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

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:

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.