A large imposing church of Victorian Gothic style . The building is symmetrical with rectangular body, of cruciform plan with square high bell tower in 3 lifts (no turret), smaller chancel and transepts. Entrance porch at street side only (possibly an early addition). Pointed-arched sandstone windows, some stained glass, some diamond and square panes. The tower is even topped with battlements and pinnacles of a real 'Carpenters' Gothic type and has interesting animal face gargoyles. Mix of dressed stone quoins and bush hammered stone elsewhere. Walls are buttressed. Cement on the roof is unsympathetic. There are fine stained glass windows erected between 1906 and 1962.
Nave 16m x 7.3 m (53' by 24'); Chancel 6m x 5.4m (20' by 18'); organ chamber and vestry are in the transepts; Tower 15.2m (50') high.
Physical condition is fair to poor. Cracking to bell tower.
The place named Wallerawang derives from the language of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people who occupied the area before white settlement. It is said to mean 'place near wood and water' or 'plenty of water'.
The first colonial settler in the Lithgow-Wallerawang district was James Walker. He was born in Perth, Scotland, in 1785, the son of wealthy merchant. He became an artillery officer in the Royal Marines and retired in 1822. In May, 1823, he set sail on the Brutus for N.S.W.
A road was surveyed from Hartley to Mudgee in 1823, eleven years after the first successful white crossing of the Blue Mountains (Friends of St. Johns Church, undated).
On reaching Sydney in September, Governor Brisbane granted Walker 809 ha (2,000) acres at Wallerowang, which stretched to the Wolgan Valley to the north. This land had been by-passed on the way to Bathurst by the early settlers. In 1837 he applied for more land between the Wolgan Valley and Bathurst. Walker started 1800 cross-bred sheep, 64 merinos, 312 head of cattle and 15 horses. By the end of 1840, he held an immense tract of country under licence and was running 1487 cattle and 20,534 sheep. In 1854 he was the holder of 16 stations with an area of 190204 ha (470,000 acres).
Thomas returned to Scotland and married his wife Robina Ramsay Walker (his cousin) in 1832. They had four children; Allison, Archibald and Georgina (all born at Wallerawang) and Wilhelmina (born in London). James had sympathy with the Church of England as well as a strong acceptance of Presbyterian doctrine. He was a deeply religious man and built a house, Wallerawang Station and a church. Clergy from both denominations were frequently welcomed at Wallerawang, including the Rev. Colin Stewart, pioneer Presbyterian Minister who arrived in the area in 1830 (Friends of St. Johns Church, undated).
James Walker died on 24 November 1856, aged 71 and was buried in the family cemetery on the estate. He is remembered as having good dealings with his convict workers and also a remarkable relationship with the local Wywandy Aboriginal people. In 1866 his widow, who still held licences for 15 stations, died in 1867 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
Their daughter Georgina Walker-Barton married Edwin Barton, who was the surveyor / engineer of the Zig Zag railway. He died in 1876. Mrs Barton commissioned renowned Gothic Revival church architect (and family friend) Edmund Blacket in 1880 to design St John The Evangelist Church on the estate as a place of worship for the Church of England and the Presbyterians of Wallerawang. The church was a commemoration to her parents and family, who had all died before her (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). It was to be used as the Wallerawang Estate Chapel and a 'union' or public dual-denomination church: by both the Presbyterian and Anglican denominations in memory of James Walker, his wife Robina and Georgina's late husband Edwin Barton. She mainly financed the construction and established a small Gothic Revival style brick school nearby, which is still standing. The reflection of religious philanthropy is an important theme in Lithgow with five other churches in the area being privately funded.
The stone was from a quarry on Tunnel Hill, and the fine stone for the tracery and door frames came from Sydney. The carving on the W.A. karri pews was designed to represent the Scottish heritage of the Walker / Barton family. The builder George McGarvie Donald of Lithgow was a master mason and builder who helped create the city of Lithgow. He would later become its first Mayor and MLA for Hartley (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). Born in Paddington in 1846, he was son of a Scottish stone mason George Donald. George senior had been encouraged to migrate to New South Wales by Governor Macquarie who wished him to assist with government building works. George junior did an apprenticeship as a mason under his father and uncle. After this he was engaged on railway construction projects in the Bowenfels district in the late 1860s. He worked on stone railway bridges at the Great Zig Zag and Marrangaroo and married Marion Miles, daughter of one of the construction foremen.
Following completion othe railway Donald moved to Hill End and worked on a range of construction projects. Among these was Hill End Methodist church, built of basalt rubble from the gold mines. It is now used as an Anglican church. After the failure of the deep lead gold boom of the 1870s George returned to the Lithgow valley and established a construction business with Thomas Crowe. In the early 1880s he constructed St.Mary's Presbyterian church for Thomas Brown, built as a memorial to Brown's wife, Mary. He also built Cooerwull Academy (now De La Salle College, Littleton) for Brown, and the Church of St. John the Evangelist at Wallerawang. Other projects included Lithgow Town Hall, Wallerawang Public School the Lithgow Oddfellows Hall and many residences. Donald and Crowe also built Mort's freezing works. George Donald was extremely active in community affairs and had a great sense of social justice. He was founding member of the GUIOOF Lily of the Valley Lodge and the Good Templars Lodge. Popular among citizens he was elected the first mayor of Lithgow after establishment of the Municipality of Lithgow in 1889. He held the seat of Hartley in the NSW Legislative Assembly jointly with Joseph Cook from 1891 (ibid, 2014, 32-33).
Donald was responsible for the best stone buildings of the late Victorian period in the area. The foundation stone was laid in 1880 by Bishop Frederic Barker D.D. of Sydney. He was assisted by the Anglican incumbent from Hartley and the Presbyterian Mininster of Bowenfels, with Rev. Colin Stewart in attendence (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
Knowing Blacket's great success since 1843 in both Sydney and Australia for harmonising religious desires for austerity/simplicity with High Anglican richness, detail and iconography, Georgina ensured a magnificent opening ceremony in 1881, officiated by various dual denominational clerics. Furthermore she granted in perpetuity the land to St Johns to be a parish Church for Presbyterians and Anglicans. The church was opened on 6 November 1881 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Steele, MA, Minister of St. Stephens Presbyterian Church, Phillip Street, Sydney. In attendence was Rev. W.J.Debenham, BA, Anglican Church representative, Mr Morgan, the local catechist, Rev. William McKenzie MA, Minister of Bowenfels and Wallerawang and Rev. Colin Stewart. The private church was used by both denominations with equal rights, an early ecumenical move (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
The church's timber floor is locally-cut black Sallee (Eucalyptus pulverentula)(Witty, pers.comm., 20/3/2016).
The church bell was cast by John Warner & Sons, Cripplegate, London, in 1880. Numerous memorials grace the church, in the form of plaques and stained glass windows. The magnificent east window represents the Prophets, Apostles, Christ and Martyrs. The church window is in memory of Georgina Lyon Wolgan Abbott, who married Thomas Abbott in 1882 after the death of her first husband Edwin Barton. The window was installed after Georgina's death in 1906 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
The latest window was installed in 1962 in memory of Mary Barton, Georgina's daughter. James Lyong Walker Barton and his sister, Lue Loveday Walker Barton, were murdered at Wallerawang (by then renamed and rebuilt as 'Barton Park') on 26 September 1948 (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). Barton Park homestead, including Wallerawang's extensive stone barn and outbuildings, is now under the waters of Lake Wallace, created in the late 1950s to power nearby Wallerawang Power Station. The Walker / Barton family cemetery now belongs to Delta Electricity Company and the cemetery remains above the water line. It may be visited by contacting the company (Friends of St. JOhn's Church, undated).
St. John's Church was given by the sole surviving member of the Barton family, Miss Hazel Gowring Walker Barton. On 18th November 1952 the Trustees of the Church of England, Sydney Diocese and the Presbyterian Church NSW became the new owners as tenants in common, with equal moiety (Friends of St. John's Church, undated). The Presbyterian Minister from Bowenfels was conducting regular Sunday services but the local Anglican Parish has not used the church regularly since the early 1980s. Regular Anglican workship ceased at the church in 1971.
In 1983 a violent storm damaged the north-east tower's pinnacle, which fell and smashed. badly damaging the roof. Gosford Quarries repaired the roof and pinnacle, using Maitland stone (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
Sometime during 2001 the Church's insurance company ordered the property to be locked and fenced after an engineer's report revealed serious cracking in the bell tower that could be dangerous to people within the grounds. At this stage the Church was no longer used for regular church services.
In 2001 the Church was advertised for sale. Suggestions ranging from dismantling and rebuilding the church in Canberra to bulldozing it completely were met with vigorous opposition from the Presbyterian Bowenfels parish. Their efforts were supported by the establishment of the Friends of St. John's Church, to save this important community asset. The Friends' charter is to preserve the fine building in the interests of the community (Friends of St. John's Church, undated).
The church now belongs half to the Friends of St. John's Church and half to the Presbyterian Church NSW (Witty, pers.comm., 20/3/2016). Through the work of the Friends of St John Committee, who were successful in obtaining a grant from the Heritage Office, a conservation management plan and urgent structural and maintenance was work completed during 2004 and 2005. To mark the occasion of the official re-opening of St John the Evangelist Church a Thanksgiving Service was held on 14 May 2006. Church services (Presbyterian) restarted in May 2006 are now held on 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at 8.30am. Once again the Church is available for services of all faiths.