a " wattle and dab" church on a spot now occupied by King-street, close to Pitt street; but church going was unpopular   in those days, especially among the con- victs, and the place was maliciously burned down. Then, old St. Phillip's Church was erected ; and, on October 17, 1819, the first stone of St. James's was laid by Governor Macquarie. There is a tradition that the building was originally intended for law courts, and a legend that it was meant for a gaol. Be those as they may, it would seem to be the most probable that after the foundations had been begun the decision to erect a church upon them was first arrived at. The walls of the building are certainly strong and substantial enoughfor a gaol,     being no less than six feet thick, and com- posed of bricks brought out from England. The church presents no pr√©tentions to architectural beauty, though the local   newspaper of the day pronounced it to be " elegant "- which, no doubt, it was as compared with Mr. Johnson's wattle and dab edifice. A later art critic    

pronounced the church to belong to "the Macquarie order of architecture,"   and, indeed, it appears to possess most of the general characteristics of the public buildings of the Macquarie era. The new church was opened on February 12, 1824, by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, assisted by the Rev. Messrs. Cowper and Hill. The first sermon preached in the church was on this occasion, the preacher

being Mr. Marsden, and the text I. Kings, viii., 27-29. For many years the church was parcelled off into high-backed pews upholstered in green baize with brass nails, but the compartments, though still of the sheep-pen order, are not so un- sightly as were the discarded ones. The church is a plain oblong, with galleries on the north, west, and east sides. In order that the preacher might be in touch with the occupants of the galleries the pulpit, which stands in the southern aisle or passage, is unusually high, and at a still greater altitude behind it formerly stood a small gallery in a recess, which was occupied by the children of the parish school. The curious old pulpit still stands there, but is unused; the children's gallery   has long since been removed, and the organ, which originally was located in the north gallery, now occupies the recess behind the pulpit.

The organ of St. James's is regarded by many as a great curiosity, on account of its being 90 years of age ; but although, considering the age of the colony, the instrument is an old one amongst the other church organs in Sydney, it is known that there are instruments in England which have been played upon by successive generations during five centuries. In all the old (and many of the new) buildings of Sydney the Royal crown and the reign- ing sovereign's monogram are conspicuous. Even the organ in St James's is surmounted by the crown in bold relief, supported on either side by the episcopal mitre. In the early days of the colony, a mixed choir of male and female voices, some of them pro- fessional, sang the music incidental to the service at St. James's, which was loud and florid, but now the choristers are all males, attired in surplices.      

The chancel of the church is circular and standing out in the centre of the building at the eastern end. It is now proposed, at a cost of £3500, to thoroughly restore St. James's, both inside and out- side, and to effect some radical alterations in the building. One of these latter will

be the construction of a new and spacious chancel. The present one will be abolished, and a new one, stretching across the east, end of the church and ap- proached by several steps in front, will be  

constructed. At present there are three galleries, or rather one gallery stretching round the west, north, and east sides of the edifice. In effecting the desired   alterations the gallery at the east end, over the site of the new sanctuary, will be removed, and also the western gallery,   which in the old days was occupied during the church services by convicts. This latter gallery was formerly reached by a stone staircase under the tower, but the doorway Which gave ingress to the gallery in question is now bricked up, though its former position is clearly perceptible. The old staircase still remains, its steps well worn by the feet of convicts, who for many successive years ascended them (often unwillingly, it is to be feared) to attend the services in the church. The old tower affords a good bird's-eye view of the city of Sydney. For 55 years one old servant of the church ascended the belfry to ring out the sum- mons to the parishioners to come to prayer. As, however, the parish at one time extended as far as Sydney Heads, it is hardly to be expected that all the Anglican residents could have heard the bell.  

Many people who have lived for years in Sydney and daily pass St James's Church

are unaware that there exists a curious old crypt beneath the building. A portion of this underground space is occupied as a

dwelling by the verger, to whose apart ments a door at the east end of the build- ing gives access from the street. The crypt consists of one main hall or gallery, with open arched chambers on either side. For many years the late incumbent, Canon Allwood, made one of these recesses his bedchamber during two nights in each week. He resided out of town, and on Saturday came to the church and live down below in the crypt till the following Monday. He was, therefore, on the spot on the Sunday to conduct the services in the church above. It is said that in the early days of the existence of St. James's the crypt was used as a school for the children, of the parish ; but a stranger might think it possible that the chamber below were originally intended as vaults for the dead. As a fact, however, no in- terment has ever taken place in St. James's. The now unused portion of the crypt is dusty and musty from age. In

one chamber there is heaped upon the ground a pile of religious and theo- logical works, which appear to have lain   in their present position untouched for a generation or two. In another a small mural tablet, covered with the dust of

years, and which seems never to have reached its destined position, lies upon the ground. The inscription upon it records that it was "erected" by the Sunday

St. James's Church-The Aisle.

school children to the memory of the Rev. R, Hill, once a minister of the church, who died suddenly in the vestry in the year


The church seats about 1800 persons, but 2000 could in an emergency be ac- commodated in the building.

The first incumbent of the church was the Rev. Richard Hill ; the second the Rev. Napoleon Woodd, who is still living;  


the third the Rev. Canon Allwood, who held office from 1840 till 1884, and died in 1891, at the age of 88 years ; and the fourth and present incumbent is the Rev.   H. L. Jackson, M.A., who was appointed  

in England on the retirement of Canon


The name of the architect of St. James's is not positively known. It is believed to have been Greenway, but it is certain that the first pew-holder was the late Mr. Joshua Holt, who occupied the same pew for over half a century. One of the first baptisms registered in the church was that of the late Hon. J. S. Farnell, M.L A., at one time Minister for Lands in New South Wales. Since the opening of the church, 69 years ago, the number of baptisms performed at its font has been about 16,500. Amongst the marriages solemn- ised in St. James's have been those of Admiral Sterling, Sir William Macleay and Miss Robinson (Mrs. Finlay), daughter, of his Excellency Sir Hercules Robinson. It is interesting to know that the silver vessels at present used in the church at the communion service were the gift of   His late Majesty King William IV., in the year 1835. It is a note- worthy circumstance that the old Anglican Cathedral and the present Roman Catholic Cathedral of Sydney both contain Royal presents of Communion plate. On Sunday, May 21, the altar plate presented to St. Mary's Cathedral by the Queen of Spain, over a quarter of a century ago, was used in that church on the occasion of

the Archduke of Austria assisting at


The old Parsonage of St. James's at the corner of King-street and Macquarie- street, erected in the reign of King George IV., whose Latin monogram, " G.R.," was carved in the stone over the entrance, was pulled down three years ago and the huge   pile known as St. James's Chambers erected upon the site. The Parish Hall, built 50 years ago by funds collected in England, still stands in Phillip-street.

But a ramble round the old tablets in St. James's will not be uninteresting. They number more than 40 in all. There is a tablet to the memory of the Rev. Richard Hill, the first minister of this church, who retained that office for 17 years, and died suddenly in the vestry while writing a sermon on May 30, 1836, at the age of 54 years. The inscription on the tablet speaks of " his peculiar ability in engaging the attention and affection of the young," and the accuracy of, this testimony is corroborated by the unfixed slab of marble subscribed for by the school children, and which lies neglected and unseen in a corner of the orypt below. For some years after Mr. Hill's death his widow resided in apartments beneath the church in which he had so long ministered. There is a tablet to the memory of a clergyman's wife-Mrs. Wallis, wife of the Rev. A. W. Wallis, of Bishop's Col- lege, Calcutta, and who died in 1842.

Close at hand is a slab to the memoir of Mr. F. M. Noel, mate of the Calliope, who was accidentally drowned off Sydney Heads in 1852. An adjacent tablet com- memorates two seamen- Lieutenant Tupper, R.N., and an ordinary sailor of H.M.S. Iris--who were killed by the natives of Tanna in 1858. Here is a monument .to a soldier-Captain Collet Broker, of the 39th Regiment-who was

murdered by the aborigines in 1831, which date, by the way, is the oldest to be found upon any of St. James's tablets. A slab to the memory of Lady Mary Fitzroy, wife of Governor Fitzroy, who Was killed by a carriage accident in 1847, stands in this church. And here is a large tablet of historic and scientific interest.

It is to the memory of Mr. John Gilbert, ornithologist, one of Leichhardt's party, in the ill-fated explorer's first overland expedition to Port Essington, and who was

The old Parsonage of St. James's, which stood at the corner of King

and Macquarie streets, on the site of the present St. James's Chambers.    

speared by the natives in 1845. Near to  

this is another memorial of an explorer, Mr. Edmund B. C. Kennedy, who was also  

killed by the aborigines in 1848, while engaged in the exploration of York Peninsula by authority of the Government. There is a twofold memorial of the late Canon Allwood in St. James's--a movable slab and a brass lectern. The memory of

Lieutenant-General Sir Maurice C. O'Con- nell, K.C.B., who was Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1814, Commander of the forces in the colony from 1838 to 1847, and died in 1848, is perpetuated in the church. The only attempt at sculpture (if two or three medallions be excepted), is a graceful female figure, looking heavenwards, over the name of Mrs. Barnet Hordern. The Macleay family have two large, draped tablets to the memory of deceased mem- bers of their house-one on either side of the organ. That to the right is to the memory of Mr. Alexander Macleay, who was sent out from England, in 1825, as Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, and became the first Speaker of the Legis- lative Assembly under the representative system of government. The tablet also records that his wife died ll months before him, after a happy wedded life of over 50   years. The tablet to the left has a pecu- liarly sad inscription. It is to the memory ot Mrs. Frances L. Harrington, daughter of Mr. Alexander Macleay, who died in 1836, only six weeks after her marriage. Above the memorial of Alexander Macleay is a medallion of William S. Macleay,

who died in 1865. There is also close at hand a medallion of Captain W. J. Dumaresque, Royal Staff Corps, who served in the Peninsular War, and died in 1868. A slab commemorates the personal worth of Bishop Patterson, " Primi Melane sioe Episcopi et Martyris" A third medal- lion is that of Sir Thomas Brisbane, a former Governor of New South Wales, and af ter whom the capital of Queensland was


It is somewhat amusing to see how the Australian word " bushranger" has been translated in a Latin inscription com- memorative of Mr. Robert Wardell, LL.D., who was killed by a bushrobber in 1834. The inscription records that Dr. Wardell died " a latrone vagante occiso " at the age

of 41.

Such is the interesting and venerable church of St. James. The older wor-

shippers in the church are extremely jealous of the old fane and its ancient associations, and apparently thinking with the poet that " after all, old things are  

best," they are averse to its demolition

and consider they are making a reasonable concession by consenting to such a change in the appearance of the building as a restoration and some alterations may