• Vivamus lobortis
  • Ut porttitor urna ut pretium
  • Phasellus convallis tincidunt enim.
Super User

Super User

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 23:22

Joseph Panton 1831-1913

26 September 2018

Susan Grant presents a highly influential early St Kilda resident Joseph Panton 1831-1913

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 23:14

Carlo Catani – The Man and His Legacy

26 August 2018

Daniela will discuss the life and work of Carlo Catani (1852-1918) responsible for the St Kilda foreshore reclamation, Catani Gardens, Memorial Arch, Elwood Canal, and multiple landmark projects across Victoria which remain of historical, aesthetic, architectural, and scientific significance.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018 23:06

Early Houses of St Kilda Hill

15 July 2018

This event is a repeat of the very popular "Early Houses of St Kilda" walking tour led by Phillip Stewart in February 2016. Phillip will share his considerable knowledge and expertise about many of the early homes of St Kilda dating from 1843 to 1860 as he leads us through Acland, Robe, and Dalgety Streets. Phillip will also take us inside three of these homes - including the stately 'Oberwyl' mansion and an 1857 terrace house built during the Gold Rush.

Monday, 26 November 2018 04:58


To view or download, just follow the links below:
Post Becky Aizen Punks and Punters: a history of hotels of St Kilda and South Melbourne    
Janette Bomford The Spirit of St Kilda: places of worship in St Kilda    
John Butler Cooper History of St Kilda: from its first settlement to a city and after, 1840 to 1930, Volume 1    
John Butler Cooper History of St Kilda: from its first settlement to a city and after, 1840 to 1930, Volume 2    
Charles Daley History of South Melbourne from the foundation of settlement at Port Phillip to the year 1938.    
Meyer Eidelson Flood fire and fever: A history of Elwood    
Meyer Eidelson  Yalukit Willam – The River People of Port Phillip     
Julie Shiels & Meyer Eidelson Voices from Elwood: recording personal Elwood stories    
Peter Fogarty The Screening of St Kilda: a history of St Kilda's cinemas    
Krystyna Kynst The Espy Hotel Campaign 1997-2003  
Anne Longmire History of St Kilda: the show goes on: 1930 to July 1983, Volume 3  
Richard Peterson A Place of Sensuous Resort: buildings of St Kilda and their people    
Kate Shaw Whose Image?: Global restructuring and community politics in the inner-city    
Monday, 19 November 2018 05:55

Our Collection

The SKHS Collection includes images, manuscripts, oral histories, books, maps & drawings and ephemera. The City of Port Phillip also maintains a comprehensive historical record of buildings and development in the City especially through its heritage overlays and building citations.

The Collections section of our website is a work-in-progress as we are undertaking a comprehensive digital cataloguing of our collection securing the images for the future through ‘Victoria Collections’ https://victoriancollections.net.au/ and ‘Trove’ websites https://trove.nla.gov.au/ In the meantime many of our images are on ‘Flickr’ https://www.flickr.com/photos/stkildahistory/

We have early records of mansions and terraces which will be searchable by street, In the meantime please go to the sections below to access images and records:


Assets at St Kilda Historical Society

Assets at St Kilda Historical Society

Assets at St Kilda Historical Society

Images on Flickr

Images on Flickr


Public Places & People

Public Places & People


Lost schools



View our updated Collection Policy here.

Monday, 19 November 2018 04:54


SKHS Constitution
Thursday, 09 August 2018 05:04

The Spirit of St Kilda

Welcome to the e-book version of

"The Spirit of St Kilda"

Places of worship in St Kilda

Janette Bomford



The following people assisted with the research for this project and their kindness is appreciated.
Yossi Aron and Max Singer, Elwood Talmud Torah Hebrew Congregation Robert Belcher, Elwood Presbyterian Church
The Reverend John Bottomley, St George’s East St Kilda Uniting Church
Bernie Clifford, St Bede’s Church, Elsternwick
Rosemary Clencie,
St George’s East St Kilda Uniting Church
Pastor Digby Hannah, St Kilda Elsternwick Baptist Church
The Reverend Terry Kean and Christine White, St Columba’s Parish, Elwood
Glenda Levy, St Kilda Hebrew Congregation
Rachel Landsdown, MDHC, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Rhonda Nirens,
Temple Beth Israel
The Reverend Bob Thomas, St Kilda Presbyterian Church
The Reverend Ramsay Williams, All Saints’ Church, St Kilda
Lindsay Cox and Andrew Middleton, The Salvation Army Territorial Archives & Museum, Melbourne

I also wish to thank the Committee of Management of the St Kilda Historical Society for their assistance and in particular: John Hulskamp, Peter Johnson, Pearl Donald, Tom Ingram, Melanie Eagle, Vida Horn for editing the work and Meyer Eidelson for checking the copy.


Dedicated to Ada Jackson, a long time member and supporter of the St Kilda Historical Society.  Ada was born in 1910 and spent most of her life in St Kilda, attending the Baptist Church in Pakington Street with her family since 1916. She was married in the Baptist Church in 1935 but was widowed and raised her three young children alone. In the 1970s she was heartbroken at the thought the church would close and watched its rejuvenation of the 1980s by the Costellos with enthusiasm. Having vowed never to leave St Kilda, she collapsed and died there on 26 June 1992. Our Community life is built on the love, labours and loyalty of volunteers like Ada.

Publication Data

Copyright St Kilda Historical Society Inc.

ISBN: 0-9751060-0-7
ISBN: 978-0-9804534-1-6 (Online)

Published by the St Kilda Historical Society © 2003 ABN: 25 188 646 275
P.O. Box 177 Balaclava 3183 AUSTRALIA

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web Site: www.vicnet.net.au/~hsosk

Author: Janette Bomford
Layout & Website: John Hulskamp
Editor: Vida Horn
Publishing Coordinator: Meyer Eidelson
Printed by Inklink

Publication of this title has been assisted by the City of Port Phillip through its Cultural Development Fund


Table of Contents



Anglican Churches

Christ Church
All Saints’ Church
Holy Trinity Church
St Bede’s Church

Roman Catholic Churches

St Mary’s Catholic Church
Sacred Heart Church
St Colman’s Church
St Columba’s Church
Our Lady of Dolours

Presbyterian Churches

St Kilda Presbyterian Church
Free Presbyterian Church (former)
St George’s East St Kilda Uniting Church (formerly St George’s Presbyterian Church)
Scots Presbyterian Church Elwood

Methodist Churches

The St Kilda Uniting Church (former) (formerly the Wesleyan [Methodist] Church)
St Kilda Parish Mission Uniting Church (formerly the Wesleyan Church)
United Free Methodists Church (former)
Methodist Church Elwood (demolished)

Congregationalist Churches

Independent (Congregational) Church (demolished)
East St Kilda Uniting Church (former) (formerly East St Kilda Congregational Church)

Baptist Churches

Particular Baptist Church (former)
Baptist Church

Salvation Army

Balaclava Corps Hall (former)

Life Christian Church
Originally the Church of the Rock, later St Kilda Port Phillip Community Church (Assembly of God) 

Parish of Sacred Assumption of Holy Virgin
(Autocephalic Orthodox Church)

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jewish Congregations

St Kilda Hebrew Congregation / Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue
Elwood Talmud Torah Congregation
Temple Beth Israel 
Adass Israel Congregation


Further Reading



In introducing this study of the history of places of worship in St Kilda it must be recognised that for  many tens of thousands of years before white settlement there was a rich spiritual life among the indigenous people. The Melbourne area was originally inhabited by the people of the Kulin Nation. It was divided into a number of language groups, one of which, the Bunurong, inhabited the Mornington Peninsula, the catchment area of Westernport Bay and the coastal strip of Port Phillip Bay as far as the Werribee River. The area encompassing modern-day St Kilda was the estate of traditional owners from one of the six Bunurong clans, the Yalukit-willam.[1]

The land has profound totemic or religious significance for Aboriginal people. In the ‘dreamtime’ creative beings, neither human or animal but with attributes of both, formed the physical features of the land and the flora and fauna, including humans.[2] A Kulin story is that Bunjil, the ancestral creator, placed rocks in the area now known as St Kilda to stop the sea after it broke through the heads, thereby forming Port Phillip Bay.[3] For Aborigines the land represents the home of their ancestors and the eventual repository for their own spirits. They belong to the land and are an extension of it.

The land and the sky are dotted with sacred sites and constellations which were integral to the rhythm of Aboriginal life. Here the ‘ancestors left part of their energy ... which may be actualized in the present through rites and ceremonies to ensure that the species of creation remain abundant’.[4] Ceremonies and rituals were an important part of Aborigines’ lives, including initiation practices, which marked the transition from childhood to adulthood, and burial rites. Religion provided the law and prescribed patterns of behaviour and living. The Aboriginal Dreamtime has been formally recognised as a religion by the Council of Churches.

Regrettably, today we do not know where these sacred places were because they were not recorded. The best known site in St Kilda related to Aboriginal spirituality is the Corroboree Tree, which is believed to be the site of ceremonial activity prior to the arrival of the Europeans. It is located in Albert Park Reserve at the corner of Queen’s Road and Fitzroy Street. This red gum, currently on the register of the National Estate, is at least 300 years old and is the last survivor of the open woodland that once covered this area.[5]

Overview of churches and their role in the social and architectural history of St Kilda

Churches and synagogues are public buildings which reflect a community’s religious beliefs as well as its more earthly aspirations and concerns. These places of worship cannot be considered just in architectural terms as landmarks in the suburban landscape. In the past, churches were more than places of worship; they were the very centre of the community. Here rites of passage were formalised with baptisms, marriages and funerals. They were also meeting places and the source of authority, respectability and morality, which had a huge impact on how people lived their lives. They were dominated by the prosperous, social elite and represented the establishment and conservatism.

Churches were a focal place for social activities with youth groups, sporting events, annual Sunday school picnics, concerts and prize givings. Membership of church choirs, attending or teaching in Sunday schools, and serving on church committees was a major part of many people’s social, cultural and spiritual life. It would be interesting to know how many people met their future spouse through their church. While much of this social activity declined after World War II, some congregations in St Kilda are now actively developing programs that once more attract young people.

The church community provided financial and emotional support for members. They also extended social and welfare support and friendship to newly arrived immigrants who had left their communities and families behind. At first the churches established in St Kilda reflected the established religions of the predominantly British settlers but other religious groups established themselves in St Kilda, notably the Jewish community and post-war immigrants from Europe, including the Ukrainian members of the Autocephalic Orthodox Church. The diverse range of religious denominations established in St Kilda reflects the freedom of worship possible in Australia. Many groups had been denied such freedoms in their homelands. The persecution of the Jews in many lands is an obvious example. Generally, they have established synagogues and enjoyed religious toleration in Australia, although the Adass Israel shule (synagogue) in Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea, was severely damaged in an arson attack on 1 January 1995. Catholics had been oppressed in Ireland and England until Catholic Emancipation in Britain returned most of their civil liberties in 1829, while Baptists, Congregationalists and English Presbyterians had also suffered persecution.

The building of churches was an important part of the development of early white settlements in Australia. The 1836 Church Act provided for government contributions to the three major denominations: Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, and approved minor ones. Support was on a pound for pound basis from a minimum of £600 to a maximum of £2000. The government also paid an annual stipend of £150 to the clergy of the three denominations permanently represented in Melbourne in 1839.[6] When Victoria separated from New South Wales in 1851, the new colony consisted of 48% Anglican (Church of England), 23% Roman Catholics, 16% Presbyterians and 7% Methodists.[7]

The Church of England was the established church in England, dating from the reign of Henry VIII of England, during which the English Church separated from the Roman Catholic Church and the English sovereign, not the Pope in Rome, became the head of the church. The Church of England was also the established church in Australia and enjoyed similar prestige in Victoria in the nineteenth century where the governor and most officials belonged to it and its bishops and clergy were given precedence over the clergymen of other denominations.[8] The church later adopted the title of Anglican Church in Australia. Anglican churches were divided into High Church (or Anglo-Catholic) and Low Church. The former consider themselves as a reformed form of Roman Catholicism and All Saints’ Anglican Church in St Kilda, with its elaborate interior decoration and rich liturgical and musical life, is a good example. Low churches are more critical of Rome and ascribe to the position that the Scriptures (not the Pope) are the sole authority. This was also the position of other Protestant denominations. Presbyterianism was the dominant church in Scotland and was founded by the reformer John Calvin. The Methodist Church was founded by John Wesley in the late eighteenth century.[9]

Government surveyors designated land ‘suitable for churches’ when planning towns. The land chosen was often on high ground and imposing buildings were built to ‘look up to’ as people approached, quite often on foot. (Lack of transport, especially for the poor, is one reason why so many churches were built in relatively close proximity.) The various denominations were grouped together although on occasion a denomination requested other locations. An Act passed in 1870 provided for the cessation of state aid in 1875 and church land was converted to regular freehold titles. Previously, the land was held on condition it was used only for religious or educational purposes. This legislative change has resulted in church land being sold for commercial purposes without legal constraint, which has at times created conservation issues.[10]

The major denominations all established themselves within St Kilda in the early years of settlement. The first Crown Land sales in St Kilda were in December 1842. Early services were typically held in private homes and as the number of worshippers grew, buildings were rented and then churches built. The first known service in St Kilda was held on 23 December 1849, the Sunday before Christmas, by an Anglican, Henry Jennings, at his home in Melbourne Terrace, now Fitzroy Street. His wife conducted the Sunday school with sixteen children in attendance that first day. The following Sunday six worshippers attended the service.[11] On 6 January 1850 the first service conducted by an ordained minister took place. The Reverend W. W. Liddiard preached to thirty people. Services were moved to the more spacious home of James Moore while building took place. A wooden building in Acland Street was used as a school and a church. It was soon replaced with a brick structure and was licensed in 7 November 1851.[12] The foundation stone for the substantial bluestone Christ Church in Acland Street, St Kilda, was laid in 1854 and it opened in 1857. It is the oldest surviving church in St Kilda. The Anglican church of All Saints’ in Chapel Street, St Kilda East, opened the following year.

Catholic services began in a modest brick building in 1853 and the foundation stone for St Mary’s in Dandenong Road, St Kilda East, was laid in 1859. The first Wesleyan Methodist service was in an iron building in 1853 and the Presbyterians commenced services two years later, also in an iron building. These buildings were dispensed with as soon as possible, with the Wesleyan Methodist church on the corner of Fitzroy and Princes Street, St Kilda, being built in 1857-58 and the Presbyterian Church on the corner of Alma Road and Barkly Street opening in 1860. This was demolished and replaced in 1885-86 by an imposing Gothic building. Situated on a prominent hilltop position, the highest point in St Kilda, its spire was a landmark for sea captains sailing up Port Phillip Bay. Its dominance of the landscape symbolises the peak of church building in St Kilda when the city was the home of the well-to-do.

The foundation stones for other churches were laid during the next thirty years: the United Free Methodist Church in Pakington Street, St Kilda, in 1859; the Free Presbyterian Church in Chapel Street, St Kilda East, in 1864; the Jewish Synagogue in Charnwood Grove, St Kilda, in 1872; the Methodist Church in Chapel Street, St Kilda, in 1877; Holy Trinity on the corner of Brighton Road and Chapel Street, St Kilda, in 1882; Sacred Heart in Grey Street, St Kilda, in 1884; and the Congregational Church on the corner of Hotham and Inkerman Streets, St Kilda East, in 1887. While most of these churches were variations of the Gothic style, St George’s Presbyterian Church, built in 1877 in Chapel Street, St Kilda, stands out for its landmark banded belltower, which is 33.5 metres tall, and the dramatic use of polychrome (multi-coloured) style.[13]

As early as the 1850s St Kilda was the ‘preferred suburb of the wealthy’[14]who sought to escape the pollution and disease of the city and who enjoyed the sea views and bracing fresh air. The churches built in the 1850s to 1880s reflect the prosperity and aspirations of their congregations, and of course, their social class. Gothic designs were traditionally preferred by Anglicans and Roman Catholics while the reformist religions tended to favour simpler buildings, avoiding the ‘Papist’ Gothic. However, in Victoria the Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists also built substantial Gothic churches, reflecting their prosperity in the new colony and the competition to attract members. The Jewish community was also attracted to living in St Kilda in the 1860s and 1870s and they established a congregation and built a synagogue which was opened in 1872.

The Christian denominations and the Jewish community provided social, cultural and moral leadership in the St Kilda community. The religious leaders were educated and socially well connected in the colony. They provided leadership to the fledgling community and were active in a wide range of activities, including municipal affairs.[15] Their wives, daughters and sisters were also leaders of women’s groups such as church auxiliaries or other philanthropic organisations at a time when governments provided minimal assistance to the needy. The churches were also in the forefront of establishing day schools. It was common to erect a schoolroom first, which was also used for worship on Sundays.

The financial crashes associated with the 1890s Depression bankrupted many wealthy families. The grand homes for which St Kilda was renowned were sold and many were later converted into boarding houses. Notably the only new church built during the next two decades was the Salvation Army barracks at 17 Camden Street, St Kilda East, which were begun in 1892. In the following decades the wealthy moved to more fashionable suburbs such as South Yarra or Toorak and St Kilda’s fortunes declined. The population of Elwood was growing, however, and several churches opened there. Elwood Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Scott and Tennyson Streets, was opened in 1912. The Anglican St Bede’s in Ormond Road, Elwood, and the Baptist Church in Pakington Street, St Kilda, were both built during World War I in red brick, their simple designs reflecting wartime constraints. Similarly, the austere Our Lady of Dolours in Cowderoy Street, West St Kilda, was built during World War II. Between the wars, grander places of worship were built, with St Kilda’s Hebrew Congregation building a new synagogue in 1926-27 to replace the original one. An impressive Romanesque church named St Columba’s, in Normandy Road, Elwood, was begun in 1929.

The increased number of Jews settling in the St Kilda area before and after World War II also resulted in new congregations being established. After renting or buying places that they then outgrew, the foundation stones for their current synagogues were laid as follows: Temple Beth Israel, at 76 Alma Road, St Kilda, in 1937; Elwood Talmud Torah Congregation, at 39 Dickens Street, Elwood, in 1956; and Adass Israel Congregation at Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea, in 1964.

In more recent times, other immigrants settling in St Kilda have established their own churches, notably the Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church. Evangelical congregations have also established congregations in St Kilda, and many church communities now focus their ministry on assisting the poor and disavantaged, as well as those with physical or psychological problems. These developments reflect the changing patterns of religious worship in St Kilda and the wider community.

St Kilda’s changing fortunes saw it evolve from an exclusive residential suburb to a suburb renowned for prostitution, organised crime and significant poverty. In more recent times, it has emerged as a cosmopolitan, seaside suburb, albeit still with serious social concerns. The various church communities have had to confront declining attendances and make hard decisions on how to allocate decreasing resources while attempting to address the poverty and suffering in the broader community.

It is an irony that almost every church is a local landmark ‘prized by some of those who live in the area or who were former members of the congregation’.[16] Yet many such buildings are no longer needed by the present church congregation. Some churches became redundant when the Uniting Church came into being, although in St Kilda the two Presbyterian congregations chose to remain independent. Many churches represent a major investment of capital in the past and are major architectural works in the town or suburb.[17] Problems are exacerbated by the proliferation of church buildings and the high proportion of assets they (or the site) represent. Churches tend to be centrally located on generous sites tieing up valuable real estate. They also tend to be elaborate buildings with interior furnishings, objects and fabrics that present technical problems beyond the norm when it comes to maintenance, conservation and restoration. For example, it is estimated that the organ in Christ Church will cost $500,000 to re-build. Money spent restoring such buildings and their interiors and furnishings has to be diverted from other worthwhile causes, which makes for difficult decisions that are always open to criticism.[18]

Some church communities have devised creative ways of preserving their buildings. Churches and their associated buildings such as manses and halls are now being used for a wide range of activities. They lend themselves to uses such as kindergartens or school halls. St Bede’s in Elwood has a kindergarten operating from its extensive hall at the rear of the church, while the original Presbyterian church at Elwood is now used as a creche. In St Kilda, church buildings are also used as soup kitchens, housing for street kids and centres offering legal aid and assistance for the disadvantaged. The presbytery and hall at Sacred Heart, St Kilda, are primarily used by the Sacred Heart Mission, which provides a range of social services to the community. Every day about 400 people enjoy a free, three-course lunch in the hall. The former East St Kilda Congregational Church is now used as the Centre for Creative Ministries, which combines the arts with worship and community service. More unusually, the forecourt of the Holy Trinity Hall has been used as a used car showroom for many years.

Other churches have been the victims of insensitive re-development. The most glaring example in St Kilda is the former Wesleyan Church in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. It has been surrounded by a range of commercial buildings and the integrity of the site has been destroyed. Of even greater concern is the heritage that has been lost through the demolition of churches. The Methodist Church in Elwood was demolished in the late 1960s and replaced by an electricity sub-station. The former Independent Church in Alma Road, St Kilda, was demolished in the 1990s despite being assessed as having local significance as a landmark on St Kilda Hill.[19] The places of worship in St Kilda are an important part of our heritage and as such deserve community protection and preservation.

[1]     Gary Presland, Aboriginal Melbourne: The Lost Land of the Kulin People, McPhee Gribble and Penguin, Ringwood, 1994, pp. 40-41.

[2]     Mudrooroo, Aboriginal Mythology, Thorsons Harper Collins, London, 1994.

[3]     Meyer Eidelson, The Melbourne Dreaming: A Guide to the Aboriginal Places of Melbourne, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1997, p. 40.

[4]     Mudrooroo, Aboriginal Mythology, p. viii.

[5]     Eidelson, The Melbourne Dreaming, p. 40; and Presland, Aboriginal Melbourne, p. 29.

[6]     Miles Lewis, (ed.), Victorian Churches: Their Origins, Their Story & Their Architecture, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Melbourne, 1991, p. 5.

[7]     Ibid., p. 6.

[8]     Ibid., p. 8.

[9]     See the glossary for definitions of the various denominations.

[10]    Ibid., p. 7.

[11]    John Butler Cooper, The History of St Kilda 1840-1930, Printers, Melbourne, 1931, vol. 1, p. 323.

[12]    Ibid., pp. 323-4.

[13]    For explanations of architectural styles see: Lewis, Victorian Churches, pp. 20-35 and information on the various denominations and their preference for particular styles of architecture see: Ibid., pp. 8-19.

[14]    Eidelsen, The Melbourne Dreaming, p. 2.

[15]    Timothy Hubbard, ‘The Former Independent Church, 9 Alma Road West, St Kilda: A report to the Minister for Planning and Urban Growth supporting the addition of the building to the register of classified buildings in the St Kilda planning scheme’, Timothy Hubbard Pty Ltd, South Melbourne, 1991, p. 14.

[16]    Lewis, Victorian Churches, p. 3.

[17]    Ibid., p. 3.

[18]    Ibid., p. 3.

[19]    Hubbard, ‘The Former Independent Church’, p. 9.



Anglican Churches

Christ Church

All Saints’ Church

Holy Trinity Church

St Bede’s Church

Christ Church Complex

Corner Acland Street and Church Square, St Kilda

The first Anglican service held in St Kilda was on Sunday 23 December 1849 at the home of Henry Jennings in Melbourne Terrace, now Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. The number of worshippers soon outgrew the accommodation available in private homes and a wooden building, soon replaced by brick, was erected to serve as a church and schoolroom to accommodate 140 people. It later became half of an extended schoolroom. The first incumbent was the Reverend David Seddon. He had arrived from England in 1852. The historian J. B. Cooper relates the story that when the minister was farewelling his congregation a young architect named Charles Swyer announced he would go to Australia with him and build him a church.[1]

The foundation stone was laid on 29 November 1854 and the architects were Albert Purchas and Charles Swyer. It was opened on 2 August 1857 with three services led by Bishop Perry, the Very Reverend Dean Macartney and the Reverend David Seddon. It was consecrated on 19 January 1863. Built in Gothic Revival style with a nave, two transepts and a chancel, it is the oldest surviving church in St Kilda. The hand-carved gargoyles are a distinctive feature, reminiscent of medieval European churches. It is made of Point King and Sorrento sandstones, which are rarely used in churches. The original pulpit, ‘a typical three-decker’ with winding stairs leading to its platform, was in the centre of the church in front of the chancel rails. The font was in front of the reading pew, below the pulpit, and the organ was at the rear where the west gallery now stands.[2] The first organist was Hugh Childers. He later became the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England. The current organ was built by William Hill of London and shipped to Australia. It was modified by George Fincham in 1859. The planned tower and steeple were never built but the south gallery was a later addition. In 1874 the chancel was extended and in 1881 a new chancel was built. Other distinctive features are a huge painting of St Michael conquering the Devil and a memorial chapel with a reredos mural of St Michael.

 After Seddon retired, the Reverend J. Stanley Low replaced him and served the Christ Church congregation from 1868 to 1904. He was also the Chaplain General of Victoria’s armed forces before Federation. Canon W. G. Sadlier was the incumbent from 1904 to 1912. The Reverend George Pennicott was vicar from 1912 to 1934 and a stained-glass window was later dedicated to his memory. Canon F. E. C. Crotty succeeded him and served from 1934 to 1940. As Cooper notes, during this period St Kilda was a ‘conservative, homely, and very English place’.[3]Anglicanism was the establishment religion and worshippers at places like Christ Church were prominent in the community and in the forefront of its philanthropic work.

Subsequent incumbents listed on a board in the foyer, placed there by the efforts of the Sunday school to celebrate the centenary of the church in 1957, were:

  1. E. J. B. White, 1940-47
    Claude Woodhouse, 1947-71
    P. H. Salvin, 1971-77
    Philip Hutchinson, 1977-98

Jim Minchin became the vicar in 1998 and is the incumbent in 2003.

The ornate interior with gold-leaf stencilling and stained-glass windows is a prominent feature of Christ Church. The stencilling was restored in 1996-98. In the choir area around the altar a series of windows depicting the life of Christ cost £84 in 1888. The craftsmen include Ferguson and Urie, William Montgomery and Brooks Robinson. The western triangular rose window is modelled on one in Lichfield Cathedral. One of the most interesting memorial windows commemorates Miles Nicholson, who died on 27 April 1874, aged twenty-eight, and his twenty-five year-old brother William Dalzell Nicholson, who drowned when the British Admiral was wrecked on King Island on 23 May 1874.[4] They were the sons of William Nicholson, MLC. Two World War I soldiers are also commemorated: Harold Worseldine, son of longstanding parishioners, and Lt P. Vassy, who died at Gallipoli, aged thirty-seven. He had been the Sunday school librarian and had sung in the church choir for many years. A mother and daughter are commemorated in two windows: Louisa Murphy is remembered by her daughter Sophia Matilda Murphy. For many years, Sophia conducted a school in Wattle House, Jackson Street, believed to be the oldest existing house in St Kilda. Her pupils erected a window in her memory.

Christ Church also has a mystery associated with it. The former vicar Philip Hutchison believed there were graves on the site and this is supported by the story that a woman approached a man gardening in the church grounds in the late 1990s and asked what had happened to the headstones, although she could not remember exactly where they had been located.

The changing nature of St Kilda is highlighted by two stories from different periods related to Christ Church. In the 1920s and 1930s, Christ Church was a very fashionable place for weddings and the incumbent, the Reverend George Pennicott, was dubbed the ‘marrying vicar’, performing a record twenty-five wedding ceremonies in one year. Fifty years later, Christ Church was described as being in the ‘heart of St Kilda’s vice and crime belt’. A bomb was lobbed through the vestry at the vicar but fortunately he was unharmed.[5]

In 1999 a review of community, civic and parish needs resulted in plans being drawn for a community centre and an emergency annexe on Acland Street on the site of the school. In addition to its uses for liturgical celebrations, pastoral services and private prayer, the church is used for three Narcotics Anonymous and one Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week as well as residents’ meetings and civic occasions. Between thirty and seventy people call on the vicar each week, seeking help of various kinds. The church grounds are a pleasant place for locals to enjoy but they have also been used for drug injection, sex, illegal car parking and ball games which gives rise to concerns about the safety and heritage integrity of the site.[6]

Christ Church School

This school was one of the earliest in St Kilda. During the gold rushes, the teacher abandoned his scholars and went to the diggings. The school was without a teacher for about a year and when John Hadfield re-opened the school just two pupils attended on the first day. The school continued until the 1940s. The building was burnt down in 1977.


Text Box: Vicarage
The original vicarage was built on the corner of St Leonards Avenue and Church Square before 1855. It has been used as a school, a community health centre and a private residence. It is currently occupied by the Bishop of the Southern Region. The story goes that in the 1870s the vicar’s daughter died of tuberculosis and this prompted the building of a second vicarage, next to the church, close to Acland Street, and still in use as a vicarage.[7] This two-storey building with its graceful, clean design is typical of the affluent 1870s and 1880s.


The parish hall was built in 1913-14. In recent years it has been leased to Theatreworks and the facade was refurbished in 2002.



[1]     For an account of the voyage and arrival see: John Butler Cooper, The History of St Kilda 1840-1930, Printers, Melbourne, 1931, vol. 1, p. 325.

[2]     Ibid., p. 327

[3]     Ibid., p. 331.

[4]     For details of the wreck see: Argus, 1 June 1874. Research by Pearl Donald.

[5]     ‘A facelift for St Kilda’s Christ Church’, The Emerald Hill & Sandridge Times, 23 June 1983, p. 10. The article says it was the ‘last vicar bar one’, which if correct would have been the Reverend Claude Woodhouse.

[6]     Christ Church St Kilda Fact Sheet.

[7]     Ibid. and St Kilda Sketchbook, pp. 52-3.

All Saints’ Anglican Church

 cnr Dandenong Road and Chapel Street, St Kilda East

In late 1857, the Reverend John Herbert Gregory began the campaign to build All Saints’ on land reserved for that purpose by the government. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Perry in November 1858 and the church was opened on 8 December 1861. Father Gregory was the vicar of All Saints’ from 1858-93. His began his ministry as a missionary travelling throughout Victoria and in 1853 he was the first Anglican to conduct a service in Bendigo. His first ‘home’ on the recently discovered gold field was a covered wagon. The foundation stone for All Saints’ in Bendigo was laid shortly before he was moved to Melbourne. Both churches he founded were named All Saints’. According to his daughter, he had attended All Saints’, Margaret Street, London, as a child and was attracted by the name.[1]

The church’s architect was Nathaniel Billing and it was built by Christopher Joseph Glynn. As for most Anglican churches of the period, the Gothic style was chosen with the focus on the altar rather than the pulpit, placing the emphasis on worship and the Sacraments rather than preaching.

Billing was born in England and claimed to have been a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott, the leading Gothic Revivalist architect.[2] Billing designed a long nave with side aisles. A tower 41 metres high was, however, never built. The story goes that one man promised the money required in memory of his wife but before work began ‘the donor married again and found thus other uses for his money’.[3] The Archbishop of Melbourne, Bishop Perry, laid the foundation stone on 8 November 1858, but due to a shortage of funds only the three bays at the west end were completed by 1861. The first service was held on 8 December 1861. The walls were not plastered, there was no ceiling and people were asked to bring their own seats. Two more bays were added in 1866. The second stage was opened in October 1868 with seating for 1000 people. Discussions were held with Billing in 1872-73 about completing the east end, including the transepts and chancel, but Frederick Wyatt was appointed instead, probably because a more decorative style was required. Father Gregory is thought to have favoured the French influence in the design, a result of his travels in Europe. These additions affected the integrity of Billing’s original design and were ‘undertaken in a largely uncoordinated manner’.[4] All Saints’ is built of bluestone with Tasmanian freestone dressings and has a steeply gabled slate roof. It is thought to be the largest Anglican parish church in the southern hemisphere and can seat up to 1400 people.

Internally, the church reflects the high churchmanship favoured by Father Gregory. It is associated with increasingly elaborate decorations and a rich liturgical and musical life. All Saints’ is noted for its stencilled chancel decorations. Father Gregory argued that greater adornment led to deeper devotion.[5] Permanent stencilling was undertaken in 1898 and replaced the original decorated panels, which were passed on to the Melanesian Mission. The choir wore cassocks and surplices for the first time on Easter Day, 1881, and Father Gregory was the first to wear Eucharist vestment in the Diocese of Melbourne on a weekday in 1882.[6] A choir was formed in the early 1860s and choirboys were paid and given preference to entry when All Saints’ Grammar School opened in 1871. There was debate about whether people were attracted by the spectacle and the music, rather than for religious purposes. All Saints’ led the way in liturgical and musical services in Melbourne, which was counter to Bishop Perry’s ideas, but Father Gregory argued that its popularity reflected the fact that this was what people wanted.[7] The church advertised its services and they became so popular that the decorum of services was disrupted by late comers and strangers. To prevent this, the doors were locked as the service began, but this led to protests. When a new system of ringing a bell to indicate all empty seats were now free was introduced, seat renters objected to being rushed by strangers.[8]

The 1868 American organ was enlarged by Fincham in 1872. Joseph Summers, a renowned pianist and composer, was the organist from about 1879-96.[9] The choir toured Tasmania in 1895, with the boys wearing Eton suits and sashes and Joseph Summers resplendent in his academic robes. Henry Inge was the next organist and choirmaster and also the organist for the City of St Kilda for 35 years. He died while playing ‘The Messiah’ during a service in 1928. His wife, who was in the congregation, later said he had expressed the hope he would die in such a manner.[10]

Although Anglicans formed the largest and most influential denomination in nineteenth century Victoria, paying for a building of such a grand nature was not easy. As the historian Stuart Soley has observed, the notion of providing personal financial support for a church was alien to ordinary Anglicans.[11] The minute books record the continuing efforts to extract the required funds from the parishioners. Renting seats made up approximately half the income for much of the period.[12] Father Gregory was opposed to this practice whereby the body of the church had to pay to attend or wait until the service began to take up unused places, but the church was dependent on the funds raised and the practice continued. Between 1870 and 1910 there were 857 seat renters. The peak was 295 in 1881 and the lowest in 1899 was 161. Of the total seat renters over these forty years, 38 per cent were women. Single women made up 27.2 per cent of the women.[13]

Father Gregory retired in 1893 and was succeeded by Robert Potter, a polished preacher who had had his sermons published aa well as a popular adventure story The Green Growers.[14] His appointment was controversial. Under the Patronage Act 1887 the parish could have a say in the selection of the incumbent if the church had been consecrated. To be consecrated the church had to be free from debt. The congregation toiled to pay off the debt and the church was duly consecrated in November 1892. The parish nominees then exercised their vote for Canon Samuel Green of Adelaide but were over-ruled by the Diocesan Board.[15] In 1905 Owen Crossley became vicar and brought new vigor to the parish and was to become greatly loved.[16]

Over the years, a variety of organisations were established as part of the pastoral and community life of the church. The All Saints’ Church Union, for young men, was founded in 1881. It later split into literary and athletic sides and became the All Saints’ Church Union and Athletic Club in 1904. A reading room was open two evenings a week with chess and draughts also provided. The effort to attract young men to the church was to emphasise manliness and Christianity in order to counter the popular association of spirituality with women.[17]

The All Saints’ Guild brought women together to raise funds for decorating the church, to visit the poor, teach Sunday school and undertake needlework to decorate the church and also to sell to raise church funds.[18] The Guild also discussed topical religious issues. In 1884 Eva Hughes read a paper on ‘Disunion in the Early Church’ but another woman refused to deliver her paper because she considered it was not an appropriate activity for a woman.[19] Eva Hughes was a co-founder of the Australian Women’s National League and was state president from 1909 to 1922. She was also involved with charity work and raising patriotic funds during World War I. Mrs Darlot, Father Gregory’s sister, and Mrs à Beckett, a member of an eminent Melbourne family, were staunch money raisers for the church.

The elaborate furnishings, decorations and high church liturgy and music reflected Victorian middle-class ideals and All Saints’ attracted the wealthy and professionals. There were many generous donations, including a gift of an eagle lectern by Dr and Mrs Embling.[20] The George II candelabra, originally in King George’s Chapel in Windsor, were obtained by Father Gregory when he was overseas and paid for by the Hebden family.[21] Father Gregory also procured a Venetian mosaic of Christ, a brass screen and Italian oil paintings during his travels. Other notable features added later include the chapel and sanctuary screens of wrought iron, the finely carved war memorial screen, many fine stained-glass windows and the stone shrine in the oratory, which was dedicated in 1928.

Some notable nineteenth century members were: George Leavis Allan who founded Allan and Co., which became Australia’s foremost musical retailer; Frederick Race Godfrey, squatter and businessman, who had Graylings built in 1880; William Piggott Firebrace, lawyer; George Porter, merchant and owner of Hartpury; John Warrington Rogers, barrister and judge; Edward Sandford, a solicitor and Father Gregory’s brother-in-law; and John Vale, auctioneer and estate agent. All these men served as guardians and in other positions. Other prominent seatholders included the à Beckett family; Archibald Michie, barrister and politician; George Robertson, publisher and benefactor of the church; and Richard Twopeny, writer. Frederic Hughes, who married Eva Snodgrass at All Saints’ in 1885, was a company director and soldier. He commanded the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF, and served at Gallipoli at the age of fifty-seven.

All Saints’ was a fashionable place to be married and the first twelve volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography lists twenty marriages at All Saints’. They include: Hilda Bunny, daughter of B. F. Bunny and sister of Rupert Bunny, to Donald Mackinnon, politician, 1891; Ethel Fenner to John Chirnside, soldier, politician and pastoralist at Werribee Mansion, 1893; Clare Berry, daughter of the former Victorian premier, Sir Graham Berry, to John Sandes, journalist, poet and novelist whose World War I poetry is considered an early and influential formulation of the Anzac legend, 1897; and Adeline Raleigh to Sir Frederick Mann, Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, 1911. One of the oldest grooms was Holford Highlord Wettenhall, pastoralist and breeder of pure merino sheep, who married his second wife Laura, daughter of author C. J. Dennis, at All Saints’ in 1919 when he was 79. Wettenhall died the next year.[22]

The fifteen parish priests, who have served at All Saints’ Church are:

  1. J. H. Gregory, 1858-93
    R. Potter (Canon), 1893-1905
    O. T. L. Lloyd Crossley, (Archdeacon, later Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand), 1905-10
    J. W. Ashton, (later Bishop of Grafton, NSW), 1911-21
    J. Jones, 1922-29
    E. H. Fernie, 1929-36
    C. G. Bright-Parker, 1936-38
    J. A. Schofield (Archdeacon), 1939-47
    D. Blake, (Archdeacon), 1948-61
    W. A. Bowak, 1961-73
    D. B. Warner, 1973-75
    D. A. Sankey, 1975-86
    J. D. Potter, 1986-94
    P. D. Treloar, (Priest-in-charge and Chaplain of St. Michael’s Grammar School), 1995-2001
    R. T. P. Williams, 2002-

All Saints’ continues the musical and liturgical tradition begun by Father Gregory. It has Melbourne’s only remaining traditional parish choir of men and boys. There is also a mixed group, ‘The All Saints’ Singers’, which sings liturgically on some occasions. The parish continues to use exclusively the traditional language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, one of only two parishes in the Melbourne Diocese still to do so. It is one of only two parishes in Australia affiliated with ‘Forward-in-Faith’, an international traditionalist organisation, which seeks to promote and maintain traditional Anglican doctrine, ministry and worship.

The congregation is an eclectic one, drawn from many parts of Melbourne and beyond. Very few parishioners live within the parish boundaries but they are attracted to maintaining a tradition somewhat different from that of most parishes in the liberal Diocese of Melbourne. The Reverend Ramsay Williams is the current parish priest and is the fifteenth parish priest of All Saints’. He lives in the vicarage, close to the church, ‘in an urban setting very different from that of the “marvellous Melbourne” of Gregory’s day. The hope is that All Saints’ will continue to stand as a witness of service to the church and the community long into the future, despite the many changes to worship and church life in recent times’.[23]

 The Vicarage

The vicarage was begun in 1860 and is adjacent to the church to the south. It is also a noted historic building, being one of the first examples of polychrome brickwork in Victoria. It predates Joseph Reed’s work (he is usually credited with introducing the fashion in Melbourne) and is more restrained.[24] The decorative use of different-coloured bricks dates to medieval England. It became very fashionable in the mid 1860s and was used in residential and religious buildings.[25]

A new vicarage was built in the 1950s at 2 Chapel Street and is the home of the present parish priest, Father Williams.

Gregory Hall

Gregory Hall was built in 1910-11 by Stephen Bell to a design by P. G. Fick. Described as ‘abstracted Gothicism’, the beaten copper panel in the facade is representative of the Arts and Craft movement.[26] Alterations and additions were carried out in 1937.


All Saints’ Grammar School

All Saints’ Grammar School was founded in 1871 and was one of the earliest to be built in the grounds of a church. It was on the corner of Chapel Street and Dandenong Road.[27] The first headmaster was William Goff, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Alfred Deakin taught there for eighteen months while attending evening law lectures. After 1875 the enrolment declined and in 1905 the school was refused registration as a secondary school, having failed to present a pupil for Matriculation exams in the past five years. In 1907, fifty of the seventy pupils were choristers. Under the leadership of Father H. C. Crotty the school regained its secondary status but when D. E. Manson became headmaster numbers again fell.

The school’s fortunes improved with the appointment of the Reverend Charles Zercho in 1913. He was said to be ‘keen on the cane’ but the old boys were divided as to whether he was too harsh a disciplinarian. Under Zercho the enrolments increased and Gregory Hall was used to accommodate extra classes but this meant Zercho lost some autonomy to the vestry committee. In 1919 there were 190 pupils but the vestry would permit the use of the hall only for assemblies. Zercho developed a plan to buy Linden to provide extra space for the school. The church guardians feared Zercho planned to establish a competing school and he was forced to resign although the staff, parents and students supported him. This was the death knell for the school, because without a playing field and the restricted classroom space there was no possibility of expansion.

A highlight of Zercho’s time as headmaster was when the entire school marched to the St Kilda Esplanade to greet Admiral Lord Jellicoe as he arrived at St Kilda pier. As the great naval chief was driven past them, the boys gave ‘hearty cheers and sang the school war-cry’.[28] An Old Boys Association was established and funded the honour board that was unveiled during speech night in 1924. The school ceased as a secondary school in 1928 and Jessie Maude Draper (née Wall), who had taught at the school since 1912, became headmistress in 1929. In 1937 it was decided to close the school at the end of the year, if not earlier. A polio epidemic at the end of the second term forced the closure. Ironically, Gregory Hall was later leased to Zercho’s Business College, founded by Zercho’s brother Frederick.

Eminent scholars

In all, 2500 pupils attended All Saints’ Grammar and many became eminent in various fields. One of the more colourful was Ernest Selwyn Hughes, an Anglo-Catholic clergyman, who became known as the ‘Fighting Parson’ after ejecting two poorly behaved youths from a wedding with two well-aimed blows.[29] Others were: John Parnell, soldier and commandant of the Royal Military College, Duntroon during World War I; Edgar Ritchie, public servant and engineer; Arthur Wadsworth, Commonwealth parliamentary librarian; Hubert Ernest de Mey Warren, superintendent of the Church Missionary Society’s Aboriginal mission at Roper River in the Northern Territory and later at Groote Eylandt; and Edwin Tivey, stockbroker and commander of the 8th Infantry Brigade, which fought at Fromelles and the Western Front. Tivey temporarily commanded the 5th Division several times. He was twice wounded and later gassed and was mentioned in despatches six times.[30]

Other notables, most of whom were from Zercho’s time as headmaster, include Sir Randal Heymanson, founding editor of Farrago at the University of Melbourne. He had edited The Grammarian in 1918 and 1919 while a student at All Saints’ and it was praised in The Age. He became a prominent journalist and founded the Australian American Association. Another old boy, Sir Frank Richardson, was knighted for service to the public sector. Sir George Pape was a Queen’s Counsel and Supreme Court judge and Sir Edgar Tanner was the MLA for Caulfield. Dr Mervyn Robinson was a surgeon and President of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association. Finally, John Hetherington, a gifted writer and journalist, recalled his time at All Saints’ Grammar in his autobiography The Morning was Shining. The school also had an ex- pupil, Bob Walker, who became a murderer.[31]

[1]     For biographical information on the Reverend Gregory see: McLaren, All Saints’ Church, pp. 6 and 32-5.

[2]     Australian Heritage Commission, Register of the National Estate Database, ‘All Saints Anglican Church, St Kilda East, Vic’, database number: 005418, file number: 2/11/046/0007. Class: Historic, registered 21/03/1978. See also: ‘All Saints Anglican Church Group, St Kilda East, Vic’, database number: 014719, file number: 2/11/046/0007, Class: Historic, registered 26/10/1999. Hereafter: National Estate Database, ‘All Saints’.

[3]     M. Montgomery, ‘All Saints Church, East St Kilda’, undergraduate thesis, Architecture, University of Melbourne, 1948.

[4]     National Estate Database, ‘All Saints’.

[5]     Stuart James Soley, ‘“The Highest of the High” in “Marvellous Melbourne”: All Saints East St Kilda as Melbourne’s Original High Church, 1858-1908’, M.A., University of Melbourne, 1997, p. 32.

[6]     Ibid., p. 2.

[7]     Ibid., pp. 47-50.

[8]     Ibid., pp. 66-7.

[9]     See: Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[10]    Michael E. Humphries, ‘A School that has Passed: All Saints Grammar School, East St Kilda, 1871-1937’, M.Ed., University of Melbourne, 1986, p. 261. See also: Cooper, History of St Kilda, p. 335.

[11]    Soley, ‘The Highest of the High’, p. 13.

[12]    Ibid., p. 27.

[13]    Ibid., pp. 23-6.

[14]    Ibid., p. 96.

[15]    Ibid., pp. 101-2.

[16]    Ibid., p. 96.

[17]    Ibid., p. 88. For other organisations see: McLaren, All Saints Church, pp. 27-31.

[18]    Soley, ‘The Highest of the High’, p. 92.

[19]    Ibid., p. 92.

[20]    Presumably the politician and medical practitioner Thomas Embling. See: Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[21]    For other memorials and gifts, see: McLaren, All Saints Church, pp. 42-3.

[22]    These marriages are from the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Note that the profession given and achievements may not have occurred by the time of the wedding.

[23]    Current information and list of vicars kindly provided by the Reverend Ramsay Williams.

[24]    Soley, ‘The Highest of the High’, p. 33.

[25]    Ibid., p. 24.

[26]    Ibid., p. 33.

[27]    For a detailed history of the school see: Humphries, ‘A School that has Passed’. Except for some biographical information, I have relied on Humphries for this brief account of the school. See also: McLaren, All Saints Church, pp. 36-9.

[28]    Humphries, ‘A School that has Passed’, p. 162.

[29]    Australian Dictionary of Biography. Anglo-Catholicism stresses the continuity of the Church of England with Catholicism and follows traditional Catholic practices when celebrating the Eucharist and in the wearing of vestments.

[30]    For further details of the lives of these men see: Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[31]    Humphries, ‘A School that has Passed’, p. 293.

Holy Trinity Church

Corner Brighton Road and Dickens Street, St Kilda

The parish of Holy Trinity was formed when it was subdivided from Christ Church to serve Anglicans in south St Kilda and Balaclava. The triangular piece of land on the corner of Brighton Road and Chapel Street was reserved for church purposes in the Victorian Government Gazette on 23 April 1866. In October 1870 a wooden church building was begun under the supervision of F. M. White. Capable of accommodating 300 people, it was later used as a Sunday school. It was opened on 29 January 1871 by Bishop Perry. It had cost £1217, including £182 for furnishings. The organ cost £100.

A member of the first parochial committee was Edmund Samuel Parkes, who was the superintendent of the Bank of Australasia. He died on 11 May 1887 in a train crash at Windsor Station. Described as a ‘spiritual pillar’ of Holy Trinity, his loss was deeply mourned. A reredos, a decorative screen, paid for by public subscription, and a stained-glass window, presented by his officers of the Bank of Australasia, commemorate him in the church.

The first incumbent was the Reverend Barcroft Boake who ‘wore an unusually long white beard, that divaricated leaving a “V” shaped opening’.[1] In 1872 he was asked to shorten his sermons, especially in hot weather. He died in 1875 and the new incumbent was Archdeacon Stretch. The Reverend George Torrance was the incumbent from 1878-94. A highly talented musician and composer, he was held in great affection by the congregation. During Torrance’s incumbency, fundraising for a permanent church began. An Olde English Faire, held in the Melbourne Town Hall for five days in 1881, raised almost £3000.[2]

Leading architects Reed and Barnes designed the substantial Later Gothic freestone church and Ekins was the successful contractor with a tender of £7675. The vicarage was built at the same time, with the land and building costing £2400. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Moorhouse on 23 November 1882 and the church was consecrated on 19 November 1889.[3] It is built of Barrabool Hill stone with Waurn Ponds freestone dressings and a basalt plinth and a slate roof.[4] The church has a nave and aisles, transepts, chancel and vestry, although the spire was never built. It is considered of interest for ‘its circular baptistery with conical roof, unusual circular clerestory windows and apsidal chancel converging on a three-light window’.[5] Other features are the ‘timber roof trusses, arcaded side aisles, chancel, memorial stained-glass windows, ingeniously developed altarpiece, organ and raised pews’.[6] A new three-manual organ by George Fincham was installed. The £600 it cost was fully paid by 1885 through Father Torrance giving recitals, collecting subscriptions and acting as the church organist to save the salary. He was dubbed ‘The disappearing parson’ because after finishing prayers he vanished behind the screen to play the organ. He was also the first warden at the newly founded Trinity College. A marble tablet commemorates him.

One of the poignant memorials is a clerestory window to L. F. De Soyres, a young chorister who died in 1889. The window was subscribed by the choristers and the boy’s school friends. Another is the north transept window, a memorial to the infant children of Frederick and Jessie Grimwade. Beneath it are alabaster tablets to the Grimwades. He and his partner, Alfred Felton, built up a huge wholesale drug business and he was a Legislative Councillor for thirteen years.[7] A window depicting Raphael’s angels is based on one in Dresden in Germany.

The World War I roll of honour has 181 names inscribed on it, of whom thirty-six died. It was unveiled by Archbishop Lee in 1921. In 1947, the architectural firm of Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, which was originally Reed and Barnes, prepared designs for the tower and spire but they were not built. A Soldiers’ Memorial, a small chapel facing the World War I memorial, was dedicated by Archbishop Booth on 11 June 1950. An unusual aspect of the church is that niches in the pepperpot tower contain the ashes of deceased parishioners.

Holy Trinity is well maintained and in virtually original condition. It continues to serve an active congregation and operates in co-operation with St Bede’s in Elwood.


The current church hall was built in 1924-25, replacing an earlier wooden hall.

Holy Trinity Church Hall

[1]     Cooper, History of St Kilda, p. 337.

[2]     Ibid., p. 338.

[3]     Ibid., p. 339.

[4]     Australian Heritage Commission, Register of the National Estate Database, ‘Holy Trinity Anglican Church, St Kilda Vic’, database number: 005417, file number: 2/11/046/0006.

[5]     Miles Lewis, (ed.), Victorian Churches: Their Origins, Their Story & Their Architecture, National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Melbourne, 1991, p. 84; and National Estate Database, ‘Holy Trinity’.

[6]     Ibid.

[7]     Australian Dictionary of Biography.

St Bede’s Church

Corner Ormond Road and Byrne Avenue, Elwood

 The parish of St Bede’s was formed from the parishes of St Clements, Elsternwick, and Holy Trinity, St Kilda, in January 1916. The Reverend F. Lewin held the first services in the home of Mr Huon at 30 Vautier Street, Elwood. The foundation stone was laid on 16 July 1916 by Archbishop Clarke and the red brick church opened on 3 October the same year.[1] St Bede’s is the oldest church in Elwood. The intention to build a larger church adjacent to it on the corner of Tiuna Grove was never fulfilled. The architects were North and Williams and James Brown was the builder. It cost £925. The porch was a later addition.

30 Vautier Street, Elwood

 The Reverend J. J. McCall became the minister in 1921 and under his guidance the vestries and a guild room were added in front of the schoolroom. A meeting room and kitchen were also attached to the hall. In 1929 a new front to the building facing Byrne Avenue was added to match the main porch. The architect was H. V. Frew.[2] The church’s interior was remodelled and a fine rood screen added.[3] The original vestries were removed and an organ recess added. Later, the rood screen and choir were removed and the altar brought forward. A window over the altar was removed because it was regularly broken when basketball was played in the adjoining hall. The carved wooden pulpit was donated in memory of John Gray Mitchell in 1934 and the communion rails were presented by the Sunday school. The carved wooden lectern is in memory of Jane Hannah Foggan and dated 6 February 1951. A carved wooden font is in memory of John James McCall, the vicar from 1921 to 1935. He died in 1939 and his family donated a stained-glass window depicting the disciples discovering the empty tomb.

There are stained-glass windows in memory of Alice Habersberger and her daughter Wilhelmina, and to Arlie Wrixon. The window in memory of Stella Elizabeth Clemenger, 1895-1974, depicts St Bede, who wrote the first history of the English people and translated and commented on the Gospels. A window showing Mary holding the baby Jesus is dedicated to Celia and Ida, the daughters of Elizabeth Nott. A wall plaque commemorates Isabella Margaret Kilbur, who died in 1944 aged eighty-two. The centre panel of the reredos names Maxwell and Hannah Reynolds with the date 1921 while the side panels are in memory of Evelina Benson Mitchell, 1860-1950. There is a World War I wooden honour board and a stained-glass window depicting Christ on the Cross is a World War II memorial. The most recent stained-glass windows are a triptych in the porch by Derek Pearse, in memory of E. A. Owens.

The parish bell used to be in a wooden stand at the rear of the church. The stand fell into disrepair and the bell was kept in storage. The bell has recently been refurbished and mounted on a bronze ship-style bracket in the church’s entrance.

The church continues as a place of worship and reunified with Holy Trinity in 1995, as the parish of Balaclava and Elwood.


A schoolroom was built by A. J. Bell at the rear of the church in 1918. A kindergarten was built in 1921 by E. H. Cooper. Known as St Bede’s College, the school once had 150 pupils and just two teachers. A curtain in the middle separated the two classes. It was bigger than the local primary school and pre-dated St Colman’s school (see below). The buildings are still used for a kindergarten.

Scout Hall

The Scout Hall was named in honour of Graham Farley. He was a member of the church and the founding principal of Braemer College.


A vicarage at 2 Tiuna Grove was built in 1917-18 at a cost of £1108. It was designed by R. M. King and built by A. J. Bell.

[1]     Cooper, History of St Kilda, pp. 342-3.

[2]     David Bick, St Kilda Conservation Study Area 2, vol. 1, p. 223.

[3]     Cooper, History of St Kilda, pp. 342-3



St Mary’s Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Church

St Colman’s Church

St Columba’s Church

Our Lady of Dolours



St Mary’s Catholic Church

208-214 Dandenong Road, St Kilda East

The first Mass in St Kilda was celebrated on 4 September 1853 at the Bay View Hotel, corner of High and Argyle Streets, by the Reverend Patrick Niall. On 22 January 1854 Bishop James Alipius Goold, the first Catholic Bishop of Melbourne, laid the foundation stone for a small brick building, which was to be used as a church and a school. Capable of seating 250 people, it cost £4000. It was at the southern end of the present St Mary’s Church and was demolished in 1867.[1]

The foundation stone for St Mary’s Church was laid on 27 February 1859 by the Very Reverend Doctor Fitzpatrick, Vicar General of the Diocese. It is the oldest Catholic church south of the Yarra river. William Wardell, one of Australia’s most significant nineteenth century architects, designed the bluestone Gothic church. Wardell migrated from England to Australia in 1858 for health reasons. He soon became Inspector of Public Works and retained the right of private practice. His best known works are St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne and St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. A deeply religious man, he attended St Mary’s in St Kilda and maintained his interest in the church after he left Melbourne.[2] Wardell was one of the senior civil servants sacked on ‘Black Wednesday’ when Sir Graham Berry became Premier in 1877 and as a result, Wardell moved to Sydney.

From the beginning, there were problems with the building: the original materials proved to be defective and the workmanship was poor. The sum of £1600 had been spent on the church when work was suspended through lack of funds. In 1862 St Kilda and Brighton became separate parishes and St Mary’s first resident priest, the Reverend Ed McCarthy, died after just three months and his successor, the Reverend F. Hayden, died at Easter after only two months in the parish. Dr James Corbett was appointed on 30 August 1863 and work on the church resumed in September 1863. The first Mass in the new church was held the following year. In 1869 Wardell was invited to prepare revised plans to enlarge the church. Dr Goold once more performed the duty of laying the foundation stone for the additional work on 1 May 1869. The work was completed in 1871 at a cost of £3800. The nave and sanctuary were lengthened, the vestry and a new chancel added. The original church occupies about half the length of the nave from the Dandenong Road end.

Built in Early English Gothic Revival style of bluestone with freestone dressings and a slate roof, St Mary’s Church is notable for being the ‘purest example of Wardell’s parish churches which were built according to ancient ecclesiastical principles’.[3] The design has a nave with side aisles with a vestry, side porches and chapels. A belfry surmounts the gable. The original gas lamps over the entrances are rare. The organ was built for the first Melbourne Exhibition.

St Mary’s is notable for its remarkably intact interior. It has a wealth of internal fittings, including the high-quality stained-glass windows by Mayers, Settler and Mathieson & Gibson. Above the southern porches there are two nineteenth century spherical lights, which were originally in the school. The sanctuary features rich stencilling while elsewhere the decoration is simpler. This reflects the historic separation of the sanctuary, which belonged to the Church of Rome, and the nave which was used by the congregation.[4] The decoration was restored in 1981. The Caen stone altar retains its original fixtures and curtains. Designed by Wardell, it is the only non-Gothic feature, being based on a Roman design in the church of San Alfonso.[5] The stone statues were possibly designed by Wardell.

Dr James Corbett, Bishop of Sale for just six weeks, consecrated St Mary’s in 1887 in a five-hour ceremony. It was the first Roman Catholic church consecrated in Victoria and the second in Australia. Corbett had studied for the priesthood in France and Belgium and travelled extensively in Europe. He became parish priest at St Mary’s in 1863 and with Wardell is responsible for bringing the church into being. This collaboration was recognised in 1981 when two windows were added representing Wardell as St Thomas, the patron saint of architects, and Corbett as St James. When Corbett was appointed bishop, the St Kilda mission was divided into St Kilda East, St Kilda West and South Yarra. Later, in November 1892, St Kilda East was further divided when Malvern district was handed to the care of the Vincentian Fathers.

Father Hegarty was succeeded in 1895 by Father T. Lynch, who died in 1942 at the age of ninety, having been a priest for sixty-three years and parish priest at St Mary’s for forty-six years. Father Keenan served until 1949 when Father Durkin became parish priest. In 1959 a chapel was added to house the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, which had been installed by the Reverend Corbett in 1886. The organ was removed and found a new home at St Margaret Mary’s in Brunswick. In the 1960s alterations were made as a result of the Second Vatican Council, but to a lesser extent than in other churches. An altar was placed in the nave to enable the priest to face the congregation when celebrating Mass.[6] The rood perch was removed but reinstated in 1981.

One of St Kilda’s most famous sons, Albert Jacka VC, married Veronica Carey in St Mary’s in 1929. Jacka served in the 14th Battalion and was awarded the Victoria Cross on 19 May 1915 for his bravery in a rear-guard action at Courtenay’s Post at Gallipoli. It was the first VC awarded to the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. Jacka later became a mayor of St Kilda but died prematurely. At his funeral, his coffin was carried by eight VC recipients.

A requiem mass was conducted on 31 October 1975 for Gary Cunningham, Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart, members of the news crew who were killed at Balibo in Timor.


The rendered brick two-storey presbytery was built in 1866-67 to a Wardell design and is one of his few domestic buildings. It replaced an earlier building, which fronted Westbury Street. Its foundations are still visible. The alterations and extensions of 1908-10 were supervised by Grainger, Kennedy and Little. John Grainger designed the new Princes Bridge crossing the Yarra and was the father of the eccentric musician Percy Grainger.[7]

School hall, later St Mary’s Hall

Five Irish Presentation nuns arrived in St Kilda from Limerick on 21 December 1873. They came in response to a crisis caused by the withdrawal of funding for religious schools by Parliament. The priests vacated the presbytery until Turret Lodge’ opposite St Mary’s, was bought in 1874 to house the nuns. Their leader, Katherine Mulquin or Mother Paul, established Presentation Convent and Colleges, which had a high reputation for progressive education of girls. Three Christian Brothers arrived from Ireland in 1878 and a new school was opened in 1880. Congregate graves for the nuns and brothers are at St Kilda Cemetery.

School Hall

 The school hall was built adjacent to and east of the church in 1902-04. The design was by John Rigg, in conjunction with Godfrey and Spowers, and probably influenced by Robert Haddon.[8] Robert Gamble was the contractor and £7500 was spent, including £2000 for the land. The two-storey, red brick hall has stucco decoration and includes Romanesque Revival and Art Nouveau elements. Architecturally it presents a contrast to the church and presbytery and demonstrates changing styles and the ‘new self confidence of Catholics in the general community’.[9] It was extended in 1909. It is a substantial building and was used for small theatrical performances. In addition there are rooms for classrooms, offices, a library and a kitchen. It was built at a time when church communities were attempting to provide for the betterment of young people through education, physical activities and spiritual guidance. This echoed the earlier movement to build mechanics institutes to provide educational opportunities for working-class men.[10] The hall is now occupied by the Christian Brothers College. St Mary’s Catholic School is now on the corner of Dandenong Road and Westbury Street.

[1]     This account is based on the following: Australian Heritage Commission, Register of the National Estate Database, ‘St Marys Catholic Church, St Kilda East, Vic’, database number: 015771, file number: 2/11/046/0092. Class: Historic; and ‘St Marys Catholic Church, School Hall and Presbytery, St Kilda East, Vic’, database number: 014701, file number: 2/11/046/0092. Class: Historic. Also: Timothy Hubbard and Petri Juhola, ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church, Presbytery & Hall, Dandenong Road, East St Kilda: Submission to the Classifications Committee of the Historic Buildings Council’, Hubbard, St Kilda, 1989.

[2]     For biographical details see: Ursula M. De Jong, William Wilkinson Wardell, Monash University Press, Melbourne, 1984; and Tom Hazell, ‘William Wardell, Historic Environment, vol. 3, no. 4, 1984, pp. 20-3.

[3]     Hubbard and Juhola, ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church’.

[4]     National Estate Database, ‘St Marys’.

[5]     Hubbard and Juhola, ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church’, p. 12.

[6]     Ibid., p. 13.

[7]     Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[8]     For more details of these architects see: Hubbard and Juhola, ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church’, pp. 16-18; and for Haddon, Australian Dictionary of Biography.

[9]     Hubbard and Juhola, ‘St Mary’s Catholic Church’, p. 5.

[10]    Ibid., pp. 5 and 18-19.


Sacred Heart Church

Corner Grey and Neptune Streets, St Kilda

 When it was realised that St Mary’s could not cope with the expanding numbers attending, a site was bought for a new Roman Catholic church in Grey Street for £1000.[1] The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Goold on 13 July 1884 and the church was dedicated on 7 December 1884. The first priest was the Reverend William Henry Quick, who was born in England and educated in Spain. He arrived in Melbourne in 1872 and assisted Father Corbett at St Kilda East before moving to Sacred Heart. Father Quick died in 1899 and was succeeded by Father William Ganly, a brilliant scholar, who served until 1917. The early congregation had its share of prominent men, including Francis Quinlan (a judge), Frederick Wimpole (developer of the George Hotel and a mayor), Edward O’Donnell (grocer and mayor six times), Dr M. U. O’Sullivan and the parliamentarians, Nicholas Fitzgerald, James Orkney and Sir Bryan O’Loghlen (a former premier). But as David Moloney has shown not all the parishioners were wealthy. There were sixty-one weddings in Sacred Heart between 1894 and 1900 and twenty-two of the brides were domestic servants. Ten others stated they were gentlewomen and fourteen described themselves as ‘lady’. The grooms had more varied occupations with clerks, tramway employees and labourers outnumbering the well-to-do. In addition, the most numerous occupations of parents of girls attending Presentation Convent, Windsor, were publicans and shopkeepers.[2]

Sacred Heart is a substantial brown brick building with cement dressings and a slate roof. Consisting of the nave, sanctuary and two sacristies, it cost £3300. The architects were Reed, Henderson & Smart. The Italian Renaissance church is significant because it represents the abandonment of the Gothic Revival style favoured by Victoria’s Roman Catholics. It is only a year or so later than similar churches built overseas. Sacred Heart set the trend for subsequent Roman Catholic churches in Victoria, which were Renaissance and Baroque designs with red brick and cement dressings. In 1890 the side aisles and the belltower were added. The church was completed in 1922 by Kempson and Conolly, architects, and Brady, the contractor. The hipped roof campanile at the front was replaced with another at the rear, measuring 36 metres and featuring a copper dome topped with a statue of Christ. The chancel and three bays at the rear were also added at this time. During this work a fire broke out, near where temporary walls and screens had been placed around the altar. It quickly spread to the ceiling and the local fire brigades had difficulty getting at the fire between the wooden ceiling and the slate roof. One of the altars was damaged and all the vestments were burnt and the furnishings damaged by water and falling cinders. Fortunately the brick building was only slightly affected. Masses were said at the St Kilda Theatre until the building was useable again. Archbishop Mannix opened the renovated church in November 1922. The work had cost £18,000.[3]

The interior has a barrel-vaulted ceiling and is decorated with floral stencilling apparently carried out in the 1940s but which may have incorporated some of the 1901 scheme by G. and W. Dean. An anonymous donor paid for the original decoration. The high altar of Carrara marble was the gift of a Mrs Petty in 1909 and designed by Kempson and Connolly. Judge Casey donated a bell in 1910. Weighing 4.75 cwt (240 kg), it was made in Dublin by the O’Bryne firm and cost £120. The stained glass is also of interest, being the first use in a Roman Catholic church in Victoria of the Classical style in preference to the Neo-Gothic, which was then in vogue. Above the organ is a rose window which was covered during the blackout of World War II and only discovered fifty years later when the church was being restored.[4] The result of the two years of renovations was dedicated on 21 April 1991.

The two-manual organ of eleven stops was built in 1910 by George Fincham & Son and is unaltered except for a new wind system. It is centrally placed on a rear gallery and retains its original tonal scheme, tubular-pneumatic action, pipework and detached console, which gives the organist a clear view of the sanctuary. The highly polished casework is one of the most accomplished local designs of the period.[5]

Father James Byrne was the parish priest from 1917 until his death in 1936. He was fondly remembered for taking about forty altar boys on a paddle steamer trip to Sorrento each year. An annual picnic for children at Ferntree Gully was another fixture for many years.

In 1982 Father Ernie Smith became the parish priest at St Kilda West.[6] By this time the congregation had declined and the suburb of St Kilda had more than its share of disadvantaged people. Father Smith provided an open door to all comers. The presbytery kitchen soon became a place for informal companionship. The growing numbers calling in for a cup of coffee or lunch highlighted the loneliness and isolation of people in the community. Many lived in a single room with no cooking facilities. By March 1983 an average of seventy people were having lunch each day in the very crowded kitchen. The decision to move to the hall was not made easily because it was feared that the special atmosphere of friendliness in the kitchen might be lost. However, the move proved a success and about 400 people enjoy a free, three-course lunch every day, although on occasion up to 600 have attended. Despite this ‘catering nightmare’ no-one is ever turned away.[7] The kitchen remains open and homeless people come for tea and toast in the morning. Others drop in during the day, sometimes for the company, sometimes seeking help with housing or advice on other problems.

The Sacred Heart Mission was constituted as a separate legal entity in 1984. The welfare work undertaken now includes community programs for the unemployed and providing affordable housing; aged care, which includes home visits, care in the home to help people remain independent and aged hostels; and a women’s program. This assists women working as prostitutes and heroin-addicted women, and provides safe housing and counselling for women who have been abused. The outreach program visits people living alone in rented rooms, some of whom are socially isolated through agoraphobia. Another program co-ordinates visits by volunteers to the aged in nursing homes. The Mission also has an opportunity shop which assists the needy and raises money for the Mission lunches. The parish also provides funerals and burials for people who die alone and efforts are made to find lost families. Many of these initiatives are assisted by volunteers and community donations. In the process, the parish has changed in character and attendance at the church has increased significantly.

Sacred Heart Hall and Presbytery


The hall was built in 1901 of red bricks with stucco mouldings and a slate gabled roof. The crosses at the main corners and on pediments, which are a distinctive feature of the church, are replicated on the hall.


The presbytery is a two-storey red brick building featuring a cast-iron verandah and balcony. It was opened in 1901. The presbytery and hall are now primarily used by the Sacred Heart Mission, which provides a range of social services to the local community.


[1]     Australian Heritage Commission, Register of the National Estate Database, ‘Sacred Heart Church Group, St Kilda Vic’, database number: 015379, file number: 2/11/046/0021. Class: Historic, registered 26/10/1999.

[2]     David Moloney, From Mission to Mission: The History of Sacred Heart Parish West St Kilda, 1887-1987, n.d., p. 8.

[3]     The Advocate, 23 March, 30 March and 9 November 1922, MDHC, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

[4]     Brochure on Sacred Heart Church, MDHC Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

[5]     National Trust of Australia (Victoria), ‘Sacred Heart Church, Manse, Hall and Organ’, file number: B5296.

[6]     See: Ernie Smith, Miracles do Happen: A Priest Called Smith, Collins Dove, North Blackburn, 1993.

[7]     David Moloney, From Mission to Mission: The History of Sacred Heart Parish West St Kilda, 1887-1987, n.d., pp. 74-5. See also: www.sacredheartmission.org



St Colman’s Church

(formerly Church of the Holy Angels)

293 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East

The Church of the Holy Angels was built in 1900 at a cost of £2000. In 1907 the church was broken into but fortunately nothing was stolen because the priest prudently removed the silver after Mass every Sunday.[1] It became a separate parish in 1912 with the Reverend John Barry, assisted by the Reverend T. Bride. The foundation stone for the enlarged church was laid in August 1913 and the church was opened on 30 November 1913 by the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Dr Carr. The Reverend Barry was the pastor at the time. Brick reinforced pillars with arches had replaced the old wooden walls. A new gable window, organ gallery and four entrances were added and with new seating and other embellishments the work cost about £12,000. The architects were Watts and Sons and the contractor was James Brown. Cooper described the interior as ‘impressive. The high altar, and the side altars of the Sacred Heart, and Our Blessed Lady, are aids to devotion. There are beautiful decorated statues of the Sacred Heart, and the Blessed Virgin, adorning the side altars. The altar rails are artistic, with a rich carpet, and a massive candelabrum; these, and other furnishings, it is said “make the Church of Holy Angels, Balaclava, the most devotional one outside of [the city of] Melbourne”.’[2]

The parish was made a separate parish in 1926 in the care of the Reverend M. J. Keenan. The foundation stone for a new church was laid on 16 June 1929 by Archbishop Mannix. C. D. Rose was the architect and R. V. Ritchie the builder. The work cost £10,288 and was opened on 1 December 1929 by the Apostolic Delegate, Dr Cattaneo.[3] Stylistically, it is a fusion of Byzantine and Romanesque. The symmetrical facade is dominated by a central porch and the side towers. The upper parts of these towers were removed several decades ago, presumably due to structural failure.

St Colman's Church with Towers

 On 7 September 1939 the parish was re-named St Colman’s. The change of name was justified because there was no feast of Holy Angels in the church calendar and the name had never caught on. A groom missed his wedding appointment because a tram conductor and a policeman assured him there was no church named Holy Angels in the area. The school had taken the name Holy Redeemer and the Hibernians had called their branch St Colman’s. The tennis club took their name of Glen Eira ‘from the pavement’ while the football team adopted the name Balaclava. The club ‘had modestly declined the name [Holy Angels] — perhaps with good reason. On muddy days it might not look well, and on rough-neck days it might not sound well’.[4] St Colman’s continues to operate as a church and there is a school adjoining it.

Parish hall and presbytery

The parish hall and presbytery were in McWhae Avenue, in the city of Caulfield. The hall was opened by Archbishop Mannix in February 1914 and was designed to accommodate 400 people. The timber from the original church was used in its construction. The new presbytery on the corner of Carlisle Street and Carlisle Avenue was opened on 3 October 1926.

School Hall

The asymmetrical school hall complements the design of the church. Its tower is intact. The hall is on the ground floor and classrooms above. It was built in 1938-39.

[1]     The Advocate, 12 October 1907.

[2]     Cooper, History of St Kilda, pp. 352-3.

[3]     The Advocate, 18 June 1929.

[4]     Ibid., 7 September 1939.


St Columba’s Church

2 Normandy Road, Elwood

 St Columba’s Church School was opened on 28 April 1918. A fair conducted by the Sacred Heart parish in September 1914 had enabled the purchase of the land. The land cost £1439 and the building cost £1740. Archbishop Mannix opened and blessed the new church school in the presence of 3000 people. The school had 150 pupils when it opened in June 1918. The original teachers were sisters of the Presentation Order. Mother Anthony was the first principal and Sisters Angela and Bernadette the first teachers.

The first Mass was held on 5 May 1918 by Father J. Byrne. The priests from Sacred Heart attended until it became a separate parish in 1919 and its first parish priest, the Reverend Jerome McCarthy, was appointed. The school colours were blue and gold and they featured in the interior decoration. The wooden altar was painted in blue and gold. The sanctuary was a raised proscenium and curtained off during school times. The school desks also served as pews; it was the job of the senior boys each Friday afternoon to arrange them appropriately for services.

Sister Ignatius became principal in 1926. Pupils were taught physical education by a Mr Donald on Friday afternoons and Maggie Mossop taught singing. During the Depression the sisters taught pupils to Grade 9 level because many children could not afford to go on to secondary school. (Most pupils completed Grade 8, thereby gaining the Merit certificate, and left school.) The school held concerts, a choir, and annual picnics to South Morang.[1]

The Reverend Michael McKenna became the parish priest on 6 January 1922. He had served with the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Forces sent overseas in 1914. He began work raising funds to build a church next to the school. The foundation stone was laid on 12 May 1929. The architect was A. A. Fritsch and the builders were the Reynolds Brothers. It was completed on 8 December 1929. Archbishop Cattaneo attended with Archbishop Mannix. The red brick Romanesque church designed to accommodate 700 people had cost £12,516 and gifts valued at £3553 had been donated, including stained-glass windows, the pulpit and altars. The tower can be seen from many parts of Elwood and St Columba’s is considered one of the best of the Roman Catholic churches of a similar scale built around this period. The design of the belfry and metal-capped cupola is unusual. Inside, the barrel-vaulted ceiling is the main feature, while the stained glass and the choir gallery balustrade are also noteworthy.[2] It was a culmination of a dream for Father McKenna, who had laid the first brick of the church and laid the last brick on the tower to complete the building. His sudden death following a seizure on 17 October 1936 was a great loss to the people of St Columba’s.

His successor was Dr Francis Greenan, who continued the work undertaken by Father McKenna by buying adjoining land and expanding facilities for the school. A hall with three classrooms and a teachers’ room was completed in 1937. The story is told that on hot days Father Greenan would march the children to the beach. ‘The fact that mothers were aghast at their little ones being on the beach in the middle of a heat wave never crossed his mind’.[3] The hall was taken over by the Army during World War II and was also used as a post office for a time. The children were taught in the tennis pavilion, which was later demolished and a replacement built. The children regained the use of their school in 1943.

After the war, the school remained small with composite grades from Prep to Grade 8 taught by five teachers. In line with government policies this was reduced to teaching to Grade 6 by 1966. Sister Ignatius returned as principal in 1950 and remained until 1970, having given a total of thirty-one years of service to the school and its pupils. To mark the golden jubilee of the school another two rooms were added. In 1974 the long association of the Sisters of the Presentation Order with the school ended. Dawn Keogh became the first lay principal, followed by Loris Stone, who oversaw extensions to the school, including a library, which were opened in 1983. Colette Hickey was principal from 1988-97. The present principal is Christine White. The school is a small but flourishing community with an enrolment of ninety-two pupils.

 John Ploog was in the first enrolment of pupils at the school. In 1970 his reminiscences were included in a history of the church by Francis Renton Power. Reflecting on the traditional enmity between Catholics and Protestants, Ploog recalled how there would be ‘battles’ against the local state school pupils. ‘After a veritable flood of verbal abuse, battle was joined and continued on the banks of the Elwood “canal” (and sometimes in it).’ When some ‘yahoos’ threw a stone through a window of the Anglican St Bede’s, Ploog was in the delegation charged with apologising to members of St Bede’s congregation. In contrast, in 1970 the two congregations were attending each other’s services.[4]

The third parish priest was Father Michael Tuomey, who arrived in 1953. The church was consecrated on 12 October 1961 in a ceremony lasting more than four hours. Archbishop Simonds circled the church three times as a Litany of the Saints was chanted by a choir of priests. The ceremony then continued inside the church and included placing a relic of St Clement under the altar stone.[5] Father Tuomey began a monthly magazine The Columbian and was responsible for the establishment of the Parish Council and the introduction of lay lectors to the parish. He retired due to ill-health in 1973.[6]

St Columba’s fifth parish priest was Father Conrad Reis. A former boarder at St Columba’s, during World War II he served in New Guinea as chaplain attached to the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade. His particular charges were members of 29/46 Infantry Battalion, the 37/52 Infantry Battalion and the 4th Field Ambulance. Each year, even after he retired due to poor health in 1977, Father Reis celebrated a Mass at St Columba’s for the returned soldiers to whom he had ministered during the war. A plaque in the foyer commemorates the men from these units who died in action in New Guinea. During Father Reis’s time, St Columba’s Church was altered according to the provisions of Vatican II. Intended to make services more accessible to people, the Mass was celebrated in English, not Latin, and the celebrant now faced the people. The marble altar rails were removed, as was the top of the high altar, including the large marble angels and the rotunda. The sanctuary was extended and a simple wooden altar installed.[7]

Reverend Father Des Jenkins arrived in the parish in 1978 and served until 1996. During his time in the parish, the presbytery and the church were refurbished and extensions to the school were undertaken. His successor was Reverend Father John Salvano. He reactivated some of the regular social activities that had been enjoyed by parishioners in the past but which had gradually lapsed due to changing demographics in the parish.[8] He was appointed to the parish of St John’s Clifton Hill in mid 2000. Reverend Father Terry, the parish priest of Sacred Heart, West St Kilda, was then also appointed parish priest at St Columba’s and is the current incumbent.


In 1919 a house was bought for the priest’s residence and it was sold at a profit of £200. The new presbytery was opened on 24 April 1921. Mr W. M. Kelly, a builder from Gardenvale, built the building to his and Father McCarthy’s design, thereby saving an architect’s fee.


In 1937 a parish hall was built with W. P. Conolly the architect and J. H. Johnson the contractor. Tennis courts were also built at this time. It was part of Father Greenan’s vision of providing a centre for the children of St Columba’s during their leisure time where activities could be provided in a Catholic environment. Physical education, indoor sports and dancing classes have been held in the hall and there were  various sporting teams associated with the church.

Over the years, dances, card parties and concerts were other popular activities held in the hall.


[1]     All the information about the school comes from: Emer Di Muzo and Peg Whitehill (researchers), The Birth of St Columba’s, n.d.

[2]     Bick, St Kilda Conservation Study, p. 181.

[3]     Di Muzo and Whitehill, The Birth of St Columba’s, p. 10.

[4]     Francis Renton Power, ‘The Story of St. Columba’s, Elwood’, typescript, 1970, p. 2. [Copy held at MDHC Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.]

[5]     Ibid., p. 5.

[6]     For Tuomey’s ministry see: Emer Di Muzio, St Columba’s Elwood: A Chapel-of-Ease, n.d., c. 2000, pp. 46-51. Assistant priests, principals and teachers are also listed in this book. See: pp. 66-7.

[7]     Ibid., pp. 51-2.

[8]     Ibid., pp. 55 and 59.


Our Lady of Dolours

Cowderoy Street, West St Kilda

W. P. Conolly was the architect of this small red brick building. The site cost £4500 and the building £2765. Its official opening was delayed because of the illness of the Reverend J. P. Carney. On 30 November 1941, Archbishop Mannix blessed and opened the church. A painting of Our Lady of Dolours over the altar was the work of a nun at Sacre Coeur in Malvern.

It is now a Chapel of Ease and is part of Sacred Heart parish.

St Kilda Presbyterian Church

Free Presbyterian Church (former)

St George’s East St Kilda Uniting Church (formerly St George’s Presbyterian Church)

Scots Presbyterian Church Elwood

St Kilda Presbyterian Church

Corner Alma Road and Barkly Street, St Kilda

 The first Presbyterian service in St Kilda was in May 1855 in an iron building with wooden forms and earthen floors at the corner of High Street and Alma Road. The original church used for services was wooden and owned by the Independent (Congregational) Church. The Reverend Arthur Paul conducted the first service there on 23 September 1855. The worshippers were Free Presbyterians, a sect that had broken with the Church of Scotland in protest at the perceived encroachment of the state on the church. Most of the congregation chose to join the Free Church Synod in 1857, which was the precursor to the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in 1859.[1] However, some members left, choosing to continue as Free Presbyterians. (Their story is told later.)

With the departure of the Reverend Paul through this split, Charles Moir became the new minister in 1858. He oversaw the erection of the church on land on the corner of Alma Road and Barkly Street bought for £1000 from Mr Langevill. The Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Barkly, laid the foundation stone for the church, which was designed by Alfred Smith. The builders, Bayne and Company, completed it within six months. Designed to seat 380 people, it was opened on 5 June 1860. It was brick and cement with stone dressings and in the Perpendicular style with a square tower and no spire.[2] Most of the debt was paid by 1863, helped considerably by a bazaar in the Melbourne Town Hall, which lasted four days and raised £857. A gallery was added six years later. The site was just over 27 metres on Alma Road and almost 40 metres on Barkly Street, which limited expansion, but the congregation was loathe to give up the prominent and central hilltop location. In 1882 the congregation bought the site opposite in Alma Road and built a Sunday school, opened in 1883, which was used as a church while the original was demolished and a new one built. The Sunday school retained the gallery from the first church. It was demolished in 1991.

In 1878 the Reverend Samuel Robinson was appointed and he oversaw the design and completion of the new church. Wilson and Beswicke were the architects for both the church and Sunday school, which cost £17,657. Ralph Wilson designed the Methodist church on the corner of Princes and Fitzroy Streets and lived diagonally opposite the Presbyterian church. Charles Beswicke had toured Britain and the Continent in 1886 armed with a camera and returned to Australia with photographs of what he considered the greatest examples of architecture. He was responsible for the town halls in Brighton, Malvern, Hawthorn and Essendon and Wesleyan churches in Camberwell and Dandenong.[3] Thomas Corley was the builder. The Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Brougham Loch, laid the foundation stone on 27 January 1885 and the church opened on 30 May 1886 with three sermons that day and a ‘Grand Sacred Concert’ during the week. Conditions were somewhat austere, with only some of the carpet laid and the purchase of seat cushions postponed. There was now room for 750 people with fifty in the choir gallery. The lofty spire was ‘a landmark to the mariner’ used by sea captains sailing up Port Phillip Bay.[4] On a prominent position, the highest point in St Kilda, the church attracted wealthy people with legal, merchant and pastoral backgrounds.

The pulpit is central on a raised platform with a cast-iron grille. The pulpit, pews and other fittings are of kauri, pine and cedar. Perry described the ‘strange mixture of Gothic architecture and cast-iron’ in the interior, adding: ‘The slim column standing on its own supporting a heavily decorated capital is unknown to traditional Gothic architecture’.[5] There are coloured glass windows — behind the pulpit the painted glass was donated by ladies of the church — and some stained-glass memorial windows. A new organ was installed in 1890 and the choir moved from the gallery to near the organ at the front of the church. The pulpit carving and honour roll are the work of John K. Blogg (c.1851-1936), an industrial chemist, who turned to carving when he became deaf. He produced over 200 honour rolls and panels for pulpits.

The Reverend Robinson’s health suffered during the difficult Depression years and he died in 1899. His successor was the Reverend David Ross. He served for thirty years and was followed by the Reverends H. C. Clark, 1925-41, for whom the carillon is a memorial, William Alec Fraser, 1942-44, Esmond New, 1946-51 and William Young, 1951-55.

By 1950 the stonework was decaying and dangerous. It was removed because the cost of replacing it was beyond the congregation’s means. The wealthy had long abandoned the area and the numbers attending the church were in decline. About 1957 the louvres over the opening in the tower were replaced by a speaker and a record was played to imitate the peal of bells.

In 1977 the congregation opted to continue as a Presbyterian church rather than join the Uniting Church, which is an amalgamation of some Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches. Instead, faced with declining numbers, it joined with nearby Presbyterian churches in Caulfield and Elwood. After a brief closure, it reopened under the ministry of the Reverend Bob Thomas, who was inducted as the church’s full time minister on 24 November 1994. Today the church serves the community in the vicinity of Barkly Hill with a small but growing congregation.[6]


A manse was built in 1869 on a government grant of land between Acland Street and the Esplanade near the Luna Park area. It was sold for £9306 and Stanthorpe, next to the church at 42 Barkly Street, St Kilda, was bought for £3500 in 1919. Stanthorpe was built in about 1875 as a private residence for merchant Alexander Sutherland.

It is a two-storey rendered brick Classical style mansion dominated by a central portico and cast-iron verandah. For some years, the manse was at 102 Hotham Street before Stanthorpe was converted into a manse and church officer’s flat in 1956. After infrequent use by the church, it was sold to a developer in 1999. It was renovated and is now being used as commercial offices.


A Presbyterian Common School associated with this church was opened in 1872.



[1]     For the background to the Presbyterian groups and their differences see: Lewis, Victorian Churches, p. 9.

[2]     Based on Dr Robinson, 75th Anniversary, 1930. Perry gives the number as 300 in Ian Perry, ‘St Kilda Presbyterian Church’, undergraduate thesis, Architecture, University of Melbourne, n.d. The Robinson booklet shows a photograph of the original church. Various sources give the cost ranging from £4-6000. See: Perry, ‘St Kilda Presbyterian Church’, p. 2. Also: Australian Heritage Commission, Register of the National Estate Database, ‘Presbyterian Church, St Kilda, Vic’, database number: 009868, file number: 2/11/046/0034. Class: Historic, indicative place.

[3]     Perry, ‘St Kilda Presbyterian Church’, pp. 7-8.

[4]     Robinson, 75th Anniversary.

[5]     Perry, ‘St Kilda Presbyterian Church’, p. 13.

[6]     My thanks to the Reverend Bob Thomas for this information.









Thursday, 09 August 2018 04:27


Now available as a modestly-priced downloadable PDF file from www.stkildahistory.org.au


by John Butler Cooper


Online Version ISBN 978-0-9804534-8-5 (Published May 2009) Copyright St Kilda Historical Society


The St. Kilda Historical Society wishes to thank the people who contributed to making the online version of the History of St Kilda possible: they include St. Kilda Historical Society members John Hulskamp, Dorothy Lobert, Carol Stals, and our consultant Bruce Tanner. Thanks are also due to the committee members of the Society for their encouragement.

The St. Kilda Historical Society acknowledges the support of  the City of Port Phillip and in particular to Kenneth Harris and Ruth McLean in providing advice and encouragement.

The St. Kilda Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government through the Community Support Fund and the Public Record Office Victoria for making this project possible.

Page 5 of 5