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All Saints' Church, Brisbane 1862-1937

By D. L. Kissick, B.A.

Brisbane: Published by All Saints' Parish, 1937.


Before commencing the history of the Church and Parish of All Saints, it will be well to trace the growth of the Church of England in Queensland previous to the building of the Church of All Saints in 1862, for it was through a Diocesan body, the Church Society or, as we now know it, the Home Mission Society, that our Church came to be built.

Archdeacon David once wrote:--"Unhappily, the indifference to the spiritual needs of the convicts shewn by the Government in connection with the establishment of the original penal colony at Botany Bay was repeated at Brisbane. No Chaplain was sent, and the provision of a few Bibles, entrusted to the officers in charge, was regarded as adequate." However, immediately on the establishment of the Moreton Bay settlement in 1824, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane had endeavoured to secure the services of the Rev. Lancelot E. Threlkeld, a missionary then in Sydney, on his way from the South Seas to London, to establish a mission at the new outpost, principally to the aborigines, but the attempt failed and no further mention of the appointment of a chaplain either to the convicts or the aborigines is met with until 1829. In a despatch dated September 18th of that year, Governor Darling stated that the Rev. John Vincent had been appointed. This clergyman held a commission from His Majesty as an assistant chaplain in N.S.W, but although we know that this commission was given on June 20th, 1827, no mention is made in available records of the dates of his arrival in and departure from Moreton Bay. In December, 1829, Governor Darling wrote, "Mr. Vincent, who was appointed to Moreton Bay, is a poor valetudinarian, and can never be of much use anywhere. He has been extremely ill lately and, from the state of debility he is in, I should doubt the chance of his surviving any time." From a letter by Bishop Broughton to the Colonial Office it is apparent that the Bishop was very concerned over the state of affairs in the Moreton Bay area especially as the Commandant of the Penal Settlement and the Rev. J. Vincent were at loggerheads which meant that the chaplain could not effectively carry out his duties. In addition to this, there was no provision for spiritual ministration to the settlers who were slowly populating the southern areas of the present State of Queensland, nor was anything being done towards the conversion of the aborigines. The Chaplain's residence is shown in the old maps of Brisbane and mention is made of it being possible to see the military chapel in a very old sepia drawing of Brisbane.

In 1829 or 1830 at the instance of Sir George Murray of' the Colonial Office, the Church Missionary Society, London, took up the question of supplying missionaries to the Australian aborigines generally and chose as missionaries, the Rev. W. Watson, an Anglican clergyman, and the Rev. J. S. C. Handt, a clergyman in Lutheran orders. These two men commenced their work among the aborigines in WelIington Valley, N.S.W`., in 1832, but after three and a half years, the Rev. J. Handt proceeded to Moreton Bay. Stuart. Russell stated that on the eve of this district being thrown open to free settlers he attended Divine Worship conducted by this gentleman (whom he could not understand) in a. room above the gaol. Russell incorrectly describes the Rev. J. Handt as an Anglican layreader licensed by Bishop. Broughton for the Bishop at no time recognised him, although he had been appointed as convict chaplain. Neither. was he the forerunner of the German Gossner brethren who later began at Nundah a mission to the aborigines. Just before the closing of the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement a letter from the Commandant, O. Gorman, to the Colonial Office includes the following report: "The Rev. Mr. Handt, who has been four years on the Church Missionary establishment and exerted himself much, has been unable to make any progress towards the civilisation of the blacks, and as he could not do it, I much fear the German missionaries are less likely to accomplish that desirable object."--a prophecy which was fulfilled for these men (frequently misnamed the Moravian Brethren), who were sent out at the request of the Presbyterian, Dr. Lang, to form a mission station at Nundah and began there in June, 1838, abandoned the project in 1842 or 1843 although they did' not leave the colony. In the years 1841 and 1842 the Rev. J. Handt forwarded reports of their work to the Colonial Office; previously he had. sent reports of his own work to the Rev. W. Cowper who was the N.S.W. secretary for the Church Missionary Society.

Throughout this period the influx of free settlers into the colony was steadily increasing and, on Moreton Bay area itself being opened to free settlers in 1842, Bishop Broughton appointed to Brisbane the Rev. John Gregor, who had been converted from Presbyterianism, was ordained deacon at St. James', Sydney, in September, 1842, and was priested in December of the same year. He reached Brisbane with Captain Wickham in 1843 and ministered to the township and the outlying settlements until his untimely death in 1848. At the request of Bishop Broughton, the Rev. J. Gregor kept a diary and part of it was later published by the S.P.G. From it we can obtain a clear picture of those pioneer days. During the Rev. J. Gregor's incumbency the congregation grew beyond the accommodation afforded by the room in the Court House (the prisoners' old barracks) and moved to one of the prisoners' abandoned workshops, the carpenters' shop, a rough barn-like structure, just north of Queen St., in William St., for which the Bishop paid a nominal rental of 1/-per annum. It was dedicated to St. John the Divine, and from it old St. John's and our present Cathedral were named. Here the Anglican services were held until the new St. John's (the foundation stone of which was laid by the Bishop of Newcastle in 1850, since Brisbane lay within the boundaries of his Diocese as marked out at its creation in 1847) was ready. This building which was at the corner of Elizabeth and, George Sts., where Queen's Park now is, was completed four years later and the carpenters' old workshop was then used as St. John's Day School for many years. Still later it was used as a Fire Brigade Headquarters and was finally demolished early in this century.

Bishop Tyrrell, the first Bishop of Newcastle, had no priest available to replace the Rev. J. Gregor after his death in 1848 but, perturbed to think of the people being without spiritual ministrations, he sent a deacon, Benjamin Glennie, who took his first services in Brisbane on March 26th, 1848. He was ordained priest at Morpeth by Bishop Tyrrell the following year. At the end of 1848, the Rev. J. Bodenham arrived and took up residence at Kangaroo Point. He held no charge but services were conducted on the verandah of his house until the building of the church-school. The next year the Rev. J. Wallace was sent to Ipswich, but, he became incumbent of St. John's, where soon afterwards, he remained until 1854. The Rev. R. Creyke also came in 1849, although he does not seem to have had a charge as he came to Brisbane for health reasons. However he did much active work during this period and in later years he was incumbent of St. Thomas', South. Brisbane, and later of Toowong. He was one of the first wardens of All Saints'.

The Rev. H. Irwin, who had accompanied Bishop Tyrrell out from England, followed the Rev. J. Wallace at St. John's, but was forced to leave for Tasmania the following year, as his wife's health was badly affected by the Brisbane climate. The Rev. C. Carter then gave honorary services until the Rev. E. R. Yeatman was appointed as incumbent.

In 1856, during the Rev. E. R. Yeatman's incumbency, North Brisbane and Fortitude Valley were surveyed and put up for sale by the Department of Lands, Sydney. In February of that year the Lord Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Tyrrell, petitioned that two portions of land should be appropriated for Church of England purposes and the Surveyor-General in Sydney sent instructions to District Surveyor Galloway to forward a report and sketch showing. which two acres he proposed as suitable sites for churches. Galloway did so and the Surveyor-General forwarded the recommendation to the Colonial Secretary for the Governor General's approval the following April.

On April 22nd the Colonial Secretary replied: "I do myself the honour to inform you that the Governor-in-Council has been pleased to approve of the appropriation of one acre of land on the north side of Anne St. in the town of North Brisbane, in addition to that already granted for Church of England purposes." The land in Leichhardt, St. for the Fortitude Valley church was granted at the same time but it was never used for a church as it was considered to be away from the probable centre of that township. Instead a house in Ann St. was used as a Church day school and for Sunday services. This was later replaced by a stone school house which was used for services until the present Church was constructed and a parsonage was built on the Leichhardt St. grant. Finally an Act of Parliament gave the Valley Church leave to sell the Leichhardt St. property and to use the proceeds to build a rectory in a more convenient position. In May, 1856, the Rev. E. R. Yeatman again wrote in connection with the Ann St. grant, and in June Surveyor Gadloway made mention of it in his half-monthly returns, but these records are unfortunately lost to us. This Ann St. grant was for many years known as the Episcopalian Cathedral grant so doubtless Bishop Tyrrell intended to build the future cathedral on this hill, as it commanded such a fine view of the city. The Government had promised to keep the remainder of the triangular portion of land bordered by Ann and Creek Sts. and Wickham Terrace as a perpetual Government Reserve but, by an oversight, the other portion was, in 1864, allotted to the Presbyterian Church, thus making All Saints' land unsuitable for a Cathedral site.

In 1856 the Rev. R. L. Rumsey was at Ipswich, the Rev. B. E. Shaw, later one of the first trustees of All Saints', at Kangaroo Point, and the Rev. R. Postlethwaite at Maryborough. In 1859 the position was much the same except that the Rev. B. E. Shaw had returned to Newcastle and the Rev. J. Mosely was in charge at St. John's which was still the only Brisbane church--school houses being used for worship at the Valley, Kangaroo Point and South Brisbane.

The fund for the building of St. John's had been assisted by a Government grant in accordance with the existing Acts of Parliament known as Sir Richard Bourke's Acts (1837 and 1857). These provided for grants towards Church buildings and for partial payment of the incumbent's salary but, while Government aid was given to every denomination, providing it had the prescribed minimum of adherents, it was only given to one clergyman of a denomination in each centre. Three Anglicans, the Rev. B. Glennie, J. Mosely and R. Rumsey, were receiving it when, in 1860, the Acts were rescinded with the proviso that those already in receipt of grants were to have them continued so long as they ministered in the colony.

Just two months after this, on Sunday, September 2nd, 1860, the newly appointed Lord Bishop of Brisbane, Bishop Tufnell, arrived in Brisbane, bringing with him six clergymen (J. Tomlinson, T. Jones, V. Ransome, J. Sutton, E. Moberley, D. Mackenzie) one lay reader and two schoolmasters, £6036 as a Diocesan endowment, £3000 from the Bishop of Newcastle, and a promise of about £400 per annum from the S.P.G. The S.P.G., the S.P.C.K. and an English committee had raised the supplement to Bishop Tyrrell's allowance for the See endowment fund.

The Bishop and his helpers had travelled from England by the "Vimiera" and from Sydney by the "Yarra Yarra," where on calling in at Newcastle, where they were welcomed by Bishop Tyrrell. As they came slowly up the Brisbane River, they were greeted by the bell of St. John's chiming for the morning service.

The Rev. B. Glennie had walked from Warwick to assist at the enthronement of the newly appointed Bishop. After the ceremony he walked back again!

Bishop Tyrrell did not find the recently created diocese, an entirely happy one. There were divisions within the Church and attacks from without. The daily press was openly antagonistic; the non-conformists were bent on persuading the Government to discontinue state aid to Church day schools; the Rev. B. Glennie had been instructed by Bishop Tyrrell to introduce the offertory system but the, congregations, while raising no objections to a retiring collection, condemned offertories as a form of Puseyism; there had been controversy with regard to baptismal regeneration and in connection with the responses; Sir Richard Bourke's Acts set forth that the services were to be conducted in accordance with the statutes for ceremonial and discipline laid down by the Synod of London in 1603, ordinances which were so obsolete as to be impracticable.

Brisbane at that time was very small, the creek from, which Creek St. is named was being filled in. There was a ferry at Kangaroo Point, but if one wished to go to South Brisbane one had to row oneself. A few years later the, clergy figured prominently in a boat race, Cambridge v. Oxford, and possibly owing to the practice they had had in order to attend to their flock, earned for themselves the title of "muscular religion." In 1860 the population of Brisbane was given as roughly 7000, one-third of whom were Anglican; which would make it a town of about the size. Warwick now is, although the population was scattered from Ipswich in one direction to Redcliffe in the other. It is said that the Anglicans in Brisbane at this period numbered among them some of the wealthiest and most influential members of the young colony. There were three clergymen living in Brisbane and there were three services each Sunday, people from the Valley walking in to, St. John's for the morning service. With the advent of the, newly consecrated Bishop of Brisbane and his devoted band of priests these conditions were considerably improved. Five clergymen were stationed in Brisbane and there were eleven services each Sunday while in place of Ipswich, Warwick and Maryborough having one priest each and one service a Sunday, Warwick and Ipswich had two each, Cambooya and Rockhampton one each.

Bishop Tufnell had been a Prebendary of Salisbury and, as such, closely in touch with the fruits of the Catholic revival, as he had also been at Wadham College, Oxford, of which he had been a fellow by virtue of, "Founder's Kin" and one of his first acts was to introduce the Salisbury Hymnal into the Diocese.

Fierce was the storm occasioned by this innovation! Previously Tate and Brady's metrical psalms had been the only form of singing used in services. When asked about the time at which Holy Communion was to be administered, the Bishop tactfully replied that, while he could lay down no hard and fast rule owing to the unique conditions prevailing in such a young colony, he preferred that such services should only be held in the forenoon. At St. John's it was generally at 11 a.m. (after Matins and Litany, the service taking just under two hours, "not an undue portion of the Lord's Day to set aside for His worship") if a Sunday, and at 9 a.m. on such days as Ascension Day. Feasts which the book of Common Prayer orders to be observed, e.g., the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, were marked by a Communion Service and a sermon even on a week day, a standard from which many of the churches in the diocese have since fallen.

Bishop Tufnell's next innovation was the formation of a Church Society--its objects being to create a See Endowment Fund, to build churches, to send clergy to the outlying districts, to found Church schools and to distribute books. This society has continued to the present day, but is now known as the Home Mission Society. As previously stated, before Bishop Tufnell left England he had received many generous donations which formed a nucleus for funds for the first two objects.

The Rev. T. Jones and the Rev. J. Tomlinson, two of the deacons who came from England with the Bishop, were appointed as curates to St. John's. They were both ordained priests at St. John's in 1861, the Rev. T. Jones in June and the Rev. J. Tomlinson in September. The parish was divided into four parts by the river and a line running along Queen and Melbourne Sts. The Rev. J. Tomlinson served that section through Woolloongabba and Thompson Estate to Ipswich, and that to the north of the river and west of Queen St., Milton and Spring Hill as far as the Valley where the Rev. J. Mosely was in charge. The Rev. T. Jones took the other two sections. Brisbane was rapidly growing and, during 1860, 160 new houses were built in nine months, the majority of them being on Windmill Hill (i.e., near the Observatory), which also had a fair population of people not yet in a position to build, their mode of abode earning for this portion of the town the sobriquet of "Canvas Town!'

Therefore it is not surprising that, at the 1861 Easter meeting of the congregation of St. John's, Bishop Tufnell announced that it would soon be necessary for a church to be built on Windmill Hill to serve the population there and on Spring Hill. This work was undertaken by the newly formed Church Society for, in 1862, at its first annual meeting the building of the new church on Wickham Terrace is listed as one of its activities. It was the second Anglican building in Brisbane to be erected solely for worship as, at Kangaroo Point, Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane, the services were till long after this date held in the Church day schools.

This new church on Wickham Terrace was formally opened for Divine Service on February 23rd, 1862, just six years after the petition for the land grant had been made and, except for a short period during the rebuilding in 1869, and renovating in 1883, services have been regularly held in it for the last seventy-five years. At first it was officially known as the Wickham Terrace Episcopalian Church or the Wickham Terrace District Church, but familiarly it was called the "Brisbane Tabernacle" or merely the "Tabernacle." It was not until the rebuilding in 1869 that the Bishop designated it "All Saints'."

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