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All Saints' Church, Brisbane 1862-1937

By D. L. Kissick, B.A.

No place: no publisher, 1937.

The Wickham Terrace District Church

It will be necessary to go over the last portion of the introduction in order to tell more fully the story of the erection of our first church.

In 1861, at the Easter meeting of the pewholders of St. John's Church, Bishop Tufnell had spoken regarding the desirability of holding services at South Brisbane and on Windmill Hill. The latter was in the area under the control of the Rev. J. Tomlinson, curate of St. John's and Bishop's chaplain and he worked enthusiastically to have a church built there in order to bring about the fulfillment of the Bishop's wish. It was decided that the land known as Episcopalian Cathedral grant should be used for the new church. This piece of land had been granted to Bishop Tyrrell in 1856.

On August 21st, 1861, Benjamin Backhouse, architect, inserted in the "Brisbane Courier" an advertisement calling for tenders for the construction of the building and in October the same paper reported that "There can be no doubt that this edifice, when completed, will be the most ornamental ecclesiastical structure in the town,"--a remark hard to credit since that little gem, old St. Stephen's, had already been built.

Hezleden and Bethel were the successful contractors, and the erection was marred by only one accident, the giving way of some scaffolding which caused a workman a fall of 15 to 20 feet. He had a fortunate escape, being but slightly bruised and shaken. Hearsay hath it that, owing to the early arrival of the wet season the roof was put on the building while it lacked ten feet of the intended height, leaving it very squat. It was completed early in 1862, and the opening was arranged for February 23rd, the eve of the feast of St. Matthias. The day before the opening the "Courier" stated: "An earnest solicitude for the spiritual requirements of the community has led to the erection of this sacred edifice, and the additional church accommodation thus afforded will be most welcome to those members of the Church of England and others who reside in the rapidly growing localities of Spring Hill and Wickham Terrace, etc." (It is interesting to know that in those days Spring Hill did not extend beyond the north of Leichhardt St.). The report continued: "We heartily congratulate the Bishop and his co-adjutors on their success, and trust that their efforts to meet the increasing requirements of the community will be emulated by other denominations in a spirit of true religious zeal."

The opening was at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 23rd, 1862. No hint has come to us of the form of service, but it is safe to assume that it was Evening Prayer since both at St. John's and the Valley, Evening Prayer was said at 4 pm. on Sundays, the candles being lit on the altars to provide the necessary illumination for reading the lessons. In the earliest extant photograph of All Saints', the lectern is placed immediately in front of the altar which seemingly indicates that a similar practice also prevailed in our church.

At the opening service, the Rev. J. Tomlinson and the Rev. J. Bliss officiated, while the sermon was preached by the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Brisbane, Dr. Tufnell. During the sermon the Bishop explained that the building had cost £1210 of which he had loaned £1000 on his own responsibility from the See Endowment monies, whilst £200 had been given by the S.P.G. He proposed to wipe out the debt of £1000 in two years by letting half of the sittings and taking up collections at the Sunday morning and evening services. The other half of seats was to be kept unengaged and open to all so that those who were strangers might be assured of accommodation. The new church was capable of holding 400 persons and would, he said, be much appreciated as for some time St. John's had been so overcrowded that it had been necessary to hold overflow services in the school room. At the close of the service a collection was made in aid of the building fund, the proceeds being £19/5/9. Bishop Tufnell had appointed the Rev. R. Creyke, a clergyman who had come to Brisbane for health reasons and held no parish at this time, being Registrar-General for Queensland, and Mr. Richards as churchwardens. On Thursday, February 27th, from 5 to 6 p.m., these two gentlemen were seated in the vestry to receive applications for sittings in the new church.

Thus did the Church and Parish of All Saints' come into being, although it took some little time for it to realise and assert its identity. The church was of rubble with brick facings, having a gable roof with overhanging eaves, and had a wooden porch at the west end. It had no chancel and was not licensed as, so it later transpired, the Bishop intended that it should become a school room so soon as the congregation were in a position to erect a more commodious building.

It stood unfenced, stumps of gum trees surrounded it and the present streets were mere bush tracks. The opposite side of Wickham Terrace was still covered with dense scrub although the taller timber had been felled. Through it, as far as the quarries in Leichhardt St. was a scattered population who, together with others living between Wickham Terrace and the Pocket at Indooroopilly, formed the congregation. In the immediate vicinity of the church there were less than two hundred houses only one-third of which would be occupied by Anglicans, so the majority of the congregation had to walk through the bush to the services and often times they walked in fear and trembling, lest they should be suddenly confronted by aborigines. But for all the distances and trepidation, they were regular in attendance and hence it was not long before the need of an even larger church was felt.

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