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Free Presbyterian Church (former)

12B Chapel Street, St Kilda East

The Free Presbyterian Church of Victoria was formed in 1846 by James Forbes, the former minister of Scots Church in Melbourne. After Union of the three Presbyterian denominations in Victoria, those who wished to remain as Free Presbyterians left the congregation at Alma Road in 1857. The Free Presbyterians were led by the Reverend Arthur Paul until his death in 1910, aged eighty-five. They moved further along Alma Road (numbers 23-29) and a manse was built at 88 Alma Road in 1858 (rebuilt in 1938). The church, adjoining the manse, on the corner of Chapel Street and Alma Road, was opened on 17 January 1864.

The architect was Lloyd Tayler, the builder Benjamin Williamson[1] and it cost about £1525. Built of bluestone with white freestone dressings, only half of the original design was completed. There is a projecting buttressed porch at the front and a Gothic window above. To the side is an octagonal base of a proposed tower. It accommodated 160 people. The church only became free of debt in 1885 following the sale of some land to Sir John Madden for his home Cloyne.

According to Cooper the animosity between the two groups of Presbyterians led to some Unionist ministers accusing the contractor of trespass and later sending an agent to ‘oust the contractor’s men by violence, if necessary, and then to take possession of the church’.[2]

There were only six incumbents during its use as a Free Presbyterian Church: Arthur Paul, 1855-1910; J. Campbell Robinson, 1921-52; Edwin Lee, 1959-66; Raymond Murray, 1968-72; Eric Turnbull, 1973-79 and Rowland Ward, 1984-86.

The last service held in the building by the Free Presbyterians was on 23 November 1986. The congregation moved to a new church in Wantirna. The building is now used for services by the Salvation Army.