|Historical notes: ||BACKGROUND TO LOCALITY
Significant Aboriginal rock carvings provide evidence that Aboriginal people occupied sites nearby the location of St Anne's Shrine in Bondi Beach, long before European settlement. An important type of tool was first found in the region and is still known as the Bondi point. The indigenous people of the area at the time of European settlement have generally been referred to as the Sydney people or the Eora (Eora means "the people"). There is no clear evidence for the name of the particular groups of the Eora people that occupied what is now the Waverley area. Most sources agree on the Cadigal but there are sources which name the Biddigal and Birrabirragal bands as well. A number of place names within Waverley - most famously Bondi - have been based on words derived from Aboriginal languages of the Sydney region (Waverley Council web page, 2004). By the mid nineteenth century the traditional owners of this land had typically either moved inland in search of food and shelter, or had died as the result of European disease or confrontation with British colonisers. Few religious beliefs of the people were recorded, but oral traditions have ensured that some have been carried on.
BACKGROUND TO PARISH OF ST ANNE'S
From 1895 the Catholic Church was present in the Bondi area on land gifted to the Franciscan order at the corner of O'Brien and Simpson Streets. Rapid population growth in the area resulted in the parish of Bondi being divided in 1925, creating a new parish of St Anne's, Bondi Beach. Father Daniel O'Sullivan was appointed priest in 1926 to the new parish and oversaw the establishment of several major church buildings during his fifteen years of stewardship. A new site bordered by Blair Street, Mitchell Street, and Oakley Road was purchased in 1926. The year following the demolition of the older St Anne's church in O'Brien Street witnessed the construction of a new church school on the Oakley Road side of the new site. This was followed by a presbytery on Mitchell Road in 1932, and the first section of St Anne's Shrine fronting onto Blair Street in 1934. Also constructed during this period was St Anne's Convent in 1935 (built by the Sisters of mercy) and a girl's school in 1938 (McDonald, 2003, 2).
The initial brief for St Anne's Shrine required that the church be built in two stages as only half of the proposed budget of 20,000 pounds was available. In 1934 only the back, southern section of the church including nave and aisles was completed. In 1957 a newly appointed Father Patrick Cunningham set up a Parish Building Fund to raise money for building the northern section of the church comprising sanctuary, sacristies and altar. In 1964 the completed church was solemnly blessed by the Archbishop of Sydney, Norman Thomas Cardinal Gilroy (National Trust, 1999).
Originally designed to serve the Tridentine Rite, various interior aspects of the church have been adjusted to address liturgical changes associated with the Novus Ordo. The publication of the Constitution of the Liturgy by the 2nd Vatican Council in 1963 is associated with major changes to the internal arrangement of Catholic churches worldwide. While these changes were not incorporated into the 1964 design, by 1980 when Father Kenneth Sargeant was appointed parish priest, a stone altar was placed in the sanctuary to allow the priest to celebrate Mass facing the congregation. Also the church was carpeted throughout (McDonald, 2003).
BUILDING THE CHURCH
In 1934, the architects Fowell and McConnel won a design competition for a new Catholic Church at Bondi, judged by Leslie Wilkinson. The practice of Fowell and McConnel was established in 1927 when the pair entered a competition for the design of Tamworth War Memorial Town Hall for which they were awarded second place (National Trust, 1999). They were more successful in winning the competition for the BMA Building in Sydney's Macquarie Street, which also eventually won them the first RIBA medal to be awarded in Australia (Metcalfe, 1997, 66). Born in Australia but educated in England, Joseph Fowell (1891-1970) arrived back in Australia in 1919 where he taught under Leslie Wilkinson at Sydney University. The partnership went on to design a number of Catholic churches in Sydney and some N.S.W. country towns. Kenneth McConnel left the practice in 1939 due to ill health. After WVY7II, McConnel formed a new partnership with Stanley Smith which was eventually to become McConnel Smith and Johnson (National Trust, 1999)
Fowell and McConnel designed a church to accommodate 1,000 with separate committee rooms, campanile and cloister to be added when money became available. The first stage of the church was completed in 1934 with R.M. Bowcock as its builder. The north end of the building was enclosed by a timber framed wall, faced with fibre cement sheeting that marked the position of the future sanctuary. The north end of the church was completed with the addition of the apses some thirty years later to an amended design by Fowell, Mansfield, Jarvis and Maclurcan (Joseph Fowell being one of the original architects). The free standing campanile and linking cloister, which was part of the original concept, was not built.
St Anne's Church was awarded the Sulman Award by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1935. It was the first church building to receive the medal and remains the only complete church building to have received the medal (although additions to St Michael's Church were awarded the Sulman medal in 1942).
In his history of the Sulman Award, Andrew Metcalfe described the church as 'a tour de force of brickwork construction with highlights of sandstone trim', and 'perhaps the highlight of ecclesiastical architecture in interwar Sydney'. He suggests it is stylistically related to and contemporaneous with the English architecture of Guildford Cathedral (c.1932), St Saviours Eltham (c.1933), St Wilfrid's Brighton (c.1934) and St Andrews Luton (c.1932), all of which are linked to twentieth century Swedish architecture, notably Ostberg's Stockholm Town Hall (1911-1923) (Metcalfe, 1997, 66).
The National Trust's Jacqui Goddard described the church as 'absolutely, vitally important . . . An incredibly fine example . . . Of interwar architecture, with a lot of international influence . . . The interior is reasonably austere . . . But with very beautiful Australiana in its detailing' (Radio National, 3/12/2003).
The church is featured in 'A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture', where it is presented as an example of the 'Inter-War Romanesque' style. There it is described as a 'nobly scaled design influenced by French examples such as Albi Cathedral' and Joseph Fowell listed as one of the style's 'key practitioners' (Apperly et al, 1989, 196-7).