Ebenezer Church (Uniting), Old Schoolhouse, Cemetery & Tree | NSW Environment & Heritage

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Ebenezer Church (Uniting), Old Schoolhouse, Cemetery & Tree

Item details

Name of item: Ebenezer Church (Uniting), Old Schoolhouse, Cemetery & Tree
Other name/s: Former Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Religion
Category: Church
Location: Lat: -33.5368382817 Long: 150.8915813370
Primary address: Coromandel Road, Ebenezer, NSW 2756
Parish: Wilberforce
County: Cook
Local govt. area: Hawkesbury
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Deerubbin
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT5502 DP709031
LOT2 DP740305
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Coromandel RoadEbenezerHawkesburyWilberforceCookPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Hawkesbury City CouncilLocal Government 
Uniting Church in Australia, TheReligious Organisation 

Statement of significance:

Ebenezer Church is the oldest church in Australia. It is the first Presbyterian church and the oldest church still in use today. It has a unique place in the heritage of the Christian faith and the pioneer farming of the nation. The Church is an active congregation with a living history. Many of the families are descendants of the original Coromandel settlers. The cemetery is one of the most important in Australia. It has an association with six generations of Coromandel settlers.

The original structures display a high degree of technical competence. The simplicity and sturdiness of the buildings, particularly the church, can be seen as a manifestation of the way of life, taste and customs of the early Scottish Presbyterian settlers.
Date significance updated: 23 Sep 97
Note: There are incomplete details for a number of items listed in NSW. The Heritage Division intends to develop or upgrade statements of significance and other information for these items as resources become available.

Description

Designer/Maker: Andrew Johnston
Construction years: 1809-1823
Physical description: Site and Siting:
Ebenezer Church is located on a prominent ridge overlooking the Hawkesbury River.

Church Yard and Grave Yard:
Sloping site with graves broadly west of the building complex, with some paved forecourt area from the street in to the church flanking the graveyard's northern edge. The eastern slope running down to the Hawkesbury River. This eastern slope of the church yard is predominantly grassed or grassland with some scattered remnant native Cumberland Plain Woodland trees (Stuart Read, pers.comm., 23/6/2016).

Church:
The church building is a very simple, unadorned structure, drawn from the vernacular architecture of its Scottish Presbyterian builders. Heavy stone blockwork walls and gables were used with a pitched slate roof. A porch of comparable size and texture was added in 1926.The 18 pane windows are double-hung (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 14). The church was originally built with two additional doors set into the side walls. These were filled in shortly after construction and the doors, step and path are still visible as a change in the block work and coursing (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 16).

The church was converted to its present form sometime after the construction of the school. There is some physical evidence of a temporary mezzanine level built before the church was commissioned by the Department of Education in 1887. During the late nineteenth century, guttering and rain water tanks were added. The church was repaired and ventilation slats were added when the vestry was built in 1959 (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 16).

School Master's Residence:
The schoolmaster's residence is of the same heavy construction as the church but has an unusual jerkinhead roof and raised stone window surrounds. A similar roof appears in the house of local Scottish settler John Turnbull. The windows are of the more common twelve pane variety. The annex on the northern side conceals elements of the original smaller annex, presumably built at the same time as the schoolhouse proper (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 14). This original annex was approximately 2.5m wide and ran from the living room door to the western corner of the schoolhouse. The east and west elevations were clad in vertical slab, while the north face appears to have been a rough weatherboarding. The annex was extended and clad with A/C panels some time this century (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 18). The remains of the original pergola and grape vine that extended to the living area door and smaller kitchen annex still exist (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 14).

Vestry:
The vestry, added in 1959, is sympathetic to the scale and texture of the original buildings.

Bread Oven:
most likely the oldest structure in the church grounds (Hawkesbury Historical Society newsletter 119, 6/2016,12).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
All buildings and features remain in good physical condition.
Date condition updated:14 Jun 02
Modifications and dates: pre 1879 - schoolhouse roofing replaced with corrugated iron.
c.1887 - guttering and rain water tank added to church. Possible mezzanine level added to church interior.
1926 - Church porch and role of honour added.
1959 - Vestry and covered way added, designed by Morton Herman. Ventilation slats added to church. All buildings repointed with a raised cement mortar.
Current use: Church and cemetery
Former use: Church and Schoolhouse, cemetery

History

Historical notes: Hawkesbury District:
INDIGENOUS OCCUPATION
The lower Hawkesbury was home to the Dharug people. The proximity to the Nepean River and South Creek qualifies it as a key area for food resources for indigenous groups (Proudfoot, 1987). The Dharug and Darkinjung people called the river Deerubbin and it was a vital source of food and transport (Nichols, 2010).

NON-INDIGENOUS OCCUPATION
Governor Arthur Phillip explored the local area in search of suitable agricultural land in 1789 and discovered and named the Hawkesbury River after Baron Hawkesbury. This region played a significant role in the early development of the colony with European settlers established here by 1794. Situated on fertile floodplains and well known for its abundant agriculture, Green Hills (as it was originally called) supported the colony through desperate times. However, frequent flooding meant that the farmers along the riverbanks were often ruined.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie replaced Governor Bligh, taking up duty on 1/1/1810. Under his influence the colony prospered. His vision was for a free community, working in conjunction with the penal colony. He implemented an unrivalled public works program, completing 265 public buildings, establishing new public amenities and improving existing services such as roads. Under his leadership Hawkesbury district thrived. He visited the district on his first tour and recorded in his journal on 6/12/1810:
'After dinner I christened the new townships...I gave the name of Windsor to the town intended to be erected in the district of the Green Hills...the township in the Richmond district I have named Richmond...'
The district reminded Macquarie of those towns in England, whilst Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce were named after English statesmen. These are often referred to as Macquarie's Five Towns. Their localities, chiefly Windsor and Richmond, became more permanent with streets, town square and public buildings.

Macquarie also appointed local men in positions of authority. In 1810 a group of settlers sent a letter to him congratulating him on his leadership and improvements. It was published in the Sydney Gazette with his reply. He was 'much pleased with the sentiments' of the letter and assured them that the Hawkesbury would 'always be an object of the greatest interest' to him (Nichols, 2010).

In marking out the towns of Windsor and Richmond in 1810, Governor Macquarie was acting on instructions from London. All of the Governors who held office between 1789 and 1822, from Phillip to Brisbane, received the same Letter of Instruction regarding the disposal of the 'waste lands of the Crown' that Britain claimed as her own. This included directives for the formation of towns and thus the extension of British civilisation to its Antipodean outpost (Proudfoot 1987, 7-9).

Ebenezer Uniting Church:
Ebenezer Uniting Church is Australia's oldest remaining church. It was the first Presbyterian church in the colony and is the nation's oldest functioning church. Worship began on the site as early as 1803, when 15 families, under the leadership of Pastor James Mein, met beneath the tree which still stands adjacent to the church today. The Covenanted Membership of the Church which was formed in 1806, was made up of people of Methodist, Anglican and Catholic backgrounds with a core group of Coromandelers. A church which doubled as a school and chapel was built in 1809. The first burial occurred in 1812 and a cemetery was established in the churchyard. The schoolmaster's residence is believed to have been constructed in 1817. Ebenezer Church was the first and for many years the only church built and paid for by voluntary gifts and labour. It was formally established as a church of the Presbyterian Order in 1824 (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 6).

The first ordained Minister to serve at Ebenezer was Dr John McGarvie, who was brought out to Sydney by the Rev. John Dunmore Lang in 1826 for this purpose. When Lang went overseas in 1830, McGarvie went back to Sydney to officiate at the Scots Church in Jamison Street and assist in the associated college (Crosson, 2012, 27).

The school at Ebenezer was opened in 1810 under the headmastership of John Youl, a layman of the Anglican Church. It operated out of the church until the 1880s when a public school was built. When this burned down shortly afterwards, the school returned to the church until the present public school opened in 1902 (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 7).

In 1959 the church was extensively repaired and a vestry was built nearby. In 1985, a Heritage Council grant assisted the restoration of the Church, Vestry and Schoolmaster's Residence (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 11).

The pioneer families who worshipped at the Church were a vital part of the development of the Hawkesbury as the food bowl for the colony. Most of them supported Governor Bligh at the time of the Rum Rebellion. They made a significant contribution to commerce and government administration. Shipbuilding was a major enterprise of a number of local families (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 7).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Introduce cultural planting-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Rare and Significant Trees-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Scottish building and design practises-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Moving migrants inland-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of institutions - productive and ornamental-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings Landscapes of scenic beauty-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Alienating Crown Lands for religious purposes-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Resuming private lands for public purposes-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Marking and maintaining affiliations with places by burials-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Vernacular hamlets and settlements-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Vernacular towns serving a specific industry-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing towns in response to topography-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages living in the country-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Roadside Villages-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Role of transport in settlement-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. school-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Educating people in regional locations-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Teaching young or new farmers-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Private (religious) schooling-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Building in response to natural landscape features.-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Landscaping - colonial period-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Architectural styles and periods - colonial vernacular-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Applying architectural design to industrial structures-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship religion (private education)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Cathedral-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship religion (in the country)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Presbyterianism-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship Practising Presbyterianism-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Operating and maintaining small or isolated burial grounds-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Erecting and visiting monuments and memorials-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Commemorative avenue of trees (Boer, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. Dr John McGarvie, first Ordained Presbyterian Minister at Ebenezer, 1826-30-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Pastor James Mein, Presbyterian pastor at Ebenezer, 1803-c1810-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with John Youl, Anglican layman running Ebenezer School, 1810+-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Rev. John Dunmore Lang, Presbyterian Preacher and Nationalist-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Aaron Muron Bolot, architect-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Ebenezer Church is the oldest extant church in Australia. It is the first Presbyterian church and the oldest church still in use today. Ebenezer represents the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in Australia (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 3).

Ebenezer has also established links with the development and politics of the early colony. The protestant work ethic of the pioneers, made a major contribution to the shaping of the Australian ethos (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 14).

The cemetery is one of the most important in Australia. It has an association with six generations of Coromandel settlers, who were some of the first free settlers in the colony (Cox and Corkhill 1985:14).
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The original structures display a high degree of technical competence. The simplicity and sturdiness of the buildings, particularly the church, can be seen as a manifestation of the way of life, taste and customs of the early Scottish Presbyterian settlers, while preserving the autonomy of the schoolmaster's house. The structures are also enhanced by their backdrop of eucalyptus, open grassland and the river. The visual and physical relationship with the river is important in maintaining the identity of the church group. The setting gives a good idea of the conditions the original settlers found. The river is also significant in its function of carrying funeral processions to the site (Cox and Corkhill 1985:13).
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Ebenezer Church is an active congregation with a living history. Many of the families are descendants of the original Coromandel settlers (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 3).
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The original structures display a high degree of technical competence. The simplicity and sturdiness of the buildings, particularly the church, can be seen as a manifestation of the way of life, taste and customs of the early Scottish Presbyterian settlers (Cox and Corkhill 1985: 13).
Integrity/Intactness: Most of the original fabric remains in place and in good condition.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0013802 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0013829 Jan 82 14 
Local Environmental Plan 329, 33018 Dec 89   
National Trust of Australia register  2200, 220102 Mar 81   
Register of the National Estate 321221 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Ebenezer Church (Uniting), Old Schoolhouse, Cemetery & tree View detail
WrittenCox and Corkhill Pty. Ltd.1985Ebenezer Church and School Masters Residence: Conservation Policy
WrittenCrosson, Bruce2012"McGarvie Street, Paddington - (in 'Street Story') in The Wentworth Courier
WrittenEbenezer Church Cemetery Trust2006A Colonial Churchyard, Ebenezer Church, Ebenezer, NSW
WrittenHawkesbury Historical Society2016'Australia's Oldest Church - Ebenezery Church - celebrating it's (the Historical Society's) 60 years anniversary'
WrittenNichols, Michelle (Local Studies Librarian)2010Macquarie and the Hawkesbury District
TourismTourism NSW2007Ebenezer Uniting Church View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045171
File number: S90/05777 & HC 32538


Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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